I decided that I was taking advantage of my favourite SOTA summit by using the Cloudside parking area, and walking a third of a mile and ascending 250 feet to the top. Surely a summit I visited so often deserved better?
What greater respect could I pay than walking to it from home? It is about seven miles as the crow flies, but I devised a circular route that stuck to public footpaths and avoided roads. I will describe the route in detail, so perhaps someone with the mapping software could calculate the distances, but my guesstimate is about 9 miles outward and 11 miles back.
The plan was to walk out on a Tuesday afternoon, participate in the 6m VHF contest on the Tuesday evening, play HF in the late and small hours and again in the morning, then walk home on Wednesday.
My pack consisted of FT-817, 7Ah SLAB, 6m delta loop antenna, SOTA pole, guys and pegs, 40m dipole, 80m dipole, microphone, palm paddle, logbook & pencils, OS map and compass, fleece, Berghaus jacket, hat, small tent/shelter and poles (£11 from Sainsbury’s), foam mat, sleeping bag, 1.5 litres of water/bladder, 4 Chorley cakes, litre flask of soup and two headtorches (easier to change a headtorch then batteries in the dark!). I don’t know what it weighed, but it was a lot heavier than any pack I have previously carried! I guess I could reduce the weight for future expeditions by getting lighter (more expensive) backpacking tent, sleeping bag etc, but this was manageable. The only tricky thing was putting it on…!
I set off from my front door on the western edge of Macclesfield (SJ898735) at around 3pm on Tuesday 25th August 2009. Shortly, I was walking past the Weston pub (SJ895733) on Earlsway (recently renamed back to its original name after 20 or so years as “The Ridgegate”) and was called over by some drinkers in the “smoking area” (back yard). These included my next door neighbour Mick, and they wanted to know what on earth I was doing. I told them, and the question became why on earth I was doing it. “You’re odd” was the response. Hmmm, give me a long country walk over wasting a sunny afternoon in the boozer any day!
At the top of Earlsway (SJ893728), I turned left onto Gawsworth Road, and I was soon leaving the town behind and heading into the country. It was a lovely sunny day, and I was already enjoying my solitary expedition. For some reason, I seemed to think there was a permitted route from Tansy Moss Farm / Penningtons Lane across to Brownhills Farm, but my recollections were wrong, and there wasn’t. This caused some wasted time.
The correct route was to turn onto the PROW to Dalehouse Farm at SJ893713, then bear right (south) down through Deans Farm. This was a strange little section through small unusually shaped grassy fields and over rickety stiles with very low branches hanging over them, making progress with a large pack with poles sticking out quite a challenge!
From Deans Farm to the Congleton Road A536 (SJ896712) was better going along good farm tracks. Crossing over the main road, I passed through Danes Moss Farm and New Home Farm, after which I was entering Danes Moss. Not the town’s landfill site, but the adjacent ‘Cheshire Wildlife Area’ which gave very pleasant walking along good paths and boardwalks through a lovely protected habitat. I wondered which part of it would get ripped up to make way for Macclesfield Town FC’s proposed new stadium?
As I reached the footbridge over the West Coast Mainline (SJ909706), a heavy shower started, and full waterproofs were quickly donned. The big pack was then returned to my back, but not so quickly! On the other side of the railway, I emerged onto the towpath (SJ910706) of the Macclesfield / Cheshire Ring Canal. This gave very easy pleasant walking that enabled me to get a good few miles under my belt “relatively” easily.
The views were good, with Gawsworth Common, Sutton Common and Wincle Minn to my left (behind the Fools Nook Inn), and a certain Bosley Cloud, ahead and slightly to the right edging, very slowly, nearer. The canal was busy with many passing barges, the crews of which were all happy to exchange pleasantries - and the inevitable wisecracks about the fishing pole! I noted several moored barges with 2m aerials on magmounts, and one with a huge vertical for 11m CB. One chap was steering his barge with one hand, and holding a can of Carlsberg in the other. I couldn’t resist a comment about “drink driving”, which went down like a lead balloon. I put my head down and my best foot forward!