Walks with Nellie
by Sally Mosley
This is not intended as a walk guide
Now that Nellie is fully matured and strong, we are able to go much longer walks. Since lockdown was released I’ve had a penchant to head over to the Dark side for several long distance wanders over high moorland and along old tracks and so for this article I decided to write up our walk around Hayfield and Chinley Churn which turned out to be a delight on many levels.
After parking at Bowden Bridge and before setting off I glanced up at the commemorative plaque for the Mass Trespass and realised that it was only a couple of days after its anniversary. On 24th April 1932 over 400 people participated in a walk up onto Kinder Scout. In recent years this has been described as the most successful direct action in British history. The trespass was by mainly working class people who were fighting for the right to roam against the wealthy landowners who had almost exclusive rights to the moorland for grouse shooting.
Bowden Bridge is where the rivers Kinder and Sett marry, their combined waters then being known as the River Sett. After crossing over the watercourse a little downstream of the bridge, we headed steeply up through the trees of Elle Bank, making for Highgate Head and a short stretch of quiet road walking beside what was once the main route south from Hayfield to Chapel-en-le-Frith before a turnpike road was laid around the end of the 1700’s that we now know as the A624.
A left up a wonderful old track took us to the side of Mount Famine to link up with the Pennine Bridleway. The pathway ascended gradually, offering all-encompassing views. However it became a bit nippy as we meandered behind South Head where a cold gusty breeze blowing directly off Kinder meant my hood went up and gloves were quickly put on.
Just before turning right to walk down past Beet Farm I glanced up to the left and saw the squat stone ventilation shaft over Cowburn tunnel. It took five years from 1888 to construct a 3,702 yard long passageway under Brown Knoll linking Chinley with the Vale of Edale.
It was a lovely meander back down to the bottom of the valley where the temperature was much warmer and wind lighter. Off went the gloves, hat and even the coat which I then tied around my waist. Now I was passing wonderful old farmsteads built mainly of local gritstone, many with stone flagged roofs. Dozens of young lambs were out in the fields, although some of their younger cousins were still to emerge from lambing sheds.
A footpath from Hull End took us to the main road which we crossed very carefully. We were now on route to Moseley House beside Maynestone Road on the other side of the vale. There were signs for ground nesting birds in meadows flanking Otter Brook. Spring flowers were in evidence including a lady’s smock, also known as the cuckoo flower as it tends to appear when cuckoos arrive on their summer migration.
Just beyond The Naze I chose a footpath on the left and then huffed and puffed my way up a steep bank, Nellie helping to pull me up. This then joined with a path along Cracken Edge and Chinley Churn that wound through old quarry workings complete with dramatic spoils, bits of rusted metal and much evidence of old industrial heritage. Extensively worked in the first half of the 1800’s, the quarry finally closed around 1920. It was evidently renowned for the quality of stone slates and flagstones produced there.
Our route afterwards led to the quaintly named Peep-O-Day where we picked up a wonderful bridlepath through fields to Phoside, a very old outlay of Hayfield. Here I made an exciting discovery when I came across the ruins of an old mill. Hayfield is renowned for its mills that once processed a variety of things including paper, wood, corn, wool, flax and even bump. Bump was flax or cotton waste loosely twisted together to make a thread. However, Phoside Mill, at one time owned and occupied by Aaron Rangeley, was a cotton mill constructed around 1780 and thought to use processes invented by Richard Arkwright of Cromford fame. Trees were now growing where spinning frames once spun, powered by Phoside stream alongside. As I wandered down the drive which at times was part paved, I imagined the chatter of workers after a long day at machines, their wooden clogs or primitive leather shoes treading wearily on the walk home.
Nellie and I now had to cross the by-pass which was constructed in 1978 at a loss of several buildings including the old village school and a chapel. However, the advantage of traffic being able to avoid Hayfield’s narrow streets is a godsend.
Hayfield was recorded in the Domesday survey as Hedfelt. This name evidently derives from Anglo Saxon times and means heathy open land where hay was obtained. By 1307 there is a record that it had become known as Hayfeld.
We avoided the centre of the village by heading back up to Highgate Lane before descending to the river for a lovely walk upstream to return to our car. All in all it had been a wonderful 9-mile walk, packed with interest, scenically stunning and for the most part serene.
FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: I’m a big girl now and go on proper hikes with mum. She says I’m her best friend and we share special moments together like cuddling on the side of Chinley Churn to watch the world go by after scoffing a sandwich and sharing a biscuit. I love meeting other canine partners on our walks and generally say hello with a sniff, but I can be a bit nervous or bouncy with their humans. Some people want to give me a fuss so bend down to stroke me and that is when I can catch them off guard with a quick flying kiss. Mum is trying hard to get me to keep all four of my paws on the ground but it’s not working well so be warned! I just love life so much and want to share it!