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Walks with Nellie by Sally Mosley ~ Whaley Bridge

After a pleasant drive up to Whaley Bridge, I was lucky to find a space in the Canal Wharf car park where Nellie and I began this walk of discovery in the High Peak.

Crossing over to the railway station we then headed up Reservoir Road where lots of hoarding boards, high vis clad workmen and vehicle activity were to be seen around the dam wall of Toddbrook Reservoir. Opened in 1838 as a feeder for the Peak Forest canal, the reservoir made headline news on 1 August 2019 when a major incident was declared. Fifteen hundred local residents were evacuated because concrete slabs on the 1969 overflow spillway were partially dislodged following persistent heavy rain. A danger to life warning was issued as it was thought the dam wall could collapse. Hundreds of tons of aggregate stone was brought in by an RAF Chinook helicopter. This was then ‘grouted’ by concrete to shore up the dam wall whilst pumps reduced water in the reservoir to a safe level over the following week. Ongoing repairs are expected to take until 2025 to complete.

We walked past the little Brookfield Pond Nature Reserve and continued along the road, lined by some lovely houses. When the lane became a private drive Nellie and I turned up a footpath through Slatersbank Wood where bluebells were opening out beneath a covering of trees decorated with fresh leaves.

On reaching Start Lane we did a staggered crossing to the left before heading up a track over Hawkhurst Head. There were now fabulous views toward distant dark peak hills but with sombre skies predicting it would soon be raining yet again, and there was a very cold wind blowing too. Because of this I couldn’t be bothered to go in search of the Dipping Stone, enticingly indicated on my map. Instead I used google to see what it looked like. Thought to have been the base of a pair of Saxon crosses, it looked somewhat like an ancient breeze block with two sockets.

Emerging onto Whaley Lane which is a fast bit of road, Nellie and I kept well under the side as we walked to a fingerpost sign and stile from where we headed across a couple of large nursery fields speckled with sheep and new born lambs. The path led us down to Brownough Farm from where we descended an old track past Yeardsley Hall which was tucked away in privacy behind some houses. I could just make out the tall chimneys of this Grade II listed dwelling, believed to date back several centuries.

Lower down the lane, a cottage on the right had a plaque on its wall stating that 1822-1840 it was The Furnace Methodist Chapel.

We went over the main road at Furness Vale and dropped down to the rail crossing where the gates were down and red lights flashing, so we watched the Buxton to Manchester train slide past into the station. We then descended again to the canal path just as a narrow boat on hire from Bugsworth Basin was gliding gently past with barely a wave at its prow.

It was a lovely walk beside the murky waters of the canal, passing a colourful collection of mainly residential boats, some with mini garden plots alongside these floating homes.

We arrived back at the canal wharf where Judith Mary the canal cruiser was moored up. I peeped through an open door of the transhipment warehouse to discover the most amazing interior. Sixties music was playing that enticed me in and took me back in time to my childhood. I wandered through racks of second-hand books, cd’s, records, jigsaw puzzles and a smattering of local artist handiwork including cards, pictures and photographs. I then purchased a cup of hot chocolate and some biscuits before settling down in a comfy chair with Nellie by my side. This cheap and cheerful shop and gallery is a cornucopia of interest that both warmed me up and fed my literary soul. Evidently on the second Saturday of every month they hold a food and arts market here.

Laden with reading goodies, thankfully it was just a short walk back to the car.

Sally Mosley

FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: Me and my mum both have a bit of an obsession with digging. She uses a fork or spade but I just use my nose. It’s the time of year when mum spends hours up her allotment playing around in the soil and burying things, in the hope that they will pop up in a few weeks’ time as something to eat for tea. I normally sit around somewhere cosy watching her for a bit before snoozing as it’s all a bit boring. However, the other day I had a brainwave! Whilst mum was planting a little potato I made a big hole and then buried one of my treat snacks. Won’t it be great when we dig up our crops together!! Sniggers, slurps and tongue in cheek.

Nellie x


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