Cheshire walk - Romiley and Marple

Marple Aqueduct

Marple Aqueduct - Credit: Archant

Howard Bradbury talks a ramble from Romiley to Marple and back, by the scenic route

There are very few places on the canal network where, falling overboard, you are likely to end up dead rather than merely damp.

But Marple Aqueduct (like its big brother the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal) is one such place. Stumble clumsily off your barge while crossing this civil engineering marvel - which takes the Peak Forest Canal over the River Goyt - and a slender unguarded towpath is all that stands between you and a sheer 90-feet drop to the river below. I’ve crossed that aqueduct by boat and, for those who fear heights (include me in) it can be unnerving, though not quite as unnerving at the Pontcysyllte, which does not even have a slender towpath between you and oblivion.

We cross Marple Aqueduct (England’s highest canal aqueduct) in this month’s walk, though thankfully, we are on the ‘safe’ side of it - on the other side of the canal from that unguarded drop. We also cross the River Goyt and yomp beside a stretch of the River Etherow in what is quite a watery - and therefore potentially muddy - walk.

We begin in the hustle and bustle of Romiley, but within minutes, we’ll be watching ducks scudding along the canal.

A narrowboat approaching Marple Locks

A narrowboat approaching Marple Locks - Credit: Archant

1. We start from the car park at the Bredbury and Romiley Community Centre Precinct, off Compstall Road, SK6 4EB (pay and display - five hours for only £1). Make your way back to the main shopping street through Romiley and head left down this road, passing under the green and cream railway bridge, past the Duke of York pub on your left and then cross to the right side of the road.

As you cross the bridge over the canal, take the steps on your right down to the towpath and turn right along the canal, passing under bridge 14 and continuing as the canal bends to the left.

A donkey in a field at Hyde Bank Farm

A donkey in a field at Hyde Bank Farm - Credit: Archant

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2. Stay on the towpath for quite a few minutes. Just after you see industrial buildings on the left, you reach the Hyde Bank Tunnel, which is 300m long, but without a towpath. We take the route the horses would have taken back in the heyday of the canals, following the path which forks up to the right just before the tunnel, then passes over the canal, beneath a rather splendid bridge and up to Hyde Bank Farm. Just beyond the farm, bear right up Hyde Bank and after 100 metres or so, take the path to the right with wooden fencing which takes you back down to the canal towpath.

3. As you pass beneath bridge 15, you see a wall on the left. This is Rose Hill Cuttting, which was a tunnel until its roof collapsed following an earth slip in the 19th century, after which the decision was taken to open the tunnel up.

Soon after, you pass over Marple Aqueduct, and you may see a train crossing the even-higher rail viaduct to the left. Continue on past Aqueduct House and ahead to Marple’s flight of 16 locks. Walk only as far as lock 7, then take an opening to the left which leads you just a few yards parallel with the towpath then down old metal steps and thence to a path. Bear left along this path, crossing the railway and continuing until you reach three metal bollards. At this crossroads, go straight ahead, following the path down until you reach a tarmac lane.

A train on the rail viaduct, seen from Marple Aqueduct.

A train on the rail viaduct, seen from Marple Aqueduct. - Credit: Archant

4. Cross over the lane and bear left beside a heavy green metal barrier and along a path into Brabyns Park. Keep to this path until you reach a white house beside a metal bridge. Cross over the bridge and follow the wide track ahead which brings you eventually to Compstall Road. Turn left down the road, crossing a bridge over the River Etherow, then take the path on the left immediately after the bridge, following the signpost for Valley Way. Stay on the riverside path, resisting the temptation of footpaths off to the right.

5. Eventually the path comes to a wooden stile. Cross over it and keep ahead into a field, following the left edge of it to another stile, bearing slightly left onto a track which takes you through a farmyard. Keep heading in the direction of the rail viaduct clearly visible ahead and take the track which climbs steadily uphill, past another farmhouse, then bears right, continuing uphill until it emerges in a housing estate. Keep straight ahead to a telephone box, then turn left and immediately right into Cherry Tree Lane. Follow this lane until the T junction with Compstall Road, turn left and the road takes you back into Romiley centre.

The Duke of York pub

The Duke of York pub - Credit: Archant

Area of Walk: Romiley and Marple

Distance: 5½ miles

Time to allow: 2 hours 45 mins

The Stock Dove

The Stock Dove - Credit: Archant

Map: OS Explorer 277

Refreshments: Duke of York pub, Stockport Road, Romiley SK6 3AN; Stock Dove pub, 94 Compstall Road, Romiley SK6 4DE; Village Cafe, 78 Compstall Road, Romiley SK6 4DE.