High Peak Walk - Whaley Bridge

The Peak Forest Canal

The Peak Forest Canal - Credit: Archant

Accompany Sally Mosley in an escape from the hustle and bustle of the valley to enjoy panoramic views on the top of Eccles Pike

DESCRIPTION: This walk begins with a gentle stroll along a canal path to Bugsworth Basin, a historic former inland port. The route then progresses through Buxworth before ascending on a zig-zag course to Eccles Pike to embrace far-reaching views over a landscape of High Peak hills. The descent is gradual; following a quiet country lane before dropping back into Whaley Bridge on a path through fields, over stiles and a short walk down a section of old track bed.

DISTANCE: 5.5 miles

PARKING: Canal wharf car park, Whaley Bridge SK23 7LX SK012816

TERRAIN: Four stiles, three gates. Moderately strenuous hike with steep ascents. Close proximity to deep water. Country lanes without pavements. Livestock grazing.

A lovely view of Combs Reservoir on the descent from Eccles Pike

A lovely view of Combs Reservoir on the descent from Eccles Pike - Credit: Archant

REFRESHMENTS: Various tearooms, cafés and pubs in Whaley Bridge. The Navigation Inn, Bugsworth Basin

TOILETS: Buxton Road, Whaley Bridge (near the railway station)

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MAP: O.S. Explorer Map OL1 (Dark Peak)

WALK HIGHLIGHT: Finally reaching the summit of Eccles Pike

1 From the car park walk to Whaley Bridge wharf and the start of your walk beside the Peak Forest canal. The canal was engineered by Benjamin Outram and Thomas Brown and runs for 15 miles to Ashton-under-Lyne. It was used mainly to transport limestone from Peak District quarries. Due to the hilly terrain surrounding its route, the canal passes through several tunnels and over aqueducts as well as progressing up a flight of locks at Marple. The canal’s transshipment shed at the start was built in 1832 and is now a listed building. Transportation of stone ceased in 1925 but in 1964 the Peak Forest Canal Society was formed to restore this waterway for leisure use. The first stretch of the canal has spaces for permanent moorings where a succession of narrow boats can be seen, some with amusing or tongue-in-cheek names such as ‘Toads Croak’.

2 At a junction in the canal go over the footbridge and turn right, heading to Bugsworth Basin which was scheduled as an ancient monument in 1977. For a century this was an important inland port where limestone was brought down from the hills by tram from quarries near Buxton and transferred to barges. Some limestone was burnt in huge kilns to produce pure lime. Then this would have been an industrial site full of dust and noise but today it is a place of peace and tranquillity.

3 Arriving at the Navigation Inn turn right to cross bridges over the canal and then the bypass road beyond. Bear left along Western Lane and follow this around bends to pass the football pitch and Buxworth cricket ground. The village of Buxworth is a village divided in more ways than one. Spliced in two by the dual carriageway that cuts a speedy swathe along the floor of the valley, the settlement changed its name from Bugsworth to Buxworth on 16th April 1930. Although Bugsworth dated back to pre-Norman times – it is thought to be a corruption of Old English for Bucga’s Enclosure – the local vicar and headmaster considered it unattractive. In 1999 the 600-strong population of the village were asked to vote on whether it should remain Buxworth or revert back. Buxworth won the day with 233 votes to 139, and many abstentions, even though it is said that residents nearly always refer to their village as Buggy!

4 At the end of the main street the road bends round to the right and then heads uphill, ascending through a cutting sliced through plates of gritstone bedrock covered in moss – often dank and dripping with the water that leaches from ground above. Notice how tree roots appear to slither out of cracks in the rock.

5 Arriving at Crist Cottage where there is a sign for Back Eccles Lane, turn right and head steeply uphill on the road marked ‘unsuitable for lorries’.

6 Near the top of the lane turn left and follow the lower footpath as indicated by a metal sign, passing through gorse bushes before entering a field over a stile at the side of a gate. Follow the footpath downhill with a wall to your left. From here there are lovely views across the valley to Chinley Churn and Cracken Edge with a glimpse of Kinder Scout in the distance peeping out between The Naze and Mount Famine. Down in the valley is Chinley village where you can see a surviving red brick chimney on a former mill site. 4

7 Arriving at the little hamlet of Eccles Fold, turn right on reaching the road and walk past cottages before heading up to a bridle gate by the National Trust sign for Eccles Pike. Turn left to follow a bridlepath which passes behind the impressive Eccles House.

8 Where the bridlepath meets a road, turn right at another National Trust sign and walk up the grassy path rather than ascending the narrow road which runs parallel. This path eventually leads to the summit of Eccles Pike where there is a circular metal topograph on the ground, pointing out distant landmarks such as Rushup Edge, Shining Tor, Windgather Rocks and the metropolis of Greater Manchester. The term Pike is thought to be Scandinavian in origin and basically means a high hill with a sharp or pointed summit. Notice down in the valley beyond Chinley the bifurcating double railway viaduct at Chapel Milton which crosses Black Brook, a tributary of the River Goyt. It consists of 14 arches on the eastern side and 13 to the west.

9 Carefully descend the path from the summit to a gate providing access onto Eccles Road and turn right. See Combs Reservoir in the distance which was constructed in 1794 and is home to Combs Sailing Club.

10 At Hilltop, a staggered crossroads of narrow lanes where the road levels out, continue ahead to pass behind Ollerenshaw Hall.

11 At the far side of a large farm and stables complex where Eccles Road bends sharply left, continue straight ahead on a track following a fingerpost footpath sign. After approximately 40 yards follow the track around a right-hand corner to another footpath post located at the side of an old stone outbuilding. With a high wall to your left, follow the footpath as it descends gently downhill towards New Horwich and then to Whaley Bridge. After passing through a band of trees, the path crosses over a long dry valley known as the Roosdyche. Originally thought to be of Roman origin, this is in fact the bed of a glacial meltwater channel.

12 Continue down past the cricket ground from where you will now have views over to Toddbrook Reservoir, constructed in 1831 as a feeder for the canal. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as a habitat for herons, ducks, small animals and fish but also rare mosses and liverworts that grow on its shores. Follow the road as it bends around to the left.

13 Returning to where houses line the road look for twin footpath signs on the right and a choice of paths. Follow the wooden footpath sign and descend steeply down a walled path to Bings Road. Turn left and walk down past a strange tower-shaped property. This was in fact built as a ventilation shaft for the Waterloo Pit, one of Whaley Bridge’s many coal mines. Mining was a thriving local industry from the 16th century until after the First World War.

14 Turn right at the junction and then right again a few yards beyond to descend a section of trail down an incline which was a former track bed of the Cromford and High Peak Railway line. The 33-mile long railway, one of the first in the world, was laid to link the Peak Forest Canal with Cromford Canal to the south of the county. At the bottom go straight ahead and cross the little River Goyt to return to the car park.

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