Day 45 - Hayfield to Stalybridge
It’s been an odd day today. A mixture of all sorts of different places and walking, and although there have been no particular difficulties or incidents, it’s all felt quite hard and tiring.
The day started well with a good breakfast at the Royal in Hayfield, and an interesting chat with Lisa. She has run the hotel for 10 years, but her lease is coming up next year and she’s considering retiring. She’d like to spend more time walking - although she lives in amazing walking country she feels she did more when she lived in London. She has the Anglesey coast in her sights.
Although I’m not walking the Pennine away at this section that doesn’t mean I’m missing out on all of the fells. There was a steep pull out of Hayfield onto the Pennine Bridle Way up Lantern Pike. It felt good to be out with the views again, though my leg was definitely noticing the uphill climbing. The heather is almost out, there’ll be some amazing expanses of purple here in a few weeks.
The PBP is a great route, well signed and easy to follow. The only navigational or other difficulties (of which there were very few today) were when I left it. One was a short cut footpath across a field that was suitable for walkers but not cyclists. I had planned to use this but was put off by the cows in the field. I’ve been rather giving in to the fear of them over the last couple of days, and have been taking detours to avoid them. I decided that today was going to be the time to change, so I had a stern word with myself about being brave, and walked across. Incident free, they barely raised a bovine eyebrow. They have no idea how much courage it takes to be in the field with them.
I stopped for a cup of tea from my thermos on a convenient ledge and enjoyed being out in this wild space unburdened by waterproofs.
Continuing, I had to use the road instead of the path, because of a sign from the National Trails saying that the negotiations for payment to the landowner were still in progress, and currently the land where the path was is private. It still looked pretty well used, and the implication from the sign was that it was still permissible for walkers, but I didn’t want to embark on it and then not be able to exit, so rerouted to the road. It made me think about the financial arrangements for these trails, and whether landowners just get one payment, or regular payments. And who is responsible for the National Trails’ upkeep?
That was the end of the really wild walking for the day. The path worked its way off the moor downhill to Simmondley, where I took a diversion to find some lunch. A doorstep sandwich and a coffee in Yogi cafe (no yoga available, nor any references to Yellowstone bears) was entertaining, mainly because it gave me the chance to listen in on a family’s conversation. I love the chance to quietly eavesdrop. This group were beginning to plan a wedding, sharing photos of wedding dresses from Pinterest. The groom to be was asked whether he might wear tweed. He declined because of the ethical issues. I really wanted to ask him what they were.
Coming out of Simmondley I had the choice of walking along the main arterial road or cutting up to join the PBP. Although a bit further, it felt like a nicer option. The footpath that cut across the woods on the way had a fork and I took the wrong way. It led me through increasingly overgrown sections of the wood and as I thought I was coming out, I realised I was in a small clearing where it appears someone has been living. It’s the first time in the trek that I have felt unnerved by some sort of human activity. Not that there was any evidence that the person there would mean me harm, nor indeed that there was even anyone there at the time. But I hastily retraced my steps and left the place alone.
Aside from this, choosing to avoid the road was a good decision. It replaced a walk alongside heavy traffic and DIY centres with a green corridor that is clearly well used by locals. It’s not just an amenity for long distance hikers and cyclists, and parts ran alongside the river Etherow too. Definitely better than Toolstation.
After Simmondley I started the second big hill of the day, coming through Hollingworth. Feeling tired and a bit shaky I called in at Brightmores corner shop. Along with a cold drink, I had the pleasure of meeting Matt, the owner of the shop, and Graham. For reasons I never quite got to the bottom of, Graham would prefer to be known as Bebop. And in describing that we all had a bit of a sing through a couple of songs with Bebop in them. He also introduced me to Skye the dog. Who wasn’t his. Matt explained that Graham is a bit of a local hero, helping people out with dog walking, doing litter picking, whatever needs doing. He was also a hero in that he sponsored me. Matt also talked about setting up the shop 3 years ago, and weathering the lockdown storm by transforming what used to be an off licence into a community corner shop. Off licences couldn’t open in lockdown, general stores could. Very enterprising, and helpful to his community too.
Over the hill and then down into Tameside, a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester. Whilst at university here it rained a lot, in fact every day of my first term. As if to remind me of that time that was both exciting and challenging, together with being very damp, the drizzle started almost as I passed the boundary. They’ve obviously had a Biblical amount of rain round here in the past, there was a boat marooned at the top of a field.
The long road approaching Stalybridge was lined with big Edwardian villas, talking of a time when maybe it was more successful. The centre looked a bit down on its luck, though the excellently confident Victorian municipal buildings still cut a dash. And it was useful to see that I could get more witchcraft resources if I’d run out of the ones I might have bought in Bridgwater or Glastonbury. I loved the tribute to Jack Judge, the composer of ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’. I used to teach that at school, it made me quite nostalgic.
I’ve been quite flat and low this afternoon, feeling very tired and like everything is a bit too much. I couldn’t have been more pleased to get to my lodgings for the night. This is a first - a homestay in a cul de sac where the owner doesn’t live on site. She was there to let me in and then left me to it, in her immaculate house. I’ve also not encountered a toilet seat hygiene cover since this walk started, everywhere is spotless. Which was great, because what I wanted to do was to retreat and just lie down for the rest of the day. Hopefully something a bit more like normal service will be resumed tomorrow.
Distance travelled: 13.5 miles
Total ascent: 2168 feet
Calories burned: 1950
Local tipple - can of Helles Bier by Blackjack brewery (bought from an independent off licence that specialises in local beer)
Picnic of Tesco salads and sushi in my room
Video of the day