The rugged gritstone hills, bleak moors, ancient woodlands and an engaging heritage means that the border between upland and lowland England is a truly absorbing area to discover. So, let us explore the Western Peak District.
This exploration deserves some time and a place to base yourself, and Buxton is the perfect place to do just that. Buxton is a stunning, architecturally significant resort town and it has so much to offer within its wood-fringed bounds. Apart from being a perfectly positioned town for getting to the Western Peaks, it is also a great location if you plan to see the East and Central parts of the Peak District, with places like Castleton, Bakewell and Chatsworth being within a 30 minute drive away.
First of all we shall head out to the boundary of the Peak District, where Derbyshire gives way to the Cheshire Plains, here we have the mill town of Bollington this is 25 to 30 minute drive from the centre of Buxton depending on your route; let’s not rush, the countryside is beautiful.
Bollington is wrapped around by the River Bollin and the Macclesfield Canal, it has vast old mills, a wealth of traditional pubs and gritstone houses that are all huddled up beneath Kerridge Ridge, the ridge is topped by the impressive beehive looking monument called ‘White Nancy‘ this folly is a favourite focus for walkers, and it is a fantastic place to sit with a picnic on a summer’s day.
The view from White Nancy is that of the Cheshire Plains with views to the Welsh Hills on a good and clear day. It is also possible to trace the routes of aeroplanes going into and out of Manchester Airport which is a lovely pastime whilst you picnic and lose yourself in the 80 mile panoramic view you have in front of you.
Walking up to the top of Kerridge Ridge is relatively easy with clean, clear paths with a little bit of a gradient to get up via steps, so not really practical if attempting this with a pushchair. For easier walking in Bollington, I recommend a walk along the canalside through Bollington, there are impressive mills and gorgeous countryside.
Moving South across the borders of the lowlands of the Cheshire Plains above Macclesfield you will find the uplands of Macclesfield Forest, this is a mountain-biker’s paradise with land that plunges from high moorland edges to the banks of the reservoirs within the forest fringe. Tracking further along you will find places like Windgather Rocks which is usually covered in climbers enjoying this open small edge. This is an easy roadside location and perfect again for picnics with an amazing vista of the rolling hills around Kettleshulme and the Cheshire Plains and Manchester can be seen from here. On the top of the rocks you have a 360 degree view and looking East it is possible view the edges of Kinder Scout and Mam Tor in the distance.
Moving on and tracking up via Pym’s Chair and then a drive through the Goyt Valley passing by Errwood Reservoir, I recommend to follow the gated road (if it is open) and keeping the reservoir on your left, drive through the valley and as it tightens it becomes a single track road heading towards Derbyshire Bridge which is below the Cat & Fiddle moor and the pub, the famous Cat and Fiddle, the second highest inn in England (now closed), is perched on the bleak moorland between Macclesfield and Buxton.
From the Cat & Fiddle pub you can walk to Shining Tor and take in the views of the infamous road that was once given the badge of being the most dangerous road in Britain, not anymore may I add since the speed control measures were added to the route. Stood upon Shining Tor and from above the road, it looks like a beautiful ribbon that winds it way through the gentle hills with distant views of the Matterhorn of Cheshire, more commonly known as Shuttingsloe.
Coming back into Buxton on the Cat and Fiddle road, take a moment to appreciate the bowl of trees that Buxton sits within.
ON THE WILDER SIDE of BUXTON TOWN
The road to the south of Buxton is different again; off the rolling A53 high road to Leek are some of the western Peaks’ most appealing tracts of countryside. There are narrow and adventurous lanes that head you away from the striking Axe Edge through to the quaint little Hollinsclough, the pretty Longnor and compact Earl Sterndale. Admire the sight of Parkhouse and Chrome hills which rise steeply with their jagged edges that give them the nickname of the ‘Dragon’s Back‘
Further along the A53 towards Leek rise the edges of the Staffordshire Moorlands come into view and culminate in the striking escarpment of The Roaches and Ramshaw Rocks. This is an adventure land for every member of the family with outcrops of rock to climb on and pine trees to wander through. The views from the ridge sweep deep into desolate moors, a wilderness of heather and deep cloughs and broken down walls. At the northern end of the Roaches and signed, paths drop steeply to the hidden abyss of Lud’s Church, a mysterious, ferny chasm secreted in thick oak woods and wreathed in legend.
Exploring these areas could be done in a week, you would be tired but I am sure you would feel accomplished and satisfied that you had made this journey and discovered lots. There is always the option to take it easier, discover even more and plan future visits to the area.