The Six Stations Walk 1
Section 1: New Mills Central to New Mills (Newtown)
The Route: New Mills Central station, Millennium Walkway, The Torrs, Schofield’s Road, Wirksmoor Road, (Albion Road, New Mills Newtown station), Victoria Street, Peak Forest Canal towpath.
Starting point: New Mills Central station. (G.R. SJ 996853)
Distance: 0.95 miles (1½ km)
Map: OS Outdoor Leisure No. 1, The Dark Peak (though a street map of New Mills might be more use)
How to get there: Daily train service to New Mills Central from Manchester and Sheffield.
The Walk: From New Mills Central station turn right, down the lane and almost immediately go left, down a steep footpath signed to the Millennium Walkway. The path descends to join the riverside route and here you turn left for the Millennium Walkway.
In front of you is a derelict mill, squeezed into the valley bottom between the sheer gritstone crags on the right and the river and railway to the left. There have been numerous attempts to find a reuse for this mill but to no avail as yet, which is great shame. The bridge across the river is of no help to you, it merely being a short cut from Central station to the houses on the far bank. The Millennium Walkway was the brainchild of the late Martin Doughty, at the time the County Councillor for New Mills and the Leader of Derbyshire County Council. The walkway was designed in part by Stan Brewster, who became one of the victims of the London tube bombings. It is a fitting memorial to both men.
Continue along the walkway, which is cantilevered out from the imposing retaining wall that carries the Manchester-Sheffield railway.
You can just make out the top of the tunnel arch over the top of the retaining wall. The tunnel carries the line under the gritstone crag on which New Mills town centre sits.
Follow the walkway round the bend in the river and past the weir. Steps lead down to the weir if you want to get closer to the river itself. Continue round the next bend in the river and you are confronted by a massive viaduct spanning the gorge.
Unusually, this is not a railway viaduct, though it has all the appearance of one. Instead it carries the main road linking the two parts of New Mills. It was built in 1884 and carries the appropriately named Union Road. On either side of the gorge there are sheer gritstone cliffs and these are well used by climbers, who also try their luck on the viaduct itself.
Just beyond the viaduct there is a ruined building. This is all that remains of Torr Mill, or Schofield’s Mill as it was once known. It was originally built in 1790 and harnessed the abundant water power of the Goyt and Sett rivers through a series of weirs and waterwheels. The mill was largely destroyed by fire in 1838, but was rebuilt and steam power introduced. The chimney stack against the northern wall of the gorge is all that remains of this phase of the mill, because a further disastrous fire in 1912 destroyed the building completely and the remains were largely demolished. However, the story doesn’t end there, because the main weir has been brought back into use for the purpose for which it was originally intended and now provides the necessary head of water to power a small hydro-electric installation. This can be viewed just a little further on, beside the weir itself.
From the hydro plant go back to the viaduct and follow the track up under the left-most arch. This is Schofield’s Road, built to serve the former mill. The track climbs the side of the gorge and soon reaches the Rock Tavern at the top. Here bear left along Wirksmoor Road and follow this road until you come to Albion Road (A6015).
(If you are heading for Newtown station, go right here, cross the main road at the pedestrian crossing and walk up Albion Road to the station). Otherwise, cross Albion Road and go up Victoria Street, which is signed to the canal. At the end of this short street a rough path continues up onto the canal towpath. Here you go right.
Section 2: New Mills (Newtown) to Disley
The Route: Newtown station, Albion Road, Victoria Street, Peak Forest Canal towpath, Hag Bank Lane, Market Street (Disley), Disley station
Starting point: New Mills (Newtown) station. (G.R. SJ 995847)
Distance: 3 miles (4.8 km)
Ascent: Apparently there’s 340 feet (104 metres) of ascent in this walk, but that’s hard to believe.
Map: OS Outdoor Leisure No. 1, The Dark Peak
How to get there: Daily train service to New Mills Newtown and Disley from Manchester, Stockport and Buxton.
The Walk: From New Mills Newtown station, walk down Albion Road and across the canal. Unusually, there’s no access onto the canal at this point, so walk a little further and just after the pedestrian crossing, turn right into Victoria Street. At the end of this short street a rough path continues up onto the canal towpath. Here turn right.
Walkers coming from New Mills Central start here.
On the opposite bank of the canal you can see a large wooden post; the remains of a wharf crane.
Go along the towpath, soon passing underneath Albion Road and coming alongside the Swizzels- Matlow factory.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out what this factory produces. The sugary smell soon gives that away. Swizzels - Matlow is a traditional manufacturer of sweets. Their best known sweets include Love Hearts, Double Lollies, Drumsticks and Parma Violets. The company relocated to new Mills in 1940 after the Blitz. The company was started in 1928 by Alf and Maurice Matlow. In 1933, following an association with David Dee the company became Swizzels Limited, changing name again in 1975 to the current title, Swizzels Matlow Ltd.
Having passed the factory the canal becomes very rural and it is difficult to imagine that the main A6 road and the Buxton line are only a few yards away to your left and that the main Sheffield-Manchester railway line is close by to your right. None of these can be seen, though they can be heard. The walk along the towpath is no more than a gentle stroll, passing a winding hole on your left and on your right the mechanism for a sluice to empty the canal for maintenance. At Bridge 27 you follow the towpath under the arch and at the other side join a narrow private road for a few yards before the usual towpath resumes. Soon you reach Bridge 26.
(If you are simply heading for Disley station and time presses, it is possible to leave the canal here and, passing over the bridge, turn right and make your way up into Disley. To do this you’ll have to go just beyond the bridge and turn right, by the information board and go up the ramp to the road).
Carry on along the towpath which now swings away to the right, until you reach Bridge 25. This is Higgins Clough swing bridge, one of a number on this canal. The large STOP sign does seem a trifle superfluous.
Go over the bridge and bear left up Hagg Bank Lane. A short sharp climb now ensues, but there’s an unusual view to the left over towards Kinder Scout. Having climbed up, the lane now descends to join Hollinwood Road and pass under the Buxton line by a very low arched bridge. Then it’s uphill again, to emerge on the A6 by the Dandy Cock pub. Go right and at the traffic lights, cross the A6 and make your way to the station, passing the Rams Head pub on your left.
Section 3: Disley to Middlewood
The Route: Disley station, Lyme Park, Ryles Wood, Barlow House Farm, Middlewood Way, Middlewood station.
Starting point: Disley station. (G.R. SJ 971845)
Distance: 2.8 miles (4½ km)
Ascent: 265 feet (81 metres)
Map: OS Outdoor Leisure No. 1, The Dark Peak
How to get there: Daily train service to Disley and Middlewood from Manchester, Stockport and Buxton.
The Walk: From the Manchester bound platform of Disley station, bear right and then locate the information board referring to the Gritstone Trail. Follow the footpath up the steps through the wood to reach a lane. Go up the lane to the T-junction and there turn right. Ignore the signs saying that this is a private street, because it is a public footpath.
Follow the lane, passing large houses either side, until at a footpath sign on the left you catch a glimpse of The Cage, the former hunting lodge in the Lyme Park estate. Continue down the lane, which soon reaches the gatehouse to Lyme Park.
This is National Trust land and also in the Peak District National Park. Signs give details of opening times for the Park, usually 0800 to 2030. There is no charge for entry at this gate.
Go through the gate, cross the main access driveway by the ticket booth and go along the lane towards Parkgate. The lane dips to cross a bridge over Bollinghurst Brook, with a delightful cottage down to the right.
Continue up the lane to reach the cattle grid and exit gate. A Peak and Northern Footpaths Society sign indicates that the route to Middlewood is straight ahead, to the right of the farm and through another gate.
Pass through a small gate and through the next field, soon skirting Barlow House farm. A stile gives out onto the driveway and here you turn right. Ahead of you, you will already have caught a glimpse of the Macclesfield Canal and the driveway/lane soon swings left, then right, to cross the canal.
The Macclesfield Canal was one of the last narrow canals to be built, not being authorised until 1826, i.e. post-dating the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. By the time the canal was completed the railway age was well under way.
Don’t go down onto the towpath on this walk. Save that pleasure for the walk from Middlewood to Marple. Beyond the canal, the lane is very narrow and merely two strips of tarmac. There are ponds left and right, with the almost inevitable Canada geese in residence. Soon the lane reaches another bridge, this time over the former Marple to Macclesfield railway line, which is now the Middlewood Way. Turn right here and either descend to the trackbed, or keep on the path on top of the cutting.
The way this railway route has been treated is an object lesson for any authority wanting to create a multi-user trail. Wherever possible there is a footpath on the top of the cutting, which of course allows for views of the surrounding countryside. Down on the former trackbed, the full width of the formation has been used and there is a median planted strip to segregate walkers from cyclists and horse riders. Given the various comments about the recently opened sections of the Monsal Trail it is a pity more attention wasn’t paid to the Middlewood Way when considering how to accommodate different users. Of course, despite the clear signage, it is obvious that some people can’t read, even though they might be fortunate enough to own horses, but nevertheless a walker doesn’t feel intimidated by larger and speedier users.
The Macclesfield-Marple line was promoted as an independent company in the early 1860’s. It gained Parliamentary approval in July 1864. From the outset it was backed by the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway and the North Staffordshire Railway companies for complex railway political reasons that we won’t go into here.. By the time it opened in 1869, these two companies had already agreed to take it over, which they did, two years later. Originally built as single track, it was doubled in 1871 when it became the joint property of the two bigger companies. The original stations were at Marple (Rose Hill), High Lane, Poynton, Bollington and Macclesfield. Macclesfield station only lasted until 1873 when Macclesfield (Central) was opened (the present day Macclesfield station). Closure of the Rose Hill to Macclesfield line came about on 5th January 1970, and the route was converted to the Middlewood Way, which opened on 30th May 1985.
Stroll along the trail under various bridges.
The first bridge you meet passes under Prince Road. This formerly carried a colliery railway from Horsepasture Pit to the Macclesfield canal. It is shown as “disused” on the 1874 map of the area. Mining is not one of the things you would immediately associate with Poynton but it was an important coal mining area at one time and the history of the Poynton collieries is a fascinating one. The final mines closed down in 1935 and there is very little obvious sign of their existence now.
Beyond bridge 18 the two parts of the trail are more widely separated and the right hand path is signed to Middlewood station. In a few yards the path forks again and there is an information board about the former Jackson’s brickworks, which occupied the site to the right. Now completely reclaimed for nature, this is an interesting place to visit if time permits.
It was near this point that on 25th May 1885 a curve was opened linking the Macclesfield line with the Buxton line at Middlewood. Its use by passenger trains was never extensive, at best consisting of trains on 3 or 4 days a week, between Stoke and Buxton and even then usually only one train a day in each direction. Not surprisingly the “service” was an early victim, ceasing on 1st October 1914, being restored in 1922, only to be withdrawn again in 1927. The curve closed to all traffic in February 1955 and the bridges were demolished. The embankments can still be traced in the woodland both south and north of the current Middlewood station.
Continuing on the main trail, a slight rise marks the site of the former Middlewood Upper station.
Middlewood Upper (or High Level) station was opened on 2nd June 1879 and closed in 1960. The station house is still extant on the left hand side of the line, and the path that formed the station approach now joins the trail.
Ahead you can now see the large girder bridge that carries the Middlewood Way over the Buxton line, and here too is the usual array of information signs that one gets at any station. As you arrive at the top of the steps leading to the Manchester bound platform of Middlewood (Lower) station you pass imperceptibly from Cheshire into Greater Manchester. The only things that betray this change are the different signs and, in particular, those on the station that show you are now in GMPTE’s territory. A more unlikely PTE station would be hard to imagine as Middlewood has no vehicular access at all and, as the name suggests, it is literally in the middle of a wood.
Section 4: Middlewood to Marple
The Route: Middlewood station, Middle Wood, Macclesfield Canal towpath, High Lane, Marple Junction, Peak Forest Canal, Marple lock flight, Station Road, Marple station.
Starting point: Middlewood station. (G.R. SJ 962893)
Distance: 3.7 miles (6 km)
Ascent: 160 feet (49 metres)
Map: OS Outdoor Leisure No. 1, The Dark Peak
How to get there: Daily train service to Middlewood from Manchester and Buxton. Check train times as there are some lengthy gaps in the service on weekdays.
The Walk: From Middlewood station go up to the Middlewood Way and on the north side of the bridge follow the signed alternative route to Marple via the Macclesfield Canal. This leaves the Middlewood Way and heads off up a broad track into Middle Wood, from which
After a short distance, you come out of the wood into an open area and the track swings first right, then left. A much less distinct path keeps right, closely following the belt of woodland that borders the railway. There are waymarks but they are not always obvious. At the end of the open area, you enter woodland again and yet again the path splits. The sign indicates that horse riders should keep left and walkers to the right, but evidence on the ground seems to demonstrate that this is not always observed! Follow the path through the wood, with many twists and turns and few way-marks of any use, until you suddenly come out of the wood onto a track and there, in front of you, is the Macclesfield Canal. Turn left along the towpath.
This canal betrays its late construction. There are deep cuttings and matching high embankments as it strides up this western flank of the Peak District. Some of the embankments are in excess of 60 feet high. This is narrow canal technology at its zenith. The Macclesfield canal was first proposed in 1765, but proposals came and went and it wasn’t until 1824 that the final scheme was put forward. Even then, there was a controversy about the relative merits of a canal versus one of the “new fangled” railways. Eventually the canal interests won the day and the route was authorised in 1826. The engineer for the project was none other than the great Thomas Telford. The canal was a magnificent achievement, demonstrating how far canal engineering had come in the years since the building of the Peak Forest and Trent and Mersey canals with which the Macclesfield connected. Unfortunately, by the time the canal was completed in 1831, the railway age was in full swing and the canal enjoyed only 15 years of independent existence, before being absorbed by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company, along with its neighbours the Ashton and Peak Forest canals. At one time both the canal company and the railway company operated passenger services on the canal with what were known as “fly” boats. These were fast craft (by canal standards) and had priority over other traffic.
The walk is an easy one with plenty of time and opportunity to look around and pass the time of day with other walkers and canal users. So rural is the scene that the sudden realisation that you are in High Lane comes as a bit of a surprise. The towpath goes up and over a bridge that spans the High Lane arm of the canal and then you dive under the A6. There’s the Bulls Head pub here, conveniently reached from the towpath, and for anyone who’s had enough of walking, the bus stop is perched right on top of the bridge. Another quiet rural stretch follows.
Note the various bits of canal maintenance equipment as you stroll along; the stop planks, the narrowing of the canal and the grooves in the canalside walls for the stop planks, the sluice-gates and their attendant winding gear. The milepost on the left is a reminder that canal boats were charged by the mileage they covered and by the type of goods (or passengers) they carried. This requirement on the canal companies to mark the mileage, carried over from the turnpike roads and eventually into railway practice. It used to be an offence for any turnpike, canal or railway company not to maintain their mileposts and failure to maintain or install such posts was a defence for any passenger or freight forwarder who felt they’d been overcharged. Note too that all the bridges are numbered. The system of numbering used by the canals has also been translated into railway use and then into motorway use. Sometimes you’ll see a bridge with a suffix letter, e.g. 3A. This simply means that the bridge post-dates the construction of the canal (or railway or road) and, rather than renumber every bridge the new structure was simply given the number of the preceding bridge and a suffix letter.
Just beyond Bridge 3, there is a huge red brick mill building, now the home for numerous small businesses.
This is the former Goyt Mill. The mill chimney, which stood even higher than the existing tower, was demolished in the 1980’s. The crane used to lift good from the canal boats is still intact and one can imagine the hive of industry that must have been present here when the mill was in its heyday. Bridge 2 is a roving bridge, with a spiral approach ramp to enable horses to pass from one side of the canal to the other without having to untie the towrope. Here too is the Ring o’Bells pub, conveniently sited alongside the canal and offering canal boat trips.
You are now in Marple and approaching the junction with the much earlier Peak Forest Canal. The final bridge on the Macclesfield canal takes you over the boundary lock between the two canals.
The sole purpose of the lock, which is now permanently open, was to ensure that the Macclesfield didn’t benefit with “free” water from the Peak Forest Canal. There is no appreciable difference in levels between the two canals. Once over the bridge you are at the top of the Marple flight of locks. 18 locks carry the Peak Forest canal down from its summit level towards Manchester.
Stroll down this impressive lock flight, noting the comings and goings of the boats and musing on the thought that this very nearly ceased to exist in the 1960’s. The canal had been abandoned as a commercial waterway by an Act of 1944. At Lock 9 you reach Station Road. Go right here and down the hill to Marple station.
Section 5: Marple to Strines
The Route: Marple station, Station Road, Marple locks, Peak Forest canal, Turf Lea bridge, Strines, Whitecroft Farm, Strines station.
Starting point: Marple station. (G.R. SJ 962893)
Distance: 3 miles (4.9 km)
Ascent: 265 feet (81 metres)
Map: OS Outdoor Leisure No. 1, The Dark Peak
How to get there: Daily train service to Marple from Manchester and Sheffield. Check train times as there are some lengthy gaps in the Sheffield service on weekdays. Make sure you check your train times for Strines as it has a much less frequent service than either Marple or New Mills Central.
The Walk: From Marple station, turn right and go up Station Road. Almost at once, there is a footpath signed off to the right.
(If you have time, go along this path and soon join the Peak Forest canal towpath. It is worth continuing down the flight of locks to the fine Marple Aqueduct, one of the triumphs of 18th century canal engineering. Construction began in May 1794. By 1799, the arches were keyed in and water was let into the channel in 1800. The aqueduct is 103 yards (97 metres) long. There are three arches over the River Goyt, the highest being 100 feet (30.5 metres) above the river. Records indicate that the aqueduct contains around 8,000 cubic yards (6300 cubic metres) of masonry. The piers are constructed in red sandstone and are oval in section. The upper courses are in a white, dressed stone and are pierced to reduce the weight of the structure. The paralleling railway viaduct is also rather fine. Having visited these two structures, retrace your steps up the lock flight, but don’t go along the footpath back to the railway station (unless you’ve already had enough of this walk), instead carry on up the flight of locks to Station Road).
Ignore the footpath and carry on up Station Road to Lock No. 9 on the Marple Lock flight.
This is a grand place for watching the antics of boaters. Here you are at one of the key junctions on the Cheshire Ring of canals. It is hard to believe now, as you watch the almost constant procession of boats up and down the Marple flight that not all that long ago, this magnificent flight of locks was virtually derelict and there were suggestions of closing the Peak Forest canal entirely.
What follows is now a gentle stroll along the towpath.
Just beyond the marina, there is a view across to Mellor church on the hillside and beyond it to Cowms Edge and Rocks. Bridge 19 is a roving bridge, built with a spiral approach ramp to enable towing horses to pass from one side of the canal to the other without having to release the towrope.
Go over the bridge and follow the towpath, which now continues on the north side of the canal.
At Bridge 21 note the use of old railway line as a means of protecting the stonework from towrope abrasion. Even the steel rail has grooves in it where the ropes have rubbed. Just beyond this bridge a signpost seeks to lure you to The Sportsman pub and offers a route to Hyde (Gee Cross), via Werneth Low. None of these are of any use to you, though it might be worth remembering The Sportsman for future occasions.
Continue on the towpath to Turf Lea lifting bridge, which, like a number on this canal, boasts a large STOP sign.
It would take a particularly blind boat operator or a very poor judge of bridge heights not to see these bridges or to misjudge the clearance.
A couple of hundred yards beyond the lifting bridge, the canal goes over a substantial bridge across a ravine. Just before this bridge, there is a flight of steps on the left. Go down these, leaving the canal, and thus join a cobbled lane. Turn left here and follow the lane down, passing a delightful row of cottages on the left, until you reach the main road. This is the great metropolis of Strines. Cross the main road with care and go down Station Road opposite.
Just beyond the new housing development on the left, the road narrows and signs proclaim that it is no through road beyond this point. A narrow bridge spans the River Goyt and there are inscriptions in both parapets.
The inscription on the western parapet refers to the construction of the original bridge in 1834 by the Strines Printing Company; the destruction of that bridge in a flood in 1872 and its reconstruction in the same year. Perhaps appropriately the name of the builder of the new bridge was one J Mason. The inscription on the eastern parapet refers to the strengthening of the bridge in 1957 by New Mills Urban District Council. The current county boundaries at this point show the bridge as being firmly in Greater Manchester County (Stockport Metropolitan Borough). The boundary was altered in 1974, but even before that the inclusion of this bridge in Derbyshire must have been an anomaly as the only means of access to it by road was through Cheshire.
Continue along the lane, noting the pond and its attractive dovecote on the left. As the lane swings left, you pass Whitecroft Farm on the right. Shortly afterwards the lane begins to rise and is surfaced with cobbles. Ahead you’ll now see the signs for Strines station.
This is another example, like Middlewood, of an unusual station for a PTE, though at least Strines is accessible by road - just. Also like Middlewood, it is only just in the PTE’s area. Indeed it is a moot point whether the Sheffield bound platform is actually in Derbyshire, because as soon as one gets under the railway bridge the road signs are Derbyshire’s.
Section 6: Strines to New Mills Central
The Route: Strines station, Fox Inn, Brook Bottom Road, Upper Hague Fold Farm, Hague Bar, Tors Riverside Park, Mousley Bottom LNR, New Mills Central station (optional extension via Millennium Walkway, Torr Vale Mill, Torr Hydro installation and retrace steps to Central station).
Distance: 2 miles (3¼ km)
Ascent: 460 feet (140 metres)
Map: OS Outdoor Leisure No. 1, The Dark Peak
How to get there: Daily train service to Strines from Manchester and Sheffield. Check train times as there are some lengthy gaps.
The Walk: On leaving Strines station, turn right and immediately commence the climb up the lovely green lane the leads to the Fox Inn. Here you are on the Midshires Way and the Goyt Way. The lane is cobbled at first then just a rough stony surface, then cobbled in part again.
The bulk of the climbing on this walk is in this first 870 yard (800 metre) section and you may well be glad of a jar at The Fox by the time you’ve reached it. However, if you’ve only started from Strines it does seem a little early in what is, after all a very short walk to be thinking of taking refreshments. However, if you are near the end of the entire Six stations walk, you may well be in need of sustenance.
At The Fox, turn right, along Brook Bottom Road and at the brow of the hill.
Take the opportunity to admire the view southwards from this vantage point. The Cage (the Lyme Park hunting lodge) can be clearly seen and there is a seat for anyone requiring a rest.
Annoyingly, having toiled up to The Fox and probably resisted its blandishments, you only walk less than 200 yards/metres before a sign for the Goyt Way directs you right and you begin the descent. The route down is on a rough track, which soon becomes a metalled lane on reaching Upper Hague Fold Farm. The lane descends even more steeply and so reaches the main road at Hague Bar.
Cross the main road and go down Waterside Road, signposted to the Torrs Riverside Park and the Millennium Walkway. Just past Hague Bar House you pass over the Manchester-Sheffield railway line and then go left into the Torrs Riverside Park, descending a flight of steps into the play area. Bear diagonally right across the play area to locate a gap stile in the far corner. A very steep path leads down through the woodland to a track in the bottom by the River Goyt. Here go left. Follow the track/path through Hague Meadows and Mousley Bottom Local Nature Reserve. There are numerous paths and tracks, but if you keep to the path or track closest to the river you will be OK.
There are occasional waymarks for either (or both) of the Goyt Way and Midshires Way. At one point there is a sign, which indicates that you are indeed on the Midshires Way and that it is 210 miles to the Ridgeway and 15 miles in the other direction to the Trans-Pennine Trail. An indication of how far it is to New Mills would have been more use.
Having passed through a gate, the path eventually leaves the riverbank and, passing through another gate reaches new(ish) houses. Pass between the houses to the road and here either go right, along the road, or cross the road and then go right, following the Goyt Way signs. Either way you’ll end up at the same place – at the bottom of the hill leading up to New Mills Central station and the town centre. The station is about 200 yards/metres up the lane on the left had side.As an optional extra, if time permits, it is well worth continuing along the Goyt Way from the bottom of the lane leading to Central station in order to visit the Millennium Walkway and The Torrs. See Section 1 of this Six Stations Walk for details. Having examined all this, retrace your steps back along the Millennium Walkway to the derelict mill and then bear right, up the path to Central station.