Even though no-one else was sober or awake enough to join me, the fact that it was sunny on a weekend near Manchester was just too good an opportunity to miss. Also the fact that I could be the highest person in Cheshire for a few minutes and see for miles was also a good excuse.
At 559m Shining Tor is the highest hill (no hands required this week) in Cheshire and gets an A* for views on a clear day. As a double bonus its only about 10 minutes walk from The Cat and Fiddle pub and only 33minutes from my house --or so the AA website informed me. Other than in London my reading of maps is infallible even if I say so myself. I even bought a hard copy roadmap for the first time last week as i thought things might get a bit tricky with some of the roads we were now venturing on.
Oh yes they got tricky!
I always use http://www.walkingworld.com/ to get routes for the walk, well I do ever since I hit the 'yes' charge my credit card forever button. But they are due an email off me soon, the walking routes with the pics are generally pretty good with only the odd bit missed off to keep your interest. Even then you get a pic of an OS map to help. Without fail the direction to the meeting / start points are bloody hopeless, honestly Rosie is more communicative when she grunts over the requests for the TV zoomy.
Anyway there is a completely unsignposted maze in the middle of The High Peak with lots of roads that just don't exist on the map. Its a bit like in the old days where people flew about in cars on treasure hunts (the treasure was always in the pub) passing eachother 10 times in different directions. I swear I passed a blue mondeo 5 times. The only clues were the reservoirs and there are 5 of those, the good news is that after a while some sort of magic takes over the space time continuum moves and hey presto the start point exactly 45 minutes since you were 2 minutes away.
I did manage to see one of the very rare mountain hares, they were nearly one hare rarer too as it skipped ahead of my car.
From the carpark the directions were follow the route uphill to Errwood Hall (yes I tried putting this in AA routefinder) it turns out to be off the main path and also less than half a hall. Only the first 10 layers of bricks now exist which by any site-seeing standards is a bit rubbish. I was out with my dad in Rome to watch Middlesbrough a few years back and talk about rubbish sites, The Spanish Steps were so rubbish that my dad was still having a go at me for getting us lost whilst he was stood on the very items we were looking for.
It was all uphill from the reservoir but compared to last week I could admire the views as I walked and the closer I got to the summit the better they became. In an effort to prevent errosion, the forest rangers ( I do hope they have badges) had laid rubber matting and covered it with grit / stones. I bounced moonwalk style all the way to the top...this could be the answer to the bigger mountains. Just in case anyone else fancies being the highest person in Cheshire (legally) you can easily walk up here from the pub...hence the fiddle. There is also a huge style next to the trig point which guarantees highest status as it's defo only one person at a time on top. Just as I got to the top a helicopter flew over me grrrrrr. I later discovered that this was a 'bear in the air' as Kris Kristofferson (daft name) would have it, that chased speeding bikers over the moors. Great X-box game in the making here.
From Shining Tor I took the path along the ridge to Cats Tor, or rather I walked along the mile or so of patio that had been laid. I understand the errosion issue, but just how popular does it get up here? Do they have the UK Patio Festival up here? Maybe its why B&Q ran out of BBQ's in the North West last weekend, maybe they were all up here. (3 sunny days in a row and stock control can't cope....talk about leaves on the track).
The views from here really are incredible, I felt like I could see half the UK and having checked this when I got home I found that I really could.
So thats Pen-Y-ghent, Wolverhampton, The Wrekin, Barnsley, Snowdon and even more, excellent.
The route down was pretty simple 'follow the path downhill' I did and I came to Windgather Rocks which is described as 'popular with climbers'. Honestly I've seen shorter queues at Alton Towers on a bank holiday or at the local hairdressers on a Saturday. 17 hairdressers in Stockton Heath, I was going to be surprised for a moment and then remembered that woman get charge £50 for a haircut and blokes get charge £12....what is going on here?
The only other weird thing that I came across were the broken treesand the way that they had all been crushed.
It was either;
The Kettleshume Giant marching across the hills to beat up the Buxton Posse
An extremely localised tornado
The domino effect
I happily concluded point C was to blame and that dominos must have nicked this effect off trees many years ago, before record breakers became famous.
The last point of interest were the dead mans seats, at least 6 benches by the reservoirs dedicated to various dead people who liked to sit around here a lot. I was about to do the over 40 maudlin thing where you think 'oh bugger not long left'. Then I started reading them, 'Bob was a countryman who loved walking in this valley 1916 - 2004' and so it went on. All of them were well into there 80's. Maybe there is something in this walking lark, mind you they were probably all 3ft 4" when they died from wearing their legs out.
So 10 miles in 3 hours and 520 metres climbed ,that must make up for 2 days smoking in 1998.