A trip to Follywood

Ramsdell Hall Railings to Biddulph Valley Aqueduct: a 4 mile cruise, a 690 feet ascent, a 4 mile walk

            The great Cheshire Plain, on the western side of Cheshire, is well-known. How different though is eastern Cheshire where a spine of hills runs down the county, butting onto high ground in Staffordshire and Derbyshire. A trip along the Macclesfield Canal passes close to three very distinctive high points: at Bollington White Nancy is a sort of white pepper pot structure (built to commemorate the 1815 Battle of Waterloo). Overlooking Bosley locks about 4 miles from Congleton is the magnificent hill called the Cloud, and Mow Cop (remember, Mow to rhyme with cow) is a strange ruin near Kidsgrove that can be seen from the M6, the Trent and Mersey Canal and even, it is claimed, from Hurleston top lock on the Llangollen Canal.

            There is no tick list – but twice in the last ten years the Cleddau crew has climbed White Nancy, last week they climbed the Cloud and today they walked up to Mow Cop.

Gaiters proved beneficial, so thick and gloopy was the mud! Over the canal footbridge, along a muddy track to a road. A bus going to Mow Cop passed but no one suggested flagging it down… The fast railway line slices between the bottom of the hill and the canal. Red lights were flashing and two trains whizzed by. Soon the real climb began. The roadway was strewn with rubble, presumably brought down by yesterday’s heavy rains. A break in the hedge provided the first of many stunning panoramic views. Up the climb went (the map showing double arrows on the road) and then just beside the Cheshire View pub sign was a road warning triangle that said it all! To the right was Primitive Street, (presumably a reference to the Primitive Methodist movement which was seen to originate in a 14 hour Day of Prayer held at Mow Cop on 31 May 1807. See Wikipedia for more detail).  Just opposite Primitive Street is the Mow Cop Community Church, the Follywood sign in front of it! Search the internet yourself: does it refer to the Mow Cop folly – or to an American vacation Bible School…?

            Finally the hill top was reached. There, on a crag, amidst rocky outcrops stood Mow Cop Castle, a folly, standing 1099 feet above sea level. Built as a summer house in 1754 it is almost a two dimensional structure. There is a wall which adjoins the circular tower (the summer house?) but on a clear day like today it is the breathtaking views from the folly that grab your attention. The moorland heights of Staffordshire, the settlements of Scholar Green, Kidsgrove and Alsager, Jodrell Bank in the middle distance, further away AstraZeneca in Macclesfield. Much further away to the north the spike of the Wintershill transmitter stood out, and that is in Lancashire. Was the lump backed by hills in the middle distance to the north west Beeston Castle towards Chester – or the Great Orm and Llandudno? Expert knowledge and larger scale map sought!

            The Captain is not famed for out and back routes (despite this particular cruise) so why not return a different way…?  A lady was tending her front garden. “Isn’t it difficult living this high up in winter?” Boatwif asked.

Back came a very direct reply: “Oh no, the gritters are really good, often they come out five times a night. It’s only difficult if their last run is at 5am and it snows again after that…” Food for thought for those of us who live on flatter lands.

From round the back of Mow Cop Castle runs a footpath, the South Cheshire Way – and joining that brought Boatwif face to face with the Old Man of Mow, a rocky formation, the result of quarrying activities. Stretching to the north were lines of familiar hills, even the Shutlingsloe summit. Muddy paths, more muddy paths, soggy fields, eventually dropping down to waterlogged woodlands. Somewhere in the woods the Captain spotted an unfamiliar techno gadget (nikeplus on the label) – does anyone have a use for it?

Out of the woods, down a track, a Cheshire East Highways truck ahead. Were the heavily tattooed driver and his mate contemplating road repairs, or taking an early lunch break? Under the railway line, through Ackers Crossing village and back to the canal. Despite the mud and despite the rain over the last half mile it was a grand walk!

After a reviving cup of tea and some lunch the 4 miles or so of cruising to the other side of Congleton could be done, there to moor up above Dane-in-Shaw pasture, and to watch out again for trains, this time crossing the high viaduct…


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