Cown Edge Way Part 1: Hazel Grove to Mellor

Published 26 July 2017

Cown Edge Way sign

The Cown Edge Way's sign, complete with Ramblers branding

The Cown Egde Way is an 18 mile walking trail that is named for, and visits, Cown Edge, on the edge of Manchester. Over two days. I set off to walk its route.

I racked my brains but no, there wasn’t one. No other walking trail that I had walked had started in the middle of a suburban housing estate. Most had started at far more prominent locations like railway stations for example, or in town squares. Maybe, besides a mighty river or something. Even the Ridgeway, which starts from the middle of nowhere, does do next to a Middle Age burial mound. But no, there were no others that had started by going through a metal gate next to a semi-detached house at the end of a small cul-de-sac.

But then the Cown Edge Way was a bit of a curious beast.

Whilst it was named for a set of rocks on a hill overlooking the local towns, Cown Edge itself was just a kind of bit part of a walk that would involve trees, farmland, two Scout camps and a couple of canals. The fact that it started and ended in rather random locations was, as was the fact that it was a curious horseshoe shape rather. And then there was the length of the thing. Eighteen miles in total, meaning it was just that bit too long for most people to do in a day.

On the other hand, it did take in Cown Edge, and for that all its flaws could easily be forgiven.

Now changes are, unless you live near it, you’ll never have heard of Cown Egde. To be honest, many of the people who live under its shadow won’t have. Until we moved into our new house in the town of Marple, to the south east of Manchester, it wasn’t somewhere I was aware of at all.

Yet if you can see the hills from Marple, you can probably see Cown Edge; its large, flat-topped hill crowned with a pair of plantations. Unlike many of the hills that surround the town, those two green clumps give it a distinctive look that stands out from the crowd. They just sit there, beckoning you to visit. Come. Oh please do.

It didn’t take long for its message to get through, and when I found out that there was even a walking trail created by the local Ramblers group that was named for it, well that was that sorted. Yes, even if said walking trail did start ten miles from the star attraction.


Gate at a field at the start of the Cown Edge Way

The rather understated start to the Cown Edge Way

Anyone’s who is not local and who wants to walk the Cown Edge Way, will probably need to arrive by the 375 bus, alighting at a stop just a few metres from the start of the trail. By one of those strange coincidences in life, the 375 bus also runs from past my front door. It’s one of those amazingly meandering routes, that exist more to serve every little nook and cranny rather than get anywhere in a hurry. Not that I minded, the excessive time it took to travel the couple of miles, given the rain that was hitting the bus.

Despite its starting point on a housing estate, the trail doesn’t linger in suburbia, but instead heads through a field. It wasn’t abundantly clear quite where it went in the field; indeed I lost the trail itself within minutes of setting off. I never did work out where I actually should have gone, and only arrived at the A627 by stumbling through muddy fields and climbing over a barbed wire fence. This was perhaps not the best of starts, and I sincerely hoped it wouldn’t be representative of the whole day.

The trail goes a short way up the A627 anyway, but unintended detour resulted in a mile long march up the road, past a van selling bacon butties from where the smell of bacon lingered temptingly in the air. I idly wondered what this busy road had to do with Cown Edge, but I could come up with nothing. Cown Edge itself wasn’t even visible from here. At least not in the mist and murk that surrounded the area anyway. It would be a kind of question would regularly for much the day.

And then I was sent off down the side of a golf course.

Regular readers may be aware that I’m not a massive fan of golf courses. Which is a shame really as the Cown Edge Way goes past a whopping four of them in its eighteen-mile journey. That’s one every four and a half miles, which has to be the highest concentration of golf courses in any walking route ever.

Woodland area next to Stockport Golf Club

Woodland area next to Stockport Golf Club

The first to be ticked off was the Stockport Golf Club, although the Cown Edge Way preferred to linger in trees alongside the edge of the course, rather than go over the fairways or anything, and that was fine by me. Indeed there was so much woodland at the edge of the club’s greens, that it was sometimes easy to forget there was even a course there. Although that was also helped by the fact that the poor weather had seen most golfers stay indoors.

After crossing the Middlewood Way – a ten mile bridleway that, rather inevitably, follows the route of a long closed railway line – the Goyt Way met up with its second golf course. This time the Cown Edge Way wasn’t content to linger in the shadows, and made itself well known by making me stride purposefully over the green instead. Regular signs instructed the walker to pay attention to flying golf balls (note how there’s rarely signs telling golfers to pay attention for walkers…) and I did whilst also admiring the dramatic, looming presence of Goyt Mill. Built in 1905, it was designed for the spinning of cotton, and it continued to do so until 1959 when changes in the textile market saw the mill close its doors. Like many of the North’s old mills – those not demolished anyway – it found a new life as a home to small businesses and today more than 80 sit inside its large walls.

The mill was built right next to the Macclesfield Canal, along which raw cotton would travel, as did the copious amounts of coal required to power the engines that powered the mill’s machinery. Coal deliveries would actually continue down the canal for longer than the mill stayed in business, although only for a few more years.

Goyt Mill, seen from a golf course

Goyt Mill looms tall over the neighbouring golf course

The canal’s towpath was where I was heading next for a brief sojourn, although after a mile the Cown Edge Way diverted off across farmland, going towards the nearby Peak Forest Canal, although it was just a brief stay as moments later a signpost directed me towards busy main road and down a steep path to the River Goyt, crossing the water using the ‘Roman Bridge’; a narrow stone packhorse bridge that has absolutely no links at all with the Romans, but hey, does make it sound more glamorous than it actually is.

Perhaps the Cown Edge Way was aquaphobic, as didn’t linger next to the river for long either, preferring instead to get to higher ground and the third golf course of the day, and then to a place that was rather familiar, and yet not so familiar at all.

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was at first a Cub, and then a Scout, at the now defunct 7th/8th Hyde group, that met in an hut not far from where I went to primary school. Quite why I ended up there instead of the group that met just across the road from where I lived, is a story I won’t bore you with, mainly as I can’t remember it.

My over-riding memories of going to Scouts were carrying 7th/8th Hyde’s flag on several Remembrance Sunday parades, having to play a truly horrendous game known as Crab Football, and, of course, going on Scout camps. At regular intervals we’d head to a campsite, pitch up our tents and cook up stews and tinned Heinz puddings after a long day running in fields and practising knots. Or something.

Without fail, we went to one of two campsites, both of which are still in use by the Scouts today, and interestingly enough, both of which happen to be on the Cown Edge Way.

cownedgeway-linnetclough

To be honest I can’t remember much about Linnet Clough as it was then, but without doubt it has changed in the last 30 years. I got a fine view of the facilities as a public footpath straight through the site, which the Cown Edge Way follows. Needless to say, nothing looked familiar at all, although the lack of the Scouts trademark green frame tents probably didn’t help. Scouts and Cubs of today can keep themselves occupied on the go-kart track, dangle from a high wire obstacle course, and go exploring on an old single decker bus that has been converted into a mobile caving experience. The facilities modern children have at their disposal are quite spectacularly different from the fields and tuckshop that are about my only memory of the place.

It being a Friday, the place was rather quiet, with just a few members of staff wandering around, perhaps preparing for their next batch of visitors, and maybe wondering why a middle aged walker was so interested in their climbing tower.

Some things don’t change though, for Linnet Clough still had an area set aside for a campfire. One where everyone could sit and watch the flames crackle, whilst singing camp songs. A good blast of Ging Gang Goulie anyone?


Pork pie

Pie of legends

Beyond the campsite, through a field, lay the village of Mellor. But with stomach rumbling, I made the most of an opportunity to sit in a field and chomp on my lunch; a rather handmade pie from my local butchers. As I sat I stared at the map, and mused once again on the fact that I’d seen neither hide nor hair of the actual thing that the Cown Edge Way was named for.

Oh well, there was always the afternoon. It would have to get there at some point. It would have to wait for there were more pressing matters. After all, that pie wouldn’t eat itself after all.

You can find all 110 of my photos from the Cown Edge Way, in my Cown Edge Way Flickr album. Next time, the walk continues from Mellor to Cown Edge itself.

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