Goyt Way Part 1: Compstall to Brook Bottom

Published 17 May 2017

A Goyt Way signpost
GW. The Goyt Way.

The Goyt Way is a ten mile walk down the Goyt Valley, that also goes near my house. Well, you have to walk such a walk, don’t you?

Now I’m not saying that someone had made a mistake, but the map I had found online was telling me that the trail started right in the middle of the old mill pond at Etherow Park. Not on the path that circled it. Not at the nearby visitor centre, and certainly not at the little pier at the edge where a handful of people stood controlling their remote control boats that the local ducks and geese did their best to avoid. No. None of those. But slap bang in the middle of the water.

This seemed a tad unlikely to say the least, but there was little on the ground to give any real hint or clue otherwise. There was nothing obvious to say that the Goyt Way even popped into the park at all, yet alone started here. There was a single signpost just outside the park’s boundaries, but that was it.

Actually the whole trail was a bit of an enigma if we’re to be totally honest. The route was detailed on Ordnance Survey maps, and someone had gone to the effort of erecting signposts and waymarks for it, but that was as far as things went. Despite it starting in the borough, Stockport Council’s website’s list of local walks contained every local trail with one glaring exception. The Long Distance Walkers Association had, at least, managed to include the trail in its online database, but the website it gave for the trail was simply a large website detailing multiple walks listed. Of why the Goyt Way was created, and by whom, appeared to be a complete mystery.

Bench looking out onto the mill pond at Etherow Country Park
The millpond at Etherow Country Park.

With so little information available, it was all I could do but shrug and pick a starting point at random. This I did, opting for Etherow Park’s car park, for no better reason than that I was standing there at that particular moment.

Not that it mattered much as the Goyt Way doesn’t linger in the park; it leaves it just as quickly as it can for its ten mile journey from Etherow Park in the village of Compstall, through Stockport and the High Peak before finishing up in the Derbyshire town of Whaley Bridge. It forms part of the much larger Midshires Way, a 225 mile walk that connects the Trans Pennine Trail at the edge of Manchester, with the Ridgeway somewhere in the south near Princes Risborough. In fact it even goes through Marple, as it makes its way vaguely following the River Goyt and passing through the Goyt Valley. You might get the idea where the trail got its name from. And most importantly of all, for me anyway, the Goyt Way starts just a few miles from my house in my recently adopted home town of Marple. Well, given it was on my doorstep, it would be rude not to check it out.

The post office in Compstall
Compstall’s post office sits in a grand building next to a small green

The signpost directed me to walk down the main road of the village of Compstall, making use of a bridge that crosses the aforementioned river. And then it was into the expanse that is Brabyn’s Park. Whilst Etherow Park had been built land once used for industry, the 90 acres of Barbyn’s Park was once part of the Brabyn’s Hall estate. The hall itself was built in 1750 for one Dr. Henry Brabyn, but by the 1940s, ended up in the ownership of the local council in the 1940s. After falling into disrepair, the hall itself was demolished, but its grounds were opened up to the public. The inevitable mixture of dog walkers and joggers appeared to be the main users as I followed the River Goyt towards the park’s woodland area. Here the path bade the river farewell, and went into the trees along a series of worn and rather muddy paths.

It was here that I got slightly lost and thus realised a major failing in my route preparation, specifically that my Ordnance Survey map was not, as I’d intended, in my rucksack, but was in fact having a relaxing time sat on the coffee table at home. This was a problem compounded by the fact that the Goyt Way signposts abruptly disappeared.

Georgian era cast iron bridge in Brabyn's Park
The magnificent cast iron bridge, made in 1813, that welcomes you into Brabyn’s Park.

All I knew was that at some point the Goyt Way joined up with the Peak Forest Canal, but when, where and how, was another matter. This was a bit a problem, until I was hit with a brainwave, I could download the route onto my phone and use its GPS app to guide the way. Normally in use to get me lost when driving (it once was most insistent that I drove round a village in Wales in a circle several times), it’s rather hidden footpath mode appeared to be just a little more reliable. In fact the biggest problem came from the fact that the file I had downloaded was the one that said the trail started in the middle of a mill-pond, so goodness knows how reliable it was going to be. Still it got me where I needed to go; onto to the canal towpath, and heading towards the town of Marple.

By those living there, the town’s most famous feature is generally considered to be its flight of 16 locks that raise, or lower, the canal’s height by 64m over the distance of 1.6km. Although some would argue with that and point to the fact that Marple’s the town that 1980s TV star turned artist, Timmy Mallet, spent his youth. Timmy’s long gone, but the locks are there and the canal also features an old horse tunnel that takes the towpath under the main road, and it was here that I found a man with a broad Mancunian accent, conducting a tour to a group of tourists. Barely had I passed them and I found a group of 40 or so hikers who managed to set off on their walk just as I was trying to get past them.

With the group filling the narrow towpath, I found myself stuck amongst their midsts, walking very slowly for half an mile or so until the Goyt Way finally peeled away from the canal, when I could be alone once more.

The Roman Lakes, near Marple.
Roman Lakes. They’re not lakes. And they’re not Roman.

After a steep descent from the canal to a busy main road, and along the side of a railway embankment, I was back walking alongside the river again, treking on a muddy, and slightly grim riverside path. It was, though, a path with history for it took me past an archaeological site at the former location of a manor house called Mellor Lodge, and then towards the extremely old sounding Roman Lakes. Although before you start thinking of Centurians wandering around the muddy riverside in sandals, there’s absolutely no evidence that the Romans came anywhere near the water. In fact the whole place is a classic case of branding over substance. The lakes themselves are merely old millponds that were converted for recreational use. So whilst you won’t find a Roman army nearby, you may find plenty of anglers, and people heading to the on-site tea room,

The lakes passed, and the Goyt Way bade farewell yet again. After passing under a tall railway viaduct, the Goyt Way found a new attraction to follow and it decided to leave the water and to go alongside the railway line instead. A series of signposts pointed the way, and swiftly I was deposited outside Strines station. Once the station had an impressive ticket hall and waiting room, however these days there’s just a rudimentary stone shelter on each platform, and a couple of metal benches. Still it was somewhere to sit and munch a lunchtime sandwich, and listen to the birds tweeting. Well, with just two trains an hour, the chances of being interrupted by the arrival of a train were pretty slim.

But then I didn’t stop for that long. I had another target for a more substantial break and that could be found up another muddy lane, in the tiny hamlet of Brook Bottom.

A small signpost that has fallen down, next to a muddy path
One can only hope that this fallen Goyt Wayt signpost is not representative of something.

I’d been here before, some eight months earlier when I’d passed through walking the Trespass Trail, which follows part of the Goyt Way when setting off from New Mills. The Trespass Trail didn’t actually go into the hamlet itself, but I’d taken the brief diversion out of interest, and spotted something very intriguing. For there sat the Fox Inn. For a pub to survive all these years with just a few houses nearby, suggested it must be worth a visit. I was too early on that day, but now was my chance. It was after twelve, and so the perfect time for a lunchtime pint.

With few locals nearby, the Fox is presumably kept in business by a steady parade of walkers and cyclists, and although it was early the pub was already occupied by plenty of people with dogs, those clad in Lycra and quite a few people in hiking boots. And the pub itself was lovely; all brass and wooden beams as is such the way in many a country pub. This one had a particular twist in the form a display of old pressure gauges and a brass plaque taken from an old steam turbine, all of which provided a reminder that it was in large mills that many local residents would have once worked.

It was a cracking place and no mistake, and as I supped a pint and followed it with another, I tried to come up with some cunning excuses to visit again. But then that would mean never getting to the end of the Goyt Way.

In part 2, do I actually ever leave the pub and make it to the end of the Goyt Way in Whaley Bridge? Stay tuned to find out!

The Fox Inn, Brookbottom
The Fox Inn. There’s no foxes. But there is good ale.

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