Goyt Way Part 2: Brook Bottom to Whaley Bridge

Published 24 May 2017

Dual branded Goyt Way/Midshires Way signpost

The Goyt Way is a ten mile walk down the Goyt Valley, that also goes near my house. Having walked to Brook Bottom and stopped for lunch, it was now time to finish the trail.

A rather steep slope took me from the hill top position of Brook Bottom back down for one last dalliance with the River Goyt. Given I was several miles from the end of the end of the trail, this appeared to be rather a strange situation, but who am I to argue?

It had been a bit of a wrench to leave the Fox Inn. It’s roaring fire was enough incentive to stay all day, and to be honest, the nature reserve that I now walked through was hardly the most enticing place to visit. But things were certainly about to look up as I approached the wonder of the Torrs.

If you’ve never heard of the Torrs – and to be honest there’s no particular reason for you to have done so – it’s a narrow 21m gorge that the Goyt flows through. It’s also rather hidden. The town of New Mills sits at the top of the gorge, but the town centre’s shops and pubs rather hide the Torrs meaning it’s very difficult for the average person to see it from above if you don’t know just the right place to position yourself. For most people, the best view comes from the bottom which either means walking the riverside path, or stepping down the staircase next to the New Mills Heritage Centre.

Despite its rather hidden nature, the gorge itself is wide enough that a railway embankment and two different mills were built down here during the Industrial Revolution, harnessing the power of the River Goyt to spin and weave cotton. One of the mills still stands, although the second is now little more than some low level ruins that visitors can wander around. But the water that attracted them to this spot in the first place is still harnessed; a community funded reverse Archimedean screw sits in the river now, quietly generating electricity when the water flow is strong enough.

The Millennium Walkway, over the Goyt
Shiny metal, and filling a gap in the Goyt’s riverside path, is the Millennium Walkway

Although there was space enough for the mill buildings, what was absent for many years was a continuous path through the Torrs gorge. This all changed in 1999 with the opening of the Millennium Walkway; a study metal path that stands above the water, supported by struts in the ground, and the side of an adjoining railway embankment.

A walk on the Millennium Walkway is always special. The views are fantastic and there’s a dramatic clang as your boot hits the metal, and echoes around the gorge. The walkway is only short, but what it lacks in length, it makes up in visual impact.

I’ve been on it myself several times, but the delight I get from walking over it never reduces and it was with an element of excitement that I approached this metallic wonder. And then I saw the signpost. Yes. The signpost. The one that told the Goyt Way walker not to head over the Walkway, but to turn right instead, and to head to the top of the gorge.

This suggestion seemed so strange that it stopped me in my tracks. What was this? Leave what is surely a highlight of any walk in the local area? What madness was this?

The Goyt Mill and Millennium Walkway
An old mill and a new walkway, all over a very old river.

And then I realised. The Goyt Way had been created before the walkway. Before the walkway walkers had no choice but to leave the river and head up into town before coming back down again to the river some time later. When the walkway had opened, no one had bothered to re-route the Goyt Way to go along it. Given it had been so difficult to find any information about the trail, this was sad but perhaps not surprising. The Goyt Way just gave off an impression of being created then later abandoned, and here was something that appeared to confirm that suggestion.

Well stuff that, I thought. If the Goyt Way had been created today, it would have gone over the Walkway. Absolutely no doubt about it. So that’s what I did. Clang, bang, awesome sight, thank you very much. Every footstep I did was done with a grin on my face. To hell with sticking to the proper route. This was the way to do it and no mistake.

The Union Bridge, at New Mills
The impressive Union Bridge towers over the Torrs.

New Mills is an adorably quirky town, if for nothing else than that it’s high street contains a vegetarian cafe, the headquarters of the Plain English Campaign, and a shop where you can pop in and get something translated into Spanish.

The Goyt Way sees none of this, but does walk along a particularly lovely tree lined section of riverside, and past a field of llamas.

It was beyond the town that the Goyt Way sad one last farewell to the river too, although it wasn’t the last waterway it would walk alongside. I had no sooner left the river, before I was provided with a replacement in the form of the Peak Forest Canal, that would take me the last few miles to the Derbyshire town of Whaley Bridge.

This was the second time the Goyt Way had joined the towpath of the Peak Forest, having first followed it earlier in Marple. Indeed I could have got to where I was without ever leaving the canal. But where would the fun been in that?

As tow paths, the Peak Forest’s was pretty standard. All well made paths, with barges moored alongside. From several could be seen smoke arising gently from chimneys, along with that that glorious, homely smell you get from burning coal in a stove. Yes, wind power and solar energy are wonderful things (and many of the barges were well equipped with solar panels), but there really is something about a coal fuelled fire.

Canal boat moored on the Peak Forest Canal
The Peak Forest Canal provides the route for the last few miles of the Goyt Way.

That thought kept me going for much of the remaining few miles, and within no time I was at my destination, the Derbyshire town of Whaley Bridge. It was an interesting looking town, although looking at my watch revealed that the next bus home would be due very soon. There would be another one in an hour, and I wasn’t sure Whaley Bridge could keep me entertained for that long – ten minutes looked like all I’d really need – and every pub I’d passed by was closed despite it being 4pm. So all I could do was quickly admire the town’s smart looking high street, and marvel at the genius who had decided to operate the seemingly unlinked activities of a post office and a home brewing store in a single outlet, entitled ‘Whaley Bridge Post Office and Home Brewing’. Sadly, like the pubs, it was closed leaving me unable to purchase a kit to brew some Mexican lager and twelve first class stamps.

Just as the starting point of the Goyt Way was unclear, so too was the end of the trail. The Goyt Way branded sign posts had fizzled out somewhere at the edge of Whaley Bridge, and the online map I’d been using after leaving my OS one at home, suggested it ended half way up a side street. None of which seemed particularly helpful, so I took a punt and decided to end my walk at the railway station. This appeared to be a reasonable call given it was an easy to find location, and pretty central to town. That I needed to head to the bus stop opposite it, was entirely coincidental.

And that was that. The Goyt Way had been completed. I had done it. It may be a walk that felt like it had been created and then left to rot, but it was still there and as long as it was, there would be people to follow it. My job though was done, and I strode off to catch the bus home.

(Naturally the bus was late.)

The high street at Whaley Bridge
Whaley Bridge’s high street, near the end of the Goyt Way

Planning Your Own Walk

The Goyt Way is a ten mile walk from Compstall, in the Borough of Stockport, to Whaley Bridge in the High Peak of Derbyshire, and is very easy to walk in a day. Whaley Bridge has a railway station with regular services to Manchester. Compstall is a mile walk from Marple railway station. Both Whaley Bridge and Compstall are served by regular buses to Stockport. The route passes by several other places with public transport, with rail connections at Strines and New Mills.

The route is marked on OS Explorer map OL1. The trail is also waymarked, although there are gaps. There’s limited information online about the trail, however you can find a map on the GPS Routes website.


The Goyt Way

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