The Cheshire Matterhorn

Living in Nottingham, it’s easy to forget that not all of the Peak District is “basically 45 minutes away”.

It’s easy to gloss over that the metropolis you can see from Shutlingsloe is Manchester. It’s definitely easy – on a Friday afternoon, after a day of work – to not quite appreciate how long it really takes to gear-up, prep the dog, and actually get on the road.

Having easily forgotten, glossed over, and neglected to appreciate those three simple things, it’s even easier to be ever-so-slightly off (read three hours) with one’s timings for an evening walk.

We disturbed their sleep.

In our defence we were equipped for walking some distance in the dark, but the objective was to have a walk at sunset.

The sun did indeed set as we walked. Unfortunately it was within the first 10 minutes or so, rather than after the two hours it would take us to reach the top of the hill.

Wildboarclough Sunset
When you see this view as you leave the car, you know you’ve missed your summit sunset.

As the darkness closed in, dulling colours to varying shades of blue and green, we made our way over undulating fields and towards Macclesfield forest wondering what type of fun this “hard” (on the AA chart of walks) route would turn out be. For the uninitiated:

  • Type I fun is a type of fun that is continuously, well, fun. Beginning-to-end fun – like a bouncy castle.
  • Type II is fun after the fact. We’d suggest walking usually falls into this category. Everyone involved has a lovely time, but it can be graft on the way, and will usually illicit the response of “it was worth it for this view”.
  • Type III fun is only ever theoretically fun. In practice is it definitely not fun, it results in injury, death, or at the very least a call out to Mountain Rescue. Finishing work at midnight, after forgetting you took Vicodin for your injured back and ribs (because they no longer hurt), and deciding that it’s high time you drink 4 Jaeger & Redbull, screams Type III fun.

But, I digress.

The walk through the woods takes you down one side of a valley along a well-established, and for the most part impeccably maintained path, bringing you out at a road, before taking you through a gap in the wall (which we missed the first time), and back into some pretty dense woods.

Macclesfield Forest
If you can see the gap, your eyesight is better than ours.

Dog was deeply interested in whatever was shuffling in those dark dense woods, and we decided to do the opposite of what horror movie characters do in this kind of situation, and continue on our merry way up the hill.

As the woods end and the ascent flattens out a little, we were graced with a taster of the views to come, out over Snake Pass. From here it’s another lengthy but not too onerous climb to the foot of Shutlingsloe, with a few stiles that Dog needed to be passed over with more than a few indignant snorts as thanks.

Now the real ascent begins. First there’s a 7ft dry stone wall, with flagstone steps and a small gate at the top. The steps are built to confuse and test a dog’s agility and resolve, but with a little human help (i.e. holding the gate open), Dog dealt with them masterfully.
From the top of the wall, it’s a steep ascent that taxes all three of us, wending our way up natural steps of rock, turf, and the deliberate, familiar flagstones again.

Shutlingsloe Stars
Still a few stars visible despite the sprawling lights of Manchester.

Upon reaching the trig point and with battery-acid pumping through our legs, we were met with a truly wonderful view of the luminescent sprawl of Manchester, and a realisation that we were definitely a pair of odd ones at the top of a hill, taking pictures in the dark, at 10pm on Friday, and that this was definitely a Type I fun kind of evening.


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