We’ve got another blog from guest writer Chrissy Brand today. Chrissy has her own daily blog called Mancunian Wave – a daily photo illustrating every day Manchester (Commended Best City & Neighbourhood Blog – 2012 Blog North Awards).
This time she’s back exploring the Sights and Sounds of Manchester and places that are within easy reach for a countryside jaunt.
“January, sick and tired you’ve been hanging on me” – the words of the melancholic yet catchy pop song by Pilot still linger in my ears during this month almost 40 years after they topped the pop charts.
Yes, January is a dark and cold time when we would really rather be hibernating or just wearing an extra jersey and cooking copious quantities of winter vegetable soup.
It’s a time for thriftiness too if you have overspent at Christmas. My solution to the January stony broke blues is simple: stop shopping for non-essentials and go for a walk in the countryside instead.
That’s why you will find me on Saturdays and Sundays up before dawn and out on a stretch of canal to greet the sunrise.
We are blessed in the north-west with miles and miles of the glorious heritage of the north-west canal network to enjoy at our leisure. It’s a far cry from their original purpose in the 1760s when the Duke of Bridgewater spent some of his wealth on the first (and eponymous) canal, to carry coal from his Worsley mines into Manchester.
After World War II, governments would have filled the canals in and closed them forever; it is thanks to a huge public protest and organisations from the 1950s to the 1980s to reclaim the canal networks they survived. These were forerunners of today’s Canals and River Trusts and Inland Waterways Association.
I have many stretches of the Bridgewater and Trent and Mersey canals to suggest exploring on foot but have selected one place in particular to start with.
Park at Barnton in Cheshire (M6 exit 10 then a few miles away), then you have a choice of two directions to wander along the wonderful Trent and Mersey Canal.
Head south towards Northwich and you will pass many narrow boats, some seemingly locked up for winter but many with jolly boating people aboard, living their dream.
The towpath is muddy at times but worth the gentle two hour walk (there and back) past the amazing Anderton boat lift and into Marbury Country Park. The mere there is beautiful at any time of year and you can hear woodpeckers vibrating on trees in the forest, maybe see a black swan on the water and spot buzzards overhead.
The visitor centre at the Anderton boat lift makes for a good stop if you need a break and a cuppa on the way back.
The other option from Barnton is to head north towards Acton Bridge for a different two hour round walk. This is a lesser travelled path and feels to me as if you are going back in time- the ancient fields and woodlands on both sides of the canal, the narrow boats and reeds lining the canal as they have done for decades.
Smoke rises from some of the inhabited barges, burning logs from the fallen trees and creating an evocative aroma. The sun reflects off the frozen canal and the flowing River Weaver is just down the hill to your left.
Keep an eye out for a field with two particularly fluffy sheep, two donkeys and two alpacas and listen too for the Sunday church bells echoing across the landscape: they must have rung out joyfully in these parts for centuries.
If you weave your way down to the River Weaver you can look back up to the Trent and Mersey to see where it breached so spectacularly last September and is undergoing repairs. Crossing some unusual bridges you will even see a shipwreck- the remains of the MV Chica, a 19th century vessel now slowly rotting into the river bank.
January and February may be a long haul on the road to Spring but with walks and sights like this to behold, it can make for a wondrous winter.
Photographs: Chrissy Brand
This is not a sponsored blog post.
Other articles by Chrissy:
Other similar articles: