Shining Tor, Dane Valley, and Shutlingsloe
This strenuous walk in the Peak District starts at the Cat & Fiddle Inn and heads across Axe Edge Moor before joining the Dane Valley Way. After visiting Panniers Pool, the route then leaves the Dane Valley and heads up and over Shutlingsloe via Wildboarclough. Finally, after a pleasant walk through Macclesfield Forest, the route finishes with an ascent of Shining Tor before returning to the start point.
Length: 18.04 miles
Start: Cat & Fiddle Inn
Area: Peak District – South West Peak
GPX File: Download
Birchenough Hill – (Height: 459m, Drop: 42m)
Shutlingsloe – (Height: 506m, Drop: 133m)
Shining Tor – (Height: 559m, Drop: 236m)
Other POI: Cat & Fiddle, Axe Edge Moor, Dane Valley Way, Orchard Farm, Cheeks Hill, Reeve-edge Quarry, Danebower Quarry, River Dane, Three Shires Head, Panniers Pool, Leech Wood, Wildboarclough, Macclesfield Forest, Chapel House Farm, Greenways Farm
The walk started at the Cat and Fiddle pub on the A537. Quite a few people have informed me that the pub is the highest one in England, however after doing a quick bit of research, I found this to be incorrect and it’s actually the second highest with the top spot taken by the Tan Inn up in the Yorkshire Dales. The Cat and Fiddle, as I understand it, has been closed since the 23rd December pending the appointment of a new landlord.
From the pub, I walked back east for a while along a quiet lane that ran parallel to the busy main road, until I arrived at the point where the long distance footpath ‘The Dane Valley Way’ intersects the road. I followed this south across the boggy Axe Edge Moor until it eventually wrapped around a building at Orchard Farm and headed northwards for a short distance to Reeve Edge Quarry and Danebower Quarry. These quarries were apparently developed for the production of stone roofing flags but have long been out of use. There’s a chimney nearby that was built to ventilate the colliery, and it’s one of the only buildings left that relate to the quarries.
Once at the quarry, the track veers back southwards on the opposite side of the valley, past the aforementioned chimney, and eventually to Three Shires Head – named that way due to it being the point where three counties meet (Derbyshire, Cheshire, and Staffordshire), as well as four old packhorse routes. Just beyond the old bridge is what is known as Panniers Pool – named so as, all those years ago, the little ponies with their heavy panniers or saddlebags would have been allowed to drink there. In this part of the country, packhorse trains (strings of up to 50 horses) were the primary means of transporting goods around, from the medieval ages up until the seventeenth century.
Way back in the 19th century, Three Shire Heads was a place where criminals evaded capture by crossing into the next county. In those years, it was only possible for the police to act within their own county limits. The nearby village of Flash – the highest village in Britain – takes its name from the trading in counterfeit money (‘Flash money’) by some of these criminals.
Nowadays, it’s a scenic and tranquil little area, and makes for a great place to rest and cool tired feet whilst maybe imagining those scenes from a bygone era.
Shortly after Panniers Pool, the route left the Dane Valley Way and skirted around Cut-thorn Hill until a farm road was reached. I headed south down this road for a short distance, terrifying a lone young sheep in the process as it desperately attempted scrabbling over walls in many failed attempts to flee. I eventually turned right off the road and started the ascent of Birchenough Hill. The hill is the crash site of an airplane, or in particular, a b-17, which crashed into the very top of the hill on the 2nd of January, 1945 with the loss of all persons aboard. Apparently they were flying a new aircraft back to their home airfield at Nuthampstead, near Royston in Hertfordshire. The site supposedly still contains the crash scar as well as many small fragments from the wreckage. A small memorial can also be located at the top of the hill. I didn’t see any of this unfortunately – mainly because I wasn’t looking for anything! I only discovered these little facts after I’d finished the walk. I’ll remember to do my research before the walk next time rather than afterwards! Aside from this, the hill does offer great views to the south where Gradbach Forest, Roach End, and Ramshaw Rocks can all be easily identified.
I descended to the village of Wildboarclough before taking the footpath to the second hill in quick succession – Shutlingsloe. From a distance, it really does look an imposing sight. Shutlingsloe is known as the ‘Matterhorn of Cheshire’ due to its triangular shape from certain angles – but not the angle that I was approaching. With its steep slope, and a brief scramble on it’s upper rocky section, it reminded me of a smaller version of Pen y Ghent in the Yorkshire Dales. The views from the top are fantastic, especially looking out over Macclesfield Forest. The path back down the other side of Shutlingsloe towards Macclesfield Forest was much more defined, with much of it paved. It made for an easy descent.
Macclesfield Forest is the last substantial remainder of the Royal Forest of Macclesfield, a once extensive area stretching from the Pennines to the Staffordshire moorlands and owned by the Earl of Chester. It’s apparently home to the largest Heronry in the Peak District. The pre-planned route took me on a pleasant walk through the forest as far as Trentabank Reservoir, where I headed eastwards along a road for a little while before turning onto another footpath that led upwards and northwards out of the forest. The path took me past the isolated Forest Chapel and through Whitehills Farm before eventually arriving back on the A537. Here, a little bit of road walking was in order to get me as far as the path that led upwards to Shining Tor. Whilst making my way around the snaking bends of the busy road, I had a look back at Shutlingsloe and the ‘Matterhorn’ shape I mentioned earlier. It definitely did look more impressive from this angle.
Eventually I arrived at the short but steep path that led up to Shining Tor for the final ascent of the day. Shining Tor, at 559 metres, is the highest point in Cheshire and the views from the top looking southwards are fantastic. It’s not to be confused by the way with the other Shining Tor above Dovedale in Derbyshire. After a little time spent gazing at the scenery, it was time to trundle back down the hill to the Cat & Fiddle Inn where the walk started. All in all, a great days walking and well worth the effort. It’s certainly a route that I’d recommend to others.
Walk Completed on 22nd June 2016
Map and Elevation Data:
GPX file for the walk
Photo album on Flickr
The official site of Macclesfield Forest
Macclesfield Forest – Wikipedia Page
Three Shires Head – Wikipedia Page
Shining Tor – Wikipedia Page
Cat & Fiddle Inn – Wikipedia Page