The change in season brings with it many delights and yet there are some areas that on occasion turn from foreboding landscapes into fascinating scenes of vibrant colour and light.
On a summers evening in August the Cat and Fiddle road that connects Buxton to Macclesfield was a delight to traverse necessitating a stop just opposite the now closed Cat and Fiddle public house to take in the most wonderful views. It all looks so inviting as the sun starts to dip over the hills, but this ever changing landscape makes this area on a winters day, or summer for that matter, fraught with danger.
I have travelled this road in a pea- souper of fog as the headlights desperately fought to pick out the cats eyes on the road , and in a blizzard with the wipers straining hard against the fast falling snow. The black ice, hidden from view, suddenly causing the tyres to loose their grip and manically trying to avoid going off the edge of the road. Throwing everything into the mix it’s a pretty deceptive landscape that has seen its fair share of fatalities, but it is one of outstanding beauty when the soft colours of heather outline the moors with their fingers.
The road now is subject to average speed cameras. This decision is mainly due to those who attempt to overtake in the wrong place and cause enormous problems. It’s a great road if used properly but sadly many don’t seem to have grasped that and so take risks and pay the price. Reports show that of the 264 casualties on the road since 2001, approximately 70% of those killed or seriously injured were motorcyclists. I suppose for all who enjoy driving it’s a drivers road and brings with it an elements of excitement but needs treating with respect.
Whilst the Cat and Fiddle area can be a very inhospitable place you only have to travel a mile or two in each direction to be in areas of outstanding natural beauty with country walks. Dropping from the Cat towards Macclesfield near the village of Wildboarclough (Wilbercluff if you’re a local! ), the area of Maccclesfield Forest is rich in beautiful country walks.
The Cat and Fiddle Inn is the second-highest inn or public house in England at 1,689 feet or 515m, Having been closed as a pub for a few years it is now occupied by The Forest Distillery where its cellars, that are 1600 above sea level provide perfect conditions for whisky to mature. Tha Cat and Fiddle is currently open for coffee and take outs, and if you fancy a tour they can be booked on line.
There are four reservoirs in the vicinity, Ridgegate and Trentabank reservoirs provide Macclesfield with drinking water. Trentabank is home to the largest heronry in the Peak District. The forest timber is regularly felled and replanted so the woodland scenery is always changing .
Pay and display parking is available at the Visitor Centre near Trentabank Reservoir and at another small car park at Standing Stone. There are also other minor car parking areas in lay-bys in the forest.
Travel back from the Cat towards Buxton to visit Derbyshire Bridge, originally the county boundary between Derbyshire and Cheshire. It nestles in The Goyt Valley which was once the home of a thriving coal mining industry. Remnants of mine shafts can still be seen dotted around. There is a car park and picnic site which offer some stunning scenery and walks across the moors. Sadly there’s no access to Goyt valley by car as there is a one way system in operation so you will need to attack the rest of the valley by taking the A5004 Buxton to Whaley Bridge Road.
From Derbyshire Bridge a lovely walk takes you alongside the River Goyt down to Packhorse Bridge and back taking approximately one and a half hours.
Wildboarclough, nestled in a valley in Macclesfield Forest, Cheshire is such a fascinating little village steeped in history. It was an area of industry with two mills linked in with the carpet industry which used Clough Brook as its power source to run the machinery. The bridge over the river has a plaque on it to commemorate the loss of life after a flash flood in 1989. It is also reputedly the place where the last wild boar in England was killed although that fact is a little disputed! The nearby summit of Shutlingsloe gives outstanding views of the Cheshire Plains and on a clear day you can see the Mersey Estuary and the Welsh Clwydian Hills 40 miles away. We sawJodrel Bank clearly in the distance as we drove along.
Whatever your preference, sitting on the top of the Cat and Fiddle is a great place to take a coffee and cake and just soak in the atmosphere come rain or shine. You may even get to see the planes taking off and landing at Manchester airport if it’s clear. All in all a great day out and only a hop skip and a jump from home.