My highlight of the last month was finding a day that was so miraculously fair and free of Mancunian downpours that I could venture out a into the nearby countryside. Despite the reasonably clear and dry weather, I was wise enough to go prepared for mud underfoot, with walking boots and waterproof trousers.
I had a book to return to Stockport Library, so hopped on the 42 bus and was there in about 20 minutes or so. After depositing my item I then set out from the centre of Stockport, past the landmark tower of the Hat Museum and the world famous Bamboo Club towards Lyme Park, which nestles on the edge of the Peak District, about 7 miles outside Stockport and 14 miles from the centre of Manchester.
I chose a scenic route to the park, walking along the road to Bramhall, then veering off to follow the course of the Lady Brook valley through woods and fields towards Poynton. I was grateful to my foresight in going fully kitted-out as I waded through a couple of Somme-like quagmires, but it was worth it for the peace and quiet of getting off the beaten trail and the winter flocks of great tits, blue tits, and long-tailed tits chirruping and squabbling through the hedgerows as I passed in the low, cool sunshine.
At Poyton, I skirted the reservoir and was lucky enough to time my amble by to catch the brilliant and unmistakable metallic blue hue of a kingfisher barrelling along about a foot above the surface of the water, swerving towards the bank in my direction before taking off over the centre of the lake towards an overhanging willow perch on the far side.
Through a few more fields and some sparse woods, across an old railway line and the Macclesfield Canal, I began to slowly ascend along a track towards the edge of Lyme Park. In clear sight of the main entrance road, I came across a “No Public Access” sign on a gate blocking the track. Upset at the thought of having to walk a mile and half out of my way, I ploughed on intrepidly towards the road, and did my best Bear Grylls impression to scale a ten-foot dry-stone wall (with a quick glance to make sure there were no park rangers around).
Lyme Park itself has 1,300 acres of wooded and open estate, populated with large herds of red and fallow deer, with tracks and paths throughout, with endless opportunity for picnics (in summer!), walks, cycles, hikes, and sports. For those non-outdoorsers, the 16th-century Lyme House itself is one of the finest stately homes in the region, and though closed in winter will reopen in springtime. For all those Jane Austen/Colin Firth fans, the reflecting pool in the rear is THE one where Mr Darcy emerged dripping and smouldering in THAT scene from Pride and Prejudice. Needless to say, it was far too cold in winter for me to do my Colin Firth impression. I doubt the dog walkers and pram pushers would have been particularly amused or aroused if I had.
I walked back to Stockport along the A6, along which you can get the 199 bus to Lyme Park if you don’t fancy clocking up the miles on your pedometer, and called in at the ever-wonderful Magnet on my way home, for a couple of highly-recommendable Shindigger South Pacific pale ales – they weren’t actually craft lagers, but “Pale Ale and Lyme” is a rubbish title for a blog post . . .