Sometimes all you need is a mini road trip out of the city to enjoy some distant views and big sky. That is exactly what we did the other weekend when we headed over to Macclesfield Forest for an afternoon walk.
More than just trees
There are many reasons why we love a trip to Macclesfield Forest and one of them is that there is a good variety there. You of course have trees and woods, but you also have distant views of Tegg’s Nose and the reservoirs too. Plus, you can sometimes catch the glorious sunset if you’re heading in the right direction.
The last time we were in Macclesfield Forest was spring last year, so you can imagine that it looked a bit different on this visit. The main difference was this it was bitingly chilly in winter. Otherwise, the views were stunning, the trees smelled delicious and the sunset. Well, you’ll see it for yourself later on in my post.
I think there is something nice about eating your picnic with a nice green view in front of you. Even in the winter you can do it, only from the warmth of the car. One thing is for certain at Macclesfield Forest and that is the vast amount of green that you’ll be able to enjoy during your whole visit. Not to mention the amber, brown and blue as you wander through the woods and around the reservoir too.
There are all manner of winding paths to weave you through the forest. Some towards the top and others taking you down towards the reservoir. We decided to head to the reservoir as we know a very good circular (ish) route that is highly enjoyable and also has a good challenging hill to get you warmed up on the way back.
Along the way, there is plenty to see too. As you walk, you can hear the trickling of water so start looking out for small waterfalls among the trees. And then there are the views. Although you are concealed behind the wall of trees for a lot of the walk, there are some amazing breaks in the forest that let you get a taste for the views. Not to mention, the very specially placed bench that has the first (and my favourite) peek of all. It is the perfect spot for a brew if you can grab it before someone else!
It is funny how horrified some visitors get at the next part of the walk. And to be honest, we were pretty concerned on our first visit too. From the densely wooded area you come to a very open area. One that looks somewhat like the scenes of deforestation that you see in National Geographic or on TV. For the untrained forester, it does look pretty awful. As such, I decided to look into it and learned that it is actually part of their replanting project. The trees here were planted between 1930-1950 and were predominantly pine. These have been felled to make room for reintroducing native broad leaf trees, such as Ash, Chestnut and Sycamore. So in years to come, it will be a glorious show of British trees.
I am hoping that I’ll be able to see at least some of the change during my lifetime, even if it is only small. I do think it will be strange not seeing over the valley to the other side though, but it is a small price to pay for maintaining our beautiful forest heritage.
There’s something weirdly magical about forests, and I don’t mean in the fairy tale kind of way either (well, maybe a tiny bit!). I think it is more magical in the way in which it can stimulate every single one of your senses. With the textures of the plants, the dampness in the air and the scents that come with it all, it is a really quite fun. I do enjoy looking out for all the different textures as I walk through. I also wonder how they all work so well together too. Supporting each other and making such a varied landscape.
Winding down through the trees, you pass walls encapsulated in moss. So much so, you can barely see the divide between the wall and the field behind it. Such fantastic green colours even in the depth of winter.
Down at the bottom, you enter a further wood. Although it feels like you’re heading away from the water, you are rounding it. Passing by beneath the towering canopy of the conifers above.
Wandering around the path, you begin to get glimpses of the glistening water through the trees. There is another of my favourite benches around here too, with views over to Tegg’s Nose and Shuttlingsloe in the distance. A perfect spot to grab the flask and take a moment. Ha! I shouldn’t be telling you all about my special benches as I’ll never get a look in at this rate! (only kidding, I like to share)
Seriously, who could resist a brew with that view? Well, to be honest, we did because we left our bags in the car, but on a usual trip we’d have been on it.
The reservoirs around Macclesfield Forest were created to provide drinking water for the local area. The conifers that we passed through, I discovered, were planted to prevent contaminants getting into the water. Clever idea of using nature as a barrier.
It is a short, but pleasant walk around the reservoir, listening to the lapping water and birds overhead. Actually, talking birds, that is one of the things I enjoy about getting up early or my reverse commute. You can really hear the birds in the morning, even on a busy street. On the way back, with the birds in the trees beside us, I noticed a warm glow. It was the sun beginning to set over the horizon. If I was going to have any chance of catching it from the forest, we would have to up our speed to get back up the hill.
Chasing the sunset
Well, we weren’t really chasing it. You can’t really when you’re “taking it easy” and resting your back while pretty much sprinting up steep hills. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but that is kind of my style of resting.
The light was beginning to fade on the way up which gave the forest a new and different feel to it. It was obviously darker with the shading of the trees, but even the sky was fading into darkness. I made sure to watch my footing as I power walked my way up the hill, but taking time for a photograph here and there.
Even the temperature dropped as we made our way upwards. The ‘harr’ getting more intense while our bodies warming up from the exertion. I was quite excited to get hot to try my ‘pit zips’ only to realise that the cold air is hardly likely to get through five layers of clothing. Worth a try though.
Behind us, the orange glow was spreading. With any luck I could catch it from the area with the felled trees.
No matter which way we waned and turned we seemed to be turning in the direction away from the sunset. Although, the beautiful glow of purple in front wasn’t a disappointment.
After many months of gentle hills and flat walks, my legs were certainly becoming aware of the incline and I was glad to be back onto (almost) flat for the remainder of the walk. And as luck would have it, we were able to walk at a faster pace and catch the final moments of the sun. Silhouetted trees with the orange and blue glow behind was the perfect way to finish the day.
With a satisfied smile on my face and warmth in my leg muscles, I was quite glad to be heading back to the car. I had tea waiting for me along with some Miso soup to warm me up and fuel the journey home. One last look behind me and we were on our way home.
Winter might be cold, it might get dark early and the weather might be challenging at times but for moments like these it is hard not to love it. Macclesfield Forest is a fantastic place for a winter walk because of the solid paths and variety of routes. And to be able to catch the sunset is a bonus too. I’m now looking forward to another spring visit and to go again in summer and autumn.
Have you walked Macclesfield Forest? Do you have a favourite winter walk that you’d recommend?
Share in the comments below.