Ram­ble with a bit of cer­e­mony

Macclesfield Express - - EAST CHESHIRE RAMBLERS -

AN iso­lated chapel set high in the hills above Mac­cles­field For­est was pre­par­ing for its an­cient rush­bear­ing ser­vice when a small band of East Cheshire Ram­blers passed by on a 10-mile walk re­cently led by Peter Cum­mins.

The walk­ers set off from Clough House car park in Wild­boar­clough and made their way up the side of Cum­ber­land Brook to reach open moor­land where per­sis­tent driz­zle forced them to don wa­ter­proofs.

For­tu­nately, the weather be­gan to im­prove as they reached the Cat and Fid­dle (the sec­ond high­est pub in Eng­land) and there were oc­ca­sional spells of sun­shine as they con­tin­ued down through Chest Hol­low and over Tor­gate Hill to reach the quaintly named Bot­to­mof-the-Oven and made their way to For­est Chapel with its pic­turesque church of St Stephens.

Dat­ing from the 17th cen­tury, the chapel was re­built in 1834 fol­low­ing a dis­as­trous fire. In fact, rush­bear­ing ser­vices go back to me­dieval times when rushes were of­ten spread on the earthen floors of churches to pro­vide in­su­la­tion and keep the dust down. Over time, the an­nual job of chang­ing them evolved into an elab­o­rate cer­e­mony with a pro­ces­sion, and the strew­ing of flow­ers.

Af­ter paus­ing to ad­mire the plaited reeds and flow­ers be­ing used to dec­o­rate the in­side of the chapel, the group en­tered Mac­cles­field For­est near Toot Hill and trekked across the high ac­cess land to the sum­mit of Shut­lingsloe where they were greeted with fine views of The Wrekin to the south. The route back to Clough House crossed more ac­cess land over Pig­gford Moor be­fore de­scend­ing to the Crag Inn and a fi­nal as­cent by Bank Top. For de­tails go to ram­blerseastcheshire.org. uk.

●● The walk­ers pause on the sum­mit of Shut­lingsloe

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