Ramble with a bit of ceremony
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