Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

Parish Notes ~ Macclesfield and Wildboarclough

Guy Lingford, Member

This article is from Signpost 68, Summer 2021

Wedged into the triangle of roads that link Macclesfield, Congleton, Leek and Buxton in Cheshire East is the parish of Macclesfield Forest and Wildboarclough. As the name suggests it covers the area most easily identified on maps as Macclesfield Forest. Wildboarclough lies to the east of the forest. The parish is dominated by Shutlingsloe (506 m) which provides extensive views across the Cheshire Plain and beyond. Other notable landmarks bounding the area are Shining Tor to the north and Croker Hill with its distinctive telecoms tower to the south.

PNFS ‘signpost baggers’ are well catered for with the area being home to one toposcope, one bridge and ten signs of varying designs. The Gritstone Trail passes on the western edge of the parish carrying walkers between Lyme Park and Mow Cop. The forest itself is owned by United Utilities due to the four reservoirs situated there but managed in conjunction with the Peak District National Park. A ranger station is located in the heart of the forest. The parish is also part of the Peak District National Park and of the South West Peak Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme managed by Defra. The remaining area is a mix of farmland and moorland and wildlife thrives throughout the parish. This is a wonderful area to explore and has become increasingly popular since the first lockdown in 2020. Such popularity however brings a cost as drivers who have navigated the narrow lanes and limited car parking facilities will know. However, once you are there (and however you have arrived) there is sufficient space across the forest and surrounding open access land to feel, temporarily at least, that you have time and space to yourself.

Macclesfield Forest was once part of the larger Royal Forest of Macclesfield, an area owned by the Earl of Chester that stretched from the Pennines to the Staffordshire Moorlands and the High Peak area near Whaley Bridge. According to local tradition, a gallows once stood at the Greenway Cross in the south of the parish, where people caught poaching in the Royal Forest met their end. The nearby Hanging Gate pub may mean 'Path to the Gallows', derived from the old Norse word 'gata' meaning Gate.

The origins of the name ‘Wildboarclough’ are unclear with alternatives ranging from denoting a rapid rise in water levels in Clough Brook after heavy rain to it deriving from a deep valley (clough) frequented by wild boar. Visitors are well catered for with pubs and a café in the area, my favourite being ‘The Forest Snug’ sited at the visitors’ centre in the heart of the forest at weekends. In view of current coronavirus restrictions visitors are recommended to check opening times for all of these facilities.

The area has two churches, St Saviours in Wildboarclough and St Stephen at Forest Chapel. A rushbearing ceremony is held annually on the Sunday nearest to 12 August when rushes are traditionally taken from nearby streams and marshes and laid in the church. The 2011 census records the population of the parish as 189. These notes were prepared as the 2021 was being compiled and it will be interesting to know how the population has fared in the last ten years.

This article is part of a series of Parish Notes which will be published both on the website and in future editions of the newsletter. Any readers who would like to contribute are encouraged to contact Mel Bale at webmaster@pnfs.org.uk

All previous Parish Notes can now be viewed on the website at pnfs.org.uk/parishnotes


Next: The River

Page title:Parish Notes ~ Macclesfield and Wildboarclough
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