On Top of The Cloud
Updated: May 26
I crawl out of bed ridiculously early and set off for Bosley Cloud in search of a sunrise. Arriving at Timbersbrook picnic area car park, I find that I'm too early - it opens at 8am - I have to park in a nearby layby. I put on my gloves and hat and set off, running through the deserted picnic area, up the road and walk up the steep steps to enter national trust land. I knew I'd be starting steeply uphill and it would be hard going, but that still didn't prepare me for the initial shock to my system and breathlessness. I force myself on and continue the climb, running where I can and walking the rest. I follow the obvious path and soon come out of the trees and arrive on top of The Cloud (343m), with burning calves for my efforts. It's very cloudy (is there a clue in the name?), and I'm a bit disappointed as the clouds are hiding the colours in the sky. I hang around and, at the allotted time (7:36am), I'm rewarded with the sun bursting into view and lighting up the sky - stunning!
I share this amazing experience with a man heading home after his night shift and a lady out for an early morning walk - there's plenty of space for the three of us. I linger a while enjoying the views and colours, moving on when I get too cold. I follow Gritstone trail signs to descend, retrace my steps to the layby, and head south west towards Mow Cop.
The Gritstone trial takes me across fields - I get wet feet straight away, splashing through boggy grass. I cross a lane, followed by more fields and join a disused railway which takes me south towards Biddulph. It's an easy going but monotonous couple of kilometres, and I begin to see a few dog walkers out and about.
I count the bridges and keep an eye out for signs, spotting my exit off the railway. I turn right, up a farm track, to keep following the Gritstone trial. It's up hill again, towards a wood, with the ridge I'm aiming for in the distance. I follow the path round to left and run up to join the ridge. I keep on the Gritstone trial, along a short stretch of road, to Cheshire's Close view point - a litter strewn layby with a great view out to the west across the Cheshire plain. I can see Jodrell Bank in the distance.
I keep on the road, looking out for a right hand turn which takes me onto a pretty, parallel path through woodland, still following the ridge. I can see a metal mast up ahead and know that I'm getting close to my destination: Mow Cop. I pass some very black cows and carry on, passing the old man of Mow on my left.
I take note of the South Cheshire Way path, which I'll use for my return leg, and turn right into a residential street. Mow Cop Castle is easy to find - I just keep following the Gritstone trail signs.
I run up to the castle, a fascinating folly perched on a rocky outcrop, and admire the views out across Staffordshire in the east and Cheshire in the west. It's exposed up here and I'm beginning to get cold - time to get off the ridge and complete my return journey.
I go back passed the old man and run down the steep South Cheshire Way path, alongside fields, through a wood, then more muddy fields to join a track near the railway. Passing through a small housing estate, I look out for a bridge to join the canal and turn right towards Congleton.
I run for approximately 5 km along the canal, nice and flat and not too muddy today. I pass friendly walkers and eventually enter a more built up area to pass through the town and under a bridge near the station - surprisingly the town doesn't intrude much on my tranquillity.
I'm soon out into the countryside again, feeling tired but relaxed, knowing I'm on the last few kilometres with the canal making it easy to navigate. I get a great view of the Congleton viaduct. I'm looking out for a bridge to make a right hand turn. This takes me into the muddiest part of my run - slipping and sliding back across grassland and fields to the welcome site of my layby; very satisfied to have completed a half marathon and experienced my first sunrise.