By David Abbott, 15th November 2022
Recently, a group from Olliers spent a pleasant Saturday exploring the woods at Alderley Edge as part of the firm’s ongoing employee wellness programme.
The Edge, which is a striking sandstone escarpment which rises above the Cheshire Plain, is covered by extensive woodland and is looked after by the National Trust. Although it is now the haunt of walkers, it was formerly a hive of industry, and the area is riddled with abandoned mining tunnels, as men have been digging out metal ore, mainly copper, from there for around 4000 years. Mining ended completely in the 1920s, and in 1948 two wealthy sisters gave much of the land to the National Trust. It is possible to explore the now-abandoned mines, many of which are sunk horizontally into the hillside, on occasional tours with the Derbyshire Caving Club, who control access to the warren of tunnels.
The Edge is now an idyllic area of beautiful woodland, with stunning views over the Cheshire Plain. The woods consist primarily of oak, beech and silver birch. At this time of year of course, the leaves are turning, and the woodland is a gorgeous patchwork of autumn colour. Myths and legends concerning the Edge abound –mainly concerning wizards and King Arthur who, with his knights, is said to be sleeping under the hill, waiting to be awoken to come to the country’s aid in a time of great peril.
We had met up at the main National Trust car park, which is not far from one of the scenic look-out points and was correspondingly busy with dog-walkers, but it took very little effort to get away from the crowds by diverting off the main paths and going deeper into the woods. There was no wind and the place was silent except for the occasional bird call and the rustle of our boots ploughing through the dense carpet of crisp, newly-fallen leaves. The ground was piled with acorns and beech nuts, and fallen logs were alive with mushrooms and toadstools. More than once we encountered the doors set in the hillside which seal the entrances to the mines.
Down at the base of the Edge we came across a mine from whose entrance emerged ancient tramway rails. The precious ore would be loaded in the mine onto heavy hand–propelled trucks which were then pushed for up to a mile underground to the surface to be processed into metal.
Climbing back up to the top of the Edge via a path which followed a series of small waterfalls, with a larger fall near the top (although sadly with not a great deal of water due to the largely dry summer months) we returned to the carpark, having stopped off first at the adjacent Wizard Tearooms where many delights (including a delicious hot chocolate with Bailey’s Irish Cream) could be had. Four miles walked, 10,000 steps recorded and wellness increased.