Fred Perry Way: part 1

A very low railway bridge
A very low railway bridge

For the 20 plus years I’ve been a Stockport resident I’ve been aware of the Fred Perry Way as it’s a way-marked route that criss-crosses the borough. But for whatever reason, I’ve never actually followed it as a route, although I’ve been on plenty of bits of it.

The clocks went back today and it was gloriously sunny. And that itch needed scratching.

More way-marked madness

The full Fred Perry Way (FPW) runs from Woodford in the south of the borough of Stockport up to North Reddish, in the north of the borough. At 13.8 miles (at least based upon the GPX I downloaded from the LDWA website) it’s not as epic as some of the other way-marked paths I’ve run this year. However, I neither live in Woodford nor Reddish, hence there was some distance to cover to get to either end of the FPW, which as you might surmise from the route above, is point to point, not circular.

Based on my current level of fitness, I decided that trying to do the whole thing on foot including getting to and from the FPW was probably too much for one day. Instead, I decided to do the southern section from Woodford up to ASDA in Hazel Grove, which with the ‘commute’ would work out about 12 miles all told. Plenty for a gentle stroll.

Footwear and a commute

Setting out I wasn’t sure what footwear would be required. The FPW is something of an urban route, taking in plenty of tarmac. But there’s also a fair view footpaths containing an unknown quantity of mud, which I wouldn’t know the extend of until reaching them. So I went with my Astra Lone Peak trail shoes. Grippy enough for some light mud but reasonably comfortable over the solid stuff.

Getting to the start of the FPW from home involved a 4 and a bit mile road run. I’ve run past the start of this path a number of times, but as with the other paths in the area, there’s little fanfare that it’s there. Although when you know what to look for there is actually a sign:

The start of the Fred Perry Way

The footpath starts as a narrow cutting between the large houses that make up Woodford; it’s very much the expensive bit of the SK7 postcode. After ducking a few low branches the FPW joins Church Lane and follows it for almost its full length; I’ve walked, run and cycled this section without ever realising it was part of the FPW. That despite there being some signage! This did build my confidence in finding my way around the route, things seemed quite obvious and perhaps grabbing the GPX was unnecessary.

Or as I found out a few miles hence, perhaps it was a necessity!

Some signs are blue, most are green. I don't know why

Some signs are blue, most are green. I don’t know why

And then it all went south

Everything seemed fine until I got into the Dairyground estate in Bramhall. To be fair, there were FPW signs. But they seemed to deviate from the GPX with the signs sending me around Ladythorn Crescent rather than taking an adjoining road. GPX helped me that time and I immediately picked up some more FPW signs which suggested the earlier ones had been twisted around!

But then the wheel completely came off with the signs directing along another footpath perpendicular to the GPX.  I tried both options out before going with the footpath and then cutting through other paths to try to get back to the GPX trace. Of course by this point there were no signs to speak of!

A very low railway bridge

A very low railway bridge

I knew that the FPW cut down by the high school which seemed to tie in with where the GPX trace was heading. I emerged onto Dairyground Road and ended up doing a loop around the shops trying to follow the trace and hopefully pick up a sign. What appeared to be a footpath was gated off and having done the loop around the shops I was back on the same road. But at least I was headed for the school and the knowledge that the path was known to be there!

The path itself drops into Happy valley, crosses the brook and after following the valley a short while, emerges on Wallbank Road. Where finally the signage returned!

Pratting my way around the Grove

I thought about cutting short and heading for home, but realised I sort of knew the next section of the FPW as it follows footpaths I run fairly regularly. So I continued down Jackson’s Lane looking for the very missable footpath a long way down towards the roundabout.

I was thinking at the time it was a very circuitous route to get from Happy Valley to the footpath, and certainly looking on the map there’s another path which actually goes almost direct! But that’s the fun of the nonsense of way-marked paths, something I’m becoming ever-more sure that are dreamt up in a council office on a Friday afternoon after a liquid lunch……….

A trail and a field, before the houses begin

A trail and a field, before the houses begin

The GPX did a magical leap into Mirrless Fields leaving me scrambling around the available footpaths to rejoin this mystical line. Of course not a signpost in sight.

Finally getting to Bramhall Moor Lane I jumped onto the footpaths I thought were the correct ones, but then did an embarrassing circuit of the industrial estate to rejoin the correct path. The stupid thing was that I have walked and run the correct path many times. So quite why I blithered off along some other paths I’m not sure, but I ended up on the wrong side of the railway land and without retracing my steps (the sensible approach) there wasn’t any other way!

Anyway, I ultimately rejoined the FPW and followed it all the way up until ASDA in Hazel Grove. I realised at this point the route goes around the back of the supermarket whereas I assumed it went straight up to the main road.

To be continued……………..

But that’s for another day. Having reached the A6 I left the route and headed home, clocking up just over 12 miles and 377ft of ascent. Yup, almost a flat run for me!

Part 2 of the route will follow, continuing the journey north from Hazel Grove up to Reddish. At least to pick up where I left off, it’s only a 1 mile commute before running the remaining 7 miles of the FPW. That in itself should be interesting as I’m anticipating it being much more urban as the borough gets increasingly more densely populated. So whether that means road shoes will be a better option I’m not sure as I suspect the mud will be waiting to pounce at the first opportunity!

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