Macclesfield Forest is a scenic blend of coniferous forest, lakes and moorland with an extensive variety of wildlife, including a heronry. The main forest car park, adjacent to the Trentabank reservoir, may be reached by driving through the village of Langley and following the signs. This photo was taken by Wayne Molyneux, a local photographer - see some more of his work by following the links on the Links page.
Macclesfield Forest is managed by United Utilities. Toilets and information are available at the Visitor’s Centre / Rangers Station at Trentabank Reservoir, which is adjacent to the main car park (postcode SK11 0NE). If you want advice about access to Macclesfield Forest, please contact the Peak District National Park Authority warden for Macclesfield Forest on 01260 252832. There is a toilet suitable for disabled people for which a RADAR key is required (a key is available when the Rangers' Room is open). The car park has a compacted sandstone surface, with tarmac entrance road and three parking spaces reserved for disabled people close to the toilets. The forest is a hidden gem for walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders. Routes range from low lying rambles to uphill hikes, where you’ll be rewarded with stunning views out over the Cheshire Plain. All routes around the forest start and end at the Visitor’s Centre. There is a mobile refreshment van behind the Visitor’s Centre, which is open at weekends, and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in summer. There is also a pleasant grassy picnic area adjacent to the building, with a number of picnic tables; one of which is wheelchair-accessible via the compacted limestone path. The majority of walks from here are uphill; however there is a short stone surfaced track suitable for wheelchair users opposite the car park entrance which provides a good viewpoint of the reservoir and its birdlife, including the heronry. There are a number of benches and rest points as well as an information board. The adjacent roadside lay-by also gives easy access to this trail.
Way-marked trails in the forest follow public footpaths, concessionary paths and bridleways. Any of the way-marked trails through the forest may be followed on foot, all of which start from the visitor centre at Trentabank. Visitors are recommended to wear stout shoes or walking boots, as the paths are sometimes uneven, and often muddy! The way-marked trails in places are also designated as concessionary paths and bridlepaths, which may be used for horse-riding or cycling. The five way-marked trails are colour-coded, and may actually be followed without a map - at each 'junction' in the route there is a colour-coded marker post just before the junction, and one just after the junction. A leaflet is available showing the 5 way-marked trails:
- Yellow route (1km) is a short walk on steep paths.
- Blue route (5km) is a route taking you steeply uphill through the forest to the moorland edge.
- Red route (9km) is a route taking in both sides of the forest.
- Green route (1km) is an easy access route through the forest with one very short uphill section.
- Brown route (2km) is an easy access route around the side of Ridgegate Reservoir.
Most of the trees planted between the 1930s and 1950s were conifers, like Sitka spruce and Scots pine. But there are also large patches of native broadleaved trees. Although the forest has a herd of red deer, you are unlikely to see these shy animals. You may see deer hoof-prints in the mud (or snow), or spot trees where deer have rubbed the bark away. The small mammals of the forest are very elusive, but you may see a weasel as it dashes across your path, or find a pine cone that has been gnawed by a mouse. Macclesfield Forest was once the centre of a Royal Forest created by the Norman conquerors for the purpose of hunting game such as deer, wild boar and wolves. This particular forest stretched from the modern Disley down to the River Dane, and was the preserve of the Earls of Chester. This has always been an isolated and sparsely populated area, and it still is.
Bottoms, Ridgegate and Tegg’s Nose reservoirs were built in the late 19th century, to meet the needs of Macclesfield's fast-growing population. Trentabank reservoir followed in the 1920s. Tree plantations replaced farms in the water catchment area, to avoid pollution. This has made today's landscape probably more forested than it has been at any time since the Bronze Age.
The heronry located by Trentabank Reservoir has around twenty-two nests, it is the largest in the Peak District. The heronry is visible from several viewpoints, and close-up CCTV pictures of the nests can also be seen in the Trentabank Visitors Centre. Other birds observed in the woodland include crossbills, siskins, goldcrests, pied flycatchers, garden warblers, blackcaps and woodcocks, while the reservoirs support abundant waterfowl including cormorants, coots, goldeneyes, pochard, mallards, tufted ducks, teal, great crested grebe, little grebe and common sandpipers.