All was not lost though as the way back took us to a place called Etherow Country Park, on the edge of Stockport, where Nick said we would find Mandarins (a year-tick for him) and Dippers (a year-tick for both of us).
Here there was much less snow, though the weather remained very dull and dark. We parked by a big lake full of manky Mallards, dodgy farmyard geese and a lot of Black-headed Gulls. The path took us along a wall-sided canal, that ran alongside an actual river.
The path crossed the canal and we could finally see down to the proper river that rushed along at the bottom of a steep gorge. It looked good for Dippers, especially when we found a Dipper, standing on a boulder in true Dipper style and contemplating the rapids. A little way ahead was a rather spectacular weir.
We veered away from the river at this point and followed an uneventful looping path through hilly woodland, where we found a small party of Goldcrests but nothing else.
The return walk didn't produce anything new apart from rain. I couldn't resist another quick go at the beautiful Mandarins though.