I bet you can tell the theme behind this post already.
With the Anglezarke Amble fast approaching (I’m doing the 16-miles version this time around), it was pressing on me that I really needed to get in some practice, especially after New Year’s Day’s early bail-out.
So, off I headed back to Rivington with the intention of taking in at least Rivington Pike and Great Hill. I set off on what has become my usual route – around the back of the Barn and headed for the straight-up bridal path which is the first real hard slog of the ‘Amble. It wasn’t as painful as I feared it might be, this was not me underestimating my fitness, just overestimating how steep this can be! By the time I had got to the major track which traverses most of the face of Winter Hill I couldn’t help but notice that the view to Winter Hill was inabsentia – gone, swallowed up by the mist. This left me in a bit of a quandary, I have no qualms about mist walking in most of the year, however, walking in the mist in wet weather down a hill with a notoriously slippery descent gave me shudders! I decided to forgo any thoughts of climbing up Witner Hill but took in the Pike regardless. After this, I rejoined the wide track and headed in a westerly direction until just past Pigeon tower where I took the northen path – that winds in a north-east direction, which would ultimately convey me over to Rivington Road. The clues relating to the state of the terrain, for now and later; were all around, mist and water, a lot of water. This is a straight forward track and is hardly ever really dry but today the puddles were in the ascendancy!
This track is long, 1.57 miles long according to Bing Maps, but for me the prospect of being away from the myriads back at the Pike and on route was nothing short of a blessing. I basked in the emptyness afforded by the seclusion, the mist and the wetness under foot. This was like a hilly Moss, actually, it was nothing like the Moss as my feet would testify days later, I’d been softened by too many comfortable pavements, country walking is notably harder on the feet than its rural brother! In time I reached the culmination of this solitary wandering around an absent corner of Winter Hill and reached the racetrack of Rivington Road. Perhaps because of the mist, cars were thinner on the ground today, but still enough to deter one from absentmindedly ambling across the road. Will Narr was my next destination.
I’d noticed this short climb of a hill getting steadily closer for the last half-a-mile or so, it always looks much more severe than it really is and I’d estimate that I was up to the summit plateau within ten minutes of leaving the road. Here the mist was less prevalent, maybe the water had scared it off for I had never seen the snaking path which stretches out across Anglezarke Moor look quite so wet in my previous crossings. I commented to myself and the owner of a friendly Great Dane that the visiting mountain bikers had left one almighty mess behind as when the stone slabs receded the path bordered on treacherous, this was like walking on wet clay. Spitlers Edge will never be known as an arid location, and today it was in soggy exaltation. I reached what I thought was the apex of the walk, in loftiness terms, only to realise that I was not, as of yet, even on Redmonds Edge – the true high point!
I think the damp atmosphere was affecting me. This was further reinforced when the lavalier microphone which I had been using to add comments to my video, took a full-on nose dive into a puddle. I believe it’ll work again but for now I wasn’t risking it and pocketed the poor soggy device. Within roughly twenty minutes I had almost matched the microphone for wetness as my left leg went knee-deep in between the joining of two slabs and my Iphone 6 (upon which I’d been filming the day’s events) went slamming to the ground. The sky was gray, the air was blue as I vented my colouful descriptionof this incident! I assert it was probably around this time that I cursed my decision to not bring a single gramme of carbohydrates with me, chocolate often brings you up when you are down but instead I just shrugged my shoulders and reassured myself that at some point in the near future I’d be grinning at this minor turn of events (I was right).
The short and easy path to the summit of Great Hill soon came into view and within a couple of minutes, after negotiating a break in the walkway, I was triumphantly stiding up to the four-sided summit shelter. I was elated to be the only human around, for a change, however this didn’t last long as a couple shortly appeared on the near horizon. Now it was time for something I had been reluctantly anticipating, the descent of Great Hill on a moisture-bound day, oh joy this was going to get slippery!
But I was surprised to discover that I could keep my footing. Setting my stall by the late great Alfred Wainwright’s advice, I abandoned the notion of trying to capture the scenery on file and focussed my eyes only on my own two feet. This served me well for the rest of the walk and to be honest it wasn’t like I was missing out on spectacular views – thanks to the redolent and ubiquitous dampness what was visible could only be described as washed out! Of course, the first half a mile or so when descending Great Hill towards White Coppice, is normally the easiest section. I knew that the terroir of the path would degrade considerably once I had arrived at the turn-off, the rest of the path would take walkers towards Brinscall, a calling to which I’ve never yet been allured. I met a family at this finger post section whom I thought might shed some light on the path up from White Coppice but as luck would have it these people had arrived here via the Brinscall route – I did consider interrogating them on all things Brincallian…but thought that too weird, even for me, instead I spent a few minutes chatting before heading off towards the quagmyre which lay ahead of me.
There was no doubt this was the thickest, mud-riddled fragment of the whole sloshfest! But I was comforted by the fact that this was bold mud, it made no attempt to hide or scower unseen awaiting to ensnare and attack. This was brave mud which faced up to whomever might be foolhardy enought to traverse its treachery and throw down its peaty gauntlet! The rule of the descent was simple, do not even attempt to look anywhere other than directly in front of your feet, in addition, if it looks black don’t stand on / in it lest you want to go sliding towards a mudstained embarrasment. If you tried hard enough, if you were really, really stupid enough (hello mountain biking fraternity!) to do so, it would be possible to cause yourself a great deal of physical harm. If however, you paid strict heed to Lord Mud’s prescription, you shouldn’t come a cropper…and I didn’t. There was the odd micro-slip where essentially your body moves forward an inch or two without your volition, otherwise, it may have taken quite some time, but i got to White Coppice looking more human than hippo!
It’s true to say that the walk from here to the junction at Moor Road is not really riveting. That being said, if you are not in a rush (Ambling) then it’s nice to take your time here. Ordinarily, there are sheep all around but today they were hiding somewhere. Sheep are terrible conversationalists so I didn’t miss them! It’s surprising how quickly I arrived at Moor Road full of the resolve that I was going to stick to my plan of doing my usual Amble finish – the alternative being to ascend Moor Road purely for the sake of dropping back down the other side to Rivington. This strategy would probably result in a drier and less mud-infused walk, but with the con of it adding a notable amount of time and effort – Moor Road is a favourite haunt for speed-loving cyclists! Nope, my original plan to traverse as if doing the final leg of the Amble would suffice. And if I thought I’d been through mud before…that was nothing!
The clue really should be in the fact that there are at least five reservoirs in relatively closse proximity, you don’t get that in the Sahara Desert now do you? All of that water comes from somewhere and on route it washes over somewhere else – here! And having done this, the residue is, thick, rather smelly and certainly slippery, mud. This section was rife with it! On the uphill stages, of which there are hardly any, you don’t really mind, it makes you approach the slope in a more cautious and concerted manner. On descents, the fear of falling over compels you to ‘take your time, watch your footing (litterly)’. No, it’s the flat bits that mess you up! Often times there are simply no visible cues. Every so often the route contains a footbridge which in effect is a slightly elevated plank of wood…even these were caked in various obnoxious substances, each offering its own particular blend of sideways motion! A number of times I had to detour from the well-beaten path in order to avoid doing the splits! It was at this point when the silent assasin that is short wet grass came to the fore and made my crossing of the narrow sheep trod adjacent to the huge Anglezarke Reservoir, an embarrassment. Two runners had even seen fit to take a vertical detour in order to bypass a patch of water and mud and plain old slime, I followed suite – well, in reverse as I was going in the opposite direction but with one major disadvantage, the longer one’s feet touch the ground, the more traction they lose! I fell to my knees and steadied myself by putting my hands in mud, gross!
Eventually I made it to the High Bullough Reservoir, overtaken with the belief that its name had been changed very recently (I was now craving carbs at an uncomfortable rate) from Parson’s Bullough Reservoir. A relative quick march along its western flank brought me to the drop that I’d been dreading. This was a close-relative to vertical! Ordinarily, I take my time descending this patch of road / gravel / other, and that’s on a dry day. Today I’d estimate that it took me five minutes to walk around five hundred feet…and several pats of the heads of various dogs who must have been able to smell Pepper (our cat) on me…or fear! The ultimate pay-off for sticking with this route now came into view – the culmination of the Anglezarke Reservoir near Lane Ends ( 53.639357, -2.583288 ). The first time I completed the Amble I promised to myself I would return (one day) to get a photograph or two! I felt that by now i had earned my energy gel, it was delicious, but I would want the Cappucino variety next time! People passed me, I didn’t care, my left foot was beginning to feel less wet than before (after it had been dunked in icy water on Redmond’s Edge!) and my spirits were high because in spite of falling, I was doing it, I would make it around the Amble next month even though this route was five miles shorter and a thousand feet less climbing. In addition, that view of the reservoir was captivating.
And so I carefully crossed over Knowlsley Lane in order to get a photo of yet another body of water and kept on the same side of the road so as to avoid crossing at a blind corner. The Yarrow flow-off at the water chute ( 53.635803, -2.573412 ) was in spate and looking quite spectacular today, I don’t know if I managed to keep the footage, it isn’t to hand at the moment. This didn’t matter, the slope of the chute is not great, even after ten miles it is still manageable, I’ve done it several times and at the top is the reward that for the next 3/4 of a mile, it’s all down a very gentle, if somewhat stony, slope. Wonderful. The weather continued to stay on my side as I exchanged pleasentries with others on the same stretch of land at the side of the blatantly not natural Yarrow reservoir. At the end of this path I saw a couple doggedly circumnavigate a decrepit stile – when my turn came I simply walked through the gap in the fence next to it! A quick turn to the left, ten metres then a turn through another kissing post and I was next to the brook which for want of the proper name I’ll call Dean Wood Brook. Even in winter this is just a gentle trickle of a stream and I was glad of this, I was within the last mile and wanted no drama. Eventually the terrain rose in front of me as I climbed the steps to take me into the final pasture before Sheephouse Lane. The gate at the far end of the field is horribly tight and enforced a walker of my stature to remove the rucksack from their back, I don’t like to do this but there really is no choice. I always feel that this gateway is a little too close for comfort to the road which can at times be chaotic. With this in mind I headed north-east up Sheephouse Lane, leaving Rivington Lane for the more foolhardy and brave. It tool a little while (and a minor panic about having to turn around) before I found the opening in the wall which would lead to my path back up to the car park, again the pay-off was these delightul photos to the left of the flora present. By 16:56 I had made it back to the car, I’d completed my first hill-walk of 2020.
In summing this was a magnificent walk, well they can’t all be dry and offering majestic views of the distant horizons. Sometimes you just have to put more effort in and as such this was most definitely a down and dirty kind of walk. I was so impressed with my performance, including my resilience and not giving up when I met obstacles in the mud and other slime. That being said I do think that the crossing of the edges could be most appreciated in drier (if not completely bone-dry) weather. My fitbit reports that I covered over thirteen miles that day, Google maps comes in around two miles less and both are right in their own way as the fitbit is counting every single footstep…and slide.
And what of song of the walk? There were a few:
Zara Larsen – Don’t Worry ’bout me
Zara Larsen – Symphony – the others escape me now but I did have the themes from the classic arcade Sonic the Hedgehog – Greenhill and Marble zones resounding through my head for the last six miles or so!