Introducing the Walk of freedom

Coming soon, but only after lockdown, Saturday 5th September, 2020

What’s your motivation for this walk?

Well, this is an easy one, I’ve not been on a walk of over five miles since February when I did the 17-miles version of the Anglezarke Amble. I miss my time out on the moors immensely. I am a member of the Facebook group “I belong to Bolton “ where during the lockdown there have been numerous posts related to the magnificent scenery which makes a fantastic backdrop to most Bolton scenes. This walk will be a celebration 🥳 a huge and resounding sigh of relief of having made it through this terrible virus 🦠

Route map for Walk Of Freedom by Mark Wild on plotaroute.com

For those requiring a text description, I’ll add a printable pdf at some point but for now, here goes:

We start off at the smallest two car parks at Rivington near to the Rivington Hall Barn. We head west for a couple of hundred feet before taking a right hand turn. This bears right and for a few minutes we’ll be heading in the opposite direction to which we just came from, fear not, all too soon we will be on the main bridal way to lead up to all the attractions. We’re now going uphill!

After several hundred metres, the path splits, we are going to take the left hand route, the right hand one will lead you back to the Japanese gardens should you so desire. The path steepens a little but then levels out. There are numerous left hand turn-offs but essentially we are keeping to the same track until next to the disused toilet block, a lovely feature of the route.

Now, we are going to take the obvious route up to the Pike via the steps. These can be a bit of a nightmare so if you want to take the slightly more circuitous route which branches off to the left hand side then go for it, we’ll see you at the top! For the rest of us it’s a short, sharp ascent of the huge steps before puffing, panting and swearing at me and then we are at the top of the first climb.

Have a breather (please), take some selfies and enjoy the view. Yes that really wide path does lead up to Winter Hill, no, it is in no way as easy as it looks, but it’s brilliant in snow!

Okay, lazy bones, the next part is really easy as we head south and fall off the pike towards the unremarkable Brown hill. Mind your footing here, gravity is not your friend on this descent. When we’re sick of watching our own feet, turn left and onto the broad track. This is a bumpy road but it’s very easy to follow and makes for a lovely distraction before we turn…yes, left again just after the Rivington dog hotel. This starts off steep but does get progressively easier in time. After the major climb you’ll notice a yellow marked finger post, keep to the right of this, just for fun, I’ve thrown in Two Lads! Its proper name is Crooked Edge Hill, Two Lads refers to the gigantic cairns at its summit, sometimes there are two cairns and other times there can be up to five.

Again, have a breather, take some photos and recall happier times when that big stadium you can see used to play host to a premiership team 🤦‍♂️ We’ll head off slightly east before joining the road which (eventually) leads us past the main television antenna. Once at the apex of the road we’ll be turning left and off up the service road before leaving the road in order to tap the o/s column at the highest point of the walk, with regret, it’s usually the muddiest too! Congratulations, we are now at the apex of the walk.

So, there is some more observing of the feet to be done once we set off through the muddy gate (you’ll see!) but believe me this is where this walk starts to get all kinds of beautiful as we drop hundreds of feet to Hampsons Pasture. We walk along a collapsed wall and cross a race track! We are now in the land of the river Yarrow and once we start to climb up to Will Narr you’ll even see a plaque dedicated to that body of water courtesy of “The friends of the Yarrow”.

By now, (September) the path should have reapaired itself from the damage inflicted upon it by the hordes of mountain bikers who frequent the area. Or, if it’s raining then we’ll be back to a bit of uphill slip and sliding, it isn’t that bad and the path we are taking is not at all hard to follow, look dead ahead and the tiny bump which seems to keep growing bit by bit is Great Hill and is our next destination summit. I say that but in all honesty we have to surmount the peaks of first Spitlers Edge then Redmonds Edge, good luck finding them as there are no ciarns or trig points and all of the summit plains look the same height from up close. Soon enough we hit the slabs. These are apparently the broken up millstone floors of, well former mills I guess. Where there are pools of water they can contain all sorts of colours and there is only the odd one which tips up and soaks your feet when you stand on it!

Throughout this walk I’d recommend that you watch your footing, not that it is so bad but nobody wants to twist an anle on this moor – we are now on the best of them – Anglezarke and we’d need to call Mountain Rescue if you injured yourself as no ambulance could ever deal with this terrain. Look! We’ve got closer to Great Hill it’s just over this stile, then up that tiny slope.

From here it’s all lovely…okay there are some muddy patches in between the ruins of Drinkwaters farm and the turn off near the trail shafts at another Brown Hill (notice how these are nearly always muddy, what does clean brown look like?). Just look at the views, someone might need to nudge me if I’m gawping at Pendle Hill…I do that! The slabs lead us away from Great Hill’s summit – wasn’t that cruciform shelter handy for avoiding the wind, also wasn’t it hard to stand up after being sat at the shelter? We head quite swiftly downhill. A number of times the path stops looking quite so engineered and y’know neat, but it is easy to follow. Stop for a few minutes at Drinkwaters farm (ruin), don’t drop any litter (anywhere, ever) but especially not here, you’ll kill the peaceful vibe this place has in spates!

And so we take the turn off left – or end up in Brinscall and I don’t think history shows anyone ever really meaning to go to Brinscall! So take the left with the dodgy looking handrail (if it is up on the day), use it at your peril because it isn’t attached to anything so, y’know, good luck! The path really drops its pretentions of being a path here, so you’ll have to either follow the millions of footprints or wait for me! Soon enough we run into a little bit of a boulder track, it’s easy to fall over here but it is just as easy to stay on your feet, just slow down a bit…I find no problem at all in doing that! We gingerly snake our way down this ever-narrowing rock path and notice that by now water has started to trickle onto the track. One last severe drop and we are on the final few metres to White Coppice Cricket Ground. I hate cricket with a passion but we will wait for a while for people to take photographs of Lancashire’s most picturesque ground. Once relaxed and refreshed we pick up the trail again and head off along quite a wide track which undulates as it passes the notorious Stronstrey Bank – I gathter it’s quite well regarded by crag rats and the like. There are lots of sheep around but these are quite easily spooked and shouldn’t bother us.

Onwards and through the gate as we cross over Moor Road, watch out for cyclists as this is an adrenalin drop of a slope and they don’t take prisoners who have dawdled in their way! Gape in awe at the sign informing you that this patch of land(?) belongs to Southport Angling Society (well we only have the Sluice and that’s devoid of all fish!), as we drop down a bit then up a bit and onto a really narrow path punctuated by the occasional weird bridges which are no more than eight inches elevated and have a welcome mudbath at either side! I don’t know who “Alice” is but she seems to have graffited herself onto every gate and stile from now until the end (and you’ll be pleased to hear that this is now less than three miles away!). We pass along a sheeptrod which can be really slippy or a breeze to walk upon depending on recent weather. And then it’s a big drop, not very far but it’ll have you watching your feet for definite!

Now we go uphill for a little stretch – more metres than miles I’m glad to say and at its summit we turn left to pass by the empty High Bullough Reservoir. Through the gate with the big heavy lead counter weight (don’t bother trying to steal it, you’ll die of either Lead poisoning or exaustion before you get two miles!) and then we are up to another major drop. Seriously, you would not want to expose bare skin to this  surface which looks like a cross between tarmac and millstone grit, I imagine this would sting like a ******* so don’t fall!

We make it to the bottom of that gigantic drop and corner (what do you mean it was only about twenty feet?), and now it’s time for some lovely ambling as we gently pass the magnificent Anglezarke reservoir on our right hand side…and some interesting moss on our left – it’s absolutely lovely here.  After what feels like two miles, it isn’t, we hit the road which in effect is the other side of Moor Road which we passed ages ago. Cross carefully, you’ve been warned, there’s a killer of a blind corner here. We turn right (aha!) and then cross to eventually wind our way up the Chute! This is another impressive spectacle when it’s in spate. Uphill some more and ultimately we reach the green wall which is the western slope of the Yarrow reservoir, turn right. This path is very straight forward and if we’d only done a mile or so then it would be a breeze to walk on, however, by this time we have walked close to ten and the attention is not quite what it should be, it’s hilarious to watch others stumbling but when it happens to us… The views to Winter Hill, Dovecote and Rivy Pike open up remarakably here, go on…bask, you really have earned it.

At the gate which has seen better days, turn …left, then after less than 20 metres, turn right and go through another kissing gate, then we walk carefully alongside a stream which never gets a name in any publication I’ve read. Ultimately, just as we are thinking ‘oh this is all very civil’, we are confronted with a flight of steps. They are far easier than they look and after that it really is all plain sailing all the way to the final kissing gate where the skinny amongst us won’t struggle, but the rest of us will have to take off our backpacks, it’s a tight squeeze.

And then we fall out and onto Sheephouse Lane, god willing we won’t get mowed down by passing traffic. take a left here – hey it’s far safer than going right, and we will head uphill for a few hundred feet until a side entrance can be seen on the right. Take that and it will bring us back onto the long track back to the car park.

There, I’ve got us all around Rivington and Anglezarke, anyone fancy signing up for the 24-miles version of the West Lancs LDWA Anglezarke Amble in February, I’ve blatantly pinched about five miles of their route for this one?

 

 

 

Last walk home from work of 2019

Well I wouldn’t say that I had put in a flurry of walks in 2019 but with the realisation that February and the amble were approaching rather quickly, the impetus was on me to do something.

November had seen me walking home from work twice in two weeks and it has become a tradition of mine to walk home on my last working day of the year, hence the title of this post! I’d been planning a route which would take me from Scarisbrick up to Churchtown, whilst avoiding romping through fields and thus keeping my feet dry. A number of routes eventually emerged that all shared one factor, they were a bit on the huge side, averaging around thirteen miles each! In time I opted to traverse Scarisbrick and take in the tiny village of Bescar, a first for me.

So I left work at around twelve p.m. and parambulated Ruff Lane, Mill Street crossed Wigan Road and Abbotsford, as is a staple for me recently. Then, once near Ormskirk town centre I headed down Railway Approach and onto Station Road, another staple, before crossing the notoriously unpredictable A59 at County Road via Yew Tree Road and ultimately onto Grimshaw Lane.

An unknown flock of birds orbits a field at Woodmoss Lane

By this time the clouds had morphed into a threatening shade of grey and although I did have an umbrella with me, I feared an imminent soaking! It was a hard decision to continue as opposed to go and catch a bus, but later one which I would be very pleased to have made. I passed the Kicking Donkey (an amazingly great name for a pub), and at this point decided that I would turn onto Moorfield Lane and head through Scarisbrick as opposed to staying with the longer route and yomping through Heaton’s Bridge. The price for this would be to effectively double back on myself in order to pick up Smithy Lane before joining Dam Wood Lane and on to take the illusive Bescar Lane. Even I am astounded at just how many “Lanes” are present in this area!

Photo of Bescar Lane Methodist church
Bescar, home of Bescar Lane Methodist church

From here it would be new walking territory for me up until Wood Moss Lane, which I had transited on a sunnier “Moss” walk in late spring. Bescar fits in with the key requirements of the rest of this enormous area colloquially known as “The Moss”, in that essentially, there’s nothing there. When contrasted with the rich and almost overstuffed views presented to hikers of the Lake District, this area, it would seem, has slender pickings with regards to the scenery!

It has to be noted that for the majority of this section I was walking upon single track roads, but as the sky was packed with a myriad of varying clouds this kept away the potential for fog, which offered a modest measure of security. Only a fool, even a well illuminated fool, would try this route any later in the day than three o’clock in Winter, though the prospect of a mist-shrouded crossing of this route does appeal to me.

I took the first turn-off on the left as this would then convey me back down towards much busier environs, an A-road no less at Kew / Meols Cop, the dividing line must be fairly obvious to those in the know but sadly, I am not in this elite group. the road did seem to have more corners than I remembered from September, but I thought this was just my memory playing tricks on me, the Christmas lights coming on almost in waves was a pleasent distraction. After the best side of half an hour I saw a sign which read “Snape Green”. The realisation hit me like a sledgehammer, I had turned-off too early and had not been on Pool Hey Lane at all. In essence I had strayed back a mile or two towards Ormskirk once more! Hence dear readers, I had again fallen victimn to the phenom which sooner or later afflicts all walkers, left-turnitis, the unconscious act of turning left before we need to do so.

Photo of Stickman and son
Love these two characters whom we’ve driven past for most of the year.

Ordinarily, this would fill me with a certain shame and aggravation, today I simply shrugged my shoulders safe in the consulation that I had originally wanted to do a much bigger walk anyway! I turned right on to Southport Road and crossed it. I was a little sad to see the gorgeous Dawn Redwood tree devoid of all its needles but this was alleviated by the spectacle of the enormous Weeping Willow, again leafless but with a lovely display of this years wood growth. The traffic noise was near deafening so accustomed had I grown to an almost absence of sound during my miles through Bescar and the Moss. I had feared that dusk would soon be upon me, but this was not the case as the light continued to hold on like it was a spring, not winter, evening. This severely reduced the impact of the Christmas lights turning on, next year I’ll endeavour to set off a little bit later!  Before long I was passing ‘The Stickies’. The owner of one of the houses on Southport Road is either really lonely or had a wonderful sense of humour as these two characters to the left of this text demonstrate. I had wanted to photograpth ‘The Stickies’ on a number of occasions when I walked past but for some reason always seemed to miss them. So somehow it seemed fated that I had this opportunity virtually shoved down my throat today!

It was a hard decision not to call in at McDonalds at Kew as I neared the junk-foodery! I figured I would be stuffing my face enough over the next ten days as it was and I wanted to get home to see Chris and Pepper. At Kew roundabout I opted to cross over the busy road and make my way home via a route which I knew to be much quieter, Foul Lane and Wennington Road.

Foul Lane is a one-off, a mystery, a maverick and enigma all rolled into one. This is a road which should be put to far better use than it currently is. For now it skirts around the side of B&Q, traverses a roundabout then transforms into a ghost/waste land. I don’t know what was once here, but it’s gone now! Of course there is still a rather delapidated “Park ‘n’ ride” and to be fair; it did look in use…I don’t know what those drivers would have done if this car park had been out of service – those three drivers, who could quite easily have parked at the front of the estate on the now much bigger and emptier car park. The reason for my apparent disdain is that Foul Lane terminates / is blocked off for no good reason whilst the bottlenecks at Meols Cop next to the commercial estate are the stuff of legends, bad legends! It’s madness! An entire new stream of traffic could be taken off the Norwood Road Stretch and diverted here and over towards Cobden Road and….there must be a reason for this state of affairs and if I knew it, I’d probably disagree. The pay-off for me is that whilst all of the central-west traffic attempts to squeeze its way along the Norwoods, my route was so quiet and calming. Admittedly, for the more rural-focussed among us there is not much to see, I crossed over Cobden Road and onto Wennington Road and into my kind of area, hundreds and hundreds of front gardens, and most of them postage-stamp sized!

I filtered my way from one block to another, all the time the sky was just not playing ball, darkness was not descending, it was getting close to four p.m. on the third shortest day of the year damnit, where was the dark? I’d been planning this walk to tie-in with my ill-fated “Winter Wonder Walks” but for that to happen, well the Christmas lights in people’s houses needed to be visible and they just were not. It was fast approaching four o’clock and my feet were getting quite hot by now so I decided not to delay my return by waiting for darkness to fall, especially as that would’ve looked all kinds of creepy!

I made my way to the Spar petrol station in order to top up on beer – alcohol free beer as dry January is just around the corner! I made it home for 15:55, three hours and fifty-five minutes after leaving work (or thereabouts). It was only later, at the beginning of January that I checked the distance walked of my route (my fitbit can be a bit optimistic) and was overjoyed to have my suspicions confirmed, 12.2 miles according to Google Maps > Measure Distance, what a result. This was the second furthest that I had walked all year (sharing the honours with the rather boring and extremely hot walk over Birkdale Cop, many months earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The total distance was an impressive 12.24 miles!