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?

 

 

 

A Rivington Ramble…

…But not with ‘the Ramblers’!

 

The ooze stile
Path to the terraced cottages

With the Amble fast approaching (8/2/2020) I decided I needed some off-road walking practice, and quick! So instead of trying to get parked at Barley car park in order to take on Pendle Hill, which is always stuffed to the seams at New Year (and filthy), I headed off to Rivington. The clue’s in the title really and I soon discovered that the car parks there too, were chockablock! Oh well! Fortunately, people were coming and going all the time so I was lucky enough to grab a convenient space, result! Before I set off I had all sorts of fancyful ideas about which route to take, should I try the arduous trek from Winter Hill (the road) down to the Dean Mills Reservoir and then back up via Counting hill? By contrast I considered a 13 miles romp over the whole of Angelzarke Moor taking in the usual suspects of Will Narr, the ‘Edges and Great Hill. the first walk of the year is always a case of ambition over reality! I decided upon the walk that Chris and I have done a couple of times, passing the Yarrow Reservoir and wandering over what I believe is known as Lead Mines Clough.

Photo A lovely meadow on route to the Yarrow Reservoir
A lovely meadow on route to the Yarrow Reservoir

After cuttting off a corner, not something I would do normally, I headed downhill towards the cottages at Rivington Lane but decided (at the last minute) to stick with the green path and joined the road, you can’t call this paving, at Sheephouse Lane.  This is essentially the final stretch of the Amble which I am doing in reverse and I have to say it has become one of my favourite places to walk. In contrast to the car park, where it was teaming, this area was fairly free of walkers, although I did end up with one couple behind me for some distance, the male of which had a cough like a seal, a real hacker!

 

I kept the Yarrow reservoir on my right as opposed to heading off left towards the water chute (the Amble comes up this way), and the views to Winter Hill and Noon Hill duly opened up. This is one of mine and Chris’s favourite routes so navigating is so much of a breeze that I gave it scant attention. At the end of the green path which passes by the Yarrow reservoir there is a combination of a concrete and then multi-surface path, before hitting a road Parson’s Bullough Road and i stayed on this short stretch of road for just a few minutes and turned off left into, well Parson’s Bullough (53°38’30.1″N 2°33’59.7″W if you want to look it up on Bing OS maps).

Photo of a view from the Yarrow Area

 

A gentle slope
The views open out once more.

In the beginning this is a deceptively easy walk, the first few hundred metres are a sheer joy, then come the ascensions. The first one seperates the path into two, the left hand one veers off towards some quite dramatic scenery at both Jepson’s Farm and Jepson’s Gate, both areas of which I have no walking experience. My route heads off to the right andclimbs quite steeply over an area of disused trial shafts – which are not visible, or thankfully… in use. The first area that I am heading towards, after entering a gigantic gate is known as Wilkinson’s Bullough.  I didn’t know what a Bullough is, and thanks to Google Search I can now attest that, I still do not know what a Bullough is! This was nice walking, a gradient that could only be described as a treat, with a path which undulated more in the horizontal plane than in the vertical one. All around were sheep, very timid sheep and fortunately, no cows. It’s not that I detest cows, it’s just that they can be a bit dauting oh and they do kill a handful of walkers each year. One time Chris and I had to turn back from this route as there were enough of the things at the other side of the gate to pose a very real threat. Not today though, and I continued on, at a leisurely pace, my feet just would not speed up!

The path rises a little
A solitary, Hawthorne or Rowan.

The area became a little more wet underfooted as I stuck with the path through the area known as “Simms”, on a geographical (perhaps even geological) perspective there might be a lot here to interest folks, I just observed an unmistakedly rural path with zillions of sheep either side of it. Break-off routes to Great Hill, Redmonds Edge and Spitlers Edge do exist here, but these are easier to see on the map than on the ground and were definitely not part of my day’s itinerary, they can be kind of wet as well!At around three fifths of the way along this path there is a decidely sticky section where the runoff water from the surrounding fields essentially strips the path of any sand and stones it might have had (the paths are repaired every few years) and mud stakes its claim upon the environment. A fast walker would fall over here, so I was safe! Another point to bear in mind is that it’s a completely exposed area, and the wind was certainly blowing today, even though it had seemed negligible thus far into the walk. I was glad for every dry stone wall that I passed for the fleeting cover that they afforded. The cars on the horizon started to get bigger, the horizon itself seemed to be filling up with just one dauting, terrifying vision…the sombre lump of the Winter hill massif. Honestly, if you haven’t been there for a while, Winter hill can appear mountainous.

The path veers to the right.
This path doesn’t look at all dangerous!

My plan had been to turn right at the road and make my way onto the broad dirtrack before turning left and summiting via the north-western converted sheep trod.Several hundred feet into this section I realised something with a certain forehead-slapping dread, I’d taken the wrong turning! This is becoming a habbit! Instead of turning right I should have turned left, DOH! All the same I could simply carry on to the next left hand turn and drop down, over a stream up a little bit of a steep path to Catter Nab and continue from there, good plan. The downfall was that the environment was soaked and mud was in the ascendancy. I was pretty sure that if I made my way down this 30-degree slope I’d end up in the afore mentioned stream, or just knock myself out! This is a route for a dry day, moreover this is a route for a drought! I took the wise but downright disatisfying option to turn around and head once more back to the road. By now I was somewhat demoralised, I really wanted to trudge my way back up to Belmont Road (the track, not road) and scoot off up the north-west face of Winter Hill (I’m sure nobody ever really scooted up Winter Hill) but my feet were boiling and my legs jelly-like, but more importantly I think I had left my resolve in a patch of mud on Angelzarke Moor, it sure as hell was not with me!

The sensible option was to plod back down the road all the way to Moses Cocker ( 53.631373, -2.552180 ) don’t they have some strange names around here?

I should add here that this road is a designated national speed limit and pretty narrow…and has no footpath. So not that sensible really! I followed the highway code directive of walking into oncoming traffic…does that sound like a safe, reassuring practice to anyone else? No, me neither, I’d rather be hit from behind and never really get a glimpse of my potential killer(s)! Eventually I made it back to the crossroads where all manner of different footpaths converge, the traffic was now more or less gridlocked with frustration redolent throughout the air. There aren’t this many people in the area when the Amble is on and that tends to average around 300 walkers! Happy to be making my way to the car (and home) I plodded the rest of the course back via paddocks and crumbling paths back to the car park at the barn. I hadn’t done what I intended to do but I had at least got out and about in the countryside.Distance covered: around five and a half miles with roughly 800 feet of ascension. Still no song of the walk…what’s going on. (photos to follow, I need to catch up!)