Muggy on the moors!

The classic walk on Sunday 21st of July, 2019.

I had planned on doing some Rivington walks in order to build up stamina and speed for next year’s Anglezarke Amble, more on this later. In essence I thought I would start easy and build on that.

I arrived and was finally ready to leave the upper car park at Rivington Hall Barn by 10:04. Having driven up the lane I deduced that there would be a lot of walkers on the hills today and the day was to prove me right in that respect. I decided not to go my usual route up through the shaded paddock and took the ‘Amble’ approach which would flirt with the area that ‘the friends of Rivington Pike’ have been duly turning into “Path World”!

At times the humidity and the slightly foolish pace at which I had set off, forced me to stop for thirty seconds or so and quite often this would give me the chance to change direction if I had been caught up by a group of walkers or if I had inadvertantly merged with one. It’s not that I’m anti social, moreoever I’m incompetantly competitive – I merge with a group and want to be at the front of it walking more quickly than what I would really want. This is something that I have really begun to notice since June’s Y3P attempt.

Before too long, but after many steps, I had hit the broad track which separates the terraced gardens from ‘The Pike’ – it does more than that but for my purposes, that’s how I refer to it. I didn’t fancy the steps up to the top of the pike as invariably I get stuck behind someone and this has a draining impact on me. Instead I added probably another half-mile on the route by dropping down a few hundred metres only to turn a good nitely-degress in  order to come back on myself and take the less refind, more organic route from the north. This is a route of descent on the ‘Amble’day and can be quite an ordeal if the ground is wet or has snow on it. On a hot day this can be a major slog and today was warming up a bit…I did it in around ten minutes without feeling like a tortoise. All the same I was glad to be atop the pike, I took a photo or two and then dropped down the steep steps which were already adorned with walkers of varying fitness and abilities.

I joined the broad track once more and ambled  behind a young couple up until the turn-off facing Dovecote came along. According to Google maps, this is yet another “Belmont Road”. The man in charge of naming the streets and tracks in this area has been taken away and shot for crimes against the concept of imagination as apparently he really didn’t have any! This track is just short of 1.5 miles in length and more often than not offers some of the most peaceful walking in the area, even today, a relatively busy day, I  recall seeing only another ten people on this stretch. The going was good, there are always patches of water and some mud to navigate – the track divides Noon Hill Slack and Catter Nab and as such has to withstand an enromous amount of overspill when the rain hits Winter Hill, but this was practically dry. At the northernmost point of the track it joins onto Rivington Road (which leads onto…Belmont Road, argh!) but fortunately for me I didn’t have to spend much time dodging the cars which were hurtling on by at 70mph+!

Within a few minutes I turned left in order to face Will Narr. This is not a human as the name might imply, but simply the left hand side of the slope also known as Hordern Pasture – so exactly which point is Spitlers Edge escapes me! All the same it’s generally a nice walk, nicer going up than down as it happens as the rain can make this terrain a little slippery! After turning off Rivington Road I became trapped behind a couple who were in possession of one of the singlemost yappy dogs that it has been my displeasure to endure. Within about thirty seconds I was ready to turn around and find another route, so painful was the screech emanating from this pensive pup! Instead I waited until they had got a decent distance in front of me…two minutes did the job nicely! This was uphill walking, but not the excessive, hard-slog which one encounters on the slopes of much bigger hills and mountains such as Pen-y-Ghent and Blencathra, to name two of the ones I’ve slogged up this year. The reward for very little effort expended is a lovely airy ridge-walk, okay it’s a wide ridge, but as there is the word ‘Edge’ in the name of Redmonds and Spitlers edges then I have to draw the conclusion that they are in fact ridges!

At various points I stopped to have conversations with people, one was a former soldier out for his constitutional (he had a lovely long-haired Alsatian with him) and a middle-aged (I’m being diplomatic here) couple who were just settling down for their lunch. I shared with the couple my belief that rain was due and very shortly at that, but the lady was optimistic that it would pass…within thirty seconds of me leaving them, we were rained on! Fortunately the rain did not last long and I was soon within reach of Great Hill after having another glug of water…I had promised myself that every time I encountered either a gate or a large stile I would stop and have something to drink in order to ward off dehydration headaches. Back at Catter Nab I had calculated that I should be at the top of Great Hill by two o’clock. I had made it to this tiny summit for 13:47 and was pleased with myself as I had spent a good five minutes chatting with people. The hiltop was draped with people and I had no lunch to consume I took another few photos and made my way east and downhill towards White Coppice.

There’s something in the name of the farm “Drinkwaters” which makes one stop and drink some water, which I did. As I spent some moments knocking back water and taking in the view a number of walkers obviously from an organised group; passed on by, some with niceties and others who simply exchanged smiles. I decided to pour my Peach water into the bottle I’d been using so as to avoid having to retrieve it later on in the walk.  On the descent I bumped into another talkative couple, the man of whom decided to rib me a bit “You’re last” he japed. Implying my position in the throng of walkers whom had passed me at Drinkwaters.

“Ah well I’ve news of you…I’m not in their group, so in fact I’m first, and last, in my own!” I retorted back.

He laughed and we spent a few minutes talking about the weather and just how nice a good downpour can be on a day like today. I had been curious as to where the group had come in from today and the gentleman mentioned that his wife was currently in the process of finding out that exact information. Less than a minute later we were enlightened to hear that they were from Poynton, which apparently is in Cheshire.

As we descended I overtook all of the Poynton group reaching the front runner perhaps two minutes after the main group. We got talking about walking as part of a group and the appalling communications I had endured whilst a member of the Southport Ramblers – a point to which she could relate. We parted company outside the tiny cricket ground at White Coppice and then again after I had stopped to take my coat off again (after another minor rain spell atop Great Hill). From ther on in it was full steam ahead, I was on a mission to get back to the car before three o’clock.

The route passes through various terrains, at one point I was surrounded by trees and vegetation and another had me traversing a verdant paddock on the slimest of all tracks. I passed by Anglezarke Reservoir then High Bullough Reservoir and then some more of the Anglezarke – it really is a large expanse of water. I must admit to preferring the open parts of the walk over the more wooded sections as the humidity by now felt very high, who would ever have thought that the woods near Spen Cobb would be comparable to the Amazon rain forest? I emerged onto Moor Road / Knowlsley Lane and back into car world once more! Most of the roads around this local are national speed limit, and how the drivers like to test that out, crossing the road was somewhat perilous but I made it across to the chute leading up to the Yarrow Reservoir. For the record I had now passed by:

  1. Some Yarrows (plants)
  2. Yarrow head (the beginning of the river Yarrow)
  3. The Yarrow Reservoir.

I did pause for a minute at the water chute ahead of the Yarrow reservoir, the evidence would point to it being a long time since there was any real flow of water in here as there are Ash (Fraxinus) trees and other shrubs emerging from the concrete basin. A young couple had gone ahead of me and I thought it would be really nice of me to leave it a few minutes before setting off behind them…I was kind of hot by now. Eventually, I ascended by the chute and passed the western edge of the reservoir. Aphids were out by the swarm load today and passing through a cloud of them was a minor annoyance, but they were getting on everyone’s nerves so that kind of made it okay! At the end of the reservoir I turned left then right at the edge of Dean Wood and followed the stream which has no name on o/s maps (but I believe might be the Dean Brook) for a little while until I reached the last climb of the walk, a set of steps which a fitter me normally finds no trouble but today I attempted them so swiftly that I was hyperventilating when at the top, where of course the young couple were waiting to descend. Now it was through a grassy paddock which is the end of the Angelzarke Amble (as was everything from the summit of Great Hill and onwards) before a struggle through the route’s slimmest kissing gate and onto Sheep House Lane. This is the hardest part of this walk, trying to not get hit by cars speeding by me whilst avoiding parked cars near the old post office, obviously I survived, but I really think there is a need for some double yellow lines here, this is a popular walking route.

And so, after five hours of walking I turned onto the tarmac road which would lead me ever-so-slightly uphill and back to the car. I made it back by 15:05. My fitbit had managed to clock up an impressive 23000+ steps and 10.83 miles, now that I have measured the route on Google Maps, I actually did more like 11.53 miles and over 2,400 feet of ascent. Given the humidity, which is becomming a genuine thing this summer, i am more than happy with what I managed to achieve. I even managed to control my fluid consumption by actually using up all that I had with me less than half a mile from the end. well there’s no sense in taking it home!

Memories of the walk:

I never used to get Spitlers and Redmonds Edges, I never used to understand who would want to cross Anglezarke Moor so badly that a purpose built footpath was installed. I do now. I love crossing that undulating causeway over the peat and appreciate it more on each occasion. I’ll take the memories of the ex squaddie and his adorable long-haired Alsatian, the optimistic woman who believed we would get no rain and the cheeky chappie who said I was last and file them in the box labelled ‘happy times’. For that’s where they belong and rightly so. Today was the first in a series of four West Pennines walks which should culminate in the full-blown, twenty-four-miles Anglezarke Amble on February 8th next year. Between now and then there are another two to undertake which are in the same area and get progressively harder and longer:

(1)The Seven Summits: One almighty tour (14.5 miles) of these moors should see me take in, Rivington Pike, Crooked Edge Hill, Dean Mills Reservoir, up the Dean Ditch crossing Counting Hill, Winter Hill, Horderns Pasture, Will Narr, Spitlers Edge, Redmonds Edge and Great Hill.
(2)The Half Amble: Sixteen miles through Rivington Pike, Winter Hill, Lower Whittaker, Higher Whittaker, Catherine Edge, Hollinshead Hall, Great Hill, White Coppice, Spen Cob and Parson’s Bullough.

Songs of the walk:

The Stereophonics – Maybe Tomorrow

The Manic Street Preachers – If you tolerate this then your children will be next

Emmile de Forest – Drunk Tonight