The classic walk of Saturday 18th of September, 2021
Great Hill and Winter Hill via ‘The Edges’ from Rivington.
The time had come for another grand excursion of Anglezarke Moor, I have another two massive 24-mile walks coming up next year, you already know which ones, so it was time to start getting in some serious practice with regards to the climbing of hills.
Stage One : The Sylvan Way-
I reached the smaller car park at Rivington by 9:40 and was boots on and on the route by 09:45. Heading downhill first always seems to work for me so I headed west and south towards the heart of Rivington, Rivington Lane and on to the junction of Horrobin Lane and Sheep House Lane. That bloody kissing gate is still a pain in the arse to get through so I had to take my backpack off, traverse the gate and enter the unnamed paddock which leads to the staircase. This being done it was then a skirting of the Dean Brook towards Dean House Wood and then another gate / two before joining the path which would lead me most of the way alongside the Yarrow reservoir before another left hand turn off and down by the side of the Chute which carries water overflowing from the Yarrow and to the stunning and enormous Anglezarke reservoir.
It does feel right to section off these parts of the walk. This section is mostly road as I ‘ambled’ along the Anglezarke reservoir which looks better and better as the year ages, reaching it’s peak in Winter of all seasons. I hadn’t seen copious amounts of fellow walkers thus far but I did meet a few whilst plodding along Knowsley Lane and then it was back off road and on track and into the more sylvan setting for which this route is cherished. Now I did begin to see more walkers who seemed to be liberally scattered throughout the route. I won’t lie, the steepest part of this section, in fact the whole walk is rough on the calf muscles. This comes in at the run up to High Bullough Reservoir, which can be quite charming when it’s 3/4 full or more, it doesn’t last for more than 1/4 mile but you do suddenly get that wake-up call, “you’re in the countryside” – even though it’s actually more like a road than a path! There is a short drop off into a downhill clearing before once more into the woods, it’s hard not to love this environment as the one consistency is change!
And now I wander across a sheep trod with open greenery either side, this does not last long and the awaiting forest can be seen across the entire length of this narrow path. I am passed from the opposite direction by a string of seven teenage girls who seem to get more downward-spirit-looking towards the end of the chain, the leader being all full of smiles and the girl at the back looking like she would rather be anywhere else, poor thing! Into the forest…and for once the ever-present mud looks to have dried to a degree. Of course there is still the odd damp patch from where the mountain bikers have torn up the route. I opt to give way for each cyclist, even the self titled “slowest cyclist in the world” which made me laugh, as there is just not the room for both parties to progress at the same time in opposite directions, and I was in no rush. The route does perform some undulations throughout its course but nothing so bad as the part approaching the High Bullough. All too soon I can hear the odd distant rumble of a car hurtling down Moor Road. I’m at White Coppice now.
Stage Two: The Hills:
It starts off relatively gentle, oh yes there is no mistaking that the first few tens of metres along the bridal path are uphill but it’s a mild, easy trod and before very long the path levels out as the scenery becomes more and more impressive. Stronstrey Bank is almost impossible to spell correctly on the first attempt – each time it’s required, but what it lacks in lexical ease it more than makes up for in aesthetical delight. There are sheep aplenty but for some reason they have all taken to gather in a very minor bovine valley around six feet lower than the path on the left, it’s an odd spectacle. I pass by a new-looking bridge, without needing to use it and do wonder who actually does use this bridge which only seems to convey sheep from one part of the paddock to another, I forget how odd things can be on the West Pennines! There is activity at the Cricket Pitch but I don’t think it’s a game in progress and being an ardent hater of the sport I’m relieved. Great Hill is next!
And so, without any real gentle lead-in, begins the slog up this notorious little lump on the eastern edge of the beautiful all encompassing Anglezarke Moor. Great Hill is not the steepest hill in the world / Lancashire / West Pennines / even this moor, but it gets you, really pounds at the back and calf muscles it does! I take several rest breaks because not only am I traversing Great Hill the ‘hard way’ the sun has come out to join me as well! It’s very warm and not even eleven o’clock and to make matters even more interesting I am struggling to stem the flow of factor 30 sliding down my forehead out of my eyes! I do notice the odd patch of blue heather (Erica) which I can’t say I have ever seen in this locale prior to today and I wonder if someone is planting it for some covert reason? In time I reach the ruins of Drinkwaters Farm which to those of you whom read my Amble related blogs will recall this is my little slice of heaven …and slightly less than a kilometre from the summit of Great Hill. I stop and have my lunch and some almighty slurps of water to combat the heat. Once I resume walking I realise that Great Hill has more false summits from this aspect than I had remembered…it has one! Soon enough I’m at the top but as there are already other walkers there I can just head on southwards…over the great paved path which is a definite highlight of this route.
As of yet, this path which slithers its way across the moor from Great Hill in the east over to Rivington Road in the west, has no name. It’s not a ‘band’ or a ‘trod’ or even a ‘way’, but it’s a journey, and a gorgeous and uplifting one at that! Doubtless there will be those in the walking fraternity who would find the former mill paving slabs imbedded in the moorland in some way abhorrent! Given the alternative, they would probably rethink, or at least any ‘normal’ person would as there is peat aplenty to go around…and it really can stink on wet days! The first ascension is to Redmond’s Edge, and no, I don’t know who Redmond was, is easy and yet manages to instil in you a certain ethereal ‘airy’ feel as if you’re at a much greater altitude. I drop down less than a hundred feet and quickly stride up to the highest point on the moor…Spitlers Edge. Wikipedia has an angle on how this name was derived: “The name is derived from the fact that in mediaeval times, the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem used this route when travelling to their holdings in this district. ” I don’t honestly know if that is based on fact or conjecture which are about 50/50 on that platform! As this was a relatively still day, not much in the way of breeze I was surprised when I could hear a strong ‘rushing wind’ kind of noise to my right. And then there they are: The Red Arrows Arial display team. Nine jet fighters spread out over two rows. I vaguely recall reading they would be flying over Southport today (having set off from Staffordshire) and hadn’t supposed that I would see them on route…how wrong was I? This was definitely the highlight of the day! I see more and more people as I head southwards towards the ever-present and ever-increasing looming mass of Winter Hill. I wonder if they had come all the way up hear just to see the Red Arrows? I am finally passed by a red-faced man intent on running the downhill sections of the path – he’s been behind me for the last fifteen minutes as far as I can tell. I drop down the final segment of the overall path, this is now Will Narr.
By the time I have strolled up to Rivington Road I’ve already made my mind up that I’m not going to take my intended route over Horden Stoops and straight up the north face of Winter Hill. It’s too wet (normally) too much walking on the remnants of a fallen drystone wall and I should add the main demotivator – the start of the path is stupidly steep and zaps your energy twenty seconds into the assault. No, I have a better alternative – the north-western approach from Catter Nab. This starts off pedestrian enough but after a hundred feet or so there is so much water on the track that you’re glad you’re not a cyclist or you’d be covered in splash by now! The terrain does not get any drier when I ascend the steep stile onto the path which will lead me up the side of this goliath, Winter Hill is really quite imposing the nearer you are to it! I dodge a few potential pitfalls when the water intended for the river Douglas got blown elsewhere and then I’m onto the 30 degree path, it really does feel that steep – and this was the easier option than the due-north route! It takes me a long time, possibly thirty minutes to get up to the summit path, the heat is really quite relentless but finally I am within spitting distance of my ultimate target, the o/s trig point at the summit of Winter Hill. Just one problem though…
I cannot for the life of me find the thing!
Stage Three: The Journey Home (or at least back to the car!)
Section one: In search of the o/s column.
I spend a good fifteen minutes following one fading sheep trod after another until I finally arrive at the last building which is host to a mast atop Winter Hill, then I remember that this is the building behind which is the peaty path over to the summit, BINGO it’s there, that damned illusive trig point, they’re normally easier to find than this…well except the one at Loughrigg which is a stupid hill in its own right! At Pendle the o/s column is visible from the A59 on a clear day (shuddup!), just saying! I have a chat with a man on a mountain bike who was impressed with where I have come from. Also I can’t help but notice that someone has strapped some sort of antenna to the fence and is currently engaged in a dialogue with someone over the airwaves. Nice idea but didn’t all this two-way radio stuff die out when mobile phones became more affordable? OKAY BOOMER!
Now I’m back off to the road which will lead me down the Winter Hill road and towards Rivington Pike – I’ve already decided not to do Crooked Edge hill today owing to its lack of enjoyment capacity – it’s a real ass to get away from and enjoy the scenery without going arse-over-tit and it’s just not one of those days, I’ll see it close enough next February, when I…well, y’know! I am tempted to sit down and have a good old slurp at the main mast building, this eats up a few minutes but after the trek up the hill I figure I’ve earned it. The next step is a bit of a gamble as I do keep going off course, the great wide track to Rivington Pike.
From the Pike the path is unmissable, look north-east and there it is. However, it’s not always a great big dual-carriageway of a track and actually sets off as quite a dainty little thing…if that’s possible. The key is to not veer off to the left, veer off to the right and you’ll do yourself a mischief on a wall so just keep on going straight and lo and behold it’s there! I love this path for its ability to turn a nice fluid, pain-free spinal column into a war-zone. It’s not that the path is any rockier then anywhere else in the locale, it’s just so damn bumpy. You have to learn to appreciate that it’s going to throw you six ways from Sunday…and back again. Surprisingly I do bump into a lot of people on the way, one group must have been doing an organised walk of some kind as there were in between 10 – 20 people assembled. I don’t know why I think of this route as being seldom used, the evidence is in the region of about thirty fee wide in some places. You can’t do this path in a carefree manner, you’ll quite literally get bogged down when you least expect it but in its own way it’s a real treasure, like an old friend who very often gets you into trouble but you just can’t cut it out of your life! After a long trek, and some hopping from one peat hag to another, minding my ankles in the hidden gullies and avoiding the bogs, I’ve made it to the other side – Smithills Moor, done!
And next came Rivington Pike. I was not in the need of heroism today. The southern path up to the Pike is a bitch, steep as hell and undulating in all planes. No it’s no Jack’s Rake, but on a hot, sunny afternoon…you can do without this and take the much easier path which almost encircles the hill, I think it’s been made by thousands of cyclists over the last ten years, I love it! I spend around ten minutes at the top of the Pike, trying to get some decent photos of the surrounding landscape, not that I haven’t already taken hundreds of this type in previous visits. Anywhoo people are all a bit tired and weary and y’know in the way and won’t move. So onwards, and each bloody gigantic step down the huge staircase seems to reverberate up my legs and into my back. I kind of feel like my backpack is trying to push me to an embarrassing collision, but I refuse to join in with its evil plan! I’ve vowed to visit the Japanese garden lake to see if the friends of Rivington Pike have made it any nicer. The jury’s out on that one but it is certainly tidier than I’ve ever seen it before so kudos to them.
After more descending than I care to recall, I’m back at the car. Quite when I came to favour going up over coming down, I’m not sure. I’m just glad to have made it around a wonderful route on a gorgeous day…and I never fell over.
I have to say this is one of my favourites, I can’t be neutral about this. This has to be the walk with everything, steep climbs, relentless downhill sections, astounding views, it’s just short of a real mountain or two, although you can sometimes see Pen y Ghent and Ingleborough! I’m not as emotionally invested in this area as I am with my beloved Pendle, even though I was brought up less than six miles away. It’s odd that before 2014 and my first viewing of Adam Galleymore’s 2013 Angelzarke Amble video I had never even considered this as a walking destination, now I can’t imagine going to the West Pennines and not fitting in at least two to four miles from this route. It’s fabulous and extendable and editable. At some point (other than on the Amble) I shall do the sister route taking in the Pike then the great Wide Winter Hill path…I could go on for a very long time. Suffice to say the highlight was most definitely watching the Red Arrows fly right past me. I’d never really appreciated just how airy “The Edges” can feel, hence the reason for the header image to highlight this. What an amazing walk this was!
Song of the walk: The magnificent “Ocean” by Martin Garyx and KhalidGreat Hill, The Edges, Winter Hill And The Pike
|Distance||11.813 miles||Total ascent/descent||1646 feet / 1646 feet|
|Lowest Point||465 feet (at 0.56 miles)||Highest Point||1489 feet (at 9.17 miles)|
|Uphill||5.48 miles (46.4%)||Downhill||5.48 miles (46.4%)|
|Flat||0.84 miles (7.1%)||Height Gain||1023 feet|
|Steepest Uphill||+22.2% (at 8.61 miles)||Steepest Downhill||-24.4% (at 11.41 miles)|
|Longest Uphill||1.17 miles (at 4.47 miles)||Longest Downhill||1.45 miles (at 9.17 miles)|
|Ascent Rate||139 ft/mile||Descent Rate||139 ft/mile|
And oh yes, there’s even a YouTube video for this walk: