So as per a previous post I had decided to drag poor Chris up Great Hill for a much needed walk in the country, Great Hill was (for me) an obvious candidate owing to its proximity to Southport, lack of altitude and I’d read that there was a stone causeway with which we could traverse the moorland without geting full of mud / peat / silege!
Setting off from the well maintained car park on Tockholes Road (Crookfield Road) I instantly spotted Great Hill due west with its’ summit wind shelter:so we headed off on what started out as a wide, grassy path having first squeezed through two stiles less than twenty yards apart.
The broad grassy track soon became less broad and substantially less grassy as the traditional West Pennines peat, heather and bog combination kicked in! Before long gulleys seemed to simply appear in front of us and we had to attempt a route which facillitated staying on our feet as opposed to falling down any of one of various ditches and mini ravines. The ascent was fairly unstrenuous, straight forward and afforded moody views of the surrounding landscape and some dramatic views across to Winter Hill…but as for the ground! What appeared wet was in fact, wet. What appeared dry was..wet, what looked to be quite muddy was in fact a darkly coloured skating rink!
Soon it became apparent that although we were not lost – we didn’t know where we were! Correction, Chris knew where we were not … on Great Hill! The single worded statement “Plonker!” followed by “I think that is Great Hill to our right, with the cairn-thingy on it…and the people!”, was next to be slapped my way (sorry Chris but those words were like a slap across the face – no matter how accurate 🙂 ) Indeed it was true, in the distance we could easily make out the forms of several people atop this mighty hill to the right of us. We continued to fight our way to the summit, any summit and decided to aim for what looked like a stonce circle hundreds of yards ahead of us.
After passing through a gulley – voluntarily, we eventually found the media upon which we had assumed (but had no visible proof) that people had been walking. And what a revelation this was!
Yes this was the fabled path that leads over the top of Spitlers Edge and Redmond’s Edge to the base of Great Hill. Nowhere from the road was this visible but given its’ snake-like twisting and the length of the thing I had expected to have seen it from down below. The stone circle now revealed its’ true self also – a very old looking drystone wall in desparate need of repair! On the bright side it made a good place to sit and have our lunch – at least it did for Chris! Every segment that I sat on began to move beneath me! A couple that were on an hike informed me that the hill to the right that I was pointing to was Great Hill and suggested that perhaps someone could get me a GPS device for my birthday (apparently map-reading is not one of my strengths)!
We spent some time eating and taking on board refreshments and made the joint decision to take the path up to Great Hill, having picked up so much mud en route it seemed pointless to turn back – so we marched on at some pace. Within twenty minutes we were at the stile at the base of Great Hill.
The going was such a delight after all of that mud and peat that it took no more than a couple of minutes to get to the cruciform shelter at the very summit of the hill. The finger-post had left absolutely no doubt where we were heading. The views from the summit were somewhat muted as the weather on this day (Sunday 6th March) was sunny but hazy, we knew where the Lake District, Forest of Bowland, Yorkshire Dales and the Pennines all were – but there was no definition to what we could see. The view of Winter Hill, Spitlers Edge and Redmond’s Edge however was to me fantastic, a defining moment, a scene that I hope I will always be able to recall.
We took the broad, sometimes a tad sketchy, path down off the hill and headed eastwards towards the A675 that was visible atop Great Hill and from just about most angles thereafter. To say that the path up was difficult is an over-statement compared to the downhill path to the A675. There were many fordings of streams of filthy water and micro-bogs I slipped on some mud that was cleverly hidden under some bone-dry grass and by the time we hit the road my legs felt like they had done some kind of obstacle course – which they had! The walk back up the roadside was thankfully uneventful although how many bikers going past well in advance of the speed limit made me jump I couldn’t say.
In summing up we had a great walk up Great Hill even if the going was a bit rough. I’d certainly do it again – just not straight after rain. I will be incorporating this walk into a much larger one that will include Winter Hill and Rivington Pike. Hopefully in won’t be too long before I next see in person this view that meant so much to me: