From Winter Hill mast to Two Lads is normally an almost sedate walk – apart from the ever-present wind, but on this day I seemed to have something of a spring in my step and within twenty minutes of leaving the mast building behind me I was atop Crooked Edge Hill gazing at the now rather messy summit cairns and cursing the haziness of the day for spoiling what is normally a fantastic view. I spent some time at the cairns discussing my planned assault on the Yorkshire 3 peaks in September with a poor soul whom had only come up the hill to get away from the Royal Wedding.
Within ten minutes I was on route for the daunting northern ascent of Rivington Pike. If you think that the southern route up via the steps is difficult then this approach would give you nightmares! It is one hell of a slog and I would give credit to the mountain biker that I saw taking the winding track route which effectively covers the western front. There should be a saying ‘If it isn’t windy when you are on Rivington Pike then you’re asleep!’. As usual when I wanted to take in some food atop “Rivvy” but there were gusts of wind strong enough to deter one from such folly and it wasn’t until another hour or so later that I was able to scoff the second half of my almond Flap Jack and take on a lot more refreshment – the day had turned from being simply warm to really quite hot. It was interesting to note that someone has begun constructing a cairn at the side of the Dovecote Tower.
Next was the part of the walk of which I readily admit to being apprehensive as it was all unfamiliar environment for a good number of miles. The route that I had planned would take me past the western most car park of the Rivington Pike region and over country lanes and bridges towards White Coppice. Herein lies the problem: I am now finding with more and more ordnance survey maps – a superabundance of detail that leads to confusion around a point that I have to traverse. This in effect caused me to take a left turn that I did not need to take and end up with Anglezarke reservoir on my right hand side when it should have been on my left.
The more pragmatic reader might suggest that I am terrible at map reading…they would be correct as I seemed to be heading further south when in fact I should have been heading north towards White Coppice and eventually onto Drinkwaters and up to Great Hill for the final stretch. After asking for directions at the Yew Tree pub at Lane Ends (which were essentially ‘turn around and go back a mile or two’) I headed off back across the road/bridge that carries one over the meeting of Anglezarke and Upper Rivington reservoir (yes I must have loved walking this day as I did so much of it!) and ultimately turned left (straight on) towards Anglezarke Reservoir Park and Moor Road. Having inadvertently taken a shortcut straight through a car park I decided to sit down and have a moment – or ten.
I noticed a walker with poles walking down the lane and decided to ask him for directions. I enquired if the way forward would lead to White Coppice and he sort of concurred and further responded as to where I was heading. I replied that I was ultimately heading for Great Hill and then onto the A675 where I had parked and then came back the earth shattering news. “You can’t go over Great Hill…the moors are on fire and it’s all blocked off!”.
This rocked my world! how was I going to get back over to Tockholes which lay some five miles away – the short-blocked route! Fortunately Stuart (the bearer of bad tidings) was parked nearby and would give me a lift back to my car. So it was back to Anglezarke and Upper Rivington reservoirs again – this would now be my third time of walking over this so-and-so road in less than an hour.
During the ride over to near Thorny Bank Plantation I was impressed and alarmed at the scope of the fire, the smoke of which I had witnessed nearly four hours earlier atop Winter Hill. I lost count of the number of Fire Engines that I saw and was more than a bit concerned when we rounded the bend to Crookfield Road and saw that my car park was “taped off”. This was a precautionary measure to deter new arrivals from parking up and setting off to their respective firey death on the moors!
Here and now, many hours later I am not bitter that I never got to finish the walk that I had planned two months in advance. I am relieved that I asked Stuart for directions as otherwise I might have walked another few miles out of my way only to be then denied access to the moors near Great Hill. As it was; my walk’s total mileage was only shortened by five miles or so and the sensation of finally getting up Winter Hill via Horden Stoops was unequivocal, unparalleled and uplifting. I will do the walk again – some day, whether this is before or after the Yorkshire three peaks marathon remains to be seen, but for now there are other walks to do…