It was a gorgeous-looking bank holiday Monday (7/5/12), so there was every chance that there would be rain. That wasn’t going to put me off heading for my old home town’s (Bolton) mighty plateau of Winter Hill and my intent was to also scale Noon Hill, Two Lads and Rivington Pike. I had been planning a walk which would incorporate Noon hill and Winter hill since last summer when a walk of mine had to be cut short owing to my boots falling apart! My brother in law had reliably informed me that although there was a path up to Noon hill from Belmont Road the path from Noon hill onto Winter hill was sketchy at best and prone to flooding. I took his advice to heart.
I arrived at the long car park at Rivington Barn at around 9:40 and by roughly ten to ten was en route up the bumpy path on the left hand side of the Barn. This is a cobbled and in-organic path which was obviously built for a purpose but is slightly uncomfortable upon which to walk. At the head of the path where there is a fork I took the left hand track, went uphill for a few yards and then veered off to the right in order to go through a gate and then cross a wooded paddock which is sometimes very muddy.
This Belmont Road is a long bumpy slog, not unpleasant and the views changed quickly enough to keep anyone entertained but you wouldn’t want to spend the rest of your life walking down this kind of road. I passed a couple of styles on my right hand side before reaching the rickety one which I needed after roughly a mile or so down the road. This was the path up to Noon Hill – my first summit of the day. The angle was certainly steeper that I had hoped and the track although obvious on the ground was beginning to broaden out – never a good thing as it A: causes hillside scarring and B: erodes clarity for the walker with not much sense of direction (yours truly).The slog up Noon Hill was neither the hardest or easiest thing that I had ever walked – certainly nothing compared to Saturday’s Barley Steps but the ever-present wind here was in no way aiding process and by the time that I had reached the impressive summit cairn, I was out of breath. The fantastic view across to the northern face of Winter hill certainly made up for the wind. I had previously gained knowledge from my brother in law Karl, that although technically there was a path from Noon to Winter hill – you wouldn’t want to use it if you wanted to keep your feet, legs and thighs dry! I scoured the landscape for a feasible path and saw nothing but a few vague footprints which could have been a day or a year old! Taking on-board my lesson learned the hard way at Spence Moor last January I then had to do what all walkers hate doing, turn 180 degrees and head back down the hill the same way that I had ascended it, admittedly at three times the ascension speed! So once more now I was on Belmont Road and now heading for a style that would lead me to a footbridge, another style and the start of the climb up the north face of Winter Hill via the north-western path! Having climbed up the northern path last April and discovered the north western path later last summer I knew that it would be a tough proposition. I decided to spend a few minutes resting on the footbridge before plucking up the strength to ascend this slope. It took along the lines of thirty one minutes to ascend the north western path which highlights just how steep this path is. I congratulated myself on the decision not to ascend via the even steeper northern path. Now I was on course for the big one, the apex of the walk, Winter Hill ordnance survey column which is surprisingly easily missed, only being visible from a hundred yards or so in but a few angles. What I had anticipated would happen, did happen the heavens opened up! I had been putting off hill-walking for most of the year because of a fear of being rained upon, but now here, in essentially the middle of nowhere, three miles and a couple of hundred metres in altitude away from my car I pulled up the hood of my coat and took in the atmosphere. The rain’s only impact upon the walk was that it forced me to put all of my cameras and phones away as I didn’t want them to get wet and brake! Progress over the next section seemed to take forever, although I had managed to keep fatigue at bay by having plenty of short rests, I could do nothing about the wind which was pushing me sideways. Previously I have walked from Winter Hill to Two Lads in less than twenty minutes today it was seeming to take an eternity. I did spot another walker ahead – the first one for about three miles, and by the time that I reached the mighty cairns at Two Lads (currently three lads and counting!) I had caught him up but we never exchanged pleasantries. The wind and rain lent a certain urgency to my visit to the cairns, I didn’t hang about and was sound heading downhill towards the final peak of the day – Rivington Pike. I have ascended this proud little lump of an hill more times than any other. Until last spring I had only ever used the southern facing steps to get to the “Pike”, now I have used all three approach paths and can say without doubt that the run up from the north east (oh yeah Belmont Road, argh!) is without doubt the hardest on the leg muscles. I have never been up at the Pike and the wind not been howling, the two go hand in hand so it was no surprise to find just six people all cowering from the wind and driving rain at the tower atop the Pike. I had a few minutes rest and half of my sugar free ginger beer – wishing that I had the full sugar version (after all I had just burned off at least five hundred calories), talked to some people whom had inquired about a way up to Winter hill and generally let my feet recover from the day’s events thus far.
Back down the steps I went as the rain had backed off notably now and I was once again on Belmont Road, I then took the nice gentle steps once more but at their termination took a left hand turn down a bit of an open slope and onto another tarmac road on the north eastern edge of Hall Wood. This way once again brought me out at the place where I had started the walk with the added advantage of bypassing the (by now) muddy field to which I referred in the third or fourth paragraph. Some moments later I was back at the car having been walking (with the occasional respite) for three hours and forty minutes (roughly) over several hundred feet in altitude and 6.7 miles and loved every minute of it!
View Winter Hill wanderings…and another three summits! in a larger map