Walking Forum meet on Sunday 27th of May, 2012
Yesterday I met up with several other members of The Walking Forum for a walk up to Winter Hill via a route that I had not previously traversed, from the south via Burnt Edge and Two Lads. We met at 53.605805,-2.491021 which is on Walker Fold Lane near the sharp corner where it becomes Colliers Row Road – a first indication of the former dominant industry of this environment! Ten (I think!) humans and four dogs – Molly, Sam, Brett and Ellie the spaniel! We headed in a north easterly direction up a very gentle gradient on a beautiful day, the sun was beating down, well into 20+ degrees by ten o’clock. All of the surrounding territory was new to me as I usually stick to the north and western sides of the hill, the south seemed quite a bit more scenic, less bleak and certainly more easy going on the shins! The first place that I did recognise – except for the ubiquitous T.V. mast of course, was a very distant Rivington Pike…then the cairns at Two Lads – now a very definate Three Lads, came into view and would remain there for the rest of the walk! It wasn’t long before we were at the cairns of Two Lads where we stopped to pose for a photo.
After a few minutes we croosed the rest of Rivington moor and made our way up the remainder of the subtle ascent towards the mighty masts via the road that is also known by the name Winter Hill. Although the local environment was unaffected we were deprived of distant views by the heat haze and I was reminded of the last time that I was in this vicinity when the temperature was so high – the Royal Wedding Day Walk in 2011 when the moors at Belmont caught fire behind me. Accompanying us on the walk was Mal of http://justramblingon.co.uk. From countless visits to his wonderful website I had gleaned that Mal had extensive local knowledge, therefore I took it upon myself to ask him on numerous occaisions “what is that hill?” and “where is this hill?” etc. He appeared to take it in good heart but honestly I did badger the poor bloke…and will do so again! In the blazing sun the walk up Winter Hill road to the o/s point seemed to take a long time so I made a point of engaging in dialogues with the rest of the team and deduced that out of all of us I had conquered the least number of hills and at a woeful three my Wainwright collection was pityful as at least two of the group have done all 214!
Of the group I was the first to touch the o/s point that marks the highest point of Winter Hill (really?) and we stopped for our lunch and a good rest at the other side of the wall – not far at all from where I ascended the hill three weaks ago. As before, distant views eluded us in the haze. Pendle Hill was visible – just, but my much-loathed smartphone camera did not manage to capture it.
We sat and took in the stunning views over Belmont Reservoir whilst the dogs ran themselves ragged! We were roughly half way into the walk, at the apex so to speak and physically – not figuratively it was all downhill from here! We headed back off onto Winter Hill road but then pretty much directly opposite the mast’s building we turned left onto a section of the Rotary Way and the stone flagged path over Smithils Moor at 53.624186,-2.515365.
Having bounded across the moors via the flags (without which even in summer would have been a sticky experience as in this area the monarch is King Peat!) for a few hundred yards we then took a southerly turning and began the gradual but thoroughly lovely drop down the moor ultimately to the remains of an old shooting hut passing by several pools of water which of course the dogs loved – if I had been in possession of any sterilising fluids I would have refilled my own water supply here as it was now quite diminished and very warm.
There was more than a slight incline ahead of us now as we went up the delightful sandy path to Dean Mills Reservoir. At this point I once more realised the sheer enormity of the land mass that is Winter Hill – by my reckoning we were something like two miles away from the ordnance survey column – how big an hill is that? We spent a good fifteen minutes by the side of the Dean Mills Reservoir with the gentle breezing cooling us down and my water supplies rapidly depleting, the dogs seemed to love being near the water but were somewhat reticent about diving in. We all assumed that in spite of the weather the water at this reservoir over a thousand feet up might just be a bit on the cold side!
Within a few moments we had dropped a few hundred feet and we headed off towards Coal Pit Road – this was a something of a walk down memory lane for me for in 1989 I used to work here – many times there was no work about it as we all used to go for afternoon rambles in this vicinity. A few moments later and we were at another path that could lead back up towards Smithhills Moor where in 1996 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the second great mass trespass an engraved stone was laid. The first great trespass was at nearby Darwen Hill both events happening a good thirty years before the Kinder Scout which has become more (in)famous! What happened here was that Lord Ainsworth denied local peoples’ access to wander across Smithhils more so an act of civil disobedience was arranged for the Sunday morning of 6th of September 1896. Whereas the organisers had hoped for a hundred protesters or so to participate the throng grew and grew until ultimately eight thousand individuals arrived at this point!
We carried on up the single track lane that is Coal Pit Road – occasionally giving way for cars and tractors until finally turning left off the tarmac road and through fields at Holden’s Farm. We made our way past some horses before once again heading downhill into Walker Fold Wood and crossing over a stream (the name of which I will add when multimaps loads on this terrible connection that I have acquired), before appearing out of the woods just off Walker Fold Road some 100 metres from our start point.
We had been walking for roughly five hours over a distance of some six and a half miles and I had consumed two litres of water (the last half litre of which had been practically warm!), and I for one had thoroughly loved it.
View Winter Hill via Burnt Edge in a larger map