Today’s objective was the minor summit of Great Hill at the northern end of the chain of hills which make up the West Pennine Moors…the key to the day’s walk lies in that little five letter word “moors”. The West Pennines are notriously endowed with ample mud, enough to spare, I can vouch for this as some of it will be forever ingrained in both my walking trousers and; after today…my memory.
The walk was put together by Sooz214 of Walking Forum fame 🙂 with the route description being one of: Tockholes – Roddlesworth – Whithnell Moor – Wheelton – White Coppice – Great Hill 1250ft (381m) – Hollinshead Hall 9 1/2 miles (1485 ft ascent). It more than lived up to its’ billing!
We started off from the car park of the Royal Arms at Tockholes, a tiny pub on the inside but with a nice sized car park which also offered a fantastic, tantalising view of the nearby Darwen Hill. I arrived way too early as the meet time was at 9.30 and I had got here by 8:50 – Sunday traffic was especially easy to drive through at this early time. Our first distant views as we crossed the road were of a very distant yet almost omnipresent Longridge Fell, alas the price of the distance was that no photo that I have taken has turned out with any definition of said proud little fell, for now it will have to remain on the “to-photo” list as well as the “to-walk” one.
We dropped down a lovely deciduous forest at Tockholes No 2 Plantation, not the most romantic of names, granted but the going was relitively easy under foot and we appeared to lose height very rapidly as we came out of the forest and made our way over and around a Roddlesworth reservoir, on Ordnance Survey maps this appears to be named simply Roddlesworth Reservoir but Google Maps has it named as Upper Roddlesworth Reservoir and Higher Roddlesworth Reservoir. We made our way over the fields akin to the reservoirs and eventually hit the path that would take us over towards the A675 or Belmont Racetrack to anyone that has attempted to walk adjacent to this road.
We crossed safely enough and then appeared to be in style country as we hit something like three of them within a matter of half a kilometre. We were now on the outskirts of Withnell Moor. The majority of the next section of the walk was one for the moorland walker, those lovers of bleak, windswept and desolate landscapes…of which there are numerous in and around this particular corner of Lancashire…walkers and locations!
Our destination was the evocatively named “Soloman’s Temple”. A google search for the string Soloman’s Temple will yeild 54,500 results, of these not a single one actually delivers a reason as to why a farm on the outskirts of Darwen was given such an exotic name. Nobody seems to know, but the original building must have been quite impressive as its remnants spread for quite some distance across the moor. We took a little time out to admire the scenery – we had set something of a swift pace up until now and I believe that most present were glad of a few minutes off their feet…I know I was! Above the clouds were gathering with some gusto and we all expected imminent rain. We then put the gas on and headed off at a blistering pace towards the tiny hamlet of White Coppice via some extremely slippery “paths” – more like tracks, man’s foot, not his hand, had touched this section of the walk and after some twenty fiive minutes of walking I was phenomenally hot and my feet felt like someone was rubbing them with recently landed meteorites!
I was more than a little relieved when we reached the tiny, quaint, yet picturesque cricket pavillion at White Coppice where we fed ourselves and the local midge population fed on us! Again, the gathering clouds looked all set to give us the full measure of their contents but somehow we all knew that the rain would not arrive until we were fully in the open and had nowhere to dive for cover. Clouds are like that, very observant and very spiteful! The next segment of the walk would involve the relatively stiff climb up Great Hill…admittedly at 1,250′ we are not talking something akin to the north face of the Eiger here, but the first five hundred yards are as steep as anything that I have ascended since 2004’s ascent of Catalunya’s Montserrat!
It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt, but with regard to the ascension of the long winding slog up Great Hill from White Coppice familiarity seems to lighten the load, for the observer of nature, someone that likes to look intently at the surrounding landscape; it’s a wonderful place. I do relish the challenge of walking up hills and the male side of my brain wants to do them as quickly as possible… but the rest of me really enjoys seeking out new routes, mentally exploring adjacent environs for future expeditions and this area is simply chock full of possibilities…now that I have explored the majority of neighbouring Winter Hill; this could well become my next second home. Across the micro-valley I spied distant and as of yet unclimbed-by-me; Grain Pole Hill and Hurst Hill, the neolithic mound of Round Loaf and Lead Mines Clough.
It was almost with regret that I ascended the final stretch of the path at Great Hill, from this point it was litterally all downhill from here…to the A675 once more. The path broadened, became a quagmire and then erased most traces of itself as we headed down what has to be said the most tussock-riddled and muddy stretches of the entire moorside – Wheelton Moor this time and down into the oddly named area of Pimms. The light rain that had started some moments earlier whilst we were are the summit of Great Hill now intensified a little and would stay with us all the way down our descent and finaly leaves us as we turned off into the outskirts of Slipper Lowe(?) another deciduous plantation as we headed towards the remains of the former manor house Hollinshead Hall just outside of Tockholes. Alas as I was by now beginning to dehydrate somewhat I have no pictures to post of the ruins – which is good for me as I now have a reason to go back! After a minor break and a quick look at an alleged ‘haunted well’ we were now back on the main track through Tockholes No 3 Plantation – with the imaginative and evocative names of some of the other forests and areas within the immediate vicinity the mundanity of the naming of these three plantations of deciduous trees is something of a standing joke to me.
Within a mile and a half – or maybe less, we were back at the car park of the Royal Arms, in dire need of refreshment and a new inclination – to sit down! We had indeed climbed something like one thousand four hundred feet over nine point nine miles in humid and still conditions – and a mild dowsing of rain. Seven adults and three children sat at the tables and chatted about the day’s hike, new walking equipment available and two of us continued to mentally construct what might be our next walk over Holcombe Moor. Hang on, I don’t like moors!
Thanks Sue for a lovely and varied walk over many terrains that I would normally have driven passed on the way to Winter Hill 🙂