Winter Hill round…again!

The sun was out and promising to stay out for most of the day. As I am doing Hevellyn next week I thought it would be good to get some practice in. So I headed off for Rivington with an unclear plan of where to walk today. I have never walked over Burnt Edge – another one of Winter Hill’s subsidiary summits so I decided to aim for there…or at least that general direction.

I arrived at Rivington Lane for 11:00 and spent the obligatory ten minutes putting on my walking socks and boots. I had already decided to include Rivington Pike in the walk – but from another angle this time I crossed the lane and walked through some woodland for a few hundred yards. then caught up with the main tourist path up to the Pike calling in at the lovely Japanese Gardens – which it has to be said are looking less and less Japanese as time goes by. All the same it was nice to sit down for a few moments and watch the antics of a frisky black Labrador doing belly flops into the lake in pursuit of stick thrown by its’ owners.

Having left my car on the lane at 11:10 I was rather impressed at my performance as I put my foot down on the last of the steps which lead up to Rivington Pike the time was at 11:48 – this meant thirty eight minutes of quite fast walking with a three minute break at the lake thrown in was a personal best. That being said I was quite exhausted and spent a good five minutes at the pike recovering! Next was to be the stone monoliths at Two Lads. There’s nothing easy or relaxing about the walk from the pike to Two Lads! The downhill section off the pike is riddled with every kind of stone imaginable – okay so there isn’t any basalt, granite or marble but there is some grit-stone, the odd patch of limestone and a lot, (too much) sandstone – which as seasoned readers will recall I hate to walk on, especially if it’s wet! The whole downhill section is just one tripping hazard…luckily enough I slowed right down and although this did impact on my speed it also meant that I didn’t fall over – there were quite a few people sat atop the pike and I didn’t want to be their comedic entertainment.

Once onto the track that leads over the name-only hill of Brown Hill I merged with the Rivington / Belmont Lane / Road (don’t get me started on that!) and eventually took a left turn up by the side of the Pike Cottage. The going was good for today as the sun had dried off this side of the hill and walking along the grass and dirt track was relatively easy – the sun beating down on me was not quite so easy and did slow me down a bit. All the same within twenty minutes or so I was at the top of Crooked Edge Hill at Two Lads – currently two lads and a few embryos (the “Lads” being the huge stone cairns that are constantly being increased in height and girth). I took a seat and spent some more time hyperventilating and wondering where to go next.

For the last few weeks I had wondered about going to see the other two ordnance survey columns that are situated on the huge land mass to which we refer as Winter Hill. One of these (Old Harper’s) was not far away from here, I had this in mind as I set off from Two Lads in a south-easterly direction and crossed Winter Hill (the road, not the hill). This was pretty much uncharted territory for me as far as my solo walks go, although I had passed through here a few months ago on a very enjoyable Walking Forum walk from the opposite direction. I went past Holden’s Plantation (they need to re-plant as it all looks a bit scraggly now) and then straight up the side of Burnt Edge – time and Bing maps will tell if it was really Burnt Edge that I ascended as there was no form of identification whatsoever – not even a cairn, which is a bit of an anti-climax for a summit of 1148′ (350m). Interestingly enough it was only later on whilst studying the map that I realised how close to “Adam Hill” I was…there are not many summits of Winter Hill that I have yet to tick off, Adam Hill at 360 metres is another one, I will have to come back!

I soon ascended Burnt Edge, walked by the side of the rather attractive – but fenced off conifer forest and straddled the odd super-puddle. The views across the moors both in the distance and up-close just kept on getting better and better and it was not long before I was within sight of the highly remarkable Montcliffe Stone Quarries – this is a vast excavation that I assume is still in use although the company itself seems to be dissolved. As I neared the bottom of the track and joined the road that I assumed (and was correct in doing so) was Matchmoor Lane I caught the first sight of my own quarry Old Harper’s trig point!

I rounded the corner and got out every bit of photo taking equipment which I was carrying – two mobile phones…and the photos have still ended up fairly rubbish! The horses, sheep and knowledge that essentially we are in the Pennines here and that means boggy fields; meant that I was not going to be running up and tapping this trig point any time soon, but i was very pleased to see it. My Winter Hill trig point collection had now doubled…to TWO, thus now leaving just the one at Lomax Wife’s Farm for the entire set! Next came a very pleasant walk along a tarmac road for several hundred yards until I hit a crossroads/paths where I guessed luckily at “left”. This path would now lead me to the rest of Burnt Edge that I had missed when I turned off an hour earlier! The path was glorious to walk over and had the added bonus of a tumbling stone wall on which I could sit and enjoy my much-needed sandwiches. I met a pleasant pair of lads and enquired as to where this path would lead me – I didn’t as of yet know just how close to Burnt Edge I was. They essentially told me to look out for a gate and to take that…enough said.

After the rest and recuperation on the tumbling wall I set off once more in essence simply following the path. Within a few minutes I was back at the Burnt Edge meeting of paths and this time instead of retracing my steps and heading northwards up towards Winter Hill I veered off to the right towards the track that would take me onto the end of Coal Pit Road. this was a bit of a soggy path in places but after some time i recognised a place name … Roscow’s Tenement Clough. I remembered from reading about this, (probably on Mal Firth’s wonderful website) that it was very near to the path which I wanted which would lead me up the south east face of Winter Hill passing Ainsworth’s shooting hut. More importantly this path would lead me to the “Official” path up Winter Hill, granted after the mass land trespass of 1896 – sod off Kinder, we had one before you! (Though it has to be said that neighbouring Darwen Hill had one before us!).

Although this path passes through some delightful scenery the gaze is captured by the ever-nearing Winter Hill mast, from this approach it is simply all-encompassing! With something like three hundred metres left to go the natural path is replaced by one of reclaimed mill stones which are necessary to get over the peat mass which lies in wait of the walker that doesn’t subscribe to the theory that man-made paths help people and are not invasive!

At the top of Winter Hill – the road were the two turn-offs which should feature in my next two Winter Hill walks: On the left the path down to Belmont – a favourite with mountain bike riders and the path over Counting Hill and the Dean Ditch. Finally I was within spitting distance of Winter Hill’s own trig point but as I never patted the one at Old Harper’s and I had already discovered this one way back in 2010, I chose to walk on past in hope of finding a very obvious path to lead me to Noon Hill. Noon Hill is to dry feet what the Gobi desert is to Penguins…you just don’t find them there! If given time to enjoy the scenery then there is an almost superabundance of sights to take in from the weird landscape of Spitlers Edge, the bog that is Hordern’s pasture, the tumbled down relics of farmsteads such as Old Rachels and the beauty of the reservoirs around Belmont and Abbey Villages.

The path which led me across the oddly named Noon Hill Slack and onto Noon Hill was a treacherous and wet trail across real Pennine moorland. At most times of the year this author for one would not have attempted it but given that the day before had been extremely warm – as had most of the previous week I was banking on the sun turning the path from it’s usual mud-fest to something mildly passable. There were many stumbles, at one point I simply sat down on the grass and wondered just why I do these things, but I carried on for there was no alternative. When the second cairn, Noon Hill’s came into view my spirits picked up for I knew this part of the route was much easier walking that would get even easier once I traversed the worst stile in the West Pennines and turned onto the track which would lead me back down towards Dovecote / Pigeon Tower.

I turned right once I was opposite Dovecote / Pigeon Tower and began the bumpy, rocky, downright uncomfortable path down off the hillside towards Sheephouse Lane. This took longer than expected as my feet were now quite hot and very much in need of a good airing! After twenty five minutes or maybe even longer I was at the higher car park near Sheephouse lane where I took a left turn through a kissing gate and walked straight through the sheep-filled paddock which is usually far wetter than it was this day – thank you mother nature. Another couple of left turns and I was on the final stretch that brought me out on the right hand side of Rivington Hall Barn where all manner of bikers were gathered revving up their bikes and doing all sorts of biker things. Hardly a peaceful end to a great walk, but then, I didn’t want peace, I wanted my feet to cool down a bit!

This had been without doubt the most scenic and beautiful walk around Winter Hill that I have ever taken. At times I simply could not believe where I was – having lived near here for 30+ years a lot of what I took in was new to me. Winter Hill is truly massive! I went roughly three quarters of the way around it and still have the north eastern section to walk, but then that will be covered in Autumn. For now farewell Winter Hill may your fields, pastures and rises give as much pleasure to others as they did to me on Sunday 9th of September.

View Winter Hill Round in a larger map

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