On two separate occasions I had attempted to walk the epic trail that starts and finishes on Angelzarke Moor and takes in the summits of Winter Hill, Rivington Pike, Two Lads / Crooked Edge Hill, Great Hill, Redmonds Edge and Spitlers Edge – on the first occasion Wheelton Moor caught fire blocking my access to Great Hill and on the second visit the sole of my right walking boot quickly began to detach itself from the rest of the boot atop Great Hill. With the Horton in Ribblesdale event approaching at an alarmingly fast rate I needed to get in some practice at 1: walking for a day 2: walking over mixed terrain, both of these criteria would be met, but what else could happen…
The weather was beautiful when I parked at the car park on Crookfield Road, a blue sky and a blazing sun greeted me as I began the gentle then awkward path up the side of Redmonds Edge. I had decided that today I would tackle Great Hill first as this had been the stumbling block on both previous visits. It has to be said that after my last two walks had been on flat pavement (and whatever that is on Churchtown Moss!) walking through the peat and heather today was a shin-splint-inducing procedure and I had to stop and quite literally stretch my legs a number of times. Within 3/4 of an hour I was greeted by the welcome sight of the signpost atop Great Hill, the slabbed path is such a blessing as the surrounding moorland is something of a cattlewade for most of the year, without the slabbs it is unlikely that most peak baggers would give these minor summits a general miss! Whilst sat at the cross shelter talking to two lady ramblers and a male jogger I happened to catch sight of some distant smoke behind Darwen Hill. This did have a dread-filling effect on me, was this to be another walk aborted owing to fire? I soon made haste.
The path down to White Coppice via the ruins of Drinkwaters is mostly an utter blessing. The views of nearby Grain Pole hill, Hurst Hill and Round Loaf offer previews of potential days out to come and the surrounding countryside is lovely. Granted the path can get a bit bumpy in places but never so bad that one’s eyes remain solely focussed on one’s feet – the effect experienced when descending the steps at Barley for example. On the odd occasion I turned around to admire the view back up to Great Hill’s summit and was suitably impressed at the slope and had no desire to walk back up it again. Having previously walked up Great Hill on my own and as part of a walking forum meetup I can vouch for the steepness of the first half of the path up from White Coppice. Before long I was now at the steepest section that requires little physical effort but a rather concentrated state of mind.
As expected lots of people were out and about on the moors and hills today, I caught sight of a few people atop Round Loaf (although my poor little Nokia 6730 phone’s camera did not pick these up) and passed a lot of people in couples whilst descending Great Hill. At White Coppice even more people were en route enjoying this rare glimpse of English good weather!
As I passed by the image here on the right I did wonder about the possibility of my climbing it as the lush green path beginning at it’s base was very tempting. The cliffs at the top however did instil in me a degree of common sense and when I caught sight of the signing warning of a deep quarry…fear trumps curiosity!
As a budding river geek, I was looking forward to the next stretch of the walk as I would be passing over or near several different bodies of water – there is a lot of water akin to these moors. I passed over The Goit then made my way up several short sharp inclines on Moor Road, true the views did open up and get truly impressive but by goodness there are some hard uphill slogs. At one point overlooking Angelzarke Reservoir there is a truly spectacular view of Angelzarke, Upper and Lower Rivington reservoirs lined up as if somehow posing for the camera!
After something like three hours walking with many up and downhill stretches I was beginning to notice Rivington Pike get nearer, even the Dovecote was now getting larger, but the weather was relentless, the sun continued to beat down on me and I gave up on the notion of saving my lunch stop until the Japanese gardens and had my Chicken Salad sandwiches and Mars milk by the side of the road at Sheep House Lane (that sounds far more quaint and twee than it really is!).
Now came something that I was vastly unprepared for, people, lots and lots of people many of whom had with them very-reluctant-to-walk-children. Parents, if your screaming kids don’t want to walk up the side of an hill on a scorching hot spring afternoon…enough said. The march up to Rivington Pike was straight forward, my coat which was now hanging around my waist kept attempting a bid for freedom, I noticed for the first time that my water rations might just be inadequate and the people just seemed to keep appearing from all angles – whilst atop the Pike I noticed a good few attempting the spongy western path across to Winter Hill, if any day was going to be dry enough for that then it was today.
I must have stayed atop the Pike for ten or maybe fifteen minutes. Oddly there was scarcely any space to stretch out so I just sat upright and took lots of photographs. With an heavy heart I set off down the steepest and trickiest eastern route down over towards Brown Hill and then onto Belmont Road / Rivington Lane / whatever. Crooked Edge hill was the next leg of today’s epic trail and at times with the ever present sunshine it appeared to be getting further away from me. Every time that I have attempted this trail the sun has been an almost constant companion but never to this degree, I had to stop several times en route up what has to be said is quite a gentle slope just in order to catch my breath. At the summit cairns (or Lads!) I stopped if only because the cairn cast such great shadows. At this point I still had effectively three hills to traverse – four if I decided to go over Noon Hill but that was looking unlikely with the water crises.
Winter Hill summit was next to be ticked off as I walked east then due north from Crooked Edge and straight up the tarmac roadway to the T.V. transmitter building. I stopped here as this was another location that offered terrific shade. I stayed for five or ten minutes listening to some cyclists whom had taken turns overtaking both me and each other on the way up the road. At Winter Hill ordnance survey column I decided that 1: Noon Hill just was not going to happen and 2: I was going to be brave and descend the fearsome northern face as this would avoid putting on to the route yet another five hundred metres if I dropped off the hill by the lovely north western path. Fortunately enough the northern drop wasn’t anywhere near as steep on descent as i had mis-estimated, there are tricky points but by comparison Barley steps are far worse. At the bottom of the descent lies Hordern Stoops, this is a slightly downhill track but today it seemed far more arduous – once again the sun’s omnipresence just was not aiding me along. By the time I slogged across the soft peaty track I was pretty much spent! I had no water or food left – not that I could have eaten anything anyway. I crossed Rivington Road (the biker’s race track) and paused looking in trepidation at Spitlers Edge – my legs would simply not get me up it!
I spent some time chatting to a lovely couple Mike and Donna whom had been to Southport and back (oh irony!) and a biker whom donated his remaining bottle of water to my now desperately dehydrated cause. The decision was made to keep on the road (or at least by the side of it) to Belmont and then to call in at the Black Bull pub in order to re-hydrate. The walk down Rivington Road, Belmont would probably be a lovely end to a pleasant evening walk in normal circumstances, there are wonderful views on all sides to behold but I was just too wary to get the phone out and take more photographs, I will return…soon. Ultimately it was with nothing short of utter joy when I stumbled into the Black Bull and ordered a diet coke – well I was driving home later! I made a call to my dad regaling my tale of my walk and how it had gone wrong (damn weather) and how I now had over a mile worth of uphill roadside walking to do before I would get to my car…this seemed to fall on deaf ears!
After finishing my drink I turned left on to Belmont Road and walked slightly uphill for almost a mile to my car…I had survived without going into real, full-blown dehydration and had covered (I did have my Etrex with me) 14.8 miles…alas it doesn’t measure aggregate altitude! In summing the route is wonderful, on a normal spring or early autumn day it would be a joy. With company this would truly be a classic and a damn sight easier to complete. I still have not made the full route (in any direction) that takes in Great Hill, Rivington Pike, Crooked Edge Hill, Winter Hill, Spitlers Edge and Redmonds Edge…I’m not entirely sure that I ever will or am even meant to! I am due to walk the three peaks of Yorkshire in June and in all honesty I am expecting that to be easier – that peat at Crooked Edge hill and Hordern Stoops is just crippling! I aim to try this yet again (fourth time lucky?) in early autumn.
Time taken :8 hours 40 minutes including many, many stops
Distance 14.8 miles
Terrain: Mixed from tarmac roads and paving, rough peaty moorland, grit and sand stone paths, heather-clad moorland Pennines terrain.