The Walk of Saturday 31st of January, 2015
As I have announced in a previous post (about two weeks ago if not later) I have declared my intention to participate in next year’s Anglezarke Amble – at winter (well it’s normally the first or second week of February). Today’s walk would serve as my introduction to some of the route. It had been my original intention to start from the bottom of the descent off Winter Hill and go all the way over to Turton and Entwistle reservoir, over to Darwen Hill then back along Catherine Edge again to the finish point. Common-sense prevailed as for an introductory / familiarisation walk – the route I’ve just described is a long walk over extremely spongy terrain. My good friend and walking buddy Karl delivered a much more manageable but still challenging route that would start at a lay-by on the A666 and go a full circle around Turton and Darwen Moors taking in the ubiquitous Darwen Jubilee Tower to boot. Here is how the day panned out:
I dropped my partner off at her works at 07:50 and my next task was to fuel up the car as it had something like one tenth of a tank’s worth of petrol. Problem number one was the key seemed to have jammed in the filler lock and it was after many slight twists before I could open up the filler. I could see where this might go…I wouldn’t be able to get the filler lock back in-situ and thus bought one of those emergency ones from the petrol station. This added ten minutes on to the time of the journey down to Darwen, but before this I would run into a road closure outside Heath Charnock, where I normally would go left for Adlington/Anderton I had to stay on the A6 all the way down to Blackrod before making my way back to the western edge of Horwich and onto the B226. Minor detours over I was afforded fleeting white views of the surrounding moorland as I drove over the tops past Wilderswood etc en route to the A58’s junction with the A666 and from there it was only fifteen minutes or so before I was at Karl’s to pick up Karl and Anne who would be joining us for half of the walk.
We parked near Cadshaw Farm and immediately crossed the road – the A666 is dangerous for long stretches so we wanted to be on a pavement side – ironically enough this would then mean crossing the road again to get us back to the beginning of the ascent from Cadshaw to Smith’s Height. At Smith’s Height the path takes a decidedly westerly track along one of many stretches of the LDP known as “The Witton Weavers Way”. We passed through Top O’th Brow (there are many Top O’th Brows in and around Bolton) and saw a group of Ramblers as we neared Green Lowe. I was intending taking a photo but every so often a biting wind talked me out of it…photography would wait until the summit and the lowlands. Near Turn Lowe we changed direction as the LDP dropped down the side of the hill and we took the gently undulating but very muddy path to the north then east then north and then west…and then north to Darwen Hill.
Darwen Tower is one of those prominent landmarks which are instantly spotted from within it’s own environ. Yet it is staggering that on our route we were almost on top of it before clapping eyes on the monolith and as for that wind…It was no surprise to me, this being my fourth time up this hill, just how the wind can howl around this site. After making quite good progress across the moor and up the hill we then spent not much time at all eating our lunch and drinking (soup for Karl and Anne but water for me) before hitting the track once more. We took the northern track which swings southwards and made very brief progress downhill all the way (and crossing the road) to what will be one of the checkpoints for the Anglezarke Amble (event) at Slipper Lowe (aren’t the names around here just fantastic?). At this point we had to part ways with the Anglezarke Amble (event) path in order to cross the road again and head off uphill in order to get onboard the express walker’s highway of Catherine Edge.
You can’t be a walker in this area without traversing Catherine Edge – it’s the A6 of all walking routes and seems to touch every main path along the great divide…the A675/Belmont Road which splits Withnell and Wheelton Moors on the one side and Darwen and Turton Moors on the other side – I may be guilty of over playing Catherine Edge’s part in the scheme of things, it’s a nice path which rather gently leads one up a gradient as opposed to some of the more “in your face” kind of paths in this area like the two northern ones up Winter Hill.
Remember last month/year when on a Pendle walk I lost a watch? This time out; its’ replacement fell off my wrist whilst I was putting my backpack on. As the bracelet was one of those expanding hair-pulling ones it must have taken some force from me to involuntarily yank it off my wrist, pull the pin out which holds the bracelet to the crown case … the poor watch hit the deck, I gathered up the watch and the pin that had shot out and we carried on regardless as it seemed to be working (the watch). However a mile or two further down Catherine Edge – I said it was a major path, Karl asked me the time and I couldn’t answer as the poor watch was still saying five past one! We walked along the edge some more and gained some more gradual height – Catherine Edge is really long! We passed some families sledging down the lower slopes of Cartridge Hill – this was an activity that I didn’t think happened any more, really heart-warming, family fun – I didn’t want to get a camera out and ruin it. And finally our route split from the Witton Weavers Way as it snaked south east and our route took a north east leaning to Moorside – a more appropriate name you will never find! Inadvertently we walked right past our turn off – but that’s what walkers do…especially me and Karl. Karl indicated where the path that the walkers (on the day) will have taken across the moors passing Greenhill Farm, Lower and Higher Whittaker’s – if my maths serves me right it should only be a forty metres climb before turning onto the track that we were now on. Back to today and now we were essentially out of path and needed to hop over a barb wire fence. Karl being two to three inches taller than me went first, almost gazelle like! I, on the other hand set about it with all the finesse of a goat, a goat that’s been introduced to alcohol! Luckily enough the farmer had been using this field as a tip and I spied a bucket with which I could abridge the fence…even so it was a bit close to tender areas for comfort…bloomin’ maps!
Once over the fence we weaved our way through this wet paddock and before long noticed that there was a dry path running almost parallel to it in the next field along, this was not on our route but it did strike us as kind of dumb that the route planners had elected to send us through this quagmire as opposed to that neat little carpeted promenade – ah well! I also noted with some dread that the land seemed to drop out of sight at the threshold…a very near threshold. And after a few hundred yards we came upon the reason why – a river. Of course the word river would be a very generous description for this body of water. It is only now days later that I have come to discover that this body of water is the confluence of the Holden’s Brook and Stones Bank Brook which go on to form…an inlet to the Delph Reservoir…it’s hard not to feel a little bit disappointed, if this had been the source of the river Darwen or something more impressive…. We carefully dropped down the side of the hill next to something like a fifteen to twenty feet drop into the stream/river/water and then crossed one of the single most rickety bridges that I’ve ever seen. Seriously, just the act of leaning anywhere on this bridge would be an extreme hobby!
The other side of the bridge featured a lovely steep slope up to the area in-between Owshaw Clough and well not much else. The terrain had evened out albeit it was now equally muddy wherever one stood. The droning of the A666’s traffic grew louder and I was relieved when Karl confirmed that the conifer wood on our right hand side according to his knowledge and the map was Charter Moss Plantation – right next to the A666 and within about three quarters of a mile (perhaps less) from the car. There’s something very reassuring in the proof that you’re not lost and that the car is not far away – even though on the day of the walk my arrival at this locale will only signify that I have a hell of a long way to go yet.
We were back to the car by around ten passed three and back at Karl’s house a few moments later than that. My super-dooper Bluetooth footstep logger informs me that we’d walked around thirteen and an half miles…I’m not so sure we’d gone that far, earlier calculations from Karl which included the loop of Turton and Entwistle reservoir and Turton Heights came in at 12 miles so I think we could estimate that we had walked (ploughed!) something like ten and a quarter miles over about 1,900 feet in five and a quarter hours (or thereabouts), a good performance and it would be easier to improve upon as I won’t be making the mistake of walking passed the turn-off point to get to Charter’s Moss Plantation – I’d already seen the turn-off featured on a “You Tube” video of The Great Galleymo which would save me about fifteen minutes. I can see myself completing the entire route in about ten hours if on my own or nine if accompanied…certainly not the eight that it took the afore mentioned Mr Galleymore.
At times I did think to myself ‘In to what have I dived head first, here?’. The walk up to Darwen Tower is a long one, but not that bad compared with others that I have done, even quite recently – Pendle’s Barley Steps route of New Year’s Eve are considerably more exhausting to mention nothing of Great Gable and Sca Fell for height and the soggyness of Cross Fell’s shoulders…I am up to doing the route. That being said, a lot more practice in this type of area needs to be done if I am not to finish embarrassingly late on the day of the event. To split the route down into sections and tackle these one at a time and sometimes twice, is a wise idea. I don’t think that the event route takes in the summit of Turton Heights…but as a West Pennine it is on my ‘to-do’ list and as such is set to be my next outing in a couple of weeks, I hope to park at the same place (and be accompanied by Karl – he’s good company) walk down the road to Turton Heights then take in the hill and return via the reservoir route which should finish opposite where our route today started.
A special note has to be added here in praise of Darwen Hill and its’ surrounding countryside – it’s stunningly beautiful when there has been a bit of snowfall, I had expected charming scenes but these were almost exaggerated. I liked this route so much that I will do it again – the whole thing aside from having to do most of it next Winter…
Some pictures from the day: