The walk along the edge of Turton Heights on Saturday 28th February, 2015
As part of the great familiarisation in preparation of next year’s Anglezarke Amble, I was to visit the south eastern side of Turton Moor. Turton Heights had been on my ever-expanding ‘to-do’ list, it is a “West Pennine” top after all but even before today’s visit (and certainly after), I have to concede it’s not a star attraction, being something of a gentle lump protruding from the less notorious section of Turton Moor near the border of Darwen and Bolton. The summit itself is not even the highest point on the wide ridge that stretches for a few hundred metres in an odd north west to south east snake which starts on Green Arms Road, peaks at the quagmire that is Cheetham Close (complete with iron-age stone circle) and terminates at Horrorbin Fold next to the Jumbles Reservoir, Bradshaw / Bromley Cross, Bolton.
Owing to certain logistical irregularities I didn’t get to Karl’s house in Darwen until around 12:45 but within fifteen minutes we were at the set-off-point at the lay-by on Green Arms Road. Our first few couple of hundred yards would undoubtedly be the most daunting, most anxious and most downright un-enjoyable as we turned left on the the A666 and made our way to the stile with cars roaring passed us doing at least the national speed limit and probably a great deal more. It was such a relief to get to the stile and begin our first stretch of moorland.
There was plenty of evidence around that it wasn’t long since a couple of hundred walkers had bounded through these parts, the grass was flattened, the mud was stirred up and myriads of footprints could be seen. Of course this was the result of this year’s Anglezarke Amble which had taken place on Valentine’s day – yes this is evidence of the amount of time, research and practice that I am putting in to next years event! Tiny bump though it may be, this side of Turton Moor is a twisted ankle waiting to happen! The first few yards were quite literally a walk in the park, followed by an-going dilemma of where to put one’s leading foot next! The ground at this patch of land was inconsistent with itself! One stretch of land would be at one level and the next would rise or drop but be akin to another patch doing just the reverse. Various gullies could be found without much investigation and so could what looked like (to me) abandoned plough-furrows (better description here when available). All in all the opening stretch of the walk – facing the majority of the western aspect of Turton Heights, was a rugged affair, thankfully over in a few minutes without any obvious injuries.
If I thought that the first few hundred yards was bad, then the walk along the side of the lump on a path(?) which went in and out of vision along with meandering up and down the slope to the summit of this hill; made the opening stretch look like a teddy-bear’s picnic…and I loved it! The video I have seen of someone walking along this path made me aware that we might be in for a little bit of a struggle – in all honesty Karl has probably done worse, considerably worse. For me however, this was and up and down, ankle threatening, roller coaster of a walk – which fortunately for us potential “Amblers” is before, as opposed to after Darwen Hill and Great Hill…after would be just awful! We had scheduled a quick nip to the top of Turton Heights in order to bag it, but, the ground was a combination of ridiculously heavy and in parts lethally slippery that we decided to postpone that until the drier days of high summer…after a good long drought!
Eventually, we reached a large gate and made our way across a pasture with a bit of a downhill gradient. This was simple and almost care-free after the earlier stretches of the walk and before long we were crossing the road which separates the open moor from the Turton and Entwistle reservoir site. The path became very indistinct here and we essentially winged it across the field using the logic that a field generally has stiles diagonally across from each other – it did! This field for me was one of the highlights as I could imagine crossing this green oasis of smoothness when doing ‘the Amble’ next year and being relieved that for now some of the hard work would be behind me. We eventually made our way onto the paths that escort one around the reservoir in search of Edge Lane… or at least the track that would lead us there, via the Strawbury Duck (and no, that is how it’s spelt).
We must have spent about thirty minutes at the pub, but as I was beginning to cool down quite rapidly I was glad that we never stayed for a second shandy and instead took to Edge Lane. The tarmac path quickly deteriorated into a more natural, rural style, with added water and we began to ascend on the route to Cadshaw once more. The surrounding scenery was more lovely on the way out of the reservoir’s bowl than it had been on the way in and before long it genuinely felt like we were in the higher grounds of the West Pennines – although we would not climb more than a couple of hundred feet in over a mile. We met what must have been a bunch of Ramblers coming from the opposite direction there must have been about thirty of them! Our views to the west were somewhat dominated by one hill in particular and neither one of us could name it – so I will do the usual and refer to it as Cartridge Hill! Within a few moments we were on the A666 and heading towards the car, a few moments later and we were back on Green Arms Road only something like two and an half hours after leaving it.
This had been a lovely walk out into territory that I wouldn’t normally have visited. The walk did serve its’ purpose as an eye-opener in terms of the terrain that I’ll be facing when doing the A.A. next February. I have to say that my joints and muscles did take a bit of a pounding during the traversal of Turton Heights – some gymn work will probably help with suppleness / recovery, my back hasn’t felt quite this bad since I had to pull out of doing the Great End walk last year. All the same it would be very nice to go back and next time tick off the twin summits of Turton Heights and Cheetham Close and now I know where the good parking spots are! We walked something like 5.7 miles and could have only ascended about four hundred feet.
The Song of the walk – What with me and Karl chattering on? You must be kidding!