In a slightly belated follow-up to a posting from 2012, on Saturday I went over to Belmont – well Rivington first, in order to have a practice at the first section of next year’s A.A. event. I am pleased to say that:
- I didn’t get lost
- I didn’t do myself any injuries
- Blinking heck, Rivington Pike’s steep!
Of course I already knew that Rivington Pike is steep, along with good old Pendle Hill it is my most ascended hill. However, I’ve never set off at before with the attitude of ‘let’s see how quickly I can get up this’…and run myself out of carbohydrates within a mere matter of moments of the beginning of the walk!
I’d set off from the lane as per usual but this time did not go north up passing the barn, no this time I went East(!) through the Pineatum / Planted Pine and other conifer parklet(is that a real word?). The going was okay, which was in itself a good thing as the area has had a right old battering of rain in the last month. Having essentially walked flat/downhill for a good ten or twenty yards, all too soon I started to climb and it was within the first hundred yards that my still apparent lack of fitness came to the fore as both shins began to do that awful “splinter” thing which occasionally afflicts me without any forewarning. One thing was now overwhelmingly certain – this was not going to be an easy walk. I limped on through the lower slopes and was amazed at just how many paths and offshoots of paths were available – this was like the trail of cairns on bigger hills and mountains – some were necessary, but all of them? Fortunately I had been in these parts enough times to hazard a guess at which route would get me up to the lake at the Japanese Gardens. Within a few moments this panting and stumbling wreck (me) had made it to the water’s edge.
I did not loiter at the lake as to do so would have given me time to think…of an alternate way of spending my Saturday morning. So with as much gusto as I could muster I headed off through the maze of paths until eventually arriving at Belmont Road (the track, not the A675 for those of you trying to follow me!) and from here the way ahead could not be more obvious – head for the tower atop Rivington Pike – generally upwards. This is never a gentle stroll no matter what my current condition in fact the only time that I have got up here without feeling like I’ve been dragging a pair of anvils was the time in 2013 when Sheenah and I climbed up here in thick snow. All the same I lived up to my on-going personal challenge of not stopping at any point from the large gate at the start of this short ascension – to the last step at the summit. On the day of the Anglezarke Amble I imagine this could be the scene of something of a struggle as the best side of three hundred people attempt to squeeze up this steep and probably slippery, stone staircase…at pace. Nobody amble’s up the staircase to the Pike, at best one charges, at worst one upwardly collapses.
Once at the summit the views open up…fantastically! On the one hand all the local reservoirs – and there are a good number here, could be seen but further afield I could easily point out Parbold and Harrock Hills and the nearby summits of Burnt Edge, Crooked Edge Hill, Healey Nab and Winter Hill all seemed to be offering fine views today. Winter Hill was the next destination – via the shockingly simple but sometimes arduous route up the side of Crooked Edge Hill – which does not show itself off at all well from any other angle than that from the Pike! First of all came the effortless glide down off the Pike and over the area known as Brown Hill – I’m not a fan! Again, the route could get a bit treacherous here sliding down the Pike en masse – there’s a lot of sandstone here and when it’s wet, it’s lethal but today it was just a case of ‘watch your feet’ and get on with it. The cobbled road upon which the Rivington Pike Dog Hotel resides loses its’ name here before joining with George’s Lane an unknown distance away and this is one of those roads whereby one is grateful to be wearing walking boots…it’s a bumpy old road. Soon enough I was at the gate / stile at which begins the track up Crooked Edge Hill – it appears there is a web plot by persons unknown to name this hill Two Lads Hill after the cairns which proudly sit atop the highest point. I don’t subscribe to this movement and shall refer to the hill now and forever as Crooked Edge Hill – and the O/S agree with me! The hill is steep in just a couple of locations, the beginning and the last few feet, all the rest is quite comfortable walking…if you can ignore the relentless wind which seemed to build up close to the summits of all the hills that I walked today. I never called in at the “Lads” to practice the noble art of hitting the final cairn with one’s hand or walking pole – I’ve done that enough times for the novelty to have well and truly worn off.
The next segment of my day’s walk would be to cross the peat-riddled and it has to be said Anglezarke-Ambled mess en route across the moor to Winter Hill – the tarmac road. (In truth it is not the most beautiful of all roads!) The wind had really picked up by now and it became necessary to spot visual distractions as there was something of a biting tone to its’ gusts. I was reminded of happy memories of ascending the hill with Sheenah that snowy day in 2013 as I made my way passed the end of the track which bravely traverses the wettest section of moorland that I have ever fortune to slosh across. I was in turn passed by a group of three mountain bikers who were trying their best to cheer each other up the hill – in truth this is not the steepest part of the hill by any stretch, Georges Lane would have depleted all of their carbohydrate reserves a mile ago. All the same, it was nice to return the compliment and pass them as they came to almost a standstill! My target grew nearer – the twin sandstone pillars at the edge of the summit plateau and the beginning of one of the longest drops off any hill in modern day Lancashire.
At this local there are a number of choices of where to walk next: to the left you can go towards the o/s column and having touched that carry on down the hill through long wet grass and onto Noon Hill and its’ Slack(?). Another choice is to turn immediate right and head on over to Counting Hill (South) which at 433 metres is the second highest summit in the locale and a good walk on a snowy day or when there has been no rain for a week or more (it is a bit wet underfoot). Directly ahead lies the sheep trod which is the route straight down the northern face of Winter Hill towards the Edges and Great Hill, there can be no overstating the gradient, you don’t want to do this in icy conditions unless you have crampons on. Finally the other right hand turn is my route and is in my opinion the nicest way up Winter Hill, until now I had never descended via this route but am happy to report that it was as easy as I had hoped as long as I remembered to turn around every so often…to make sure I was not startled out of my skin by mountain bikers. As it happened I was passed by four of them, three at great speed and one looked like he would rather be anywhere else. The views across to Longworth Moor and Green Hill (Lancashire has more Green Hills than you can shake a walking stick at!) were getting better and better all the time and making me think to the effect of ‘this Anglezarke Amble isn’t going to be an amble at all’. There was no doubt about it, this was the fastest-safest route down off Winter Hill I had to steal myself from breaking out into a run at times – it’s a badly kept secret that I descend hills at a leisurely pace…glacial some might say! I know that this aspect of my walking regime needs working on and that is one of the items on the itinerary for every walk in between now and the A.A. I had had some misgivings about which path to take through the woods beforehand …these were easily put to rest upon approaching the little wood the kissing gate came into view as did a very obvious path.
The path through the woods was short, distinct and a little ploughed up by mountain bikers…and more than a bit sticky owing to the peat base having been utterly drenched in the last few weeks. I spotted a couple who appeared to be trying to liberate a tree stump…well whatever takes your fancy and from watching all of those American horror films we all know this…if someone’s doing something in a wood or forest -ask them no questions and leave them to it, I did this and lived to carry on with the rest of the walk.
And not just that, I survived crossing the A675 / Belmont Road which can be like a formula one track at weekends, fortunately enough it wasn’t busy at all today. After less than an hundred yards I was turning left and into (for me) new territory. The brilliant GreatGalleymo’s fantastic You Tube video of Adam and Dave walking the A.A. doesn’t show quite how the afore mentioned walkers get from turning left off the A675 and passed Greenhill Farm to get up to Lower Whittakers – I found Greenhill farm without a problem – it would be more of a challenge to miss it but then should I take the left hand turn off just before the farm as the instructions say on the LDWA’s web site or carry on further down the track because what I can see looks nothing like what Mr Galleymore’s video shows. I decided to carry on down the track and ultimately came to a cul-de-sac, actually quite a creepy cul-de-sac with some lovely, bone-chilling buildings that could have allured the producer of any Hollywood slasher movie!
Having consulted my map more times than any sane man would, I opted for the path which lay before me now and which had very obviously been ambled upon – it looked a right old mess with obvious signs of having a had a couple of hundred pairs of feet trudge and slide their way across it – in truth it had been a month since this year’s “Amble” but nature is something of a slow healer! The none-trampled part (the majority of the landscape) was gorgeous countryside and I truly regret not getting the camera out and going photo-crazy. I descended some slippery steps and crossed a bit of a rickety footbridge over a brook or river and then began up one even more slippery hillside that had an almighty incline – even though it actually was probably less than fifty metres, but then fifty metres over a distance of about one hundred metres is not to be sniffed at! Fortunately there was not another sole in the immediate environment which enabled me to turn the air blue as I slipped, stumbled and fell up the slope – my walking pole helped…a bit. By the time I reached the emerging quagmire atop the slope I was feeling really weary as if I had just swapped over fuels from carbs to fat burning. However, the legs were still going so I carried on through the mud and grass to reach an huge stone wall which has to be the full length of Longworth Road near the myriad of Spruce and Larch plantations. This was now familiar territory with regards to me having driven around these parts when I lived in Bolton. with regards to walking, I had no confidence what-so-ever in my sense of direction and was at a loss to make a decision on where to go? The thought that it might take me another hour at least to find the correct route to take me to Catherine Edge (the way that I wanted to go) was weighing heavily on me. All of a sudden it dawned on me that to my left was a great big antenna, and as luck would have it, it stuck out like a sore thumb on the map as well. This was the site of Great Robert Hill -less than half a mile away from my current location. I don’t know who Robert was and for which reasons he may have been considered ‘great’ but in this moment I would have gladly shook his hand (even though mine was pretty filthy after the slope falling).
Now I was back in my strong domain – road walking. Countryside walking is lovely and all that but even for a pedestrian, roads get you there quicker or not at all. I sped off along Longworth Road passing Egerton Road and after just a few minutes was passing the tiny mound of Great Robert Hill…and from here the route got even easier as I now dropped a few feet in altitude and before not long at all I was on the fringe of the southern tip of the huge body of water which is Belmont Reservoir. From here I picked up a lot of lost pace as the path was very easy and in no time at all I was back on Belmont Road and heading towards Rivington Lane – though I dare say it probably isn’t called that at its’ start. I had walked over this very road in the opposite direction back in 2013 so I was fully aware of how narrow and dangerous it can be. However, I was being lazy and walking almost the entire length of Rivington Lane up to the Belmont Road track promised to be infinitely easier than the off-road equivalent. I did spot a corking path which ran along side of the laughingly named ‘Blue Lagoon’ – only the proudest of all the proud Boltonians would argue that the water here is blue – there used to be a car sticking out of the middle of it. The path then bolted straight up the side of Winter Hill to merge with the one which I had descended over an hour ago…it looked very steep.
After what seemed like an eternity I was en route to Catter Nab in the shadow of Noon Hill having made my way through the enormous wooden gate. This is another path of which I have some familiarity having walked its’ entire length in both directions. Here the views all around were a little bit washy but I was so happy that I had so far been free of rain and I had taken a lot of photographs anyway. It had not been very long since my last visit to this area with Southport Ramblers at the end of February but it was equally nice to traverse this path instead of the muddier version and at a much more relaxed pace – my legs simply wouldn’t go much faster!
The track eventually merges with the same track which I had walked upon after descending Rivington Pike and soon enough Dovecote came into view, I decided to take a random route down and avoid as much mud as possible – I’d only just cleaned mud off my boots in a very long puddle. After descending the vast series of steps at the rear of Dovecote I headed west then east to take me back to the more familiar main path from Hall Wood and eventually the newer path which would link up to one of the concessionary bridal paths which leads back to the barn and at last five hours after leaving it…back to the car.
There can be no mistake, this had served as a real eye-opener, a reality check. If my previous two walks over parts of the A.A. route with Karl and Anne had shown me what can be achieved then today had taught me where the pitfalls lay – near the very start! Rivington Pike simply has to be respected, yes it is two thousand feet lower than Scafell Pike but as with the latter if one is not prepared and sets off thinking it to be innocuous one is likely to come a real cropper! I’ve always liked Rivington Pike and Winter Hill together they did make a really enjoyable and testing half day out – adding the Longworth Moor section certainly upped the tempo but if I am to be successful next year then I have to keep upping that tempo because nobody is going to make it any easier for me…the presence of other people engaged in the same activity will spur me on, there’s no doubt about that, but I have to give myself the best fighting chance if I am to avoid repeating 2010’s disastrous Yorkshire three peaks bid.
The positive to go forward here is that my Garmin had my actual walking time as being around three and a quarter hours to walk ten point nine miles – however this means that it has recorded me not moving for one and three quarter hours – this just did not happen! So at the moment my overall speed needs a lot of work because ten miles in five hours equals two miles an hour and I need to make a 50% improvement on that if I am to not be disqualified from the Amble!
I’ll be back soon with Karl in order to do the sixteen miles version…and can hardly wait.