I hadn’t been for a dedicated, hill, walk since tackling the epic Fairfield Horseshoe in July. With the advent of the perilous (okay subjective, I know) Yorkshire Three Peaks Reverse Route, I thought that it would make sense to get some walking practice in. My problem was that although I do love our new car (it isn’t that new, just new to us), it’s a bit of a hot-head and I still believe that in its’ current condition, a drive to Pendle…could kill it. So, I had to settle for second best, Winter Hill. Now admittedly, Winter Hill is a fine hill in its’ own right. If one adds in the short sharp shock of Rivington Pike; this adds up to a good couple of hours walking. I wanted more than anything, to simply stretch my legs, no heroics, nothing that was going to interfere with my training regime (ha, that makes it sound like I have one!) or y’know, make me that cramped up for the next few days that I start to lose confidence in my ability to do the afore mentioned Y3PRR.
Whilst I will one day complete without incident, the great round of Anderton, (nobody else will ever understand that description!) this is the route starting at Crookfields, Great Hill – White Coppice – Moor Road – Rivington Pike – Winter Hill – Hordern Stoops – Spitlers Edge – Redmonds Edge – Crookfields. I would have loved to do that route yesterday, but was aware that (as always) time was an issue, I had to be back to pick up Chris at 5.00; and given that the route described above is NEVER without incident, it pays to be a bit conservative and to stick with what one knows one can achieve within the given time (about five hours of walking). Incidentally, how posh is my writing? (Well, until this part!). More on this later.
As a distraction to the walking text, I did call in to a service station in Horwich on route whereby I was greeted by a woman with a lovely west country accent (I am something of a fan of all English accents, but the west country dialect holds a particularly special place in my heart). Her accent was of Gloucestershire decent, she mockingly referred to it as sounding halfway between ‘Pirate’ and ‘Farmer’. I found it rather endearing, in the last few months I have met women from Somerset, Gloucestershire and of course my friend from Wiltshire. Anyway, I digress.
I arrived at the long driveway at Rivington Lane at around 09:00 and by 09:16 was on route, pausing every few steps to retrieve my water bottle which seemed to be making a regular bid for freedom. As this was somewhat irritating, I decided to leave it in the bag and only to retrieve it from the bag when I was gasping for a drink. I set off on the same route which I last did a good few months back, via the Pinetum (funny, the spell checker queried that word last time). This time, I opted to stick to very obvious, wide tracks, the one that I used last time was narrow and steep, a lot steeper than for what I had bargained. So, today’s option to stick to long gradual paths was well received…until I went off piste once more. Yes, folks (Karl, stop laughing) I thought I had taken the well trodden path which would lead me to the southern entrance to the Japanese lake. In all honesty I do not know where that path was in comparison to where I was. All the same, some more positive thinking – well the tower atop the pike is hard to miss, it made sense to me simply to aim for the tower, safe in the knowledge that sooner or later I would arrive at Belmont Road. Suffice to say, I did!
Some time ago, I set myself the on-going challenge to always attempt to make it from the gate opposite the old toilet block (it’s never open, why not just knock it down?) to the tower at the top of the Pike, via the steps (so no cheating and taking the wheelchair route) without stopping. I am pleased to announce, that even though my heart sounded like a David Guetta remix track, I made it to the top, without stopping, in something like five minutes. I was very happy to reach the top and even happier to stop, my fitness is improving, but as the views were a little bit restricted I stayed for just a few minutes before setting off towards Two Lads…
However, it is time for me to confess something, I just don’t like the route up to Two Lads via path at the side of the Rivington Dog Hotel. I find it to be a tedious slog, and the last time that I used it, I did run into a condescending woman who told me to stay safe! Associations assist us when we’re grudge building! I would also like to add that I don’t care much for Two Lads in itself, it’s a boring bump on the long rise up to Winter Hill. As an alternative, I decided to follow Belmont Road all the way down to near where it changes name to Georges Lane and beyond. I kept on the road until the left hand turn to Winter Hill (the road) appeared, then took this gently winding road for well over a mile up to the summit of Winter Hill.
On route I must have passed around ten to fifteen people, I was keeping a count but then got kind of side-tracked when I saw a unicyclist heading towards me. There’s always something weird on one of my walks!
Next I tapped the trig point atop Winter Hill, as a youngish man was describing to a youngish woman what purpose these concrete pillars once served. I took my lunch break (all of five minutes of it) at the other side of the fence and scoured the immediate environment for the path down, which had appeared to have vanished. Eventually I found the errant path and gingerly made my way down the north face of the hill, falling twice! My next immediate destination was the relatively unknown “Will Narr”. I know where it is, I’ve walked over it a good number of times, but to the rest of the world I imagine it’s something of an unknown. I’ll shed some light on this, it’s essentially the start of the River Yarrow – okay, that’s not exactly earth shattering news, but they’re proud of their rivers in these parts and there is a plaque indicating the ‘official’ source of the ‘Yarrow’. Incidentally, in Croston, there is even a little café named after the Yarrow. To each their own I suppose.
Will Narr is a pig to navigate on the ground. The path that I needed essentially to transport me over towards Alance Bridge (eventually) is something of a tumble in very long grass. It’s not fun at all and I fell over a number of times. Eventually I ended up on the rather boring path which would take me passed Old Rachel’s and Simms. It seemed to last forever, I passed a fifty-something lady, then I forced myself to have a sit down and a gulp of water, and she passed me back. Even she had little praise for this ‘boring’ path, admittedly, there are not many Striding Edge’s or Sharp Edge’s or even Moses Trod’s, I don’t know what could be done to liven up this path…evidently, it has yet to be done. It was a relief when I finally made it to Alance Bridge. A right turn, a few hundred feet, then a left turn would take me along side the Yarrow reservoir, for most of its’ length until the body of water swapped sides as I now distantly passed the ‘Rivington’ reservoirs. One more final push and I was in ‘Go Ape’ territory as I could hear the rope and slide enthusiasts zip down their respecting guy wires, all in the name of fun…I expect you have to experience it for yourself.
And that was that! I’m no longer a fan of walking on my own, unless it’s Pendle, and even then company is always more appreciated than no-company. This walk served as a good leg stretcher in preparation of next week’s Yorkshire Three Peaks in Reverse (which potentially won’t be in reverse if it’s raining!). The sliding down Hordern Stoops and Will Narr was not as much fun as I would have hoped that it would be.
With the exception of the odd occasional Coastal Road expedition, this may well be my last ever solo walk, at the moment my latent auto phobia is having a surge and solitude does not help. Some people (famously the late, great, Alfred Wainwright) crave the serenity of being alone outside, the prospect of this quite often terrifies me, and for a walker, that’s quite a major revelation.
Until next time, (there will be one, I can almost assure you!)
Song of the walk: Art Garfunkel – Bright Eyes