This was the walk of Sunday, 24th September, 2017.
A sunlit day served to incite in me the desire to return to Rivington in order to fit in yet another ramble around one of the Amble routes…or at least a part of it.
If I had to pick a favourite route exclusively for this area, it would have to be this one. Yes it is easy, very easy but more than that, as the day transpired, it’s a lovely sociable route. I got to what would be my starting point – the car park near the Rivington Hall Barn for around 10:10 and after booting and suiting up and adorning my GoPro and a selfie stick, I was all ready to go … if a little burdened with regards to the equipment. For a change, I thought that I’d do the steep stuff right at the start of the walk, which is of course the way that we’ll hit the slopes on Amble Day in February. The first obstacle out of the way I treated myself by meandering past the Ornamental Japanese lake and terraced gardens (there really is not that much evidence of the terracing anymore ), before detouring to the old toilet block on Belmont Road.
From here I ignored the normal, practically compulsory, ‘full steam ahead to the pike’ calling and turned left to pass Dovecote (Pigeon Tower) before veering off to the right in the direction of Catter Nab. Along the way I was almost disappointed to discover that someone had taken it upon themselves to repair the world’s (or at least Bolton’s) most rickety stile. This was a surprise so intense that it bordered on startling! Now, there are no obstacles to impede a walker’s progress to Noon Hill from Catter Nab…well none apart from the bumpy and often wet terrain that is.
The track from the tower to the main, Rivington Road, looks like a long journey on the online maps, all things being relative, it’s even further on foot! To break up the monotony of every footsteps being pretty much the same, it was at this point that I decided to get out the selfie stick, attach it to my Iphone, plug my microphone in and do some crappy commentary. (Having listened to the end result…I am in n o way exaggerating this!) Video to come much later.
Having reached the sometimes speed track at Rivington Road, I crossed without obstacle, only briefly stalling to read with horror the sign which now states that the area falls within the boundaries of Blackburn with Darwen boundaries…I was mortified! Only a good stretch up Will Narr and along the edges would now bring solace to my distraught mind! Imagine the horror, believing for all of one’s life that Winter Hill was in Bolton>Horwich only to discover that those thieving beggars in Blackburn and Darwen have wrenched it from our grip! Thankfully, the trot up Will Narr always looks notably harder than it really is, a good five minute yomp saw me at the top of this most minor of all minor bumps. Within a matter of a few moments I had said ‘hi’ to a number of walkers. Whilst I would never eagerly await the prospect of greeting a virtual football crowd’s worth of walkers during my moorland traversals, the odd one, two , even twenty is no great hardship. Having surmounted the merged summits of both Spitlers and Redmonds’ Edges, I continued my way along the former mill-stone paths which stretch out for over a mile in a northern direction from Rivington Road almost to the base of Great Hill.
Water was still in evidence, I don’t remember ever making the crossing of this moorland without seeing water attempt to seep over the flagged paths, it will win its battle, eventually. More and more walkers were met on route and all were greeted with a cheery hi and smile. Before long I was traversing the stile at the base of Great Hill and no more than five minutes later saw me at its summit, 1,250 feet in the air. I love great Hill, it’s the Longridge of this area, the Catbells – okay its reputation probably isn’t as gleaming as Catbells, what with having no advocation from the late A. Wainwright, but all the same, it’s a cracking little hill. Only time will tell if I still feel as enamoured with the blessed mound on February tenth after eighteen miles worth of ‘Ambling’. For now, I was on the final section of the Amble and would stay that way all the way to within the last half mile of my route.
Talking of the Amble, and contrasting this with just how popular this hill has now become, the sloping path back down towards the ruins of Drinkwaters Farm is now in quite a sorry state of disrepair. With footfall comes the pounding of many feet and the path, though never truly treacherous, could stand quite a large measure of t.l.c. being administered in this walker’s humble opinion. The area around Drinkwaters Farm is no more spectacular than the majority of that encountered throughout the walk, but there is that certain undefined and indefinable quality within its tiny perimeter which just warrants a five minute stay, maybe it’s the presence of the bench and convenient locations to sit and watch time (and yet more walkers) go by…I had to force myself to stand up.
The drop to Drinkwaters Farm from the summit of Great Hill is mild, relaxing, easy. The drop from here on in is unlike the descent of Lord’s Rake, but it’s closer to that spectacle than it is the first half of this stage. Mud is encroaching on the majority of the path. In parts the path stops resembling a path altogether. Fortunately, since my first encounter with Great Hill in 2010, I’ve gone on to do it another eight or nine times and as such am fairly capable of finding my way down to White Coppice without any real troubles…it’s just much nicer to do when one is not sliding quite so much. There was a father and son couple on mountain bikes who seemed to be having a minor spat about the son’s reluctance to peddle great distances…or any distance at all. The lad it seemed, being most distressed that he couldn’t keep his feet where they were and psychically amass forward momentum, or at least that was my take on it. I motioned for them to pass but managed to catch up with them near the turning for Brinscall, moreover where one continues onward to Brinscall and the rest of us turn left in the general direction of White Coppice. The lad took great strides (metaphorically) to inform me that ‘this’ was the way to Brinscall, very kind of him but an invitation I would duly, if silently, decline.
The steepest drop in to White Coppice is the last few hundred lateral feet. Here you really do have to mind your footing and watch your steps. The reward for this due diligence (aside from not falling over of course) is an ever-widening puddle,( I’d estimate it’s about six inches in depth but I’m not willing to prove this) whereby one is practically forced to use the fencing (barbed wire of course!) to hold onto whilst circumnavigating the Broads of White Coppice. Other than that, it’s plain rambling all the way back to the road in around one mile’s time. There’s even a downhill stretch leading up to the path’s termination at Moor Road.
Cross the road and you cross a divide, here the terrain is on the sylvanian kind as trees seem to hone in on the otherwise obvious path. After the initial drop, which lasted for a good twenty feet, the very slow ascent begins. The hardest aspect of this section of the route is avoiding the damn mountain bikers who duly tear up what’s left of the path…and then fall off, or at least one of their pedals did. I took enough caution to ensure I did not slide off the odd microbridge, whose primary purpose seemed to be to the acquisition of mud at its termination. then onwards again as I continued passing cow pat field – a name I’ve given to the area as the width of the path is roughly equal to that of a cow pat. More drops and minor rises and ultimately I found myself at the water chute leading up to the Yarrow reservoir where I spent some moments reflecting on the walk and life in general. There’s only around a mile and a half to go from here, yet nature still manages to find a couple of uphill sections. After the Yarrow reservoir I turned left at a kissing gate then right at another and ‘ambled’ my way to the last real feature – a tiny flight of steps which ascend not even ten feet – except when you’ve just walked twenty-three miles, then they are Everest!
The increasing sound of traffic marked the proximity of Sheep House Lane, I was within a few hundred lateral feet of my start / end. Two youngish women (I’d say late teens / early twenties) approached asking me for directions to Go Ape…the ease of explaining this was blighted by the fact that they had no idea where they were, how they got there and how to get away again. I had to laugh, but only when I got back to the safety and comfort of my car, some five hours after leaving it.
As a precursor to February’s Amble, this served me well, if only because I am very confident in getting off Great Hill without falling over…much! It was a sheer delight to walk in an area that I am getting to know very well and to be told by one walker whom I encountered ‘You’ve got a hell of a pace on you!’ That’ll do.
One more post before the end of the year…
The video for this one has not even been started to bear with me folks!