Plover Hill and Pen-y-Ghent on Saturday, August 26th, 2017.
For most of the highly successful (from a walking perspective) 2016, Darren and I had been discussing and planning another assault on Yorkshire’s beloved three peaks. This has spilled over into this year but with this year being such a scant one in terms of the number of walks I have been on, I thought it best to start preparing for this gruelling walk in a timely manner. We planned to do just Pen-y-Ghent…until I decided to throw neighbouring Plover Hill into the mix.
The plan was originally for Darren and I simplyto tackle Pen-y-Ghent, but I later thought this would make a great opportunity for Darren’s son Connor, to bag his first Yorkshire mountain…and he did enjoy Pendle Hill which we would see for a good portion of the first part of the walk. A few days before, Darren had informed me that an acquaintance of his, Mike, would also be joining us on the day…I had to empty the boot of the car in order to get all of our walking gear aboard! All the same, after picking up the Peakes and Mike at 9:10 we were at Horton(-in Ribblesdale) by 10:55 and on route within ten minutes of that! Except that I had to wait a while as the others called in at the toilets…I know, I know!
The weather was wonderful for mountain walking, warm – but not too warm, and dry. Experience had already ingrained in me the knowledge that the hardest part of the ascent of Pen-y-Ghent is the short, sharp, shock of Brackenbottom…I had remember the difficulty well but had forgotten the anguish, I’ve done tougher climbs…and won’t do them again! This was hard going especially given Darren and Mike’s apparent fitness. Did I forget to mention that Mike is one of Darren’s running mates? So did he…up until we were three quarters up the slope towards the junction with the Pennine Way’s path! I struggled to keep up. In fact that’s an understatement, I declared “I’m the driver, so you’ll have to wait for me me!” funnily enough that idle threat worked a treat, for a spell! I had read a number of times Mike Brocklehurst’s recantation of his Three Peaks walk and of how he could easily make out the shape of Pendle Hill from the slopes of Pen-y-Ghent, personally I had never been able to do that…until today.
On a hazy horizon I managed to spot good old Pendle Hill, this was the first time that I had managed to clap eyes on my favourite hill from this locale and it raised my spirits accordingly. I just haven’t been out and about anywhere near enough times this year and seeing Pendle in the distance instilled in me a will to put this to rights. By twelve o’clock we were nearing the frightening front face of Pen-y-Ghent. It’s still a firm favourite of mine, I imagine most walkers who have made this journey more than once will agree, that this is a lovely mountain. But, the sight of the Pennine Way scrambling up the nose of this relative giant is still enough to stop most people in their tracks and we were all no exception. I won’t undersell this mountain, up to the first rocky section from the gate is no walk in the park, but there is progress to be made, and swiftly. The first rocky outcrop is fantastic. Yes, I know people who suffer from vertigo might disagree – I know this because I was gently coaching one of them up the thing! I thoroughly enjoy this scramble and today was no exception. I flashed back to the time when I received a text message from Christine during my successful Yorkshire Three Peaks bagging in 2015 and must have smiled like a Cheshire cat.
For me, the best part of most walks is the opportunity to chat with other people engaged in the same activity, it’s even more enjoyable if they’re being as frank and open about their fitness levels ( or lack thereof) as I tend to be. Today we met a small group of women who were acquainting themselves with the individual peaks ahead of an imminent challenge…in aid of Hedgehogs! One woman even joked, ‘I didn’t even like Hedgehogs beforehand…’ I can’t reproduce what she said next; as the language was colourful! The first scramble over, I rested, chatted, then continued at a slower, more deliberate pace. I was determined to make it up the mountain, but not puffing and panting in so doing! The second scramble always demands more attention, there’s further to fall! Armed with this realisation, I took my own sweet time but within a few minutes of three-points-of-contact work, I was on Pen-y-Ghent’s promenade path to the summit, in last place of our group of four.
We stopped for lunch having tapped the trig point, I always do this three times these days. The views all round were unobstructed but not as stellar as I have scene before, maybe it was because my legs had turned to jelly. My lunch consisted of a berry-flavoured caffeine gel, another banana and a chicken caesar wrap from the Spar near home. All told this would probably equate to around 900 calories at the very most, I think I’d burned that off in the last 1.75 miles ascending this mountain.
We identified on my map, the rest of our route – nothing more complicated than ‘follow that wall’, and eventually we set off northwards to the next target: Plover Hill.
The reason why I had elected to add this hill to our excursion was down to empathy. Coming from a town which was so often overlooked by its gigantic neighbours (Ainsworth / Radcliffe overshadowed by Bolton, Bury, Salford and Manchester) I felt the pain of a mountain which is, after all, just forty feet lower than its much more illustrious neighbour. It came as a surprise to me that we had to traverse the fairly sizable wall-stile, I had it in my head that we would stay this side of the boundary. The drop down was very close to immediate and a lot more severe than I had imagined, although not a dangerous fall would await the clumsy of foot! It has to be said that the views really did not sing out loud. Ingleborough, Whernside and Plover Hill were pretty much all that I could identify. After the path levelled out – in the vertical sense, Plover Hill decided to allure us with the promise of a wet kiss! Without any warning on the ground, the terrain suddenly got a whole lot wetter – and much muddier. If one were to refer to an ordnance survey map, the sight of lots of lovely dots and symbols indicating that this is a marshland would jump off the page practically dowsing the reader! We walkers have odd memories, oh yes, we can remember at which point on which hill of which day we had which sandwich, but as to looking at a map…we forget what we have just read, instantly! So wet was the terrain that I believe we must have added at least one more percent to the totally milage, just by veering off to the left, then coming back in again to the right after the dry patch had altered coarse!
Ultimately, we reached the wall that sat upon the highest part of Plover Hill. My trouser legs were covered in mud, my jegs were even more like jelly and I was more than a bit relieved to be able to sit down for a few minutes and recover. We all agreed that the path to the north, which we were about to discover simply had to be better than the quagmyre through which we had just sloshed. Upon traversing the wall-stile, we were proved right in our hoping. For the next few hundred yards we buoyed in delight at the sturdiness of the terrain beneath our feet. Yes, the path did brake up often, but it was never as wet as it had been ‘the other side of the wall’. In time, we came upon the escarpment. The fact that I have no photographic evidence of this path should serve as testament unseen of the steepness of this rocky staircase in the sky. Darren may or may not have been hyperbolising when he referred to the path down Plover as being even steeper than the path up Pen-y-Ghent, I’d be inclined to agree, or maybe it was because we were all feeling the effects of the previous moorland slog. By contrast the tightening of the knees and surging shockwaves of descent were if nothing else, noteworthy!
The descent over, we could now be poetically described as in a pasture or meadow, to the more pragmatic, I suppose it could be reasoned that we were actually on the outskirts of Horton Moor or Foxup – yes we too laughed at how that might be sardonically pronounced! At best we were two miles away from Horton in Ribblesdale’s main road…but these were Yorkshire miles. I had previous experience of the ‘ 1½ miles to Horton in Ribblesdale’ finger sign on the descent of Ingleborough across Sulber Nick…I was well aware! When our nice, obvious path vanished into the moorland we took a left hand turn onto a bridal-way of sorts which quickly facilitated our way across Horton Scar, passing Pen-y-Ghent once more. This time the mountain looked much different than the ‘crouching lion’ aspect to which most walkers become accustomed.
Now came the long, drawn out trek back to Horton along a grassy track which was sometimes a bit wet and other times a bit sticky. This was not the most exciting route as for the best side of three miles…the scenery stayed exactly the same! The one point of punctuation in the first few miles was when Darren, Mike and Connor stopped off to visit Hunt Pot (or was it Hull Pot?). I really couldn’t care less, sorry to say it bus missing parts of the earth just don’t do anything for me…now if it were to be High Cup. The slog down along Horton Scar Lane is always, always the worst part of the walk, the only thing that puts me off doing the Yorkshire three peaks in reverse…is knowing that I’ll eventually have to trapse down this boring piece of crunchy road(?). I’m just not a fan!
Before my soul had been completely destroyed we were back in Horton and at the Penyghent Café…milk and coffee being the order of the day…before the long drive home.
In summing, I had no idea what to expect with regards to Plover Hill. Jack Keighley had warned us that it’s a little wet, he was in no way understating. As for the drop off its southern face, that truly was exhilarating! It goes without saying that I loved the (ahem quite fast yomp) up Pen-y-Ghent, I always do although to be honest, I prefer it more when it’s me and Chris and I have more time to peruse the landscape. I might never do Plover Hill again, I definitely will do Pen-y-Ghent as many times as possible.
Stats time taken – around five hours (it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten).
Easter was here so of course Chris was working it! I had planned on doing a Pendle or Amble walk on Good Friday but the weather conspired to make me stay at home and be harassed by the cat…and my PC! Likewise Saturday was off the agenda as well and on Sunday we had a family get-together to attend. This left just Monday but I do like walking on Bank Holiday Mondays.
So, having called in at McDonalds for breakfast with Chris and then dropping her off, I went home, got ready and left the house to head to Rivington, Pendle could be saved for the next bank holiday.
Eventually, I left the car parked at Rivington Barn at 10:48 and headed straight down the lovely wide, hardly ever utilised driveway which leads to the heart of Rivington – okay it is not a big heart, shall we just say the part which features the village ‘Green’ and tea room! The plan was to do part of the Anglezarke Amble in reverse. This meant starting at the end – the end of the Amble that is, on Sheep House Lane. From here I tip-toed around the mud, dropped down a staircase and ambled along side the Dean Brook and into the Yarrow Valley. The Yarrow Valley is considerably bigger than the River Yarrow itself, so to pinpoint me I should indicate that I was walking past the western edge of the Yarrow Reservoir. Many dog walkers were out today and I caught sight of one family whose ‘Labrador’ looked to be on the big and frisky side. It was only when I caught up to the group that I discovered that the dog was far less commonly found than a mere Labrador. The dog was in fact a Leonberger. And it was big softie – thankfully. I spent a few minutes talking to the family and discussing my belief that the ‘thing’ which attacks me (and anyone else who passes it) on Catherine Edge is a Caucasian Shepherd (a bloody angry one at that!).
Having bid my farewell to the family and its gorgeous dog, I took a left when facing more or less half way along the embankment of the Yarrow reservoir and into territory that I had never previously ambled in – in this direction. So I was extremely happy to identify the water chute from the Yarrow. This is generally an uplifting sight when doing the route the other way around as it indicates there is less than a mile to go. Today it served to indicate that I had not (yet) got lost. I descended the slope, turned right and crossed Knowsley Lane. The Anglezarke Reservoir sprawled out majestically on my left hand side whilst the odd cyclist passed on my right. I wasn’t on this section of road for long as soon enough I took a left in order to skirt around the Anglezarke Reservoir some more instead of bearing with the road. From here onwards the terrain became more rural and more sylvanian as I passed through various sections of the woods which cover a large section of this area. Again, another ‘Amble’ landmark – ‘the cowpat path’ filled me with memories of my first time of traversing this route in february of 2016.
It was around this time when I came to notice a walker behind me who was beginning to catch up to me – but not in a creepy / stalking sense. Within a few moments, as I was deciding whether to go left or right, another couple of dozen walkers caught up with us both. I enquired as to the destination of the left hand path and the lady whom I had asked advised me that it would lead to White Coppice – a result!
The lady was one of a number of walkers out that day from the East Lancs L.D.W.A. We spent some moments walking very briskly and chatting away about the walks that this group organises. I was a member of the West Lancs group…but with regret I had let my membership expire. The group’s walking speed was militarial – I’d hazard a guess that we were doing at least 4 m.p.h. through the woods on route to White Coppice. I did notice that the banter of the group was very relaxed, somewhat mildly ribbing each other, and genuinely high spirited. As there were also a number of dog walkers with the group this did lead to some more pedestrian style and gate traversals – memories of 2012’s Pendle Witch Walk came flooding back in glorious technicolour. All the same, we made speedy process to White Coppice where I bid my farewells boasting ‘I’m off up Great Hill now…’ this seemed to impress nobody!
The route from just passed Stronstrey Bank, to the rise of Great Hill was actually surprisingly busy. It appears that this is the preferred route of ascension for Great Hill, I think I counted twenty or so other walkers. This rise used to be a fearful one for me…the spectacle that was Steel Fell last December has since toughened me up and I now no longer feel quite as fearful of this grade three climb. That being said, it still gives ones’ calf muscles a good old tune-up. I was trying not to go flying up the hill as this can upset other walkers and well it tires me out quicker and by this time I had only walked something like five of my intended twelve miles. Of course it’s always nice to pass people who are obviously much younger and fitter than oneself and if they just happened to be two young women in their twenties and wearing completely inappropriate footwear – Wellies – for Great Hill???
then this only added to the pleasure.
In time I joined up with a lovely couple from Bromley Cross in Bolton. Our paths had crossed a couple of times at the start of the climb and on the first rise, now I decided to have a good old natter and they were great company, it was especially nice reminiscing about my times in Bolton. As the couple were not in any particular hurry – I can never say the same when I have to get back for Chris, I decided to put my foot down at something like a half mile’s distance from the ruins of Drinkwaters. Funnily enough, three more walkers were draped over these ruins which changed my mind about having a rest here. Great Hill was now looming just around an exceptionally large corner!
Now I decided it was time to make a strident bid for the summit. It was twelve fifty
five and I wondered if I could make it to the top of Great Hill for one o’clock. The answer was a resounding “no!” Once more, I had fallen for the trap of thinking I was closer to Great Hill than what I really was – all the same I did get there by five past one so all credit to me I believe. By this time I had walked almost six miles, over various types of terrain and up a fairly steep incline. To say that I was impressed with my performance was understating things: I had a celebratory flask of coffee at the summit As I was about to leave, the other seated walkers were somewhat insular, continuing to talk amongst themselves as opposed to engaging me, my lovely couple from Bromley Cross summited the slope. Of course we then took each other’s photos and I gave them my web site address (wonder if they’ve visited!).
The time to leave the summit had approached, once more I bid my farewells and set off due south in the direction of the looming giant of Winter Hill and its associated ironwork (the many masts). I knew this to be an easy route – as long as the visibility held up (it did) and I frequently reached for my pocketed camera in case last year’s deer should happen to spring across Anglezarke Moor in front of me (it didn’t!). The slabs laid across the moor some years ago have definitely settled in place now. It was possible to observe where the moorland has started to reclaim the space they have invaded as the cottongrass and ubiquitous water vy for dominance over the grey stone outsider presence. Nature seldom simply accepts what man has willed upon it and I do doubt whether these facilitating stepping stones which snake across the moor, will still be so useful (even accessible) in another fifty years?
It did seem to take just as long to reach the bottom of Great Hill than it did for me to reach the highest point of my route at the top of Spitlers Edge. I had dropped down by a mere twenty metres or so, but to my legs it seemed like much more when I was climbing up Redmonds Edge followed by the gentlest of all ascensions of Anglezarke Moor’s highest ground. From here there would be a very pleasant drop down to Higher Anshaws – parallel to Will Narr, as the paved route has now been extended to just short of Rivington Road. It has to be said, this was easy walking. I had already decided that I would not be bagging Winter Hill again today, no matter how tempting the prospect might be. I had another climb to tackle today and this would certainly test my fitness.
On the corresponding walk last year I noticed a path that had not previously engaged my curiosity. It seemed to start in a hollow area of land just next to Rivington Road and climbed up quite rapidly to Catter Nab near the beginning of the path to Noon slack. Despite visiting the area another few times, I had managed to stave off the traversal of this path…until today. Since the very start of today’s walk I had known that I would be attempting this new diversion and now was the time to set feet on what proved to be the hardest section of this round.
Even the descent was difficult as all around was a somewhat sheer drop and ubiquitous mud to send me sliding to a watery end. I had no alternative than to take my time, pausing frequently to catch my racing breath. The very obvious path vanished from in front of me and reappeared at the other side of a minor brook. The crossing of this watercourse was not difficult and before long I was on another path altogether and heading along to the newly planted area of saplings destined to cloak the hillside in a deciduous shroud. Yet another path ran off at a right angle on my left and I duly followed it up into a sylvanian ascent the likes of which my tortured calves are still not thanking me for! This was hard going. Not only was the slope steep but it was decidedly slippery in parts. I was following three dismounted mountain bikers up the incline, one of which, at the top of the climb dubiously informed me – ‘there’s no right of way here mate, you’ll have f’t climb over’t fence’. Once I’d despatched with my walking pole and bag, the fence proved to be no obstacle and thankfully I was now on the path which I had hoped would be here…Catter Nab to Dovecote.
For the record, as far as paths that are comfortable to walk on – forget this one, it’s horrid! Not only does this path turn into a stream every so often, it is undulating on a microscopic scale, no two adjacent stones are on the same horizontal level. This is not a path after which your feet will thank you. From here i continued my weary way down towards the Pigeon Tower and then for some reason, which escapes me, I turned right and headed towards what I already knew was an even worse, even more bumpy path which I have come to name “Boulder Road”. This section of the route is largely rocks and recycled tarmac as well as various other surfaces. It’s direct, I can remember directly falling here on a number of instances. But, as it is a short section, somewhere, in the now emerging sunshine, was a treat for me. Last year, when I walked a similar route I was tormented by the prospect of a refreshing and well-earned ice-cream, for which I did not have enough time to queue-up and buy.
This year, I did! Even though the queue was small, it still took the best side of ten minutes to get served. Perhaps, being at an altitude of around four hundred feet above sea level was muddying the minds of the waiting patrons. I’m not a psychologist, I do not know, but for whatever the reason the delay was a factor for as long as I did not have my ice cream…then it paled into insignificance. This year I did have time to queue-up, this year I hadn’t got stressed out by the mighty throng ambling their insanely slow way up Rivington Pike and this year I hadn’t had the living daylights frightened out of me by that insane dog on Catherine Edge or had a minor mud bath at Greenhill Farm…this year I’d earned that damn ice cream!
Total mileage = 11.75
Ascent / descent around 1,500 – 1,800′
Terrain – so many!
Song of the walk – again the fantastic ‘I need to forget’ by the wonderful Joanna Koziel and Chris Nahorny.
So, following on from my last post, I am recovering, slowly. It’s certainly not leaps and bounds, so far nobody has been able to tell me what I did to exactly which part of my body. It has been made clear to me that I did not have a dislocated shoulder – this in turn would have been a cloud with a silver lining – relocating it would have been very painful but after this recovery is very quick. Apparently I do not have a frozen shoulder or Tendonitis. Good.
Ultimately, I can’t do anything about what I had/have as it’s all kind of past tense now. I just have to recover and in my book the best way of doing that would be to get fit. I have reasons for wanting to do just that:
Being injured sucks!
I could not take place in this year’s Anglezarke Amble after counting down to it for almost a year..that sucked too!
I want to take on the Three Peaks of Yorkshire in May and to be honest, being able to use my shoulders / biceps and triceps is really going to be a prerequisite of not only getting me up Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough, doing this challenge in any way unfit (even having a cold or headache) is a recipe for failure.
So, as of today, starting slowly and in as controlled a manner as I can manage, I am going to try and get myself as fit as possible for not only the Y3P but for life in general. Last year was my best ever walking year, but I can draw a line under the time when it all started to go downhill – when Chris was hospitalised. Even though I went on to do more walks than ever, the Steel Fell round was agony, hard to believe I was the same person who ran up the last few hundred feet of Grisedale Pike. No point in getting bitter.
Moving on, I’ve already started to prepare for getting fit by walking back from Tesco and adding another two miles on the way, making four and a half in total. Not earth shattering mileage by me by any stretch, but a start is a start. I aim to do a bigger (but still flat) walk tomorrow – unless the rain finally descends in which case I’ll go to the gym, but never to go on the cross trainer. No sir, that beast is never to be ridden by me again!
So for over a week now I have had a pain in the foot. It’s on my left instep spreading from the centre to the left – parallel with the toes.
If you perform a google search you will be rewarded with a host of sites all auto-diagnosing the conditions: Plantar Fasciitis and Plantar Fibromatosis. It could be that I have either of those two ailments, alternatively it might be a compound fracture or strain, picked up whilst enduring ‘The walk of no merit’ last December.
I’ve been to the GPs about it as this is impacting on my walking – imagine doing sixteen miles over cross country with a sore foot…yes, it did hurt a bit. The GP is taking the all too familiar ‘wait and see’ approach frequently inadvertently deployed to kill thousands of patients every year. So the jury is out on what I have until it goes – in which case we won’t know what it was, or it gets worse and I have to start taking Verapamil or some other drug – yes they could have sent me for an x-ray…
It’s hard not to think that fate is having a bit of a go at me here with the timing of this ailment being so close to the Amble on the 11th of February. I’m not going to play the victim role- I’m still aiming to do the Amble – the full version, and if we don’t make it to Charlie’s pole before the cut off time (10:30) well, we will just be back earlier than expected to enjoy the delicious smelling ‘gloop’ that the West Lancs LDWA kindly offered up last year.
My GP’s main advice was to lighten the load, take rest etc…she isn’t doing a 24.5 miles walk in a month’s time and is currently ten pounds heavier than last year…There will be no rest! A mixed blessing is that although walking is a little painful, cross-training isn’t (damn it’s so boring though!) so I can still go to the gym and burn off some of the after effects of all of those bottles of wine that I consumed last December and November…and most of the year to be honest! This is the price I am paying now for one too many ‘nights in with a bottle of red’.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, I am optimistic enough to believe that this ailment will resolve just before the Amble…to be replaced by another! Either way I will comply (to a point) with the GP’s advice and just do flat walks for a few weeks…oh and the bloody cross-trainer!
Well now seeing as I couldn’t go hill walking or even treadmill walking; I figured the cross trainer was the way to go. On Thursday morning I did over 2.5 miles cross training followed by another 1.75 miles on Saturday. And therein lies another problem…I’ve now done my left shoulder in! Simply the act of putting on a coat is an owed to pain! This made for a not very restful night on Sunday – and many expletives after attempting one of those fabled “relaxing” baths which we all read about; on Monday morning. With all these injuries it seems apparent to me that my body is trying to tell me something.
I took it upon myself to contact the West Lancs LDWA to ask if it would be okay to hold over my entrance to the Anglezarke Amble until next year…they have very kindly consented with a footnote to mention that it is not at the moment; definite that there will be an Amble next year – there has been one for the last 43 years so there’s every chance it will be on. For now I will have to focus on getting myself fit – my body is not saying ‘don’t do it’ moreover, it’s a case of ‘at the moment you ain’t up to it’ – in the light of recent family events I would be foolish not to heed what it has to say.
I shall in due course return to the hills, perhaps at a slower pace for a while and there’s every chance that I’ll even take part in the epic Yorkshire Three Peaks again, perhaps in September…
I knew it was going to be a good year, I was wrong. It was a fantastic year!
I was off the mark very early in the year in 2016 as I rekindled my relationship with my beloved Pendle Hill on New Year’s Day. It was good that there were so many people out and about in spite of the liberal coating of snow/frost that she had been granted. Before the week was out I joined the Ramblers on a walk in the Lune Valley / Reservoir as we slogged along a flood plain for ten and a half miles and I watched as my core temperature plummeted! Later in the month was a trip to the future, at Burton as I observed the effects of silting on the River Dee estuary. The same environmental metamorphosis is set to happen to our beloved and receding coast line at Southport. A sobering yet captivating scene. the last trip out of the month was with the Ramblers to Skipton where, whilst being rained upon for most of the day, I conquered the minor peak of Sharp Haw.
February brought with it a bonus week off for my birthday during which Chris and I returned to the spectacular Ingleton falls. In winter this was far nicer than the last time that we visited at the height of summer. Then came the big one, the walk that I had been building up to for over a year: The Anglezarke Amble with Mark Carson. To say that I had become obsessed with this twenty-four mile dash over numerous hills and mud galore is no exaggeration. Nearing the end of this epic day I had sworn ‘never again’ yet within an hour of finishing, on the way home, I was planning my next participation. I’m hooked and hope that I will always be so. At the end of the month came another trip out with the Ramblers as we went to Staveley , taking in numerous fields and more parts of hills. Although the walk was enjoyable it would be so nice to put a name to the places that one has been!
March opened up with a wonderful snowy walk with Chris as we passed most of Rivington’s vast reservoirs. We loved this route so much that it has now replaced Rivington Pike as our ‘go-to’ route. Winter Hill draped in snow is becoming an increasingly irregular sight, so i considered myself fortunate to be within sight of this natural beauty on this visit. The next walk was another where I re-united with an old acquaintance in the shape of the Keswick giant Skiddaw. Sue, Karl and I spent five glorious hours traversing the Ullock Pike ridge to Skiddaw whilst avoiding suicidal mountain bikers at 2,700′! Six days later Chris and I returned to Pen-y-Ghent, where snow was on one of its flanks and spent a very enjoyable afternoon walking around my favourite of the Yorkshire Three Peaks: Pen-y-Ghent. On Good Friday came what could well be the prestigious (in my head at least) ‘walk of the year’ – the Half Amble’. Although on my own, this walk featured a celebration of my completion of the Anglezarke Amble and at just shy of fifteen miles, was a good workout in fine temperatures and even featured a sighting of a red deer on Anglezarke Moor.
April saw Chris and I back at Pendle on a gloriously rainy day. No new sights, no new routes we slowly splashed our way up the steps in the rain. the photos were a washout, the route down to the slope was precarious! The rest of the month saw me return to Darwen Hill and then two excursions up to a new favourite in the form of Cheetham Close, its neighbouring summit Turton Heights practically defined disappointing but I may still take this route on next year’s ‘Amble’ as the route across the slope of the hill is just awful!
In May we took a mini break in Salou (again) but still managed to get in a breezy coastal walk along the Camino de Ronda. A couple of weeks later I was lucky enough to tackle multiple summits over the Dodds in the north east corner of the Lake District. I won’t lie, Clough Head was very testing and to this we added the summits of Watson’s Dodd, Great Dodd, Starling Dodd and a couple of Birketts. This visit left me wanting more and Chris and I returned a week later to the Lakes in order to take in Loughrigg – we finally managed to get to the trig point. The next day we had a three peak walk over Rivington Pike, Crooked Edge Hill and Winter Hill.
The first walk of June was somewhat frustrating. Southport ramblers took us off to Ambleside where I had the option of ascending Great Rigg and Fairfield or Silver Howe and Blea Rigg. As I had climbed Great Rigg and Fairfield as part of the Fairfield Horseshoe last summer I thought that I would tick off the two lesser summits. And there in lay the problem. Oh sure, we achieved the steep little pull up to Silver Howe with relative ease, for the next few hours however, Blea Rigg proved elusive. We could not find it! I think we stood on four minor peaks with me checking my phone’s altimeter to no avail! The following Saturday Chris and I walked up to the summit of our biggest mountain so far. We nailed Snowdon from Llanberris. I was delighted to be atop this majestic giant, even if a thick mist had descended half-way up.
Walking was to then take a back seat. Mine and Darren’s Yorkshire Three Peaks had to be put off, as did the week after’s White Bear Way as Chris succumbed to a gall bladder illness which would trouble her for a further three weeks and involve an ECRP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography) procedure which bottomed-out her blood pressure – thank you Fazakerley Hospital!!!
It wasn’t until the end of July that I was back amongst the north western fells on a walk with Sue, Lynne and Karl which took in the magnificent Grisedale Pike and another three summits from this area of relative giants.
Another month would go by before Chris and I returned to Pendle for a jolly old walk up the slope and down the steps. She didn’t appreciate this diversion to an established route – I did, the slope route is my favourite way up and down. August saw no further walking action from either one of us.
And so into September and once again a lean walking month. Sue, Karl and I had a strenuous hike up to the two lesser Wainwrights of Ard Craggs and Knott Rigg. This is hailed as a ‘classic walk’ according to the internet…I remained somewhat unimpressed.
Again over a month went by with no walking and then it happened! I proposed a route to Karl that we simply could not resist – the Anglezarke Amble (shorter version). I don’t want to betray its bigger brother…but the shorter version is simply the nicer walk. Not only is it eight miles shorter, it omits the eastern half of Longworth Moor, declines the opportunity to ascend Darwen Hill and gives one some wonderful yomping across Catherine Edge…it’s all good. Moreover, in preparation of next year’s Amble, I now know the route from White Coppice back to Rivington. One week later saw me return to the same environment to tackle the classic Edge’s to Great Hill walk returning to Rivington via the same White Coppice traversal – Brilliant and the fact that it clocked in at just shy of twelve miles meant that Chris and I had just set our new distance bar!
We had no walking in November as Chris had to have the misbehaving gallbladder extracted. Never again will the cursed thing impede my Three Peaks and White Bear Way…bloody thing!
So that brings me up to December and already we’ve returned to Rivington two more times. The first time we took in Wilkinson Bullough, Simms and the Hempshaws Pastures – it’s becoming a classic for us. On our next return we simply took in the Pike and back – more ‘Amble’ practice, I am now sure of the easiest way to get me and Darren up to the top of the Pike. Only two more possible walks remain. Karl and I have promised ourselves another return to Ramsbottom in order to take in Bull Hill and Holcolmbe Hill. Hopefully the final walk of the year should see me at good old Pendle to do my doc-u-walk and visit both Stang Top Moor and Spence Moor in the same epic walk, watch this space, on New Year’s Eve!
So there you have it. If all goes to plan then I will have completed thirty two walks this year. It’s getting serious now. There have been some new peaks: Grisedale Pike and the others of the north western Lakes and not forgetting the little cracker that is Cheetham Close. by way of contrast, aside from Pendle, Winter Hill and Rivington Pike who would have thought that I would hit Snowdon once again and that I would slip and slide my way over the Ullock Pike route to the mighty Skiddaw?
For next year, I long to be back atop England’s highest, Scafell Pike to me is somehow not fully ticked off. Darren and I often put plans down to return to Snowdon in order to complete the epic ‘Watkins Path’…here’s hoping. There will be more challenge walks next year, obviously the Amble, a moth later the Peelers Hike with Mark and two weeks later the one that has me most nervous – The Two Crosses (25 miles in nine hours). I’ll give the White Bear Way another shot, I may even make it to the start this time! So many walks to do…
But returning to this year and the not at all prestigious walk of the year. Once again there were three candidates:
The Anglezarke Amble – full version with Mark.
The Half Amble – me on my lonesome
The Anglezarke Amble – short version with Karl
And the winner is…(no, seriously did you need to ask, I’ve been banging on about it all year?) The Anglezarke Amble (long version). But the other two were tied for second place!
Chris and I had been promising ourselves another walk…it had felt like an eternity since our last one, the ascension of Snowdon in June. We’d planned on doing Pendle but I fancied putting into use the knowledge of the last section of the Amble which I had gleaned from last week’s walk with Karl.
I drove us to Rivington and decided to park as close as I could to Rivington Hall barn. By 10:38 we were on route, following once again, a section of the Anglezarke Amble route to take us past the cottages around the back of the barn. It was here that Chris caught sight of three Roe Deer (I saw just two but don’t dispute the number). This was the start of the climb and any cheery thought would be caressed tenderly! Over the next half a mile we steadily gained height but made very swift process and before long we were passing the old toilet blocks on Belmont Road (effectively the continuation of Georges Lane). I would have liked to have taken a photograph of the Pike but the mist was completely obscuring the tower at its summit. Fortunately we were going passed the Pigeon Tower (Dovecote) and it would have taken some mist indeed to block that out. The descending mist was significantly adding to the ‘feel’ of this walk. After passing the tower we turned right towards Catter Nab.
It was here that the full extent of the mist was realised. Normally the mouthwatering vista across to Anglezarke Moor dominates the view, today, we had pea-soup! Occasional bits of scenery popped up as we neared it, Noon Hill and the very immediate surroundings, random bright fields in the distance sharing a moment’s illumination, all very seasonal. Surprisingly, we were not cold, moreover, Chris took off her coat. The path which transports us from Belmont Road to …Belmont Road-at Hordern Stoops is a generally well-worn and stream-like, we were not being ferried away on the cusp of a mighty river in spate, but let’s just say that our socks were getting wetter by the mile. I was relieved when we reached the end of the track and were back on Terra-ash-felt for a short time at least. Across the road, which is often a racetrack, we could see a small assembly of people playing around with a Drone – one of those remote controlled helicopter-like things, not R2D2! They appeared to keep losing it in the distance, I kept losing track of it up close…rubbish eyes.
On nearing Will Narr we were almost overwhelmed by orienteering people – there were probably about twenty at this stage, which meant that for the second week in succession I was observing people out on the moors with maps. I like this. Chris wasn’t that impressed and we began the now much nicer ascent of Will Narr – owing to its new stone path which was a joy to walk on compared to how treacherous it used to be. Progress was quick, it was not many minutes before we were dropping then climbing back up Spitlers Edge. It was at this point where we again noticed that our feet were taking on water. And there would be no reprieve as for the next mile and a half as we dropped down Spitlers and then up and over Redmonds Edges, the water kept on coming over the millstone slabs which had always saved walkers from the worst bits that this moor can throw at a person. At Catter Nab I had (stupidly) guesstimated that we would be at the summit of Great Hill in an hour. I hadn’t even checked my watch, Chris’s line of inquiry/interrogation led me to believe that it was at the forefront of her mind. I have to admit that my spirits stayed high, I had never ascended Great Hill in the mist until now. The fact that we were going up the undisputed easiest way was just a bonus. I told her that within five minutes we would be at the top – then sped off uphill as quickly as my soggy feet would carry me and tried to deduce which aspect of the summits ‘cross’ shelter would afford the warmest spot at which we would have our lunch. In was indefinable, we tried all four and none felt any worse or better.
I was happy to tell Chris that it was all downhill now for at least a mile and a half. Given the wetness of the locale, this was not met with a warn reception. We finished our lunch then set off towards White Coppice which was hiding somewhere in the mist. This was my fourth and easiest ascent of Great Hill this year. I think I’ve gone up it at least once per year since 2010, it is becoming something of a favourite. The way we were descending was the same route that I have ascended a few times before…it is a right pig at the start. that being said, the middle section has its moments too, once the landmark of Drinkwaters Farm (or at least its ruin) is passed then the end of the walking on a nice flat path has been reached. The path then quickly degenerates into a sometimes muddy, sometimes grassy and other times rocky affair that has one looking only at ones feet! We only met one couple on route and they were ascending – I didn’t feel any envy for them. Chris thought that we had been dropping down Great Hill forever, to me it seemed to fly by and before long we were ambling (did you see what I did there?) along passing by the cricket ground on one side and Stronstrey Bank on the other – plus the odd overly curious Yew!
Once at the gate where we would stride across Moor Road, the time of testing my memory was upon me. Could I navigate us passed three reservoirs, one common a couple of flights of steps and not get lost? To be fair Chris appeared to have complete confidence in me. To be even more fair, that might have been because I hadn’t told her that I could quite easily get us lost here! fear ye not! From the time the lovely High Bullough Reservoir came into view, de-ja-vous took over. I was on auto-pilot. Given that this was my third time traversing this section of the Amble then it’s debatable as to if I should have been concerned at all. But I wanted to be absolutely sure that I was not going to get Darren and I lost when we do this for real in February next year. We took the steps, we dropped down the tarmac lanes, we crossed the streams and slid around a bit on the wooden bridges, but we did it. When I finally managed to struggle through the kissing gate at the end of the field and onto Horrobin Lane, I was over the moon. I couldn’t stop myself from pointing out to Chris “That’s the official start to the Anglezarke Amble”.
“Oh are we at the end of the walk then?”
“No, that’s about ten minutes walk away!”
“Grrrrr (under muted breath)”
I didn’t care. I’d done it, we’d done it and arrived back at the car by 15:25.
The start and finish sections of the printed version of the route for the Anglezarke Amble are some of the single most confusing pieces of walking literature that I’ve had the opportunity to read. If you can understand them, good, well done, not all of us can. But in successive weeks now I have done both…and survived. Now if there was just a way of doing the Amble without going over that bloody Longworth Moor!!!
Distance: 12 miles (not the EIGHT I told Chris at the start of the walk!)
Ascension: Around 1,800 feet.
Terrain: Water – everywhere even though it didn’t rain much!
I have already mentally signed up for next year’s grueling 24 (and a half) mile walk known as the Anglezarke Amble – most readers will recall that I’ve been obsessed with this since around December 2013. If you’ll also recall I did it accompanied by my good friend Mark this year in February. Around 7/8 of the way there was a point when I thought ‘never again’…by the end this had transformed back to ‘I can’t wait until next year’. Well next year’s event is just four months away now, (eek!) and I considered it to be time to start getting into the right mindset. This was further fueled a couple of weeks ago when I struggled up Ard Crags with Karl and Sue. Speaking of Karl, I could think of no finer guide to help me decipher the route – the instructions are written in a format that I find a bit tricky to understand. Karl has extensive local knowledge and I was over the moon when he agreed to accompany me.
We arrived at the tiny ‘green’ at Rivington Village – oddly enough I cannot recall walking past this in February, but I must have done so…other things on my mind I suppose, and set off at 09:18. Our initial destination was Rivington Pike…we went a very direct route and seemed to fly up there as by 10:00 (perhaps even earlier, I was hyperventilating!) we were atop the hill and looking around at the spectacular views.
From here we dropped down Brown Hill, with my walking trousers (oversized) making a bid for freedom in February, it took a long time to descend then. Now with a pair that stayed in place, it was less than five minutes between setting off from the pike and setting foot on the road that would take us to the start of the next climb – up Crooked Edge Hill. The afore-mentioned hill is not a giant by any stretch of the imagination, but it can be a right pig to walk up quickly. I think we did it quicker today that at any other time that I’ve ascended the little beast and the bonus was that we were not going to the top – Two Lads. The ‘Amble’ path separates something like one hundred yards before the cairns, as does the Rotary Way I believe. Anyway, next on the agenda was the ‘real summit’ of Winter Hill – to me this is the crossroads, just passed the buildings and most of the ironwork, definitely not where the trig point resides.
I was looking forward to the drop down to Belmont Road, what with having trousers not snaking down my legs at every given opportunity I could descend with some gusto…and I did! We set a blistering pace and I was almost disappointed when we hit the turn off through the woods. Not least of all because the left hand side of the tiny glade has been felled. I don’t know the reasoning behind this, but the area certainly doesn’t look any better for this arboreal destruction. Greenhill Farm beckoned…I had trepidation.
Because the path which the Amble takes to the left of Greenhill farm, may be the most muddiest area of the entire route. I remember this impacting on my performance for sure at the Amble but then a few weeks later the area had entirely dried out. I knew that there had been rain here in the last few weeks and whilst not exactly saturated, there was still a lot of mud around. Both myself and Karl came off that field with our footwear having been given a generous and unwanted coating of mud, in my case my right ankle had copped for it! That was within fifty yards of entering the Greenhill farm field. Karl strode confidently and I rather more gingerly over the mud and grass and within five minutes we were dropping down towards what we thought was the beginning of the Eagly Brook. We crossed this, admired the ornamental reservoir and made our way uphill to Egerton Road with the trusty tower as a beacon at Great Robert Hill.
And if what had gone before was a little bit of a slog, then here came the grand slog and I shall make no attempt to hide my feelings about this stretch of land: I hate Longworth Moor! Having ascended then descended for a few hundred feet we then had the pleasure of watching the path disappear before our very eyes as we took to Higher Whittakers – the wet, featureless, bleak – (I really do not like this moor) sprawled out in front of us. Thank heavens for Karl being able to visibly pluck objects out of the distance, I could not see the infamous ‘Charley’s Pole’ until we were practically on top of it. This is quite salient as it’s the split in the overall Amble walk in more ways than one. The guidelines that Karl had stated that walkers intent on doing the full 24 miles route should be here no later than eleven o’clock, or they will have to continue on the shorter route. My instructions stated 10.30! When Mark and I completed the route in February we arrived her at 10:15 and the check point staff were advising us to take the shorter route then! So at best next year I will have to make sure, somehow, that we get here by 10.15 at the very latest – well I only hope that the ground is hard, because Karl and I practically flew over Rivington Pike and Crooked Edge Hill, raced up Winter Hill and charged down to Belmont Road (okay we had a five minute stop there for drinks!) and yet still we only arrived here at 11:48 – two and a half hours which would equate to 10:30 on Amble day!
At this point we met with some Scouts (I think they were scouts, boys and girls) who were out and about all over the moors doing their Duke of Edinburgh award. One of them brought a smile to my face when he said to Karl ‘Are you doing this for fun? My grand dad does that too!’ Priceless, but seeing as in a few months Karl is going to be a grand dad then may be this will have taken the stinging revelation out of the coming event for him. Karl gave the kids some directions…then we got off this section of moorland as quickly as possible, fearing the imminent headlines of ‘Children lost on moorland’!
The good news on this day was that we didn’t have to cross the eastern section of Longworth Moor and instead headed west on one of the four Witton Weavers Way paths to meet up with Catherine Edge – this is a path, an excellent path, not a woman! I’ve walked this path on a couple of occasions but I think today was the first time that I had gone so far, the last time, on Good Friday, I crossed over Crookfield Road. This time Karl was having none of this and we climbed the short hill at the western edge of Conyries Plantation. We dropped down (at speed) to Hollinshead Hall where we had roughly fifteen minutes to eat our lunch and have a drink and peer at Great Hill, our next destination.
To some this would signal the start of the end of the walk, but then, can this not be said of the first step? Indeed, at this point in February I was secretly cheering…little did I know! Today, I was fully aware that in order to get up Great Hill, you have to concentrate on… Great Hill and not the end at Rivington which is six massive miles away. Today Great Hill was cold in some places and hot in others. I watched as Karl became very small and then he vanished into the horizon. I’ve never failed to get up Great Hill – it isn’t that steep, however after nine miles of walking, I wasn’t going to be flying up the hill. We made it to the top (including that one little false summit that always catches me out!) where we had a few minutes before setting off on the long drop down via Drinkwaters Farm to White Coppice. It’s very easy to pick up some speed on this descent although it is not quite as easy as the drop off Winter Hill to Belmont.
We called in at the cricket pavilion hoping that the toilets might be open and I could refill my water bottle – no such luck, although quite why I had envisioned a cricket match being underway in October…altitude sickness fogging up my frontal lobe perhaps? At least we were on the home stretch now. Herein lies one of the reasons for the walk, when I did the route in February, Mark and I simply followed the walkers with whom we had joined up. They were very good at following directions (unlike me, I’m shockingly bad!). I cannot guarantee that this is going to happen again next year so it made sense to me to become familiar with the final stretch. After all, I don’t want Darren and me to be so near yet so far to the end. We marched along the path which passes by Stronstrey Bank and crosses over the Goit and before long we were at Moor Road where we crossed and headed off into the woods. We passed some more groups of children, although this bunch of girls looked to be early teens as opposed to the Longworth Moor group who looked 10 at the oldest. The going was good, and although the sun had said goodbye for the day it was nice to be able to pick out some landmarks before dusk took hold. Last time we were practically in darkness for the last few miles, which did nothing to aid navigation.
At the end of the woods stretch and having traversed the odd field or two we passed the gorgeous landmark of the High Bullough Reservoir, this is the smallest one in the area and yet it’s by far the prettiest. I had hoped to take a photo or two of Anglezarke reservoir as it too can be a stunning stretch of water but I had dehydration on my mind and my calves were beginning to grumble a bit by now. To be honest I was still enjoying the walk but was looking forward to the finish. We dropped down a very steep tarmac road which I did recall from last time and then before long were crossing over the damn via the pavement which holds in the Anglezarke reservoir. One more road crossing led us to an altogether more forest-like environment and after some debating as to whether we should go left or right – where I played my de-ja-vous card, we went left and before long hand the Yarrow Reservoir on our left hand side – success as that’s where the guide had said it should be. Less than fifteen minutes after this we were back at the car and I could at last get another drink from the two litre-bottle of sparkling water in the boot of my car. The time was 15:58, we had made it around in six hours and forty minutes.
There are parts where we could have carried on walking and saved a few minutes – and then slowed down afterwards due to exhaustion! I cannot see how we could have made it across the route any quicker. That being said, it’s a hell of a route. The shorter route does not feel thirty three percent easier than the longer route even if Catherine Edge is a joy to traverse! Karl thoroughly enjoyed the route and I was happy to hear that he would do it again some time – I know I am 🙂 So now I have to put some serious effort into getting fit for this event in February 17, I have the confidence now that I can find my way around, but I am concerned greatly by that 10:30 cut-off time at Charley’s Pole. A few less KFC and Fylde Road Chippy teas should sort that out!
With the Yorkshire Dales being given a liberal coating of snow, I decided to postpone my latest assault on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge until later in the year. This afforded me the opportunity to visit the small mound answering to the name of Cheetham Close, for the second time in seven days.
My original route featured in the ascent of Cheetham Close followed by a circular walk around the three main reservoirs of the area: The Turton & Entwistle, The Wayoh and the Jumbles. Ultimately we chose to only do the Jumbles and to save the route featuring the other two for a dryer day, although that being said, we had already done all the muddy stuff at Cheetham Close.
Here are some pictures from the walk.
[table “CheethamClosePhotos” not found /]
I have now completed two of the basic four directional routes up to the summit of Cheetham Close and would argue that the route from the North (east-then-north) is my favourite so far. The next time I shall approach from Dimple Hall / Egerton and shall circumnavigate at least one of the local reservoirs. These are easy walks, even if the terrain does get a bit soggy!
This was the walk of Good Friday (March 25th), 2016.
The Half Amble
I’m a bit sentimental, a bit reflective. There that’s got that over and done with, in short I wanted to go back to the site of my last walking triumph…Rivington. Well, to be honest, most walks these days are triumphs in their own ways.
I’m definitely getting fitter
Chris is showing much more interest in walking with me
I have more confidence in finding my way around these days
So, in the spirit of wanting to: A Go for a long(ish) walk and B Go somewhere where I could be guaranteed to meet lots of people (I still don’t like being on my own for long amounts of time), Rivington fitted the bill just right.
Having dropped Chris off at work for around ten to nine I headed off to Burscough, called in at Tesco, got something to eat for later and some cash – in case of sudden hunger – I had an inkling that there would be ‘burger vans’ at Rivington. It was a little before ten before I got to the drive at Rivington Barn and a little after before I managed to get parked – it was busier than I had imagined and I had expected it to be quite busy. As luck would have it, where I ended up parking probably took about five minutes off my overall time as I was so near to the barn itself. Ordinarily I despise the slight upwards walk along the drive to the side of the barn. Why? I really can’t answer that!
So up the cobbled slope at the left hand side of the barn (from my p.o.v.), I went. As could be expected, there was a lot of pedestrians to overtake. I say pedestrians as this was evidenced by the countless number of people in shoes and trainers and other obvious signs that the owner of the footwear was not a regular walker. I’m not being snobby here, I too used to adorn inappropriate footwear when I used to make my annual pilgrimage to ‘The Pike’ on a bank holiday Monday. I reckoned that I had overtaken fifty people within the first few hundred yards. At the summit of the cobbled path (which does become less cobbled with progress) I headed left and then right then straight on to take me down a winding path that is essentially directly around the rear of the barn (it’s nowhere near as complicated as my description). Within a few yards I made my way through a kissing gate (eventually) and was by now beginning to get into the rhythm of the walk…when I wasn’t being somewhat curtailed by ‘tourists’. From a distance I could see the pike quite clearly and with this came the realisation that (already) there was a lot of people at the tower. This was going to be one of my less lonesome visits!
Once I had passed a large amount of people and dogs I noticed that I was making good progress and decided to take a more circuitous route to the tower which meant staying on my horizontal path all the way to the section of the area known as Higher Knoll. Next I took a left hand swing to bring me in the general direction of the disused toilet block (oh doesn’t this sound a glamorous walk?) and from there a simple right turn through the large gates and onto the part-cobbled / part-stepped path to the pike. Regular readers of my blog will recall that I have this on-going challenge to never stop walking in between the gates and the summit until I reach the top of the steps. I doubted that I would be able to adhere to this today owing to the large volume of people on route (who were quite accomplished plodders). Nevertheless, I go to the top, admittedly at one time I was practically walking in place…but I did it.
The summit views were as clear as I could have hoped but at the same time there were so many people around that I could hardly gaze off into the distance for fear of someone growling “Hey stop eyeing up me bird!”. Thus, I took about three or four photographs and began the next stage of my walk, the mini trudge over Brown Hill. I don’t mind the descent to the south from the pike. However, once the real drop is over and done with I once again found myself on a cobbled road (Belmont) that was at best a bit bumpy and hard on the feet. With the ‘burger vans’ and a handful of stalls on route there was more to look at than on a normal visit, there were more people even on this side of the hill. It’s rare to meet anyone on route to Crooked Edge Hill coming from the Wilderswood area – today there were scores of them!
Since doing the Amble last month (February) I have stopped hating Crooked Edge Hill, it was an irrational hatred I concede that. Today, after the pike and its myriad of pilgrims it was nice to have an area of land to myself. I resolved to not try any record breaking and to simply enjoy the walk up to Two Lads. Yes, I did feel all nostalgic when I neared the sign where the Amble path splits off from the Rotary Way / path to the summit and duly took a photograph of it – this won’t mean anything to anyone else but for me it was a nice memory. I did make quite swift progress to the cairn atop the hill and was relieved to see a couple were there having a respite. I say relieved because I had been on my own for a good five minutes now!
The male member of the couple greeted me and we started bragging about which hills we had climbed lately, his Sharp Edge transit over Blencathra trumped my Skiddaw – even if mine was physically more demanding (I’ll never do Sharp Edge so this is largely theoretical from my point of view), but then my recounting of completing the Amble trumped pretty much anything he had to offer, I won (if only in my mind). Five minutes of chatting later saw me check my watch and whilst I was relieved to see it was not yet twelve o’clock, I had a pressing need to continue walking for fear of stopping altogether and consoling myself with the knowledge that I had done the pike in thirty two minutes if nothing else. I pressed on, Winter Hill was next.
Some days the tarmac road up to Winter Hill feels endless…today was one of those. However, it was very nice to bump into other ‘genuine’ walkers – the type with real walking boots on that actually look like they have seen dizzier heights than those little bridges present in each Go outdoors store. I considered stopping for an early lunch, the coolness of the air gently persuaded me otherwise. I’ll concede to speeding up my walk here as essentially once one has seem the mighty antenna array at this locale…there’s never the extensive views that the web in general promises. I did hope to try and grab a picture of the much understated ‘Counting Hill’…I failed. Now after over an hour of walking uphill I would drop down the side of Winter Hill (and Counting Hill) for over a mile, glorious!
I was now headed for the A675 – Belmont Road and had a slight reservation as to whether I’d be able to cross this often busy road safely. I need not have worried, it was, for all intents and purposes dead and I lazily strolled over the road towards the turning for Greenhill Farm. The turning was reached within a matter of fifty feet or so and I was soon on the nice, flat tarmac path…for another fifty feet or so and then it was into slightly foreign territory. Although I had walked along this section of my route the month before – I was following someone then, I was on my own now and I have an irritating habit of going off-piste without meaning to do so. With this in mind I simply made sure that I stuck to what I could remember and took note of the terrain watching out for flattened grass / reeds (it’s a very wet area) and for stiles at the opposite side from where I was.
It filled me with a certain nostalgia to be carefully watching my feet and re-living the Amble walk in this bumpy and wet terrain. I do wonder how long it takes this little neck of land to recover from having a couple of hundred pairs of feet stomp all over it in the dead of Winter. I dropped down to the stream, making use of the sturdy footbridge and then headed up to Egerton Road. A left turn and then a right and I was heading up a sheep-filled pasture towards the road which leads down to Belmont reservoir. The sheep were curious but kept their distance. I had naively believed that at the reservoir began the path known as Catherine Edge, this is not correct. Catherine Edge actually begins a good few hundred yards north east of here closer to where the second Amble checkpoint is at Charley’s Pole (there is no pole), so what my path was called I have no idea.
All the same I was fairly sure of where I was going…I carried on in a straight line until ultimately I found that dead end into which I always wander on each walk. a helpful farmer (no comment) put me back on track and within a few hundred feet I was once more in an environment that I vaguely recognised. I hadn’t seen many people on route since dropping off Winter Hill but all of a sudden, in ones and twos they began to appear.
I was in very good spirits by now as Map My Hike continued to inform me of my progress, the twenty-six minute miles were now behind me and I was onto the eighteen-minute ones on this rural express-way. I was loving it. The weather had taken a turn for the sunny as well and for once I unzipped my coat. Finally, it became very obvious that my path merged with the infamous Catherine Edge as both paths came to and end at just outside Tockholes. I took a turn off down a shady lane hoping it would lead me to Hollinshead Hall, yes, success. This was the end of the second section of the route – I do like to split things up into sections.I was aware of a foreboding presence, lurking on the horizon, out of sight but filling my mind. Great Hill was now just around the corner. I stopped for lunch and some coffee. Once again, people appeared seemingly from nowhere, a couple shared my locale whilst they had their lunch, he had a cigarette which smelled divine! I put Map My Hike on pause. It was lovely to sit and relax, except for a part of me knew what lay around the corner. Having ascended Great Hill as part of the Amble I knew it was easier than it looked…but still it was somehow taunting me, as if calling out to me that all hope of truly relaxing was going to be denied to me until I had conquered the beast. I finished my wraps and set off with a renewed zeal.
Great Hill is not a difficult hill…it just thinks it is! Any former Ambler will agree with this. After all it’s just 1,250 feet tall…a dwarf of a hill compared to some of the giants I’ve nailed in the last few years. All the same, once I’d crossed the A675 again and made my way through the opening mud-pool…I remembered how energy sapping a wet field can be and a wet hill is even worse. At times the path went out of vision on the ground and I resorted to ‘which bit looks most distressed’ as this would indicate that a few hundred fellow travellers had bounded over here a month earlier. At one point I did pass over the world’s most pointless stile and then into my line of sight came the top. Alas, I had erased from my memory the fact that there is a rather spiteful little false summit something like seventy-five percent of the way up, it had caught me out again. Oh well, no point getting angry…onwards. I passed a couple and joked that I didn’t know why I was walking up this hill for the second time in two months, they seemed to find this amusing…or at least within earshot they laughed!
And so within thirty five minutes of standing on its toes, I was atop the mighty lump that is Great Hill, and for a moment was quite shattered. Once more people seemed to be gathering. Within the next ten minutes, whilst I sipped the remainder of my coffee, I must have seen another ten people. I was very glad to have reached the top before three o’clock as this confirmed to me that I should be able to do the route that I had set out to complete within my time-frame. All that was left now was to bolt over Redmonds Edge, Spitlers Edge down Will Narr and then into Rivington via Limestone Quarry / Valley / I really don’t know its name and Bing Maps is not helping me here! Sounds easy does it not?
And for the most part it was. It’s hard to restrain oneself from going full speed when coming off Great Hill heading overall southerly. Not that this is a particularly steep drop, indeed, that’s the point, because it’s so easy a gradient – we fly down it! Within five minutes I had torn across the wonderful slabbed path and was at the lowest part of this moor. Every few minutes a new pair or group of walkers would emerge from the horizon, in most cases we’d greet each other warmly – this can be a lonely old place and it’s always nice to be nice to others.
Redmonds Edge was reached very swiftly, easily, Spitlers Edge followed quickly thereafter. A lot of the route has now been made much easier by the addition of these slabs but, herein lies its own problem: when the slabs run out, we’re kind of lost! For less than a hundred yards I was watching my feet as I stumbled my way through the wet peaty upper reaches of the moor. I fell victim to the sucking, clawing, grasp at me from the evil tendrils of the ground beneath my feet, just as a power walking couple were about to overtake me. I groaned then laughed, they laughed and then continued to laugh. Unbeknown to the couple they had just become the trailblazers, the ones to follow. Both myself and the couple in front now hopped from one dry patch to another until, quite by surprise a deer came fleet of foot, but not full canter (do deer canter?) across the moor in front of us. We were all captivated, this was spring in action. None of us could retrieve our camera quickly enough to capture this delightful sight and to be honest it would have probably just been a bit of a blur anyway.
I had forgotten all about the separating wall which pointlessly divides the fields at this point as I walk towards them I got talking to an elderly couple (well, they were older than me ha!) about our days walks contrasting and comparing. I forget now where they said they had been that day but I do remember the man being impressed with my route (I am a bit vain!) and they were still deciding on which route to take next. He referred to the way that I was now going as Lead Mines Clough – I accepted this as I really didn’t have information to the contrary. There was just one stile to use in order to get to the next field, alas the woman was taking an eternity to traverse the thing as she was slipping whilst trying to haul herself over it. I decided to look around for an alternative route and found a large enough hole in the fence for me to just about get through. I bid the couple farewell and continued on my own. It was now getting closer to my three o’clock deadline…I had to be back at the car for four o’clock and if I didn’t think this was possible by three o’clock I should book a taxi for Chris.
After some more hopping around from dry patch to dry patch I finally arrived at Will Narr and looked around for the plaque donated by the ‘Friends of the Yarrow’ which indicates the start of the mighty river Yarrow…I couldn’t see it anywhere, damn! There appears to be some sort of ground work in progress at Will Narr, there is a large hole dug out of the side of the rise very near to the top of the slope (sorry my words don’t do it justice). I decided not to take a picture of it…it’s just not pretty and knowing me, I’d have fallen in.
I made my way to Rivington Road, took a photo of the ridiculously hard-going path up Winter Hill via Hordern Stoops which the power walkers had taken (ha, they’d regret that!) and began the long drop down towards Rivington via Moses Cocker (Bing really is crap at naming roads, even on ‘Road’ view). I had meant to use the path to Catter Nab which I had seen on a previous walk with Chris, but decided against this as to do so would just make my route harder and longer. By this time I had already walked almost thirteen miles. I bid a cheerful farewell to the moors behind me, for now I would be roadside walking all the way back down this long and winding road, not exactly safe – but definitely drier than my last hour and a half’s walking.
From this aspect, the minor lump which is Noon Hill gained a profile all of its own. I have walked over it twice but to be honest I don’t get the whole ‘It’s neolithic’ hype. to me it’s very much in Winter Hill’s shadow. As I passed by the turn off for the ‘super path’ I did consider revising my decision, but, no: the path could wait for another day. The views across Anglezarke and as far afield as the Peak District where so good that I cursed my inability to name what I could see. That should not detract from the quality of this walk though. I knew that although not a busy road per se, this was a road that can (and does) bring out a driver’s need for speed. I had to cross the road a number of times, estimating where potential death might occur from some lunatic flying around the corner at sixty. As you’re reading this, you can assume that my estimations served me well. It seemed hardly any time at all before I was turning left off Rivington Road and onto Belmont Road (seriously, why can they not give more than one name to different streets in this locale?) at 53.631227, -2.552341.
The last time that Chris and I were here there was a bit of snow and a vast puddle which cars were struggling to get through, fortunately the puddle had receded, the sun was by now blazing away and it was only three-twelve, I should make it back to the car in no more than fifteen minutes. There was even time for me to buy an ice cream from the van parked up at the meeting of the paths…but as I had just burned off around two thousand calories I thought this might appear, well…stupid, so I just headed back to the car instead.
I eased my way through the paddock at ‘The Meeting of the Paths’ after struggling to open the gate. This area is normally rife with sheep but I think the superabundant human presence was having some affect on that and I don’t remember seeing any. A five minute walk down the same cobbled path that I had walked up five and a quarter hours earlier and I was back in front of the Barn. There were a lot more bikers around now and the enchanting smell of hot coals and beefburgers was getting in my head. I restrained from eating and simply absorbed what I had done – Map My Hike said that I’d hiked 14.85 miles. Actually I forgot to switch it from ‘pause mode’ when I had my lunch and only remembered half way up Great Hill!
Without doubt, this is the best, most enjoyable solo walk that I’ve done. Yes the weather helped greatly. A growing familiarity with the environment also helped. But, more so a new born confidence in me has helped immensely – I’m no longer terrified of being on my own. And for that I’m eternally grateful.
I walked roughly fifteen miles over around 1,883 feet and it took me just short of five hours actual walking – though there was the pause mode mess-up to take into account.
Song of the walk – well, there wasn’t one. I know it sounds a bit soppy but I was thinking about my lovely partner Christine (who was at work), my friends, colleagues and I was also busy reminiscing about the Amble and how much I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year! However, here is a musical montage of the photos I took:
Downloading the route:
Sadly, WordPress is far more Draconian than it ever was! It takes over your server. Thus if you want to download the .gpx file for this route then you would need to do the following:
Right click on the “Download the GPX file Text box
If you’re using Chrome or Firefox select Save Link As…
Save the file somewhere memorable on your PC or device
If Internet Explorer is your choice of browser, then:
select Save target as…
In the file requester pick a destination for the file and save it there.
For some reason, IE tries to rename the file as a .xml or .txt instead of .gpx. If this happens then just rename it back once the download has finished.
[easy_media_download url=”http://www.fatgoatwalks.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/gpx/TheHalfAmble.gpx” text=”Download the GPX file” force_dl=”1″ width=”250″]
The route according to Map My Hike: