I, for one, hate to think of a sixteen-miles walk as being ‘the short alternative’. To me this sounds degrading and disrespectful. However, as this walk is two thirds of the length of its bigger brother then we have to use an adjective to highlight the difference, hence the phrase ‘Shorter version’. My apologies to any one who has completed this route, I’m not being all elitist here because I do the 24 miles version.
The start – Rivington Village to the Pike
Okay, that’s got that out of the way. Along with its bigger brother, this walk starts just about in the middle of Rivington village on Horrobin Lane (actually on the road). We immediately take the right hand bend on to Rivington Lane then take the major footpath on the left, go around a barrier and head for the car park closest to Rivington Great Barn. All sounds familiar so far does it not? And indeed the route to Rivington Pike is also the same one as used in all of the walks featured on this section of the site, that is to say go around the back of the barn, bear left, left through a kissing gate. Then up the steepening path, through a huge gate with two kissing gates, up some steps, cross a path, up some more steps and pass the toilet block then take either one of the gates to the steps to the Pike.
The Pike to Winter Hill
From the Pike head south over brown hill to Belmont Road, turn left and head towards the sound of barking dogs emanating from Pike Cottage A.K.A. Rivington Dog Hotel. Ascend the well constructed path to the right of the barking. Keep heading up along this path which soon thins out until you see a signpost indicating the way to Winter Hill (left). You are now on the Rotary Way (this may help you find yourself on the map!). If you’re doing the Anglezarke Amble (either route) then after around five hundred yards (next to the biggest building on the left) should be the first checkpoint. Okay keep on this wonderful tarmac road until you hit the junction of paths and roads (just as the road veers to the left). Turn off the path and head right / downhill. It’s a wide and in some places rather ridged path that rapidly transports us down to the tiny wood just ahead of Belmont Road. Go through the gate just in front of the wood then carefully traipse through the sometimes sticky path to the road. Through yet another gate and then cross with care.
Greenhill Farm and Longworth Moor
Now say hello to the wet and mud. After a right turn and fifty yards walking turn left down a tarmac road. Head towards the first house that you see on your left but take the left hand turn / stile just before Greenhill Farm. This is the worst field on the route(or is it?). In a nutshell we are going downhill through horribly thick marshy and squelchy mud. Cross over two short wooden footbridges then follow the blackened field as it drops downhill and towards a stream (the infant Eagly Brook which eventually ends up in the Irish Sea courtesy of the rivers Tong, Croal, Irwell and Mersey!). Cross a bridge then a lovely little reservoir which looks more like a pond and then be prepared for an ascent. Here the walk takes on a whole different character – it’s going up quite a steep little hill as we head for the stile at the far left hand corner of the field. Cross the road (Egerton) and then it’s onto a path separated by a wall (tumbling down) on one side and a barbed wire fence on the other. You should see a mast appearing out of a field to your right. This is the mast atop Great Robert Hill and is a good indicator that you are still on track. This is Longworth Road North. Turn left and head towards the row of conifers as if going towards the big reservoir at Belmont. Just before the conifers; turn right. Sorry! And welcome to our first foray into the horror that is Longworth Moor – I hope you have waterproof boots or gaiters on. We are heading north-easterly. Regrettably the path is a virtual one, no funds have been spent on maintaining it since the o.s. maps suggested it was left there so it’s just a case of hopping from one tussock to another whilst being careful of the infant River Eagley and it’s tributaries. Eventually you will see a small wooden enclosure kind of thing, keep to the right of this as you try to make out the distant Charlie’s Pole – a major landmark and turning point of both Amble Challenge routes. If you’re doing the Amble then as you near the pole then you should see two or three marshals awaiting to take your number. Upon doing so, for some time, the hardest part of the walk is behind you (cheer, damn you). The route ahead takes on a much more sociable character as it becomes the Witton Weavers Way and Catherine Edge.
Along the Edge
Head north-west for two miles! Woohoo sounds easy doesn’t it? And it is! This is the easiest section of the route along a sometimes slightly wet and mostly sandstone path which offers wonderful views of the ‘Edges’ and Winter Hill on your left hand side. Keep going, and going, until you spy a road in front of you. At this junction turn right and go up the grassy slope (which will be blackened by now if there are several hundred feet stomping around the area!). Bear with this path as it reaches a plateau and then drops (do not be tempted to sit on the bench on your left). This should bring you out on Tockholes Road and although it is quite a quiet road it’s a national speed limit one so be careful. Cross the road and turn right. At the first available wall stile go over it and into Slipper Low for Checkpoint number three. Grab a coffee and a cake for what awaits you next…Great Hill. Make your way through the woods heading roughly west, you’ll cross over a good bridge and then a very short trot up to Belmont Road (the A675 on maps). Cross this carefully then turn right for a few yards until you see the gate to take you onto Anglezarke Moor and up the mini beast which is Great Hill. It’s a muddy and messy affair at first, then as you start to climb the mud is left behind. The summit looks further away than it is!
Great Hill to White Coppice
Great Hill gets a paragraph on its own simply because it is such a turning point in the walk. There are far steeper hills, the Pike’s onslaught a few hours ago was far more challenging but that had steps…Great Hill offers no such amenities! The beginning has mud to such a degree that you might wonder if there is an alternative route. Bear with it, as the incline steepens the mud reduces. Beware, there is a truly pointless stile which can be a bit slippery after a couple of hundred wet boots have stomped all over it. Watch out for the group of three trees – if only to know that you haven’t gone off track and just because they’re quite spectacular on an otherwise fairly bleak moor. One false summit lies around 7/8 of the way up, sorry but it will catch you out but then it’s only another hundred yards or so and you’ll be at the cross shelter of Great Hill. Have a sit down for a minute, then be prepared for some serious descending, there is a fifty foot section where you have to climb slightly but otherwise it’s great walking and if you have time, spend a moment or two admiring the locale around the ruins of Drinkwater Farm.
The long last section – White Coppice to the Yarrow
Eventually we say a fond farewell to this lovely little hill (can you tell it’s one of my favourites?) and take in Lancashire’s most picturesque cricket ground at White Coppice – our final checkpoint. More coffee, more cakes but be careful of those two treacherous steps emerging from the pavilion – they collect mud from boots and then push you down the steps! After this feeding distraction return to the main path and then get ready for a long yomp southwards to meet with Moor Road. Just in case you were thinking ‘I’ll just bolt up Moor Road now, I know my way and it’ll be quicker…forget it, Moor Road has some surprisingly steep corners, no lighting and it’s getting dusky by now…off to the woods for us. So take the left hand turn at the gate, cross the road and turn right taking note of the sign warning not to fish (the sign is courtesy of Southport Angling Association!). This is the easiest section of the walk, there are some minor ascents and a couple of sets of steps, a steep downhill tarmac section and the world’s most narrow path. On route we’ll pass the Anglezarke Reservoir (it’s huge!) and then the picturesque High Bullough Reservoir before arriving at a road – Moor Road (see what you’ve avoided slogging up and down?). We turn right here onto the footpath on Knowsley Lane and after around ten minutes and just before a sharp corner to the right cross the road and head off into the woods again. Those still moderately alert will notice the large water chute to the left, this takes in the water from the Yarrow reservoir which we will encounter in around five minutes of moderately easy uphill walking.
The final zone!
At the apex of the climb bear slightly right to join with a broad track, with the embankment of the Yarrow reservoir on your left. After a few hundred yards go through the gate then take an immediate left, through another gate and bear right over the stream on a really small bridge. The walking here is easy, beware of missing sections of the path that have been lost to erosion (because at least one of you will still be recording your progress on your phone). Just when you thought the going was almost too easy a flight of steps jumps out of the blue – twenty seconds’ worth of climbing should have you over this last hurdle. Listen! You can hear the road, the end is in earshot. At the end of the field, surrounded by trees there is a kissing gate – a narrow one at that! Go through this and avoid falling onto the road, bear right – do you recognise the vicinity? It’s the start / end / nirvana / Valhalla / Mecca – you’ve made it around the Anglezarke Amble.