The Walk of Saturday the 22nd of October, 2016
Well talk about ‘walk of the year’!
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!
Song of the walk was the Euro 2016 classic ‘This one’s for you’ by David Guetta and the gorgeous Zara Larsson.
Milage – 16.5 miles
Ascent: 2,420 feet
Time taken – 6 hours 40 minutes.