The walk of Sunday 10th of April, 2016.
Or how to not interpret maps well! I thought it would be nice to return to Darwen Hill, after visiting it in February, at pace (Amble, enough said!). I also considered this might be another opportunity to attempt to take in the twin boggy summits of Cheetham Close and Turton Heights and to return to the car via the marsh which is Longworth Moor.
I arrived at the Crookfield Road car park for around ten o’clock and by seven minutes past was on the road up to Slipper Lowe. Traffic was light, but fast and on several occasions I had to stand on the grass verge in order to avoid on-coming cars. It was a relief when I reached the gate opposite the great, long, stone wall on Tockholes Road and entered safer terrain. I’d noticed, well, could hardly fail to notice the huge stream of cyclists on route as I had driven through Abbey Village, I wasn’t expecting to see more on the moors but within five minutes had already encountered another two. On my right hand side lay the highest hill of this particular moor (Darwen) – Cartridge Hill, I don’t know from where the name originates, I do intend finding out. I must climb this hill in its own right one day. In fact, there are around four or five hills on this moor that may be worth exploring and they all seem to have footpaths leading up to them that the ordnance survey map I was carrying, (West Pennines Explorer:287) knew nothing about.
As I was in no particular rush (oh how I’d come to regret that mindset!), I took the time to take some photographs, this will not be news to any regular reader, but, as I am in the process of building up my West Pennines section of this site, I’m more focussed on getting quality photographs of hills that I might not necessarily be walking up on the current walk of the day. Subsequently, I have a growing collection of Great Hill pictures – it’s beginning to become a favourite hill of mine. That being said, I also needed some photographs of the hills from Darwen Moor and managed to get quite a lot of White and Black Hills…although to be honest, I couldn’t really tell which was which. Yes, this should have been obvious!
Before very long I was at the start of the summit plateau. Normally this means that there is under an hundred metres or so to go until reaching the top of the hill. In Darwen Hill’s case it means there’s still another mile or so of undulating moorland to go…this did not bother me, I like this area very much. The main path snaked out in front of me and seemed almost never-ending. In almost every direction, peaks of differing heights and with varying amounts of snow capping them, popped up on the horizons – Longridge Fell looked deceptively near. Pendle had a lovely cloak of snow covering it which made me glad I was somewhere which was now getting warmer. I thought that I could see at least two of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks but the snow was not making identification easy. Elsewhere even Ramsbottom’s Bull Hill looked snowbound whereas Harcles Hill – identified by Peel tower, was snow-free, odd seeing as they are next door to each other!
By 12:04 I had made my way to the trig point and tower, had a brief conversation with a dog owner about his gorgeous black Labrador and its penchant for jumping up at people and considered having my lunch. I’d ambled a bit and was aware that with the route I had in my mind…I may need to get my skates on.To be honest, spikes would have served me better in descending the South-Eastern slope of Darwen Hill. Mud was all around. I have to take a tiny bit of ownership for this, I did the Amble – so some of the damage was down to me and the other hundred of us who stomped across this moor without a care in the world. However, I still hold fast to the opinion that mountain bikers are like ploughs to the landscape. Deep ruts in the mud have been formed where these cyclists have followed each other down the slope and walking in these grooves is a challenge, walking and trying to avoid these grooves is just infuriating. I never realised just how many paths connect to the one that Karl and I and Mark and I ascended the last two times that I have walked up this hill. And therein lies my mistake…
Because at one point or another, I should have taken a right hand turn which would have led me towards Cadshaw Farm – my intended destination. Even when I was fortunate enough to find a large map type sign indicating where I was in relation to the surrounding area…I headed for (according to the map) Cadshaw Valley. Or at least I would have done if I had turned right (again) but once I had walked another five hundred yards or so downhill, I passed a farm – Green Lowe Farm. This did not bode well, instead of coming out on the A666 at Cadshaw and I would have known if I had got this right as Great Hill would have greeted me, apparently I was now heading towards Whitehall. According to the map; this would put me a further mile closer towards Darwen town centre. No problem. I figured I could make up the time as this equated to another fifteen to eighteen minutes walking along by the side of the A666. One detail impacted upon this…the A666 to Cadshaw from here is uphill and what I had thought would take just under twenty minutes took the best side of half an hour.
By the time I had crossed the 666 – this was easier than I’d thought it would be, I was feeling very deflated.I checked with Google Maps that I was heading in the right direction, I was and I headed onwards in search of Edge Lane which I knew would lead me down towards the Turton and Entwistle reservoir and from there to Green Arms Road. I’d forgotten what Edge Lane’s A666 entrance looked like – rarely do roads keep the same name (when you want them to), so when I reached Bull Hill Lane I called Karl to confirm that this would take me where I wanted. The short answer was ‘No’ I needed to keep on going along the A666 until the next left hand, gated turning. Excellent.
I took the turning, thinking it was funny how much scenery I had missed when doing February’s Amble – the countryside viewable from Edge Lane is just beautiful.What I had thought was a snow covered Bull Hill must have been another hill altogether as here was Bull Hill (the Ramsbottom version) as seen from near Bull Hill (the Darwen version). The distant views to the South Pennines revealed that they were snow free, whereas the Dales and Trough of Bowland had definitely been hit. Whilst it’s true to say that I was under a certain degree of self-asserted pressure with regards to timing, it was lovely to be walking in the sun. Karl’s guidance rang clear through my mind ‘go passed the Strawberry Duck’…so why I chose to not do this…beats me. I dropped down the hill at a good speed, every step getting me closer to my next landmark – the reservoir. Alas, there are a number of reservoirs in these parts and it was only when I was by the side of one that I noticed with dread the sign which read – Wayoh reservoir. Curse those bloomin’ right turns which I kept refusing to do!
The plus side was that the Wayoh is stunning. Okay, on a sunny day, most reservoirs are lovely to look at. The Wayoh is different, it’s in the same league as Thirlmere and the Lower Ogden reservoir, a timeless beauty. I couldn’t put it into words, I didn’t even spend long in its company. But, I will return one day (hopefully this summer) to do the three reservoirs walk. I was now under no illusion, I would not be able to make it back to the car for three-thirty (the latest time that I thought I would have to leave by in order to not have Chris waiting after a hard day’s work). But what to do? I searched the map and my brain thinking of an alternative route. I stopped a passing gentleman and asked if he knew if the path (we were on) led to Green Arms Road. Alas, no. the path did skirt the reservoir but it did not lead to Green Arms Road. He said that there was a town nearby – Chapeltown – curses, that put me even further away than I had thought. I would have to retrace my steps (oh joy up another hill!) back to the pub and pass it as per Karl’s guidance!
Having ascended the lane, which felt twice as steep as when I had descended it, I took the turning in front of the pub and gradually dropped towards Turton and Entwistle reservoir. It was nice to see so many people out and about and not taking wrong – turnings (okay, let this go now!). I could see the massif which contains both Cheetham Close and Turton Heights, could I still make it? Then I remembered just how treacherous the continuation of the route was. Longworth Moor is a marsh in everything but name – it would take at least an hour to get through that, it would take at least an hour to get through the various car parks and fields near the reservoir and up Cheetham Close and there was always the skulking enemy – my apparent lack of direction, with which to contend. I headed for a bench, sat down, poured myself a coffee and ate my rather tasty Spar Chicken Mayo sandwich. I mulled things over.
I knew that I was up to the task of bolting over Cheetham Close, that was not in question. But, getting lost at the top – in spite of its apparent openness, was something at which I was becoming alarmingly adept. I finished my lunch, made way to the car parks and headed towards Green Arms Road, which was pretty much right in front of me. I could see a turning that would grant access to the moors and more than likely the route (one of many) up to the hill. But the old sniper inside my head taunted me with jibes about getting lost once more. I called Karl on his mobile. Thankfully he was in the area – well, at home, so he was able to pick me up and run me back over to my awaiting car at Crookfield Road. I arrived at the car at around two fifteen, plenty of time to get home after all.
This could have been a great walk. No, scrub that. Not all walks are successful in achieving what we had meant to do at the start or in the preparation stages. Yes, it’s true that once again I had fallen foul of the ‘too many paths on the ground’ scenario which had tripped me up at Turton Moor last year and Spence Moor in 2010. But, I had still walked just shy of ten miles, ascended the lovely Darwen Hill, had a quick natter with Karl and got some much needed exercise and some sun on my face. How could any of that been a failure? I promise to myself to save up for a decent GPS system. With so many of us walking these days then old paths are going to get so wide as to be indistinct and new ones are going to emerge which aren’t going to be on any map until years later. A GPS device will help by letting me know exactly where I am. A further promise to myself is to come back to the area and complete the “Three Reservoirs Circuit” – Wayoh, Turton and Jumbles as I’m sure this will be a rewarding walk in itself without needing to add a hill or extend it into the tens of miles type that I do at the moment.
Song of the walk: Ellie Goulding’s This Love