Back on the Moors

 

Last Wednesday was the start of our mini-heatwave. I decided to finish work a little early and head off up on to the Moors for a walk. I drove over to White Coppice and parked up opposite the cricket field and then set up towards Great Hill.

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Crossing over the Goyt (the channel that takes water from the reservoir at Roddlesworth to the one at Anglezarke

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I decided to follow the path along the river

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Although a today it’s a peaceful rural hamlet on the outskirts of Chorley, White Coppice was once an industrial village and there are plenty of traces of the lead mining and quarrying that used to take place here up the clough.

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I took the path up the side of the hill up on to the moor

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and headed towards Great Hill

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Looking out over to Anglezarke. The mound of Round Loaf was visible as was the main mast on Winter Hill. Extensive cotton grass (“bog cotton”) could be seen making the moor almost look like it was covered with snow.

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There was plenty of it towards the top of Great Hill too

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Apparently it’s the official flower of Greater Manchester!

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On reaching the summit, visibility was good (much better than the last time I was here at the beginning of May). Looking north east over towards Darwen Tower and Pendle Hill

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The view towards Winter Hill

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I descended down the southern side of the prominence and then took the path west to the ruins of great Hill Farm

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and then climbed back on to the moor.

Reaching the intersection

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I decided to take the path over the top of the moor towards Brinscall

A group of lads on their D of E exhibition had strayed off their route. They should have been heading to White Coppice.

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I put them right and then carried on, passing a line of abandoned shooting buts

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There was a good view over to Darwen Tower

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After a short while I reached the path that would take me down off the moor towards Brinscall

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Rather than cut through Wheelton Plantation, I decided to walk down into the village. I skirted the old Lodge (a small reservoir that would originally have fed a mill)

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Taking the path along the Goyt back to White Coppice

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A Long Walk–Part 4

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The final leg of our journey – a few miles that would take us from the Lindisfarne Inn over to Lindisfarne, or ‘Holy Island’ itself. Purists would have walked back the couple of miles to Fenwick and rejoined the official route over to the causeway. However we decided we’d take the direct route, down the road through Beal.

We were a little early as the tide had only started to recede, so we had a little wait before we could join the causeway.

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There are two options for walking over to the island. Down the causeway or along the ‘Pilgrim’s Route’ following a line of poles across the sand. I quite fancied the latter but knew it was the more difficult choice in many ways, even though it is the shorter route. It would be difficult underfoot (it’s best to go barefooted and with shorts or trousers rolled up) and we would have had to wait a couple more hours before we could set off before the water had receded enough to risk it. So it was down the causeway for us

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We passed the refuge built for foolish drivers who don’t pay attention to the tide tables, or think they can beat the tide.

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The island was in view.

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We had to dodge the cars, vans and lorries, some of them driving too fast and recklessly and it would have been quite miserable, I think, if it was raining and windy as there’s no shelter. Luckily for us the cloud was clearing and the sun started to come out.

Eventually we made it across.

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I diverted across to the Ship Inn to check that my car was still in one piece – it was (phew!)

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and then cut across to the Priory, the official end of the route

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A Long Walk–Part 3

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The third day of our walk was to be the longest leg. The stage from Wooler to Fenwick was 13 miles but as we were staying at the Lindisfarne Inn we had a couple of extra miles to walk along a minor road. It was a bright and sunny when we set out and it stayed like that for the rest of the day. The best weather we had during our walk.

Wooler is a small, pleasant town in the Northumberland National Park. It’s isolated position means that it isn’t swarming with tourists and it’s a little old fashioned, which isn’t a bad thing. Facilities are rather behind the times, though, and it’s a bit short of quality places to eat.

We bought ourselves supplies from one of the local bakeries that sold freshly made sandwiches and pies, and from the Co-op and set out on our way. The guidebook promised us that there were no steep climbs during this stage. Well, that wasn’t quite true as after leaving the outskirts of the town we had a steep climb up to a ridge that overlooked the town and the surrounding countryside

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It was worth it. The views on this bright sunny day were outstanding.

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The ridge rather reminded me of the gritstone ridges in the Derbyshire Peak District

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At the end of the ridge we descended down to Weetwood crossing the old bridge over the River Till.

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We then had a trek along several miles of minor roads and gravel farm tracks through pleasant rural countryside.

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Walking on tarmac on a warm, sunny day with minimal shade made it a little hard going at times. But the scenery was beautiful.

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At one point we came across a WWII pillbox by the side of the road. It was part of the defences built when Britain was threatened by invasion in 1940.

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After 3 or 4 miles of road walking we came across St Cuthbert standing by the road!

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There was a group of walkers taking a break and as it was about 1 o’clock by now it seemed like a good idea to do the same and eat our dinner. I took a group photo of ‘the Platoon’ by the statue and they returned the favour.

We’d started to come across groups of walkers since the second day. In most cases when they were overtaking us! Often we’d have a brief chat, exchange pleasantries and and swap stories. We’d then often bump into them again later during the walk, sometimes several times. That was the case with ‘the Platoon’ as we came across them a few times during the next couple of days.

Moving on, we had another stretch on a minor road,

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eventually turning off and walking up through fields and along the edge of woodland until we came to St Cuthbert’s Cave

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When the Vikings invaded Lindisfarne, the monks took St Cuthbert’s body in his coffin and took it on a journey across Northumbria.

once they’d spotted those dreaded dragonships crashing up and down on the roaring mists and foaming spray. They gathered up their most precious belongings and, taking the advice of their hallowed saint, the Community of St Cuthbert left their holy island for what was destined to be a seven-year journey that helped shape England and keep alight the flames of Christianity that were in imminent danger of being extinguished. (source)

This cave was allegedly one of the places they stopped

We stopped a while to talk to take a look at the cave and chatted with some other walkers who were taking a rest. This included ‘the Platoon’ (another group photo taken) and a trio of real pilgrims from Chester University.

There were some interesting ‘cave paintings’ painted on the roof of the cave.

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Setting off again we climbed up towards the top of a ridge

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from where we could see right down to the sea and our final objective, Holy Island.

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The path then took us north through woodland for about 2 1/2 miles, finally descending into the village of Fenwick, which is just off the A1.This was the end of the stage in the guidebook, but not for us. We had now to head to the Lindisfarne Inn where we had rooms booked for the night. We avoided the busy main road by taking a quiet, narrow minor road which came out on to the A1 more or less opposite the Inn. We were tired by now and didn’t particularly enjoy this last couple of miles on tarmac not helped by my blood sugar dropping. We were glad to check in, get our boots off and take a welcome shower and a rest before eating.

A Long Walk–Part 2

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The second day of our walk would take us from Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders back into England, over the Cheviot Hills across to Wooler in Northumbria.

We woke up to a bright, if windy, morning. Some rain was promised for later in the day but we had our waterproofs in our packs for when we needed them.

The Border Inn is the end (or start depending which way you’re going!) of the Pennine Way and for the first stretch St Cuthbert’s Way coincided with this rather longer route. I can now say I’ve been to both ends of the Pennine Way – only trouble is I haven’t done the bit in-between!

We set off across the Village Green

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passing the “Gypsey Palace”

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which at one time was occupied by the “Gypsy Monarch”, the head of the local Gypsy clans. Today, it’s a self catering holiday cottage.

We carried on along the quiet road up the hill. Looking down we had good views over the Bowmore valley across to England

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and towards the Cheviot hills ahead of us

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We were soon off the tarmac and heading up the path up the hills. We were still on the Pennine Way at this point but would soon be branching off.

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Good views all around

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Climbing steadily

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we reached the border

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After crossing moorland and traversing some boggy patches (the first of the walk as it had been very dry underfoot)

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we entered a forest

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Fortunately the path was well signposted. Otherwise it would have been easy to get lost.

After the forest we crossed a field down to a farm track which we followed for a mile or so until we reached the small hamlet at Hethpool. There’s been a settlement there since medieval times, but the current buildings were constructed in the early 20th century in the Arts and Crafts style for the Tyneside businessman Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland who bought the Hethpool estate with its 1294 acres as a sporting and farming country retreat.

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We strayed off the official path slightly at this point to visit Hethpool Linn

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The route now took us along the valley at the foot of the Cheviot hills

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After about a mile and a half, just past Torleehouse farm, we turned right and began our ascent on to the moors climbing the pass between Yeavering Bell and Easter Tor.

Up until now we’d avoided the rain. We could see dark clouds and rain falling in adjacent valleys but our route had kept us away from us. But about half way up our climb it hit us. Time to put on the waterproofs. It rained intermittently as we crossed the grouse moors. But for most of the time it wasn’t too heavy and mainly hit us from behind rather than head on. So it didn’t really cause us a problem other than reducing visibility. Just as well as we had about a 4 mile traverse over exposed terrain before we would come down off the moors.

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The Cheviot was shrouded in cloud.

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The landscape here rather reminded me of the West Lancashire moors and the Forest of Bowland

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Eventually we started to descend down towards Wooler. The rain had moved on and we were treated to some blue skies and sunshine

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The route now did a ‘dogleg’ taking us through a forest

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and then crossing fields

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before we finally reached the small Northumbrian town

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A Long Walk–Part 1

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On Bank Holiday Monday we set out on a long walk. We’d been planning it for a while ever since one of our relatives in the North East mentioned that he fancied tackling St Cuthbert’s Way – a long distance trail starting at Melrose in the Scottish Borders and finishing with a walk along the causeway to Holy Island (Lindisfarne) off the coast of Northumberland. The talk soon turned into a firm intention for me and my wife to join D and his wife J to tackle the trail. Unfortunately it was difficult to find a time slot that would suit all of us so in the end we weren’t able to walk the full distance, instead, starting about a third of the way along at Morebattle. The trip was organised by D who did a good job of sorting out accommodation along the route.

The 60 mile route links several sites associated with St Cuthbert who was a 7th Century monk, bishop and hermit, in the kingdom of Northumbria which at that time covered a large part of the Scottish Borders as well most of Northern England (including modern day Northumbria, Cumbria, Yorkshire and Lancashire). He began his monastic career at Melrose Abbey 650AD, and later became the Abbot at Lindisfarne Priory. After his death he became one of the most important medieval saints of Northern England, with a cult centred on his tomb at Durham Cathedral.

The route is well waymarked throughout. We hardly needed to refer to a map to find our way (although it would not be advisable to tackle any route like this without one).

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The walking itself was very varied.  We started in the Cheviot hills and during our two half days and two full days of walking, walked over rounded hills, along riversides, through forests, over bleak moorland, through pastoral scenery and over a causeway across the sea.

We took the soft option of getting a company to transport our bags, only needing to carry a day sack with coat, fleece, food and drink (plus maps, guidebook, compass etc.) The main problem was sorting out how to get to the start and then back home at the end. It is possible to use public transport but that wasn’t that easy for us. However, D managed to make arrangements for us to leave a car at either end. So on a grey Bank Holdiay morning we drove from Sunderland (where our relatives live) up to Lindisfarne, stopping for a brew at the Beal Barn, just before the causeway,and then over to the island where I left my car at the hotel where we’d be staying at the end of our walk. We then loaded ourselves and our gear into D’s car and set out to Morebattle, an hour’s drive away. On the way, we dropped our bags at the Border Inn in Kirk Yeltholm where we would be spending our first night.

Morebattle is a small village in the Scottish Borders, seven miles south of Kelso. We set off shortly after midday. The weather was better than at the coast, but there was a threat of rain.

We passed the old church which is being renovated by a dedicated couple. They have a café where walkers (and motorists) can stop for refreshments.

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Initially following the quiet road out of the village heading towards the Cheviot hills

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we soon had to start climbing up towards Wideopen Hill, the highest point on the route.P5291503

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It was a bit of a grey day, and we had a couple of showers, (although they didn’t last long) but there were great views of nearby hills

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After a short, steep stretch, we reached the summit of Wideopen Hill

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We stopped for a short while for refreshments and to take some photographs and then set off again – it was mainly downhill from now on towards Kirk Yeltholm.

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Eventually we reached the bottom of the hill and after a short stretch on a quiet road we headed down a track

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that took us to the path along the river heading for our first destination.

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After crossing the bridge that separates Town Yeltholm from Kirk Yeltholm

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Not far now, through some pleasant riverside meadows

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Past the old narrow packhorse bridge. There used to be a mill race running under it at one time, but now it looks a little odd stranded above dry land!

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Past the old schoolhouse which is now a hostel for walkers

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across the village green was our destination, the Border Hotel, where we had rooms booked for the night.

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As well as being on the St Cuthbert’s Way, the hotel and pub is the official end of the Pennine Way.

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A relatively short stretch of walking, but challenging in it’s own way as we had to climb up to the highest point of the route. So time for a bath for some of us and a shower for me to get ready for a tasty evening meal in the restaurant.

A walk in Delamere Forest

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On Sunday I went into Manchester. I took a train to Victoria Station and then went over to the Arndale to pick up a birthday present. Afterwards I went to see an excellent photographic exhibition that had recently opened at the City Art Gallery. I was going to write up the latter on Tuesday, but then Monday night happened. An awful event somewhere I knew and where I used to stand waiting for my daughter to come out of concerts when she was a teenager. It shook me up. The write up will have to wait.

Tuesday was a hot sunny day and I was working in Chester. On the way home I decided stop and to take a walk in Delamere Forest to get some exercise and clear my head. The forest, which is between Chester and Northwich and managed by the Forestry Commission, is Cheshire’s largest area of woodland. I ‘d never really though about going for a walk after work when I’ve been in Chester, usually driving down the stretch of hell that is the Thelwall Viaduct and M6 between Warrington and Wigan at rush hour. But I’d been reading of Mark’s jaunts after work in his blog Beating the Bounds, and thought that I’d follow his example. It was definitely a good idea – thanks for the inspiration Mark ! Smile

Delamere, means “forest of the lakes” and it was originally a mixture of woodland, arable land, meres (small lakes), marshes and bogs. The land was drained in the early 19th Century and it was planted with oak and Scot’s pine. It was decided in 1992 to restore Blakemere Moss as a wetland environment, which was achieved by felling trees, clearing the land and allow it to become flooded. Since then efforts have been made to restore other meres and bogs.

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It’s quite a few years since I last walked in the forest, before the mosses and bogs were restored. It’s also been commercialised with a Go Ape high ropes course, bike and Segway hire, marked trails, an “extreme” mountain bike trail and even a summer concert venue.

I drove past the Delamere train station(on the line from Altrincham to Chester) and parked up near the cafe. A quick change into my walking gear and I set off for a walk on a very warm, pleasant evening.

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Soon I came to Blakemere Moss, now a large area of open water frequented by large flocks of birds.

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I carried on through the woodland.

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A glimpse of another mere between the trees

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Through more woodland and over the railway line and I came to Black Lake.

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This restored “quaking bog” is one of Delamere’s two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) . It’s a type of bog in which the vegetation forms a raft which floats on top of water.

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Heading back through the forest I came across this resident

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I looped past Linmere Moss, the Forest’s other SSI and made my way back to the car park. I’d completed a circuit of about 5 miles and could have stayed out longer, but it was time to head back home. A good walk which had helped me to wind down and de-stress and prepare myself for a long couple of days away from home on Wednesday and Thursday. I think it’s something I need to do more often.

Rivington Pike and Winter Hill

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Last Wednesday was a beautiful sunny day so to make the most of the weather and long hours of daylight, I finished work a little early and we drove the few miles over to Rivington to take a walk during the early evening.  Rivington Pike and Winter Hill loomed large in my youth – along with the Talbot Mill they dominated the view from my bedroom window when I was a teenager.

Rivington is on the western edge of the West Lancashire Moors. A substantial part of the Pike and the nearby estate was purchased by Lord Leverhulme in 1900 who moulded the landscape into tree lined avenues with terraced gardens on the side of the hill. He constructed a number of buildings, including follies like the replica of Liverpool Castle on the shore of Rivington Reservoir, and restored two oak cruck barns. He also built a bungalow that was destroyed in an arson attack, allegedly by a suffragette, Edith Rigby, on 8 July 1913

We parked up near the Great House barn and walked up towards Rivington Hall.

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This large house, with it’s Georgian frontage, a Grade II* listed building which was originally the manor house for the Lords of the Manor of Rivington. Behind the hall is Rivington Hall Barn, the larger of the two oak cruck barns on the estate, which is a popular venue for weddings.

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Behind the barn we took the lane up the hill towards the Pike

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After a short steep climb we reached the Dovecote tower

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The view west across the reservoirs towards Chorley, Wigan and the coast was, unfortunately, very hazy

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We carried on along the track towards the summit of the Pike

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and climbed the steps towards the tower

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The summit is 1,191 feet high and was the site of one of a series of early warning beacons spanning England created in the 12th Century.

The tower is a Grade II listed building, which was completed in 1733.

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A hazy view to the west

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but much clearer air over tot he east with a good view of the summit of Winter Hill and the TV transmission mast

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Normally the path over to Winter Hill, which crosses the peaty moor, is something of a quagmire. But after a dry spell of weather the going was good underfoot so we decided to take advantage of this to walk over to the summit.

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The route took us over the infant River Douglas (the very same “Dougie” that flows through Wigan) which rises on the flanks of Winter Hill

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We were getting closer to the TV transmission mast

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Passing an old mine shaft

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We finally made the summit – 1,496 feet high and the site of the Winter Hill TV Mast, which came into service in 1956, and a number of other telecommunication masts and towers.

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Today Winter Hill is open access land, but it wasn’t always the case and the there was a mass trespass in 1896, earlier and larger than the more well known Kinder trespass. There were a series of marches up the hill, initiated by the Social Democratic Federation, leading up to a mass trespass by 10,000 people who marched up the hill led by a brass band. There was even a poem written by the Bolton Socialist poet, Allen Clarke, to celebrate the event

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(Source here)

The land owner, Colonel Richard Ainsworth, who planned to use the whole area of open moorland for grouse shooting, issued writs to the leaders and took them to court. Unfortunately, the Colonel won the case and proceeded to take it out on the leaders by bankrupting them for damages and fees. Typical of the landowning class.

We took in the view over to Belmont over to the north east (some of my ancestors lived here)

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Winter Hill was a dangerous place. This Scotsman’s stump

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a memorial to a young Scots merchant who was murdered here in 1836

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and there’s a couple of memorials to a fatal plane crash in 1958

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Time was getting on so we set out back over the moor to the Pike

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This time skirting the summit

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We took a different route down , through the wooded terraced gardens

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We soon reached the foot of the hill

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Looking back – a glorious evening

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We made our way back to the car. If was after 7 o’clock by now but there were still plenty of cars parked up, and even a few more arriving, as people took advantage of the good weather to enjoy the outdoors.