A walk from Littleborough to Todmorden

For my second walk during the hot and sunny Bank Holiday weekend, not wanting to endure the inevitably busy traffic, I decided to take the train over to Littleborough. I’d worked out a route that would take me over to Todmorden, taking in a stretch of the Pennine Way. It was a long walk but doable. As it happens I ended up extending it a little.

Arriving at the station, a short walk along the road I was on a minor road that crossed the canal and then became a track that was soon out into the fields. A path then took me through some woods, past a farm and then past the golf course with views of the hills opening up.

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The low cloud that was hanging over Wigan and Manchester had cleared by the time I reached Littleborough. It was sunny and becoming hot and there was barely a breeze. The wind turbines on the hills were completely still.

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The line of pylons carrying power cables that stretch out over the moors brought to mind a poem by Stephen Spender that I’d studied for my O Level in English Literature. Here’s an extract

The Pylons

The secret of these hills was stone, and cottages
Of that stone made,
And crumbling roads
That turned on sudden hidden villages

Now over these small hills, they have built the concrete
That trails black wire
Pylons, those pillars
Bare like nude giant girls that have no secret.

by Stephen Spender (extract)
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Can’t say I’ve seen many nude girls that look quite like that, mind!

I guess that the modern day equivalent are the Wind Turbines of which I could see plenty on the nearby hills during my walk.

I’d originally planned to climb up the “Roman road”, that would let me join the Pennine Way to the north of Blackstone Edge. As it happens as I reached the path that would lead me to the start of the ascent, looking up to Blackstone Edge I decided to divert and climb the edge, taking the path up to the south of the summit, adding 2 or 3 miles to my planned route.

Looking down to Hollingworth Lake as I climbed

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A couple of curious locals ahead

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The top of Blackstone Edge ahead

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It didn’t take too long to reach the top of the hill with it’s jumble of millstone grit bolders

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I stopped by the trig point for a short break and a bite to eat. Just like on Friday, long range visibility wasn’t so great but the views over the moors were still OK.

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I was now on the Pennine way so followed the path heading northwards. Looking back to the Edge.

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I reached the Aiggin stone

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The Pennine Way then descended down the “Roman road”

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before turning north by the drain – a waterway taking water from one of the reservoirs that feed the Rochdale canal

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It wasn’t too long before I reached the White Horse pub on the A58 which runs over the Pennines from Littleborough to Halifax.

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Crossing over there’s a short walk stretch of road before the Pennine way continues along a gravel path that’s used a a service road for a string of reservoirs.

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This path extends for a few miles and is pretty flat. It’s reputedly the easiest stretch of the Pennine Way. The lack of inclines means it’s also one of the least interesting stretches, but on a fine day there were good views over the moors and the water in the reservoirs was a lovely bright blue.

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About a mile along the track I reached this little bridge, which I crossed and then walked along to an outcrop of millstone grit in a former quarry

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Inscribed on the rock is a poem

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This one of the Stanza Stones – poems by Simon Armitage (the new Poet Laureate) inscribed on rocks on the moors between Marsden (his home town) and Ilkley, all about an aspect of the water which frequently falls on these moors. This is the Rain Stone

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Unusually (!) it wasn’t raining today, but it had been a few days before and the moors off the path were wet and boggy.

Rejoining the path I carried on heading north passing a string of small reservoirs.

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After passing the last of the reservoirs, the path continued over the boggy moor. Fortunately flagstones have been laid down over the boggiest section other it would have meant walking through a quagmire. There’s a reason why Simon Armitage located his Stanza Stones up here!

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Soon, Stoodley Pike came into view

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It didn’t look so far off, but sometimes your eyes can deceive you!

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Carrying on, Todmorden and the nearby villages came into view down in the valley

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and looking in the opposite direction towards Cragg Vale, home of the Coiners

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My plan was to descend down the Calderdale Way and follow it to Todmorden where I’d catch the train back to Wigan. Looking north along the Pennine Way, Stoodley Pike didn’t look so far off and I was tempted to continue onwards.

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But I’d extended my walk by a few miles already by tackling Blackstone Edge so I decided to stick to my original intention.

The path was an old packhorse trail and had been paved, making the walking relatively easy.

I was greeted by a couple of sheep as I entered the small village of Mankinholes

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It’s small village of old traditional Pennine houses, an ancient settlement, going back to the 13th century, and some of the houses were built in the 17 th century. They would probably have been originally occupied by textile workers, weavers and spinners, who worked from home, so the houses have the typical rows of mullioned windows that allowed maximum light into the first floor work rooms.

I reckon that later on, after the Industrial Revolution had killed off the domestic textile industry, the occupants probably went to work in the mill in nearby Lumbutts – there’s an old path across the fields between the two villages and that was what I followed.

Lumbutts isn’t as old, coming into existence along with the mill in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Reaching Lumbutts I passed the local pub which, on a Bank Holiday afternoon, was busy with customers enjoying a meal and a pint.

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Time was getting on so I didn’t stop but carried on to have a look at the village chapel

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It’s rather a large chapel for a small village but probably served the surrounding area. It was only constructed in 1911, replacing an earlier building. The ground floor was used for the Sunday School with the main chapel above it.

I rejoined the Calderdale way which carried on along the road and down the hill towards the old mill. The only thing left is the unusual old tower.

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The mill was water powered and the tower contained three water wheels, one on top of the other, powered from lodges on the hills above.

I carried on along the road for a while passing the rows of terraced workers’ houses

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A short while further on the Calderdale Way turned off the road to start crossing some fields. Looking across to Stoodley Pike

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I passed a number of old, traditional houses which are now expensive, desirable residences

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Soon I could see Todmordem, but it was still a way off

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I carried on along the Calderdale way through fields and along a country lane, eventually arriving at the small former textile town down in the bottom of the narrow valley.

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Todmorden used to split by the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire and the neo-Classical Town Hall actually straddles the border.

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Since Local Government reorganisation it’s been entirely in West Yorkshire, but remnants of the old loyalties remain. My walk had taken me from Littleborough in Lancashire (well, Greater Manchester these days) and across the border into West Yorkshire. But it would be difficult to tell the difference as the landscape and architecture across the South Pennines is essentially the same.

I’d run out of water a couple of miles before reaching the town (should have stopped at that pub!) so needed to get some cold liquid. It was nearly 5 o’clock and everything seemed shut but I managed to find an off licence were I was able to buy a couple of bottles of diet coke from the fridge for a couple of quid. The cold liquid and caffeine were more than welcome and I quickly downed the contents of one of the bottles saving the second for the journey home.

I didn’t have too much time to look round before the next train was due so I made my way to the station. It was running 10 minutes late and I might have otherwise missed it (although they run every half hour). Just over an hour later I was back in Wigan.

Another grand walk on what was probably going to be the last sunny day for a while. I also feel that September is the beginning of Autumn, so this was my last walk during this year’s summer. But Autumn can be a good time for walks too – so fingers crossed!

A walk over Blackstone Edge

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Blackstone Edge is a  millstone grit escarpment, 1,549 feet high, in the south Pennines, surrounded by moorland, on the historical boundary between Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire and towering over the small Lancashire town of Littleborough. It’s traversed by the Pennine Way and was crossed (allegedly) by a Roman road. I’ve zipped past it it many times on the M62 which lies just to the east of the Edge, but never climbed it.

At one time it was a popular gathering place for radicals. Meeting in towns was difficult as the meetings would be harrassed and broken up by the authorities (Peterloo being, perhaps, the best known example) so they would gather up on the moors in places accessible to the workers from surrounding towns and villages. Blackstone Edge was one such location and in 1846 a gathering  of around 30,000 Chartists from the surrounding industrial towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire was addressed by Ernest Jones up on the hill.

The Saturday after our short holiday in Cartmel, I was keen to get back out walking so set out early to catch the train to Littleborough from where I’d planned a circular walk from the station. There’s an hourly direct train from Wigan these days that makes its way slowly over the Pennines to Leeds which calls at Littleborough.

Leaving the station after a short stretch of the Rochdale canal

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I took the lane that took me out of town

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and then climbed up the steps

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following the path that would take me through some pleasant woodland

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then across the golf course and up on to the moors , with the Edge finally coming into view

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Then for the climb up hill

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The cobbles and flag stones of what were once believed to be a Roman Road soon became visible.

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Although this cobbled track is still marked on Ordnance Survey maps as a ‘Roman Road’, these days it’s believed that it’s an early turnpike road from the early 18th Century. There would have been a pack horse route here for centuries connecting the towns on either side of the Pennines, but it’s also pretty certain that there was a Roman road over the moors here connecting the forts at Mancunium (Manchester) and Verbeia (Ilkley). As the Romans would no doubt have picked the best route over the moors, I reckon that the packhorse route would have followed their line and that the cobbled track wasconstructed o ver the foundations of the Roman road .

I continued climbing

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reaching the Aiggin Stone, a Medieval waymarker, some 600 years old

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A good place to stop, take a break and eat my butties!

I watched a process ion of walkers coming over from the north on the Pennine Way path. It was like the M62! I asked one of them what was going on and was told that they were participating in the annual Calderdale Hike a long distance trek where participants have a choice of 2 routes, one 36 miles long and one of 25 miles.

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Approaching the gritstone outcrops on the top of the Edge. They’re popular with climbers and I saw a few “bouldering” during my walk.

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The summit is covered with large gritstone boulders

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My plan was to follow an AA recommended route and cut down across the moor to join a path lower down the hill that would take me back to Littleborough. But it was still only early in the afternoon and I felt like keeping on, so keep on I did following the Pennine Way across the moor. It’s a well trodden path across what is often a gluey morass of peat, so work has been done to minimise erosion by laying down flag stones.

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After a while, the roar of traffic started to become audible as I approached the busy M62 which cuts across the moors. I’ve driven under this bridge, built to take the Pennine Way over the motorway, countless times, but this was the first time I’d walked over it!

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On the other side of the motorway I was back on wild moorland. Reaching the communications pylon I turned west and followed a path across the moors that ran parallel to the M62.

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I couldn’t see the road and the moors looked very wild and remote, but I could still hear the traffic over the ridge, which took away some of the pleasure.

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After several miles I turned back north, under the motorway and towards Hollingworth Lake, a 130-acre reservoir near Littleborough. The lake was originally built as the main water source for the Rochdale Canal, but developed as a tourist resort from the 1860s, and became known as the “Weighver’s Seaport”. It’s a popular spot for gentle walks and water activities.

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I skirted the lake for a while before turning off down the Pennine Bridleway which cut across country, passing some attractive old houses

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and a riding stables

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After a while I left the bridleway taking a path that led back towards Littleborough

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and the train station where I caught my train back to Wigan.

Up on the moors

It was a beautiful sunny day yesterday so in the afternoon we decided to make the short drive over to Anglezarke to take a walk up on the moors. This was my stomping ground when I was a teenager. I spent many an hour up here, sometimes with friends and sometimes on my own walking our pet dog. It’s a wild, desolate place, only a few miles from several south west Lancashire towns and a good place to be on a sunny afternoon.

We parked at the viewpoint overlooking Anglezarke Reservoir, with views right across the Lancashire plain down to the sea. Visibility was reasonably good and we could just make out the Welsh and Cumbrian hills on the horizon.

Taking the path from Jepson’s Gate we passed the remains of the ruined Neolithic burial at Pikestones.

 

The going was muddy underfoot s we decided against “yomping” through the boggy peat over to the Round Loaf tumulus and instead made our way over to the memorial to the Wellington bomber that crashed on the moors during WW2

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where there’s a great view over to Winter Hill and Rivington Pike

We crossed over the river and followed the well defined track up onto the moor

There are several ruined farmhouses out on the moor. It must have been a lonely and desolate place to live, especially during the winter months.

There are limited opportunities to create a circular route on the moor.  There’s a good circular walk up along a ridge to Great Hill, on to White Coppice and back along Anglezarke Reservoir, but it’s a long walk and time was limited, so after a few miles we turned round and retraced our route back along the track.

Reaching Lead Mines Clough we decided to follow the river down the valley

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eventually reaching the road at Allance Bridge where the River Yarrow enters the Yarrow Reservoir.

A short stroll along the road and then we took the path up through the bracken back up to the car.