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.