Sun 6th Jan, 2013
A Winter('s) hill Walk
Present: Dave Bone, Bob Kelly, Jim & Sandy Gregson, Mark Garrod, Michelle Harvie and Dave Wylie. Also seen Peter Walker & Alan (L) Jones.
It was a clear start in south Manchester, but a grey world of fog, low cloud and all combinations thereof the other side of Barton Bridge. So thick did it get that I was not the only one to miss the intended turn off for the parking. Cars appeared tentatively out of the murk including Alan on foot initially and much gearing up went on with particular attention to foot and leg wear. We learnt that Peter normally used ballet shoes for this sort of thing. Pity the partner for ballet where he might use his walking boots… Off promptly at 10 diving into the field (the grass had been cut short – but never mind, the reeds shortly to come were more luxuriant than ever) and leaving the normal world behind. Well it might have been a world of our own in that fog. Straight away the challenges cropped up – finding the route, principally the key stiles at this point, whilst trying to find the least soaking way through the reeds. I soon abandoned any hope of keeping the legs even slightly clean and dry.
Somewhere after the 2nd stile we realised that Alan and Peter were nowhere in sonar range – well they did say they were just going to Darwen Tower and back and to leave them to it – so we pressed on finding the first track. Whether they found the Tower I know not – but they did take the car away… Finding the Tower ourselves wasn’t that easy – perhaps through too much talking we overshot and found some of us confused, even to the point of Jim pulling out his GPS (at least it had stopped pointing out the direction of Schiehallion now). Well how can you not see an 86ft high tower? Easily it seems as we approached its deduced location from the west instead of the south. Not until we were real close could something more solid than fog be seen – the views from the top were great – you could just make out the ground at the foot of the Tower.
With more attention to the map, we headed back west again, counting the junctions and making it safely to lower ground and lunch in the ruins of the old Hall. Crossing the road it was back out onto the black moors heading for Great Hill. Near this we had the first of two views, Great Hill’s slopes appearing in a backlit (steady on, I didn’t say sunshine) keyhole in the cloud. Mark blinked and missed it. The summit was the same as ever, Dave hatching plans to spin the finger post 90. So was the flagged path south, though slippery and water covered. Off the southern end and into the sodden peat – perhaps some of us should take up Bog Snorkelling. All eventually made it to the road, not entirely clean, only for another Navigation double take. Perhaps it was the presence of the Great Polar Explorer. But no, it’s a ruse and the way onward is secured, dodging flying motorbikes we’re on the final leg (or legs) for Winter Hill. Once again we virtually have to bump into a mast to find the top and there’s no danger from falling ice this time. Heading east off the hill on the sweeping track we drop below the very low cloud for the 2nd view of the day, a study in grey of Belmont. The final sections on fields and roads back to the cars were straight forward, if one didn’t try to decipher the code on the footpath closure signs, and there was still enough light to see the cars at 16:30. An amusing day, at least it was good to get out and thanks to those who made the effort – hope the boots are drying!
I seem to have got into the habit of putting on a very local walk for this period. Well, no claims for originality on some parts of this walk, but it is local hence ideal for sweating alcohol off. The whole walk is on the Manchester Landranger 109 map, visiting Winter Hill on the way and it’s not too long.
Directions – head for Bolton passing through swiftly, and out on the A666 North. Past Delph Reservoir, and before Cadshaw Rocks, there is a loop of old road on the left, wide enough for parking towards its North end at GR 699170. Departure time 10:00.
Route: North onto the flanks of Turton Moor wading through deep grass, and pick up the Witton Weavers Way west, breaking right over the top of Darwen Moor to pick up another branch of the Way out to Darwen Tower. Back around the flanks of the moor to drop to the A675 at 661197. Up now to the top of Great Hill, from whence we follow the grey-flagged road south (hard on the knees I know) along the ridgeline, through the peat and up to Winter Hill. Dodging falling ice we swing East heading for the A675 again at 680153. Follow the track east, off left and over the stream then up to the road for a mile on roads or round Charter’s Moss Plantation if you prefer, back to the cars. Distance about 12.5miles – bring a torch in case.