It’s nearly an hour’s journey on the tram from Timperley to Bury, but Sue and I made it easily in time for the 7.30pm start.
The interchange was deserted; not a walking boot to be seen; we were destined to be on our own tonight, as our South Manchester companions seem reluctant to come north, and Alan has shingles.
Even the pubs had the appearance of a floral tribute to Bury’s most famous statesman, Sir Robert Peel (1788 - 1850).
To follow our route, go past the bus stands and up the street past some statues to the church and the statue of Peel, where a left turn signed to the East Lancashire Railway takes you past the terminus of that railway.
Turn right down Castlecroft Way, and under the by-pass, before turning left down Dunster Road and right before a factory, down Harvard Road. Behind the factory a thin path leads to the banks of the River Irwell, and a peaceful haven within a few minutes of the centre of the town.
The pleasant stretch of riverside leads past waterfalls to a weir and a footbridge that you use to cross the river.
The open country that you seem to have found, is in fact just a thin strip of farmland with views north to the wind farm on Harden Moor.
The junction with Woodhill Road is soon reached. A right turn down a quiet road leads past suburban housing. Minor roads lead to new housing estates, whilst older properties like the one below line the ‘main’ road.
What’s this all about, then?
The road ends at the entrance to Burrs Country Park. The industrial hamlet of Burrs stems from the late 1700s and the construction of a water powered cotton spinning mill (see below). The mill closed in 1933, but the Park has recently been developed as an industrial heritage centre.
Here’s a picture from within the park – in the late light it may look boring, but it’s actually full of interest.
The picture was taken from the mill floor. There has been a mill here since Arkwright built a small water powered mill in 1790. Originally a cotton mill, it was later used for glue and paper, and became a five storey monster. Immediately beyond the Himalayan Balsam is the wheel pit, which dates from about 1850 and housed one of the biggest water wheels in the north west.
The rectangular brickwork beyond the railings is the engine bed; it contained a steam powered beam engine that delivered 100 horse power. A combination of the water wheel and the steam engine was used to power the mill machinery, the steam engine being used when there was insufficient water to power the wheel.
In the background is the brickwork over which the Bury to Rawtenstall East Lancs Railway carried passengers from 1846 to 1972. Freight continued to be hauled on this line until 1980, when it was closed to all rail traffic. Luckily, an enthusiastic Preservation Society got the line up and running again by 1987, and it continues to thrive in the hands of enthusiastic volunteers.
The remaining chimney dates from around 1850.
The chimney is reached after making your way through the complex of building foundations, forking right to go under the railway via the arches in the picture above, and following the riverside back under the railway, before crossing a footbridge that leads to the Brown Cow Public House, which was built as a farm in 1752, before the Industrial Revolution took hold in Lancashire.
Beyond the chimney and some restored mill buildings, the path heads towards the mill goit, a narrow canal carrying water from the river to the mill wheel. We enjoyed the last of the sunset alongside the goit on a narrow embankment above the river valley, with a fine view towards the Peel Monument (pictured above), the memorial tower to Sir Robert Peel high above Ramsbottom, planned and erected in 1852 at the same time as Bury was preparing its statue to the then recently deceased statesman.
The path reaches a splendid weir. It was almost dark by the time we reached this around 8.30, but I managed one last photo before the torch came out.
I’ve included the rest of the route description below*, for those who may wish to follow in our footsteps – this makes an excellent 2-3 hour stroll.
Sue and I continued without difficulty along the route in increasing gloom and eventual moonless darkness. Beyond Springfield Farm we paused to admire a flurry of bats flitting around in the woodland – possibly the Common Pipistrelle.
A lovely woodland path leads to Summerseat, and from Brooksbottom a wonderfully preserved cobbled path leads over a railway tunnel and eventually to Nuttall Park, from where Ramsbottom is but a few minutes’ stroll.
Anyway Robert Peel senior opened a calico works here in 1783 and this led to the prosperity of the town. More recently the reopening of the East Lancashire Railway has helped to maintain the town’s good fortune.
It’s easy to find a bus back to Bury (472/473/474), though after finishing the 10km walk at around 9.30pm it did take us an hour and a half to get back to Timperley.
Here’s the route.
* From the weir, follow the riverside path for about 400 metres, until the path leaves the river, crosses an embankment, and joins a track leading under the railway and past Springfield Farm, with it’s well manicured lawns and entertaining bird displays.
Follow the farm track uphill to about 100 metres beyond the farm, turning left up a path marked as being the route of the Irwell Way. The narrow path between fences follows field edges and passes a small pond before descending alongside the railway to a stile which leads over the railway line.
Cross the line to a lane, and cross the river via the bridge, at the far side of which turn right through a narrow gap to find a grassy path through beech trees above the river. Follow the path, keeping right, until it emerges at a road, where you turn right into this lane, which goes under a bridge to reach Summerseat Station.
Immediately past the station take a track on the left that runs parallel with the railway and continue in the same direction past a group of new cottages to rejoin the road at Brooksbottom.
Turn left and go back under the railway, 50 metres after which turn right at East View and head up a slope directly away from the road. This leads to a fine cobbled track over a railway tunnel. Continue along this until after passing to the right of a housing estate a t-junction is reached. Go right, down the hill, along a track that eventually arrives at a footbridge across the river. Cross the bridge and continue along the track until Nuttall Park is reached on your left.
There are many ways to Ramsbottom from here – most easily, by heading to the car park and following the footpath signs to Ramsbottom via a track that goes under the railway and over the river, then past a TNT lorry depot.
The walk could be extended to both the south and the north, to provide a longer day out.
[Walk taken from ‘Best Pub Walks in & around Manchester’ – Speakman, Speakman & Coates]