The drive from South Manchester in light traffic was remarkably quick, leaving me a good 45 minutes early, and first to arrive at the vast parking area at Ashworth Moor Reservoir, opposite Owd Betts pub. With over thirty people and a good handful of dogs turning up for the walk, it was just as well there was lots of space. Even Don, stalwart Plodder with a mending ankle, turned up to say hello to his mates. It was good to see you Don.
Soon after 10am we could be seen snaking up the path onto Knowl Moor. Hilary tried to gather everyone together for a group photo, and from what I see below, she succeeded. I hope she doesn’t mind me using her image.
Then we continued to rise over a thin but firm veneer of snow on a lovely sunny day, on a walk featuring many wind turbines.
We gathered on the summit of Knowl Hill in benign weather. It was below freezing, but given the lack of wind, not at all unpleasant.
Recent snow had coated the South Pennines with a fairly uniform white blanket, and as I write – a couple of days later – that layer is being consolidated and thickened. Snow shoes next week?!
A pleasant descent led to the Naden Valley Reservoirs, the construction of which In days past may have attracted similar criticism and debate as today's wind turbines. The three upper dams, constructed in the mid nineteenth century, have recently been reduced to two dams. Here’s the upper one.
Beyond Greenbooth Reservoir, which was built in 1961 at the expense of the village of Greenbooth, the denizens of Rochdale were no doubt enjoying a sunny morning. We enjoyed a tea break, in view of Canadian Geese and Black-headed Gulls, on a capacious 'bench' that extends right across the dam.
A short climb from the eastern bank of the reservoir led to Rooley Moor Road, which we followed in a northerly direction for some distance. This is also known as a ‘cotton famine road’, being constructed in the early 1860’s at a time when due to a cutback in cotton production the factories ran out of raw cotton to process, leaving large parts of Lancashire’s working society unemployed. The area went from being one of the most prosperous in Britain to one of the most impoverished. Work for the unemployed was generated by way of the building or surfacing of roads such as this one, the construction of sewerage systems, the cleaning of rivers and the landscaping of parks.
By 1864, cotton production had been restored and the mills became larger. Some towns had diversified out of cotton, and many thousands of workers had emigrated….
The view to Knowl Hill, across the valley, seemed littered with turbines, and in the opposite direction the view to Bacup seemed littered with pylons!
Alan R led a brave trio onto Top of Leach, at 474 metres our high point of the day.
We'd hoped this was Hail Storm Hill. Alan seemed for a while to think that it was, and he almost managed to convince me that the higher ground nearby was simply an optical illusion. But it wasn't – Hail Storm Hill was indeed three metres higher and a good kilometre away. We didn’t discover this until later, as not one of the three of us had any sort of map with us. Under that circumstance we felt it judicious to hop across some semi-frozen bogs (they were mainly frozen but I managed to find a rare exception to that status) and try to find the rest of the group.
We were soon on the Rossendale Way track that passes above Cragg High Level Tank and Cowpe Reservoir in this land of reservoirs.
Huge icicles clung to the edges of Cragg Quarry.
Once we were on the well trodden path it was quite easy to track the prints of 30+ people and dogs, and the rest of the group was soon discovered hiding from us in a sheltered nook on the path by Cragg Quarry, below Cowpe Moss. Luckily this non-Plodder (though some Plodders were present) LDWA walk seemed full of people on diets, so whilst I only had twelve pieces of cake there was enough to go round everyone who wanted a piece, with Bernard and me enjoying the last of a batch that had been massacred by last Sunday’s mountain bikers.
We soon descended above Dearden Clough to Edenfield, with Peel Tower dead ahead, crossing the main road to the interestingly named Michael Wife Lane. This led deep into the valley above Shuttleworth, leaving us with an energetic ascent over icy rocks onto Harden Moor.
A couple of people who had being wearing Yaktrax or similar crampons all day certainly benefited from that footwear at this point.
As the gradient leveled out, a low sun emerged from behind some thin cloud to warm our backs as we strode on with fine views to Peel Tower and Ramsbottom, with Winter Hill's huge mast a little more distant.
The sun continued to illuminate our tramp over the rather spongy surface of Harden Moor, with Ashworth Moor Reservoir and our final destination soon coming into view.
Here’s our approximate route - 22km (14 miles), 600 metres ascent, taking about 5½ hours at a good (LDWA) pace.
There’s a modest slideshow here, though I think the pictures would have been better if I’d used the ‘snow’ setting! Alan Rayner’s entertaining blog entry, with a link to many more photos, is here, and the LDWA’s own report, courtesy of Heather, is here.
Finally, thanks go to today’s leaders, who were apparently Mike Harrington and Andy Hayhurst, for an excellent route, which my Garmin gadget recorded thus: