Mike is looking for a walk for a group he leads from time to time. There are a few stipulations. It should start at a place with toilets, not too much rough ascent, between three and four miles, the fewer stiles the better and finishing at a pub for lunch. You can guess at the age of the audience he is catering for. After a bit of internet searching and my previous knowledge I come up with this outline suggestion. I know the area reasonably well as it is often a meeting up place with my friends from the Bolton area. The hottest day of the year forecast, maybe, a good day to be in the shade, so these woods could be ideal.
First some facts I learnt about the reservoirs…
Rake Brook Reservoir is fed by two streams, one being the eponymous Rake Brook coming from Withnell Moor. It was constructed in the 1850s by a Thomas Hawksley for Liverpool Corporation Waterworks. The earth dam 85 ft tall and 1,490 ft long, with a capacity of 70 million gallons. A 3.75-mile channel called The Goit fed water through White Coppice into Anglezarke reservoir and hence into Rivington, from where a 17 mile pipe connected to Liverpool.
Lower Roddlesworth Reservoir was constructed at the same time as the above, again by Hawksley. Completed in 1857, 82ft high, 590ft wide holding 90 million gallons. It was fed by the River Roddlesworth coming down from Great Hill. This river subsequently ran into the…
Upper Roddlesworth Reservoir was completed if 1865. The earth dam 85 ft tall and 1,490 ft long, with a capacity of 70 million gallons.
We park opposite the Hare And Hounds pub in Dole Lane .which is already busy with cars, the area is very popular with dog walkers and fishermen. A walk that starts and finishes at a friendly pub.
Immediately the presence of the Victorian era is evident by the stately gates leading into the water board land, now United Utilities. They built things to last and to impress as will be seen in the engineering feats evidenced by the reservoirs. The proliferation of Himalayan Balsam is obvious from the start, it is getting worse by the year. Darwen Tower is seen in the hazy distance as we walk down the lane alongside the start of the Goit channel. Dropping down by an old waterboard cottage we cross the impressive outflow channel of the Lower Roddlesworth. I have never seen it so dry, it is usually a rushing curtain of water feeding the ongoing Roddlesworth Beck as it goes off to join the River Darwen. We are now looking across the lower reservoir’s dam, the surrounding area a forest of mixed woodland. Dogs are ‘unofficially’ paddling in the cooling waters.
That may be one of the problems with these tracks – too many dogs, not too many ‘doggy poo bags’, but lots of dogs rushing to say hello to you. I have grown more mellow to well-behaved dogs in recent years (I am a Cat person, but I know cats can be equally threatening to others, but you are unlikely to be savaged) At least today the ground is dry so any over friendly dog doesn’t cover you in mud. To be honest most are on a lead and the others are docile and under control. The few cyclists we meet are also considerate.
We cross the dam and for most of the morning we just follow well-marked forest trails, most with a decent surface, but mud can be a problem. The plantations are a delight of old beech and oaks, interspersed in parts by mature pines probably planted when the reservoirs were being constructed. Coppicing of ash and hazel give some variety. I am saying to Mike that if his walk is done in Autumn the group will be rewarded with the rich colours as the trees head towards winter. Or there again come in Spring when all is a carpet of Bluebells.
We climb steadily away from the reservoir on the main track, not too steep for his group’s needs and wide enough for the chatter that accompanies them. Down again to the Upper Reservoir dam where curious metal pencils act as a sieve to the overflow for any trees washed down in times of heavy rain. A small path shadows the edge of the water with some delightful picnic spots or just for stopping and perhaps meditating on the glory of it all. I’m sure the Victorians would have done that.
A bit more leg work takes one away from the water and into a long stretch in the trees. We have time to acknowledge the various dog varieties encountered, and occasionally to come into conversation with their owners. The turnaround point comes at a bridge crossing the River Roddlesworth. Time for a pause and rehydration, I did say it was the hottest day. As we rest dogs come and go, the most impressive being four generations of black and white collies.(only three caught on camera)
If we had continued farther up we would have come to the ruins of Hollinshead Hall. It was demolished as the water board took over. I have visited it before and many of the old walls and gates are scattered around in the woods. But that is for another day.
Our path now leads through a rusty gate and follows the River Roddlesworth back down the valley. Not sure if I have walked this section before, but I’m impressed. A deep rocky gorge with alternate waterfalls and quiet pools. Delightful even when the water level is low. The path we follow is obvious on the ground, even if not shown on the OS map, up and down on steps and boardwalks bringing us back to the upper reservoir. Turn left, and soon we are passing fishing stations out into the waters. The angling club car park is entered, but I’ve no idea how the road reached there.
We are looking for a gap in the fence which should have us on an ongoing path, I think we find the right spot and continue on a manufactured but well maintained route , courtesy of United Utilities. Duck boards and bridges see us through and there on the right is the gracefully arched wooden bridge bringing us back to the Lower Reservoir dam. We know our way back from here.
We are soon sat in The Horse and Hounds enjoying a pint of ale, all in the purpose of research for Mike’s walk.
Well it was the hottest day.