Tag Archives: Pennines


                                                                              Evening light on Pendle.

As I lazed away this morning reading I came across a comment about Fox’s well on Pendle Hill.

George Fox was born in 1624 and was in his 20s by the time of the civil wars between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians. This was also a time of questioning the established religious ideas. Fox was travelling the country preaching an alternative simpler Christian message. By the 1650s he was in Northern England and in 1652 according to his journal…

“As we travelled we came near a very great hill, called Pendle Hill, and I was moved of the Lord to go up to the top of it; which I did with difficulty, it was so very steep and high”                                    “When I was come to the top, I saw the sea bordering upon Lancashire. From the top of this hill the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered”                                                   “As I went down, I found a spring of water in the side of the hill, with which I refreshed myself, having eaten or drunk but little for several days before”

Hence, the name, Fox’s Well, in memory of his visit. He went on to found The Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers. Many parts of the North became Quaker strongholds and because of his vision Pendle Hill became a special place for Quakers.


Well no time to lose.                                                                                                                                 The sun was shining but it was already 11am, I’m slow to get going these days.                          The well is not marked on the OS maps but I had a grid reference SD 80494200, I must have walked past it on my last visit here.                                                                                                          As I drove across I was planning a route in  my head, park in Barley and walk the hill on its steep side, the Big End. Coming down the road that cuts across the east side of Pendle I was astonished to see a line of parked cars stretching for half a mile, negotiating past them wasn’t easy.  Things were even worse in the village with the car park full to overflowing and lots of desperate drivers cruising about. So this is a Covid-19 day out for half of Lancashire. I curse myself – I shouldn’t have come to a honeypot on a Sunday.

Just as I’m thinking of going elsewhere I remember a safe and legal pull in on the road perfect for my little car. So Just after mid-day I’m walking back up the hill past all those badly parked cars. I then join the crowds along to Pendle House and then up the steep stepped path. Not really my idea of a day’s fell walking but I have an objective so it’s a matter of head down and grin and bear it.

As if by magic as soon as I cross the stile at the far end the masses disappear, they are on the way to the crowded Trig point which I can happily miss today. I pick up the track heading down the north side and before long I can hear running water. It becomes a gushing sound and there on the hillside is flowing water from a spring. Just above is the metal cover of the well and lo and behold when I lift it  there is the goblet to fill with the clearest of water to quench my thirst. The best water in Lancashire it is said, I wouldn’t disagree.

Feeling pleased with myself I ponder my onward journey. I have no intention of joining the masses on the summit, so I pick up a traversing path going west. This takes me to a stone shelter on the edge of the northern escarpment where I’d planned a lunch stop. Perfect. As I’m finishing a youthful foursome from Liverpool arrive. I share the seating with them and enjoy their banter. Onwards to the Scouting Cairn and then I decide to go over Spence Moor, Pendle’s little brother. I forgot to mention that the views are outstanding today in all directions. I have a birds eye view of Clitheroe in the Ribble Valley. Over towards Longridge Fell and Bowland parapenters are circling. The Three Peaks, Skipton and East Lanc’s hills, Winter Hill and the distant Welsh mountains complete the panorama.

I’m surprised to find a recently improved track heading my direction, probably coming from The Nick of Pendle. Reluctantly I soon have to leave it to maintain height to Spence Moor. There is nobody about and on the rough pathless ground I put up grouse, snipes and skylarks.

On the way across boggy ground I come across a sheep on its back – riggwelted.           Riggwelter takes its name from Yorkshire dialect with Nordic roots; “rygg” meaning back, and “velte” meaning to overturn. A sheep is said to be rigged or ‘riggwelted’ when it has rolled onto its back and is unable to get back up without assistance. You can experience the same by drinking a few pints of Black Sheep Brewery’s Riggwelter beer. Anyhow, I came to the rescue of this girl although she didn’t seem very appreciative.

There are no markers to announce my arrival at the rounded summit of Spence Moor. A little further and I pick up a soggy path going east. Down to my right are the East Lancs towns of Nelson and Colne. While over to the left is a different view of Pendle, my steep ascent path is clearly seen on the right.

I decided, perhaps wrongly, to drop steeply down to the two Ogden reservoirs, it would have been better in retrospect to have carried on high towards Newchurch.

A tarmacked lane descended to Barley Green where there has been a tasteful conversion of old Nelson Waterboard 1930 buildings to living accommodation. And then I was back into Blackpool, err no,  sorry – Barley. There were no-parking signs everywhere and I can only imagine the hassle that the locals have had during this strange pandemic when the world and his dog have to go walking. Normally this is a pleasant village to wander through.

I’ll come on a weekday in the future.







A walk through the green lungs of Colne.

I picked up this leaflet at the cafe on Beacon Fell the other day, it looked interesting. Despite my friend Sir Hugh stating  ” The ones I am not enamoured by are where some local authority has connected a lot of inferior paths around the edges of crop fields with no particular objective other than perhaps encircling their borough or domain and claiming this as The Whatevershire Way”  to discover relatively new territory I was prepared to give The East Colne Way a chance.

I’ve driven along the A6068 Nelson to Keighley road many times on my way to walks in the Bronte Country and climbs on Earl Crag and familiar landmarks which I would visit today. This another of my short walks I’ve been doing recently to fit in with the weather and other commitments. I turn off the road to a lakeside carpark at Ball Grove Nature Reserve. This was the site of an C18th water-powered cotton mill which became in 1860 Sagar’s Tannery, the largest in Europe. Production ceased in 1970 and the buildings were demolished all but the present-day cafe.

I strolled alongside the lodges, now nature reserves, and Colne Water to a weir with a fish ladder.

An unofficial scramble brought me onto the road opposite the old cottage Hospital bequeathed by the Hartley family which has been converted into retirement accommodation.


Hartley Hospital.

Along the road are the Hartley Almshouses donated again by the Hartley family, yes those of jam fame. Talking to two residents one was very positive the other concerned about damp.

I cut up through some rough fields with ancient boundary walls and stiles, I’m surprised to find a waymarker for my walk, these continue to guide me around the circuit. 

I pass the workers cottages at Bents without a photo and press on up Skipton road to pass the Georgian  Heyroyd House, Apparently round the back are walled gardens.

More stone stiles led across fields to a lane alongside Colne Golf Course. A clapper bridge has had rails added to it – health and safety? It opened onto a lane that looked more like a stream.

The rocky ridge visible ahead is Noyna Hill, a real ‘green lung’ of Colne.

Farm lanes followed and I was soon crossing the causeway at Foulridge Upper Reservoir. The sun was quite warm and I lingered admiring the views over to Pendle Hill, Blacko Tower and round to Noyna and the Great Edge all Pendle walking areas par excellence.

The large gated property, Lower Clough owned by the Barnsfield Construction Co, had some impressive, well-guarded grounds. An open area The Rough is what remains of Lob Common, worryingly new housing seems to be creeping up the hill. Curlew are calling as I walk through. I come out onto a surprising lane lined on one side by handloom weavers’ cottages, several three-storied. Down at the roundabout is the old Turnpike House which I’ve driven past without realising its existence. Also on the lane is Lidgett Hall dated 1749. This delightful Conservation Area backs onto the open countryside where the housing development is occurring – so much for town planning.

Turnpike House.


Lidgett Hall.


Another open field heads towards a church with the hills above Wycoller in the background. I finish the day with a coffee in the lakeside cafe at Ball Grove Mill. This turned out to be a 5mile walk through beautiful northern countryside giving an insight into the past life of this area on the edge of industrial Colne. The only sour note is the lack of protection from developers to land unchanged from the C17th. 




There aren’t many trees on the bleak Pennine Moors above Burnley but in 2006 one was planted on Crown Point south of the town. Architects Tonkin and Liu designed a structure composed of metal pipes which, as well as being a stunning visual feature, creates a musical noise from the wind playing through the pipes. The Burnley Way [which I walked in 2017] predates it and thus avoids it which is a shame, some minor re-routing would easily include this notable landmark.

JD mentioned he had never visited the ‘Tree’,  not many of our friends have either. A walk was hatched to include this site, we procrastinated on several occasions during the stormy weather but today we set forth with a better forecast.  Several suggested walks start off from Townley Hall but parking is charged there so we, or rather I, decide to park up on a street in nearby Walk Mill.

We pick our way up various bridleways, parts of The Burnley Way and The Pennine Bridleway, onto Deerplay Moor. I’m not saying it was all easy going, the farmyards were a mudbath but we got through. Views to our left are down towards the Cliviger Gorge where road and railway head for the delights of Todmorden. We come across a memorial stone to Mary Townley who was instrumental in establishing long-distance routes in the Pennines for horse riders. In 1986 she road from Hexham to Ashbourne to draw attention to the poor state of England’s bridleways. Today these improved bridleways probably benefit mountain bikers rather than those on horseback.

The quotation The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.” is, in fact, an Arabian Proverb.

We had a bit of a depressing section on a road where there was evidence of fly-tipping every few hundred metres. I just cannot understand this blatant antisocial behaviour.

The ‘tree’ had been out of sight most of the walk but at last on Crown Point, we left the road on the well-trodden path across to it. Unfortunately, a Union Jack has been stuck into it diminishing the visual impact of the fine installation. There was only a light breeze today so the tubes were only murmuring. We speculated on what sounds were produced in the recent gales, there will probably be something on youtube. 

Crown Point is a fine viewpoint in itself with Burnley below and a backdrop of Pendle Hill. There had been some patches of old snow as we walked up and there was a definite white rim to Pendle Hill. Easy walking took us off the hill directly back to Walk Mill and its historical past,




Escaping the city.

My train was full of lively pre-match Blackburn supporters. Most didn’t have tickets and exited the station somehow, I was glad I wouldn’t be on their train after the match. AW was a lifelong Rovers supporter.

Outside the station, as I gathered my bearings I was struck by the number of expensive-looking cars, with modified exhausts and booming stereos, cruising around aimlessly at high speeds. I refrain from comment.

I began the long walk up Audley Range. Mills at the lower end near the canal have gone and been replaced by budget shopping units. From the canal upwards AW would have had almost a mile of two-up, two-down terraced housing. There has been demolition in parts giving little cul-de-sac estates. a mosque and many Asian shops but the higher you get the more you are attuned into AW’s time when he trudged up and down from the centre to number 331, his birthplace and where he lived until 1931 when he married. Until 1935 a tram ran halfway up before going to Queen’s Park.

I couldn’t resist calling in at one of the little Asian ‘Sweet Shops’ to buy a couple of samosas for my lunch.

Fittingly there is a plaque on 331 to commemorate Wainwright though I wonder whether any of the Asian population hereabouts will realise the significance. Opposite his house is an open space formerly a brickworks producing the millions of bricks for the housing and mills.

I reached busy roads on the edge of town. Up here AW attended primary schools, now demolished under ring roads and Tescos. I was glad to turn down to the Leeds – Liverpool Canal at Gorse Bridge. The canal would have been lined by warehouses and mills and here is one of the last, the derelict Imperial Mill once employing 300 until closing eventually in 1958. Many of the mills diversified into minor industries after cotton had crashed.

The canalside walk took me past the Whitebirk Estate, shops and car salerooms, and under the maize of roads connecting with the motorway system. One always sees things differently from a canal and then the next time I drive around these roads I’ll reminisce to myself and try and spot the canal. I ate my samosas as I walked the towpath and realised they had quite a kick to them.

Before long I was in a more rural landscape and leaving the canal to climb steeply up onto the ridge of Harwood Moor. An old bridge is crossed, this is the line of the former Blackburn to Padiham railway. The industrial landscape is left behind and suddenly you have a view of Longridge Fell, the Bowland Hills, Yorkshire peaks and Pendle. It was these northern edges of Blackburn that AW  explored as a youngster and subsequently with work colleagues. A certain Harry Green wrote a regular walking column in the newspaper and produced some guidebooks to the area and into the Ribble Valley and Longridge Fell.  One of AW’s walking companions, Lawrence Wolstenholme, kept a diary of Harry Green inspired walks and his descendants still have a copy of Rambles by Highway, Lane and Field Path. H Green 1920. So it is certain that they walked these trails out of Blackburn.

I entered a farmyard patrolled by a bull and hesitated before rushing to the other side and safety. All the fields up here seemed to contain frisky bullocks so I did a little creative road walking to get me on my way. I was soon on a higher ridge with even more extensive views.

Looking back to Blackburn.

Longridge Fell and the distant Bowland Fells.

Down a reedy path to the Dean Clough Reservoirs with Pendle in the background and then I make my own way up above them to come out onto Moor Lane above Langho, it was only last week that I visited The  Lord Nelson Inn here for lunch. Its a very basic but friendly pub with good beer and a limited home-cooked menu,  a couple came in and asked about dining “have you a gluten-free option?”   “No!” was the simple answer.

I didn’t have time today to call in for a pint but marched off along the virtually traffic-free Moor Lane. At one point I glimpsed a deer eyeing me through the trees. Whalley Nab is at the end of the lane directly above Whalley and the River Calder. The River Calder flows through Whalley to join the Ribble, leaving behind its industrial hinterland where in the distance can be seen the Martholme Viaduct which carried the aforementioned Blackburn to Padiham railway. I had a birds-eye view of the Ribble Valley and Whalley, making out the street plan and the more famous railway viaduct over the Clitheroe – Blackburn line I travelled this morning. The Ribble Valley was one of AW’s many sketchbooks done in later life, Nick Burton has illustrated his text with some of these sketches.  It will be interesting to compare AW’s views with my own as I proceed.

A Wainwright 1980

Before I knew it I was crossing the Calder into the busy main street. The impressive 13thC church was closed. Whilst waiting for my bus I had a very short time to look round the Abbey ruins, free entry today – Heritage Week or something. They deserve more so I’ll return for a longer visit.


I’ve finished the first stage of Wainwright’s Way and I’m looking forward to the rural walking to come.



There were several unexpected highlights on today’s walk and despite heading into the congested Aire Valley we enjoyed rural walking throughout on one of the warmest sunniest February days I remember.

Continuing our straight line walk meant once again logistics of two car parking. Sir Hugh suggested Saltaire as a finishing point so we arranged a rendezvous in the large free car park there, all went well with my journey until I became stuck in early rush hour traffic, not the best of starts for a day’s walking. With the late start and more traffic problems we drove back to our last point in the Ponden Valley.  Sir Hugh seemed to know all these intricate Pennine roads and little villages or at least the lonely Public Houses where he spent his money when living in the area as a young man. We were stunned when the lane up to our isolated parking spot was closed necessitating back tracking and finding an alternative route on what was becoming a frustrating morning.

At last we set off down a bridleway high above Ponden Reservoir only for Sir Hugh to realise he’d left his phone on the car, fortunately we hadn’t gone far. This initiated a conversation on things left behind on walks and the cut off distance where one is prepared or able to return. Poles, passports, waterproofs, cameras and particularly hats were prominent on the list. We ran into problems with unmarked, difficult to follow and blocked paths in the Oldfield area and at West House farm admitted defeat and took to the road for a while. None the less there were many interesting houses passed.

High above Ponden Reservoir.

Before he’d realised his loss.

We were concerned with our poor progress after the delayed start on what would be a long day but as often happens things suddenly improved and remained so all day. We encountered a deep gorge not apparent on the map and decided to take the old flagged path alongside down to the River Worth which was then followed for a mile or so through green fields. We reached a road at an old mill that had been restored to provide modern living accommodation. There were several pack horse type bridges on this stretch reflecting the days when the valley was thriving with small riverside mills.

On the edge of Haworth I had noticed on the map a ‘Railway Children’s Walk’. The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit, published in 1906, was set in Yorkshire and a 1970 film used The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway as a backdrop. I remember watching a BBC TV series back in the 50s. Thus Haworth’s tourism benefits from both the Bronte connection and the preserved steam railway.  We followed the lane across the Mytholmes railway tunnel made famous in the film …

… I regret now not going the extra few hundred yards to view the authentic Oakworth station featured prominently in the film. No trains today so we climbed up the steep hill to the busy Cross Roads and would you believe it – halfway up a steam train came into view way below us in the valley, bad timing. Up on the road the stone houses all bore that blackened look of the industrial past.

At Barcroft we reached high open countryside and enjoyed marching out with distant views to Bingley. In the fore ground was a prominent rocky tor, Catstones, and we speculated on the climbing possibilities and the height of the faces.

A bench below was perfect for lunch, I didn’t have the energy to ascend to the rocks. An inscription was dedicated to a Cllr. Ron Senior who pioneered a circular walk around Cullingworth, Senior Way. We felt well qualified to follow it.

We ended up just using the pavement through Harden but then entered St.Ives country park for a popular woodland walk to the edge of Bingley. The park is yet another old estate taken into council ownership providing a wide range of activities, we only skirted the edge.

A lane dropped down to bridges and fords at Beck Foot, a site of old mills, all very picturesque in the sun. An ecyclist proudly showed us his bike and extolled the virtues of battery powered leisure, not sure what it is doing for his fitness.

The River Aire, on its way into the industrial Leeds, was followed through fields to give another aspect to this day’s walk. Surprisingly rural although there was rubbish evident. A last stretch of woodland linked to the Leeds Liverpool Canal which took us into the heart of Salts Mill at Saltaire. Formerly a textile mill, now an arts centre, built by the philanthropic Sir Titus Salt in 1853, along with the adjoining Saltaire village in the hope of improving the conditions for working people. The whole complex is worthy of a day’s exploration. We found our car as the sun was setting and joined the heavy traffic home.



This was a day of two halves, first the transition from industrial Nelson to the complex field paths in its rural hinterland and then second glorious moorland walking over to Yorkshire.

We left the car in a dodgy carpark in Nelson assured by a couple of youths we wouldn’t get clamped. With nervous looks back we climbed modest streets eastwards towards Mecca or was that the local bingo hall. Views back down the streets showed a misty Pendle.

Anyhow we found ourselves in  Marsden Hall Gardens which proved fascinating. Originally owned by the Walton family [more of them later] the estate passed into Nelson Corporation ownership in 1912. The 16th century hall still stands above the gardens. We came through the ‘Egyptian Gate’ a sandstone edifice with interesting carvings, most notably it is known as ‘the wishing gate’ and to this day people place leaves in the carved holes before passing through and making a wish.

Our next goal was an iron age fort marked on the map at Castercliff, despite its obvious size and prominence there was no local signage. It was constructed maybe 500 BC and there is no evidence it was ever occupied. The views from the summit over the towns in the Pendle Valley were hazy but retained the feeling of being up high. The way kept going upwards and ahead of us on a hill in the distance was the prominent monument to the Walton Family.  A Victorian cross place atop a 9th century monolith which would warrant further close investigation.

The next hour or so found us navigating seldom used paths in rough fields between ancient farms. At one stage a Jack Russell harried us noisily for a good half mile through fields from its farm. At the time we were hopelessly lost and the farmer was shouting unclear directions. Things improved as we approached the south of Trawden, walking down a quiet lane we passed the idyllic and listed New Laith Farm. Once on the edge of town we turned off right into the narrow street of White Lee, old cottages gave way to new housing as we turned down an old mill lane to cross Trawden Brook and climb up to more Laith farms, the word meant granary or simply barn and is used a lot in northern England.

A working Will O’ Th’ Moon farm.

Residential New Laith Farm.

The way became rougher as we climbed higher. We found an enclosed track crossing the moorland to the west of Wycoller and lunch was taken high on this  ‘Forest of Trawden’ looking over the Wycoller valley.

We dropped into the valley  and made our way to Parson Lee Farm which we recognised from coming  through on The Bronte Way last year. The winding track climbed slowly up into the moors, our journey pleasantly interrupted by a lengthy conversation with two passionate fell runners enabling Sir Hugh to reminisce on his one and only fell race. A trod took us across a wilderness to reach Watersheddles Reservoir, whereas last time we walked down the dangerous road from here today we found the concessionary path alongside the water. Up here we listened to Oyster Catchers by the shimmering water and Grouse and Curlews further afield, all very evocative.

There was only a short stretch of road before we turned up the quieter side road which gave us panoramic views over the Ponden area. We crossed The Pennine Way back to our car completing a satisfying 10 miles in perfect weather. Somewhere along the way we had crossed from Lancashire into Yorkshire which we will remain in for the rest of our route, so only the two great counties coast to coast.




Bailiff Bridge to Oakwell Hall.

The final day of our walk on the Bronte Way. By more good luck than management there was a bus stop outside the hotel to take us back to Bailiff Bridge. After some steep uphill road and lane walking we were once more in amazing rural areas. We had joined The Kirklees Way and a Brighouse Boundary Walk. There were some vicious dogs penned up in some of the properties we passed some on a running chain which is quite scary as they charge at you. We postulated what could happen if the chain snapped!

Some time was passed in a large pristine golf course, there’s always one on any long distance walk. Fortunately no fairways had to be crossed on this one. After crossing a motorway, M62, little lanes led into Liversedge where first we came across a quaker grave yard. Way back a man, who was a Quaker, had been refused a burial at Hartshead church, so he bought a piece of land for burials of his family. This is still being used today and there are four 17th century graves. It was on Hartshead Common that Luddites congregated in early 19th century to march on Arkwright’s Mill at Rawfolds with disastrous results. Could something similar happen in the future as robots take over workers jobs?   We are also sharing The Luddite Trail now, oh and did I mention The Spen Valley Trail. there must be a lot of keen walkers hereabouts.

A little further was a plant hire depot with some interesting old tractors, two looked as though they had come straight off the American prairie. And another aggressive guard dog going nuts as we stopped to take pictures.

We were now in the Spen Valley area which was the backdrop to Charlotte’s novel Shirley enacted at the time of the Luddites. This novel sounds interesting and will get a copy for holiday reading. On our route was a farm cafe which turned out to be an excellent stop for coffee and toasted tea cakes. The waitress was interested in our route and was clearly enthusiastic about Oakwell Hall. On leaving the cafe we spotted the resident cat waiting patiently on the back step.

Up the road was an old house, Clough House, bearing a plaque to the Rev. Patrick Bronte who lived here before moving to Thornton.

Some rather messy navigating through lanes and parks, all very rural though, brought us into the honest looking Shirley Estate, Gomersal. We wandered into the local church bazar hoping to find an old copy of The Bronte Way guidebook. On mentioning we were on the Bronte Way we were escorted to the grave of Mary Taylor a lifelong friend of Charlotte. Mary apparently was a Women’s Rights advocate who incidentally led a women’s group to climb Mont Blanc in 1875.

Open fields should have led us down to an entrance to Orwell Hall but probably distracted by females we took the wrong field. All was not lost and I think we had a better way into the grounds of this beautiful and obviously popular property. Oakwell Hall may have been the inspiration for ‘Fieldhead’  in Charlotte’s novel Shirley. This is the last of our Bronte associations but I wonder how many we have missed. We came out on the way we should have gone in, a far inferior way. A bus stop was on the main road and eventually a bus full of friendly locals delivered us to the efficient Bradford Interchange.

The end to a really varied and interesting five days of walking.  Sir Hugh’s new knee just about stood up to the whole trial.  We’ve seen a lot and learnt a lot.

Sign in the cafe.



Denholme Gate to Bailiff Bridge.

The train got us to Halifax almost on time despite having to make toilet stops at various stations en route, the train toilet being nonfunctional. The toilet stop at Hebden Bridge was cut short when it was realised that the station toilet was also nonfunctional, all very strange and can’t all be Northern Rail’s fault. Of course our bus waited for us and we were soon walking from the moorland Denholme Gate. Enclosed rough fields with ancient wall stiles took us eastwards into what looked like an urban setting but the route cleverly kept us mostly on green ways. Paths wandered past houses and barking dogs. We were heading to Thornton the birthplace of the Bronte sisters. Little streams added interest and then the largest cemetery I’ve been in for years. A moorland ridge above was home to Sir Hugh’s first house, as there was no plaque to commemorate this event we didn’t divert. Then we were in the main street of Thornton full off characterful houses off the beaten track and not a Japanese tourist in sight. No 74, was heralded as the Bronte sisters’  birthplace, their father Patrick being curate at the Chapel. A cafe-cum-museum here gave us a rest, coffee and entertainment listening in to the local ladies’ Yorkshire conversation.

A deep valley had now to be crossed but to be honest we seemed to be cruising along despite the long grass in parts. There were distant, if hazy, views down into Bradford city centre. My memory is of fields and lanes going nowhere, stone walls, buttercups and dog walkers eager to converse. The hidden world of West Yorkshire.

Somewhere we joined The Calderdale Way in a wild valley and eventually emerged into the affluent Norwood Green. More of the same took us down to the suburbs at Bailff Bridge and thankfully a bus into Brighouse for a night on the tiles – well not really – an early supper in our hotel by the canal followed by an early night.

Check out Sir Hugh for another version of today’s walk.



Stanbury to Denholme Gate.

Once the car shuffles had been completed we set off to walk back up to the Pennine Way/Bronte Way. The PW continues up to the isolated Top Withins farmhouse, with its solitary tree visible from down here. There is no convincing evidence to support the claim that the farm was the ‘original’ Wuthering Heights, but if it is not, it is certainly the type of place that Emily Bronte had in mind when she wrote her famous novel. The picture below is from a previous visit. Our way today however branched off and headed into the valley of Staden Beck and down to Bronte Bridge, a stone clapper bridge across the beck. The water tumbles over a small series of rocks above and below the bridge. The area is somewhat optimistically known as Bronte Falls; it isn’t really a waterfall, but is a wonderfully picturesque spot and a popular area for picnics. The original stone bridge was swept away in a flash flood in 1989 and replaced the following year by the present bridge.

Signposts helped us onwards with addition of Japanese instructions reflecting their interest in the Bronte history. Signs kept coming thick and fast. The track took us out of the valley and over Penistone Hill heavily quarried in the past. Now a country park there are confusing paths everywhere, popular with dog walkers who all seemed to have Cocker Spaniels. We arrived into Haworth by the atmospheric graveyard, the Brontes are not buried here but have a crypt in the adjoining church. Above was the Parsonage where the sisters lived, now a museum. Bronte associations were everywhere. Below in the main street tourists flocked into the gift shops and cafes.

The Bronte Parsonage.

Bronte School.

We of course were above such things, avoided hoards of Japanese and headed out on ancient tracks to Oxenholme. Here we found a bench for lunch which happened to overlook the Worth Valley railway line and in came a steam special hauled by a Standard Four locomotive, withdrawn for scrap from the Southern Railway in 1965 but subsequently restored.

Things went a little astray as we took to small lanes, too much time chatting and admiring both the scenery and the local properties. We found ourselves on a narrow lane a few hundred feet above where we should have been. I’d already remarked that we seemed to have missed most of Oxenholme, dammed right it was there below us. Fortunately a lovely path was found to reunite us with the correct way but we had enjoyed our diversion and had chance to meet one of the locals.

Charlotte, Emily or Anne?

No sooner were we back on track when we seemed to go wrong again on small streets in the village and ended up on the wrong side of Leeming Reservoir. No problem, just walk across the damn access road. The hot afternoon drifted on and once more we found ourselves on old flagged paths going where? A hill was climbed past old enclosures and water catchment culverts to arrive at a fine belvedere. An opportunity for a breather, a snack and drink and time to admire the view over fine countryside. From here a good lane just under Thornton Reservoir made for easy walking. A cyclist stopped to show us his electric assisted bike with a multitude of gears, impressive until I realised I couldn’t lift the beast. We emerged from Black Edge Lane into Denholme Gate where a parked car was waiting for us.

Onwards looked more urban, a bus passed signed for Halifax so we’ve come a long way into Yorkshire. The last two days may be better reached by train and utilising overnight accomodation.





Thursden valley to Stanbury.

We were back in the beautiful Thursden valley after a bit of car manoeuvering. The day didn’t get off to a good start on an overgrown path, which had been superseded we realised later,  involving some scrambling and barbed wire leading to torn shorts. Calm was restored on the open moor. A strange stone arch ‘The Doorway to Pendle’, the former New House farmhouse built in 1672 and occupied until the 1920s when the land was bought by Nelson Waterworks. It consists of a sandstone archway with a triangular head. An inscription relates to the Parker family in the 17th century. There must have been many similar isolated houses scattered on the moors.

A good track, popular with cyclists, was followed all along the northern flanks of Boulsworth Hill; an old way, flagged in parts, connecting scattered farmsteads. Lapwing, skylark and curlew country. At the far end the path is being ‘improved’ with alien chippings which at the present time are an eyesore. Escaping from this we found a delightful concessionary path sloping down the wooded hillside. Above were a series of boulders that looked climbable but I can find no reference to them, I’m kicking myself for not taking the short walk up to them. 

Eventually we crossed the stream that flows into Wycoller where begin a series of interesting and often photographed bridges. In historical order a ford, a clapper bridge, a supported clapper and a two arched packhorse bridge.

We rested and ate lunch in the shade of the ruins of Wycoller Hall, probably Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre, In a previous visit, whilst walking the Pendle Way, I bivied in the massive fireplace without realising it was haunted.

A gentle stroll back out of Wycoller was made for chatting. A farmer out checking his sheep and lambs on his quad  bike bemoaned  that he would probably be dragged out by his wife this afternoon to a local event when he would rather be putting his feet up. We saw him later driving to Haworth. We walked below another group of rocks where Foster had done some daredevil leaping. Open moorland was once more gained and appeared to go on forever, Pendle Hill disappeared for the last time in the west. We congratulated ourselves for being here on a perfect summer’s day – it can be grim up north. Somewhere we crossed over from Lancashire into Yorkshire, God’s own country if you are so inclined.

After Watersheddles Reservoir the valley of the infant River Worth was entered, almost a lost valley despite its close proximity to the road. A rough track alongside the lively stream, gritstone boulders, rhododendrons and bird song, my first Cuckoo of the year, a lovely spot for a refreshment break. It turned out we needed it as the way on became more laborious climbing in and out of valleys towards Ponden Reservoir. Passing Ponden Hall [Thrushcross Grange in Emily’s Wuthering Heights] I recollected coming this way in 1968 on an early Pennine Way journey and I’m sure they served teas then. Not today! Lets not forget that The Pennine Way was the brainchild of Tom Stephenson, Wainwright’s guide, which we didn’t have at the time was a later publication. A few more switchbacks shared with the PW brought us to the end of quite a tough day in the heat. The car was parked down the little lane leading to Stanbury.







Gawthorpe Hall to Thursden.

Sir Hugh and I started at Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham. Many of the places we walk through have some connection to the Brontes or their novels. Gawthorpe Hall was the family home of the Shuttleworth family which Charlotte Bronte visited frequently as a friend of John Kay-Shuttleworth.

And a very stately hall it looked, but was closed today. We walk out of the grounds through a grove of chestnut trees. We were into farmland where we immediately got into the wrong field, no waymarks, and receive some advice from the farmer’s wife. Soon we drop down to a bridge over the River Calder where I’d been before on the Burnley Way. The river was a placid stream today but there was evidence of harsher days. Pleasant rural walking took us along and over a motorway and onto a canal. There was a large marina with people pottering about but little traffic on the water.

“That’s what a fish looks like”

We crept round Burnley and joined the River Brun into a park where we stopped for lunch. Despite us sitting on a park bench Sir Hugh felt obliged to demonstrate, not very convincingly, his new pocket folding chair. Lots of Asian families were walking past and in conversation we realised that Ramadan meant fasting from 4am till 9pm at this time of year, that can’t  be good for children.

Further along the river the local fire brigade were enjoying the weather on a splashing about exercise. Into fields and along a stream our instincts to follow the trodden path were ignored and we ended up lost near the ruined and abandoned Tudor Extwistle Hall [no connection to the Brontes]. Some time later after difficult barbed wire negotiations we were back on route near a small reservoir. Crossing a road we picked up a good lane to Swinden Reservoir where two farmers were trying to burn  accumulated years of rubbish.

We crossed a moor in lovely evening sunlight and dropped down through trees into the delightful Thursden Valley, the river was low due to lack of rain but still gave us a sparkling accompaniment to the road where a car was waiting.

A very pleasant introduction to The Bronte Way which probably doesn’t get a lot of traffic and has been poorly waymarked today.




First of all I have to admit getting my Bronte’s mixed up.

They were a nineteenth-century literary family, born in the village of Thornton and later associated with the village of Haworth.  The sisters, Charlotte (1816–1855), Emily (1818–1848), and Anne (1820–1849), are well known as poets and novelists. Two other sisters died at a young age as did a brother Patric.

Like many contemporary female writers, they originally published their poems and novels under male pseudonyms: Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre was the first to know success, while Emily’s Wuthering Heights, Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall  were later to be accepted as masterpieces of literature.

The three sisters and their brother, Branwell  were very close and during childhood developed their imaginations first through oral storytelling and play set in an intricate imaginary world and then through the writing of increasingly complex stories.

The deaths of first their mother and then of their two older sisters marked them profoundly and influenced their writing, as did the relative isolation in which they were raised.

The ‘Bronte Way’ is a 44mile cross-Pennine route linking various places associated with the lives and works of the Bronte sisters. Starting at Gawthorpe Hall, visited by Charlotte, it goes by the Thursden Valley to Wycoller Hall (Ferndean Manor in the novel Jane Eyre), Ponden Hall [Thrushcross Grange in Emily’s Wuthering Heights] the moors to Top Withins (Earnshaw House in Wuthering Heights), Haworth Parsonage, where the Brontes lived and now a Bronte Museum, the Brontes’ birthplace at Thornton, along the hills west of Bradford to the Spen Valley (Shirley country) before finishing at Oakwell Hall (Fieldhead in the Charlotte’s novel Shirley).

You will be familiar with Sir Hugh from my previous posts, I should really have a tag to my walking companions. Well he has recently had his second knee replaced or whatever. He managed to walk thousands of miles on his first knee replacement much to the credit, amazement and interest of his orthopedic surgeon. He is keen to field test the latest operation so we have arranged a few short days walking on The Bronte Way. He has connections to the Yorkshire end of the walk so was keen to explore the route.

Sir Hugh’s new ‘new knee’

Guide books of the way are out of print but the route is marked on the OS maps so we should be OK.



SOUTH PENNINE RING – Marsden/Diggle to Ashton-under-Lyne.


Deja vu today.

This was probably the worst section of the ring, it started off well in the Pennines but became a dreary trudge after Mossley.

The Standedge Tunnel has no towpath so after a good breakfast in The New Inn, Marsden, I caught the bus over to Diggle. It has only just started going into the village after all the snow and ice they’ve experienced up here. This felt like cheating and I should go back one day and work out the route over the summit moors that the canal horses took to connect either end of the tunnel, it would only be about 4 miles. I’m told that in Summer boat trips can be taken through, that would be an experience. Anyhow this morning I’m at the southern gated tunnel entrance and setting off down the Huddersfield Narrow to Ashton. The surface of the canal is lightly frozen over but it is beautiful weather and the dog-walkers are out enjoying the sunshine.

Flights of locks head downhill quickly. This flight has uniquely single paddles top and bottom and on this side side of the Pennines have the suffix W denoting west. Local mills proclaim their names proudly from their chimneys or towers reminding one of the dominance of weaving in these hills. Shout it from the rooftops. Wool, cotton, coal, limestone were transported on the canal. Before long I was down eight locks and passing through Dobcross.

Just past was the old transhipment warehouse for transferring goods to mules prior to the Standedge Tunnel opening. I believe it is now used as the headquarters of the Huddersfield Canal Society. The smaller building was thought to have been a smithy. Also on the other side were old weaving sheds which have been transformed into unique accommodations.A massive railway viaduct looked familiar and further down stepping stones across the River Tame jogged my mind even more  – I had been here recently but couldn’t remember why. Uppermill was passed without realising it, a L&NW marker was a reminder of the railways takeover. A straight section had me alongside Tesco’s in Greenfield where the marina was backed by Alderman’s Hill with its obelisk. Snow patches clearly visible. I definitely had been here before but remember going off to the hills to the East. This time I kept to the towpath.

Woodend Mill and its chimney adjoining a lock at last jogged my memory – I had come out of the woods here on The Tame Valley Way just over a year ago.

At Mossley a mill building above me hissed, moaned, whistled, crunched and groaned like a Schoenberg symphony. apparently it is a timber recycling plant. Worth a listen…


Scout Tunnel could be traversed on a towpath in the dark before the countryside ran out.  The enclosed valley with canal, river, electricity lines, rail and road became increasingly grim. Past industries have left waste lands, an old coal conveyor bridge hangs above the trees in ruins, electric substations all a bit too close, And then you are in or mostly under Stalybridge, a lot of work was needed to reconstruct the canal through the centre of town.Rather grubby urban walking through a corridor of industry and dereliction followed and after a narrow cut the final lock,1W, joined The Ashton Canal at a small basin.  A couple were taking their barge for a spin, 10 years of restoration work on it so far – a labour of love. Disappointingly I was soon diverted away from The Ashton’s towpath as it disappeared underground somewhere. I found myself in an Asda car park with no obvious way out, not the end to the walk I’d imagined. However with a little improvisation and without getting run-over I found a way through and back down to the towpath just as it entered Portland Basin. This was a much more lively and pleasant place with a beautiful bridge over the joining Peak Forest Canal. The Ashton continues into Manchester but I’d walked that section in the past so my circuit of the South Pennine Ring was complete. I’d had 6 days exercise, varied scenery and lots of interest but I think I’ve had enough of canal walking for now.



SOUTH PENNINE RING – Huddersfield to Marsden.



As the train emerged from Standedge Tunnel into Marsden the world changed to white. The roads around Huddersfield were treacherous with the snow that had fallen and frozen. It was all gone by lunchtime. Whilst at Huddersfield station I would recommend the little station buffet on platform 8, used mainly  by railway workers, providing cheap coffee and basic eats. Fortified I retraced my steps down to the Locomotive Bridge over the Huddersfield Broad Canal. The statue of Sir Harold Wilson [local boy made good]  by the station wore a hat of snow.

A short last piece of the Broad Canal took me to Aspley Basin with all its moorings taken. I shared the path with students from the surrounding University and the transition to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal occurs on campus.

Work building the Narrow Canal commenced in 1794 and though it was largely completed some five years later, the construction of 3.1 miles of Standedge Tunnel took a further eleven years. It runs 20 miles to join the Ashton Canal in Ashton-under-Lyne. Passing under the Pennines between Diggle and Marsden, the Tunnel is the longest, highest (above sea level) and deepest (underground) canal tunnel in Britain. The long narrow boats on this canal couldn’t access the shorter locks on the Broad, hence the need at Aspley basin for offloading and transfer. The Canal operated until 1944.  Many sections were infilled by the early 1960s and later developed. What remained of the Canal fell into dereliction. A major effort has restored it to navigable status.

Some of this major restoration has taken place in the city itself with several tunnels being rebuilt. I soon have to take to the streets to avoid one such section where there is no towpath. Heading out now all the usual canal side developments are underway. The River Colne runs alongside and is crossed from time to time. The river provided the power for the mills, supplanting handloom working, and the canals subsequently improved transport before the railways came.

Britannia Mil 1861.


One stretch had been drained to allow workers to repoint the walls, the sad looking canal exposing its normally hidden treasures. This area, not sure where I was, was all a bit run down. Not much civic pride and ne’er do wells hanging about under bridges. I was glad to pass through and head for the hills.

A whole series of narrow locks gained height. A design feature was just one paddle on the upper side yet two on the other end, I couldn’t understand the logic to this, opening one paddle is simpler than two but why not both ends. Incidentally the E on the lock number denotes East side of the system.

Fields opened up at Linthwaite and across the way was the massive woolen mill – Titanic, an iconic building in the Colne Valley. It was built the same year as that fated vessel,1911. It has been restored as apartments and a health spa.

The canal enters Slaithwaite in a narrow channel rebuilt to take it through the village. It has become an integral part of the central area which today was busy with shoppers and visitors enjoying the afternoon sunshine. The old Spa Mill and the Globe Worsted Mill look down on the bustle. There are locks right in the middle of town. All very pleasant and what’s more I was directed to the Handmade Bakery and Cafe in the Upper Mill where I enjoyed soup and a basket of their famous bread. The other half of the mill is occupied by a microbrewery, Empire, which I wisely did not visit as there was more climbing up to Marsden 3 miles away.

The River Colne was always in close proximity with its weirs and mill races. Trains kept rumbling by heading for their Standedge Tunnel.Near Sparth Reservoir, one of ten built to ensure the canal’s water supply, were pleasing cottages and their ruined mill, Cellars Clough.

Marsden, to which I will return to, was glimpsed down below and now in close proximity to the railway Standedge Tunnel was a short distance away. It’s entrance has been described as a Mousehole in the Pennines. The trains to and from Manchester have their own tunnels above. When they were horse drawn barges were ‘legged’ through the tunnel, taking up to three hours. The horses fol owed trails over the hill. The nearby information centre in an old canal warehouse is full of canal history and worth a visit.I walked back down to the surprisingly busy Marsden, a typical gritty Pennine town, to find my accommodation for the night – the welcoming New Inn. Yet another varied walk on this circuit.



SOUTH PENNINE RING – Sowerby Bridge to Huddersfield.

As I stepped off the train in Sowerby Bridge I was face to face with an old climbing friend, Sandy, whom I’d not seen for a few years. A brief chat before the doors closed and he was on his way to Leeds. One of life’s unusual coincidences.

My walking trip around the South Pennine Ring was interrupted last week with the arctic weather which cut off this area.

From Sowerby’s main street the last section of the Rochdale Canal is reached and a couple of locks go down into the town’s basin. This morning I was pleased to see a barge coming up, a couple had taken 6 months leave to follow an ambitious circuit of the country’s canals. In the historic basin itself little moved. This was the beginning of a short section on The Calder and Hebble Navigation which travels to Wakefield and is part canal and part River Calder, hence the name ‘Navigation’. It was engineered by a renowned 18th century canal builder, John Smeaton. The work started in 1759 and the canal opened in 1764, much earlier than the others.

Walking out of town I was surprised by the amount of house building on low ground between the canal and the river- watch this space in a few wet winters’ time!  A long level towpath, popular with walkers and cyclists, brought me to Salter Hebble locks where previously a branch ambitiously climbed up to Halifax. Lots of interesting canal architecture on display as I dropped under busy road intersections to a calmer stretch. An electric guillotine lock lies at the bottom.  Down here are the usual grouping of canal, river, rail and road. There are some impressive arched bridges constructed by the railway companies.  More industrial heritage followed, some ruinous others renovated and reinvented. Balconies on mills mean apartments. I lost my way a bit in Elland where roads have blocked the towpath which swaps sides, a short diversion over a bridge and down Gas Works Lane had me sorted. Elland was noted for the production of Gannex Macs, a favourite of Sir Harold Wilson. More of him later.  High heeled office staff from canalside offices were walking to lunch, I was heading to Brighouse, The river was in close proximity ready to join in the action.

Two tall towers, disused wheat silos of Sugden’s Flour Mill, greet you at Brighouse. They are now unusual climbing walls.  My excellent lunch was taken at the busy No 43 cafe, canals get you to the heart of these Yorkshire industrial towns. The canal basin is alongside shops and car parks. Unfortunately soon my way was blocked and I took to the desert of an industrial estate, is this what keeps Brighouse alive?  Interspersed with the metal sheds were remnants of workers back to back cottages.Where do the workers live now, not in the luxury mill apartment conversions I bet.

Canal trust workers were busy tree cutting and lock mending but I squeezed past to a surprisingly rural section. Up to now the towpath had been a metalled walkway but from here on after the M62 was a muddy path, soon to get worse. Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway markers remind one that as the canals lost their influence the railways took over. The River Calder joined the canal for several sections. The path alongside became dangerous and I had doubts that I could reach Cooper Bridge where the Calder goes off to Wakefield and I would join the Huddersfield Broad Canal heading back up west. Opened in 1776 it was known as Sir John Ramsden’s Canal, a wealthy Huddersfield landowner at the time. Coal was carried from  East Yorkshire to power stations until 1953. A friendly man lives in the lock-keepers cottage at the start of the canal.

The canal immediately starts climbing. Industry reappeared, its never been far away in these valleys, with a mixture of derelict structures and modern sheds.  The light was fading as I entered Huddersfield, dubious characters and graffiti appeared so I cut short the day at the elaborately engineered  Locomotive Lift Bridge, a vertical lifting bridge from 1865 now under electric operation, and climbed past the seven storey Brierley mill to the station for a quick trip back to Manchester. Things will look better in the morning.


A long walk and hence a long post – two canals in one day.






SOUTH PENNINE RING – Todmorden to Sowerby Bridge.

When I was a youngster I would travel alone across the Pennines by rail to stay with an Aunt and Uncle in Manchester. A whole new world would appear to me as the steam train travelled down Calderdale, I have a long lasting vision of steep sided enclosing valleys, running streams and tall weaving houses with mullioned windows. All very atmospheric.  Well I was here again today –  stepping out of the train, albeit a diesel rail car, onto a platform deep in the valley.

Notices told me that Todmorden was Incredible-edible, an initiative focusing on local food and growing vegetables for the community. Throughout the town are plots planted up by locals with information on eating and crops to pick, well there wasn’t much at this time of year. An applaudable venture but I wonder how successful.

Everywhere was quiet as I slipped back onto the towpath in the town centre where there is a watering station for the boaters. Immediately there were boats, I should really be calling them barges, which had been conspicuously rare on the previous sections of the Rochdale Canal in the last two days. A basin full of lived in boats, alternative lifestyles are common in this valley.

Many mills have been demolished and replaced by anonymous industrial sheds.

I caught a glimpse of Stoodley Pike high up on the moor but most of the day was hemmed in by the valley sides, it was bitterly cold when in their shadow.

A canal barge chugged by with jolly occupants, the first vessel I’ve seen in motion. Obviously this area will be busy in the better months with canal traffic. I noticed there were several companies offering canal trips.The river Calder runs alongside the canal and severe damage was caused by the catastrophic floods of Boxing day 2015. A lot of repair work has been carried out in the intervening years.

Approaching Hebden Bridge are Stubbing Locks and Hebble Mill, the workers cottages here are classic ‘back to back’. Hebden Bridge’s centre is a crystals throw from the canal and is thronged with tourists visiting the new age emporiums. Thankfully I find a cafe on the edge, it turned out to be far superior to what its appearance suggested. Cool music, excellent coffee and tasty homemade quiche. Its long list of fancy teas betraying the town’s hippy roots. Back on the canal all was peace and quiet man.       Mytholmroyd was virtually bypassed.  It was the area where counterfeit ‘coiners’ operated in the 18th century, the industrial revolution brought many mills and foundries to the town and it was the birth place of Ted Hughes, the late poet laureate, whose early work was influenced by local nature. A cast iron statue by Kenny Hunter of a hawk  commemorates Hughes’ poem Hawk Roosting and has  connotations to the nearby Hawksclough Mill.        Sympathetically renovated mills and warehouses contrast with the sheds further on.       The canal continues with the River Calder alongside. In the area of Luddenden Foot there must have been vast mill workings judging from the amount of derelict land. A large complex of weaving sheds are being used for other purposes. The surrounding country side is surprisingly green and the canal is a popular recreational pathway in Calderdale.Approaching Sowerby Bridge mills crowd in and then suddenly the canal comes into a town centre car park where I mingled with shoppers. In front is the prominent parish church.The deep Tuel Lane Lock takes the canal under the main road on its way to join the Calder-Hebble canal – but that’s for tomorrow. That prominent Wainhouse Tower in the distance on the edge of Halifax is the tallest folly in the world. The nostalgic Jubilee Refreshment Rooms at the train station provided a good beer whilst I waited for my train.

A couple of extras …

Don’t feed the birds.

Good use of an old mill.                                                                                


As I write this the weather forecast for tomorrow is dire. Siberian winds bringing in snow, subzero temperatures and a significant wind chill factor. Maybe the east side of the Pennines isnt the place to be.



SOUTH PENNINE RING – Rochdale to Todmorden.

Three lovely  ladies were clearing litter from the tow path this morning.  They do it twice a week and there is always bagfuls.  To cover the optimum length they are riding bikes!       A Canal and River employee is also walking the banks checking for any problems. So it seems that this stretch is well looked after but why are there no boats? Apparently the locks this side of the Pennines are difficult to operate, some moorings are unsafe and there is often low water due to reservoirs previously being sold off. That all seems a shame considering all the work and expense to reopen the Rochdale.  The more you think about it the more audacious does the plan in the late 18th century to take water in a canal over the Pennines become.

Today’s walk had started by a side branch serving the town itself though only a short length remains. Close by is a fine bridge. A few more derelict mills and some housing developments  are passed and then the countryside is reached through bridge 56 with the Pennines in the background.

The inspection man.

This seems a popular stretch. Alongside runs the Manchester to Leeds railway with a boundary stone evident. The towered Firgrove Mill has workers cottages attached… … its redundant steam engine is in the Manchester Museum of  Science and Industry,  watch

Ahead at Clegg Hall there are some well kept former weavers’ cottages and a refurbished mill with apartments.I am heading towards Littleborough but my attention is drawn to a clock tower in the NW, it belongs to the closed Birch Hill Hospital which was built as a workhouse and opened in 1877. It had wards for ‘imbeciles’ and ‘fever’ patients, in addition to an infirmary block.The canal slides past Littleborough but I need a coffee so make the detour into a town bedecked with Lancashire red rose flags, maybe they don’t like being part of Greater Manchester. A busy little place and I find a great little cafe frequented by locals, Rebecca’s, for coffee and toasted teacake. Back streets lead me to the canal where new houses are being built.

I’m now heading for Summit the highest point of the Rochdale Canal by a series of locks in open moorland.There are bays where stone from the quarries was loaded and more mills, mostly derelict. I got chatting to a man who’d worked in Rock Nook Mill, originally a cotton mill but diversifying under Fothergills to high performance textiles.  A fire in 2015 devastated the mill and it now stands forlorn and open to the elements.An abandoned mill further up is unexpectedly the base of a theatrical scenery production firm supplying the whole country.

A few more locks and I arrive at the west end of the Summit basin at 600ft. At the top lock there is a lock-keepers cottage and then the canal widens and contours through rough moorland for about about a mile to the first lock going down the east side of the Pennines.The train line has disappeared into a tunnel.

Passing into Yorkshire 8 locks take the canal down to Walsden, whose church spire is prominent from a distance. The industrial landscape reappears with mills and weaving sheds canalside.

A little group of post war ‘prefab’ bungalows seem out of place. One of their owners, of a similar vintage, is proud they have lasted this long. Nearby are a couple of modern rabbit hutches – wonder how long they will last.At Gauxholme warehouses and boats appear and the canal passes under a cast iron railway bridge with Gothic abutments. More locks drop the canal down quickly passing back to back cobbled streets and then in front of you is ‘The great wall of Tod’. This massive wall of blue brick supports the railway high above, quite dramatic and hidden away from the rest of the world. How many millions of bricks? A Dipper, that iconic northern water bird, was passing up the canal, a Waterhen taking a lift on a plank and a Robin singing its heart out on this sunny day.

The canal entered  busy Todmorden at the main street with an abrupt guillotine-like lock dropping it down on its way, without most of the tourists knowing its there.. I had a train to catch so exploring the town will have to wait.



SOUTH PENNINE RING – Manchester to Rochdale.

This was a 12 mile day full of interest with old mills coming at me thick and fast. The Metrolink tram took me to Piccadilly and I quickly found my way onto the canal basin where the Rochdale Canal emerges from the depths having already passed 9 locks since Castlefield. 3 years ago Sir High and I had braved these subterranean passageways on our Cheshire Ring jaunt.

Today my way was blocked by a locked gate meaning I had to retrace my steps and try again on the opposite side. The numbers on the bridges didn’t seem to tally with my map until I realised I was confusing lock numbers with bridges.  Not a good start, you shouldn’t get lost on a canal!

The Ancoats area of Manchester where the Rochdale Canal next passes through is known, tongue in cheek, as The New Islington because of all the new buildings many which utilise the old mills and warehouses in luxurious conversions. Marinas dot the developments. It is good to see this rather than dereliction, vandalism and demolition. The cranes are busy again with city centre living.

Some famous buildings are passed – Brownsfield Mill the old AVRO factory for aircraft manufacture;  the Royal  Mill a rebuilt 20th century cotton mill now under residential use, originally named New Old Mill a plaque commemorates a royal visit in 1942 and hence the name change;  the Beehive a former cotton mill connected with Sankey’s soap at a later date now earmarked for commercial use. There are many more. Names allude to the past – Cotton Fields, Coal Pits Lock etc.

But before long I’m back amongst average housing, urban sprawl and litter. The honking Canada Geese are everywhere fouling the towpath. Even the graffiti is not up to standard. But the sun is shining, there are few people about and I feel glad to be setting off on a new exploration.

To compensate there is the fine 19th century Victoria Mill canal side, a former cotton spinning mill. It was designed as a 6 storey double mill with a shared central chimney. Now office and residential use.

The next area is Newton Heath which had an industrious past associated with the canal – die works, bleach works, a tannery, rope works, glass works, brick works as well as the textile mills. A row of maisonettes is named after one of the young Man United players killed in the Munich air crash, 1958, I wonder if the other 7 are likewise nearby, I wish I’d looked.

I nip up a side street for a morning coffee with toast and jam in a basic cafe frequented by locals lingering over their fried breakfasts. Modest housing fronts onto the canal in contrast to the large Regent Mill whose brickwork is exquisite.It bears the names of Russell Hobbs and Remington and I believe they are still trading there.

Failsworth arrives with Aldi, Lidl, Tesco and KFC, the latter temporarily closed due to lack of chickens which has almost reached a national disaster according to some news outlets. The canal continue obliviously to pass the large Ivy Mill. This cotton mill was converted for aircraft assembly during WW2 and is now office space.A brief stretch of ‘countryside’ was passed through before the canal is squeezed under the M60 without a towpath, an elaborate foot bridge over the motorway reunited me on the other side heading for the Boat and Horses pub. A name recollecting the passage of hundreds of horse drawn cargo boats, it did not look inviting today having become a rotisserie and carvery for roadside travelers. The  nearby J.W. Lees Greengate brewery has produced real ale since 1828 and is still family run. I couldn’t pass through the area without sampling their product so at the next more modest canalside pub, Rose of Lancashire, I had a quick half. This inn opened in the early 1800’s as the canal was being developed and was a haunt of local radicals and reformers trying to influence parliament to improve the lot of the working class. The Peterloo Massacre 1819, in Manchester, was a defining moment in that struggle. The canal winds its way through the outskirts of Oldham with the railway a constant companion. This is the Manchester to Leeds engineered by George Stephenson and opened in 1841, I was to become well acquainted with its course in the next few days.  In the vicinity the railway crosses the canal on a beautiful cast iron bridge.

Over the River Irk, past the open spaces of Chadderton Park before more locks rise at Slattocks.

The next barrier is the M62 where the canal has been diverted under a culvert with an ingenious floating towpath. The original line is a boggy passage to the left. A lad was fishing for pike with a large lure which he expertly cast down the water. A previous fisherman told me that it was too cold for the fish, there was almost a layer of ice on the water.

The way into Castleton was enlivened by a cheery mural from a local primary school.

Just when you thought you’d had enough mills the massive Arrow appears. Cotton has given way to storage. I’m not sure how the canal goes under the M627 but I was diverted through retail parks to meet up with it for the last pleasant mile into Rochdale where I was accompanied by many dog walkers. Well the canal, despite its name, ironically doesn’t go into Rochdale but skirts the town at a discreet distance. Things have changed in Rochdale since the mills closed.

The train journey back on that line to Manchester Victoria only took 15mins.





I can’t get away from canals at present. Family duties will see me down in Manchester for a few days so I decided to look at this circuit which I’ve had on the back boiler for awhile.

The South Pennine Ring is a 71mile circuit north of Manchester combining parts of the Rochdale, Calder & Hebble, Huddersfield Broad and Narrow and Ashton Canals.

Completion of the circuit by boat has only been possible since 2002 with the restoration of the Rochdale and of the Huddersfield Narrow. Enthusiastic and dedicated pressure groups made this feasible but major engineering work was needed, particularly where motorways crossed the defunct system. Money came from many sources and various plaques reflect the Millennium  Lottery Charity funding.There are a large number of locks, needed to cross the Pennines twice, and the highest and longest tunnel [Standedge] in Britain. The original canals played an important role in the area’s industrial and weaving heritage. Several interesting towns are visited and  there are reminders of the past everywhere. Obviously the only canal traffic now is pleasure boats but the towpath gives the additional benefit of a long distance circular walk.

The Canal & River Trust was launched in 2012, taking over from British Waterways, to oversee    canals, rivers reservoirs and docks in England and Wales. Throughout the walk there will be much evidence of their work, aided by volunteers, to maintain this important heritage.


I had previously walked most of the Ashton from Piccadilly to Portland Basin three years ago.  So the plan was to walk the rest in a clockwise direction over a few days using my son’s house in  Stretford as my base, taking public transport at the beginning and end of each day. An economical and fairly practical way of completing the ring. This would be another step towards my fully fit walking rehabilitation since overuse damage to my left hip’s ligaments last year.

An excellent map is available –





Portsmouth to Towneley Park.

If you google Burnley to Portsmouth by bus you can imagine the result –  a ten hour journey to the south coast. Today’s more modest journey went like clockwork, leave home 9.45, park up at Towneley Park, 10.43 bus to Burnley bus station, 10.55 bus to Portsmouth [the one in Cliveger Gorge] and I was walking back into Lancashire by 11.30. I’m becoming a bit of Burnley Bus nerd. The weather today was perfect for a change.  A track climbed steeply from the main Calderdale road and headed into the hills, unusually it was unmarked. Roe deer ran before me and disappeared in the bracken, only their barking could be heard. This was steep climbing and I was soon looking back down into Calderdale and up to distant Stoodley Pike.

Once above a remote barn conversion a smaller path made a beeline for Heald Moor.  A rough track then led along the ridge to Thieveley Pike which was marked by an Ordnance Survey Pillar, 449m,  the highest point on the BW. This was the essence of open Pennine walking just me, skylarks and cotton grass.

Halfway along the ridge was a stone marker plaque who’s origin I cannot find, any ideas?


The extensive views were back to the Coal Clough Windfarm, down Calderdale to Stoodley Pike and The Peak District, Lancashire Moors, Hameldon Hill, distant Bowland and then Pendle and the Three Peaks and more of Yorkshire…

  A subsidiary ridge went over Dean Scout Rocks  which made a convenient lunch stop looking down into the Cliviger Gorge. A steep track descended through more sections of the Burnley Forest. Going under the railway I joined a section of the Pennine Bridleway, this turned out to be a delightful peaceful pastoral passage past old farms on what must be an ancient track. Ripe raspberries in the hedgerows were a bonus.