This was the walk of Good Friday (March 25th), 2016.
The Half Amble
I’m a bit sentimental, a bit reflective. There that’s got that over and done with, in short I wanted to go back to the site of my last walking triumph…Rivington. Well, to be honest, most walks these days are triumphs in their own ways.
- I’m definitely getting fitter
- Chris is showing much more interest in walking with me
- I have more confidence in finding my way around these days
So, in the spirit of wanting to: A Go for a long(ish) walk and B Go somewhere where I could be guaranteed to meet lots of people (I still don’t like being on my own for long amounts of time), Rivington fitted the bill just right.
Having dropped Chris off at work for around ten to nine I headed off to Burscough, called in at Tesco, got something to eat for later and some cash – in case of sudden hunger – I had an inkling that there would be ‘burger vans’ at Rivington. It was a little before ten before I got to the drive at Rivington Barn and a little after before I managed to get parked – it was busier than I had imagined and I had expected it to be quite busy. As luck would have it, where I ended up parking probably took about five minutes off my overall time as I was so near to the barn itself. Ordinarily I despise the slight upwards walk along the drive to the side of the barn. Why? I really can’t answer that!
So up the cobbled slope at the left hand side of the barn (from my p.o.v.), I went. As could be expected, there was a lot of pedestrians to overtake. I say pedestrians as this was evidenced by the countless number of people in shoes and trainers and other obvious signs that the owner of the footwear was not a regular walker. I’m not being snobby here, I too used to adorn inappropriate footwear when I used to make my annual pilgrimage to ‘The Pike’ on a bank holiday Monday. I reckoned that I had overtaken fifty people within the first few hundred yards. At the summit of the cobbled path (which does become less cobbled with progress) I headed left and then right then straight on to take me down a winding path that is essentially directly around the rear of the barn (it’s nowhere near as complicated as my description). Within a few yards I made my way through a kissing gate (eventually) and was by now beginning to get into the rhythm of the walk…when I wasn’t being somewhat curtailed by ‘tourists’. From a distance I could see the pike quite clearly and with this came the realisation that (already) there was a lot of people at the tower. This was going to be one of my less lonesome visits!
Once I had passed a large amount of people and dogs I noticed that I was making good progress and decided to take a more circuitous route to the tower which meant staying on my horizontal path all the way to the section of the area known as Higher Knoll. Next I took a left hand swing to bring me in the general direction of the disused toilet block (oh doesn’t this sound a glamorous walk?) and from there a simple right turn through the large gates and onto the part-cobbled / part-stepped path to the pike. Regular readers of my blog will recall that I have this on-going challenge to never stop walking in between the gates and the summit until I reach the top of the steps. I doubted that I would be able to adhere to this today owing to the large volume of people on route (who were quite accomplished plodders). Nevertheless, I go to the top, admittedly at one time I was practically walking in place…but I did it.
The summit views were as clear as I could have hoped but at the same time there were so many people around that I could hardly gaze off into the distance for fear of someone growling “Hey stop eyeing up me bird!”. Thus, I took about three or four photographs and began the next stage of my walk, the mini trudge over Brown Hill. I don’t mind the descent to the south from the pike. However, once the real drop is over and done with I once again found myself on a cobbled road (Belmont) that was at best a bit bumpy and hard on the feet. With the ‘burger vans’ and a handful of stalls on route there was more to look at than on a normal visit, there were more people even on this side of the hill. It’s rare to meet anyone on route to Crooked Edge Hill coming from the Wilderswood area – today there were scores of them!
Since doing the Amble last month (February) I have stopped hating Crooked Edge Hill, it was an irrational hatred I concede that. Today, after the pike and its myriad of pilgrims it was nice to have an area of land to myself. I resolved to not try any record breaking and to simply enjoy the walk up to Two Lads. Yes, I did feel all nostalgic when I neared the sign where the Amble path splits off from the Rotary Way / path to the summit and duly took a photograph of it – this won’t mean anything to anyone else but for me it was a nice memory. I did make quite swift progress to the cairn atop the hill and was relieved to see a couple were there having a respite. I say relieved because I had been on my own for a good five minutes now!
The male member of the couple greeted me and we started bragging about which hills we had climbed lately, his Sharp Edge transit over Blencathra trumped my Skiddaw – even if mine was physically more demanding (I’ll never do Sharp Edge so this is largely theoretical from my point of view), but then my recounting of completing the Amble trumped pretty much anything he had to offer, I won (if only in my mind). Five minutes of chatting later saw me check my watch and whilst I was relieved to see it was not yet twelve o’clock, I had a pressing need to continue walking for fear of stopping altogether and consoling myself with the knowledge that I had done the pike in thirty two minutes if nothing else. I pressed on, Winter Hill was next.
Some days the tarmac road up to Winter Hill feels endless…today was one of those. However, it was very nice to bump into other ‘genuine’ walkers – the type with real walking boots on that actually look like they have seen dizzier heights than those little bridges present in each Go outdoors store. I considered stopping for an early lunch, the coolness of the air gently persuaded me otherwise. I’ll concede to speeding up my walk here as essentially once one has seem the mighty antenna array at this locale…there’s never the extensive views that the web in general promises. I did hope to try and grab a picture of the much understated ‘Counting Hill’…I failed. Now after over an hour of walking uphill I would drop down the side of Winter Hill (and Counting Hill) for over a mile, glorious!
I was now headed for the A675 – Belmont Road and had a slight reservation as to whether I’d be able to cross this often busy road safely. I need not have worried, it was, for all intents and purposes dead and I lazily strolled over the road towards the turning for Greenhill Farm. The turning was reached within a matter of fifty feet or so and I was soon on the nice, flat tarmac path…for another fifty feet or so and then it was into slightly foreign territory. Although I had walked along this section of my route the month before – I was following someone then, I was on my own now and I have an irritating habit of going off-piste without meaning to do so. With this in mind I simply made sure that I stuck to what I could remember and took note of the terrain watching out for flattened grass / reeds (it’s a very wet area) and for stiles at the opposite side from where I was.
It filled me with a certain nostalgia to be carefully watching my feet and re-living the Amble walk in this bumpy and wet terrain. I do wonder how long it takes this little neck of land to recover from having a couple of hundred pairs of feet stomp all over it in the dead of Winter. I dropped down to the stream, making use of the sturdy footbridge and then headed up to Egerton Road. A left turn and then a right and I was heading up a sheep-filled pasture towards the road which leads down to Belmont reservoir. The sheep were curious but kept their distance. I had naively believed that at the reservoir began the path known as Catherine Edge, this is not correct. Catherine Edge actually begins a good few hundred yards north east of here closer to where the second Amble checkpoint is at Charley’s Pole (there is no pole), so what my path was called I have no idea.
All the same I was fairly sure of where I was going…I carried on in a straight line until ultimately I found that dead end into which I always wander on each walk. a helpful farmer (no comment) put me back on track and within a few hundred feet I was once more in an environment that I vaguely recognised. I hadn’t seen many people on route since dropping off Winter Hill but all of a sudden, in ones and twos they began to appear.
I was in very good spirits by now as Map My Hike continued to inform me of my progress, the twenty-six minute miles were now behind me and I was onto the eighteen-minute ones on this rural express-way. I was loving it. The weather had taken a turn for the sunny as well and for once I unzipped my coat. Finally, it became very obvious that my path merged with the infamous Catherine Edge as both paths came to and end at just outside Tockholes. I took a turn off down a shady lane hoping it would lead me to Hollinshead Hall, yes, success. This was the end of the second section of the route – I do like to split things up into sections.I was aware of a foreboding presence, lurking on the horizon, out of sight but filling my mind. Great Hill was now just around the corner. I stopped for lunch and some coffee. Once again, people appeared seemingly from nowhere, a couple shared my locale whilst they had their lunch, he had a cigarette which smelled divine! I put Map My Hike on pause. It was lovely to sit and relax, except for a part of me knew what lay around the corner. Having ascended Great Hill as part of the Amble I knew it was easier than it looked…but still it was somehow taunting me, as if calling out to me that all hope of truly relaxing was going to be denied to me until I had conquered the beast. I finished my wraps and set off with a renewed zeal.
Great Hill is not a difficult hill…it just thinks it is! Any former Ambler will agree with this. After all it’s just 1,250 feet tall…a dwarf of a hill compared to some of the giants I’ve nailed in the last few years. All the same, once I’d crossed the A675 again and made my way through the opening mud-pool…I remembered how energy sapping a wet field can be and a wet hill is even worse. At times the path went out of vision on the ground and I resorted to ‘which bit looks most distressed’ as this would indicate that a few hundred fellow travellers had bounded over here a month earlier. At one point I did pass over the world’s most pointless stile and then into my line of sight came the top. Alas, I had erased from my memory the fact that there is a rather spiteful little false summit something like seventy-five percent of the way up, it had caught me out again. Oh well, no point getting angry…onwards. I passed a couple and joked that I didn’t know why I was walking up this hill for the second time in two months, they seemed to find this amusing…or at least within earshot they laughed!
And so within thirty five minutes of standing on its toes, I was atop the mighty lump that is Great Hill, and for a moment was quite shattered. Once more people seemed to be gathering. Within the next ten minutes, whilst I sipped the remainder of my coffee, I must have seen another ten people. I was very glad to have reached the top before three o’clock as this confirmed to me that I should be able to do the route that I had set out to complete within my time-frame. All that was left now was to bolt over Redmonds Edge, Spitlers Edge down Will Narr and then into Rivington via Limestone Quarry / Valley / I really don’t know its name and Bing Maps is not helping me here! Sounds easy does it not?
And for the most part it was. It’s hard to restrain oneself from going full speed when coming off Great Hill heading overall southerly. Not that this is a particularly steep drop, indeed, that’s the point, because it’s so easy a gradient – we fly down it! Within five minutes I had torn across the wonderful slabbed path and was at the lowest part of this moor. Every few minutes a new pair or group of walkers would emerge from the horizon, in most cases we’d greet each other warmly – this can be a lonely old place and it’s always nice to be nice to others.
Redmonds Edge was reached very swiftly, easily, Spitlers Edge followed quickly thereafter. A lot of the route has now been made much easier by the addition of these slabs but, herein lies its own problem: when the slabs run out, we’re kind of lost! For less than a hundred yards I was watching my feet as I stumbled my way through the wet peaty upper reaches of the moor. I fell victim to the sucking, clawing, grasp at me from the evil tendrils of the ground beneath my feet, just as a power walking couple were about to overtake me. I groaned then laughed, they laughed and then continued to laugh. Unbeknown to the couple they had just become the trailblazers, the ones to follow. Both myself and the couple in front now hopped from one dry patch to another until, quite by surprise a deer came fleet of foot, but not full canter (do deer canter?) across the moor in front of us. We were all captivated, this was spring in action. None of us could retrieve our camera quickly enough to capture this delightful sight and to be honest it would have probably just been a bit of a blur anyway.
I had forgotten all about the separating wall which pointlessly divides the fields at this point as I walk towards them I got talking to an elderly couple (well, they were older than me ha!) about our days walks contrasting and comparing. I forget now where they said they had been that day but I do remember the man being impressed with my route (I am a bit vain!) and they were still deciding on which route to take next. He referred to the way that I was now going as Lead Mines Clough – I accepted this as I really didn’t have information to the contrary. There was just one stile to use in order to get to the next field, alas the woman was taking an eternity to traverse the thing as she was slipping whilst trying to haul herself over it. I decided to look around for an alternative route and found a large enough hole in the fence for me to just about get through. I bid the couple farewell and continued on my own. It was now getting closer to my three o’clock deadline…I had to be back at the car for four o’clock and if I didn’t think this was possible by three o’clock I should book a taxi for Chris.
After some more hopping around from dry patch to dry patch I finally arrived at Will Narr and looked around for the plaque donated by the ‘Friends of the Yarrow’ which indicates the start of the mighty river Yarrow…I couldn’t see it anywhere, damn! There appears to be some sort of ground work in progress at Will Narr, there is a large hole dug out of the side of the rise very near to the top of the slope (sorry my words don’t do it justice). I decided not to take a picture of it…it’s just not pretty and knowing me, I’d have fallen in.
I made my way to Rivington Road, took a photo of the ridiculously hard-going path up Winter Hill via Hordern Stoops which the power walkers had taken (ha, they’d regret that!) and began the long drop down towards Rivington via Moses Cocker (Bing really is crap at naming roads, even on ‘Road’ view). I had meant to use the path to Catter Nab which I had seen on a previous walk with Chris, but decided against this as to do so would just make my route harder and longer. By this time I had already walked almost thirteen miles. I bid a cheerful farewell to the moors behind me, for now I would be roadside walking all the way back down this long and winding road, not exactly safe – but definitely drier than my last hour and a half’s walking.
From this aspect, the minor lump which is Noon Hill gained a profile all of its own. I have walked over it twice but to be honest I don’t get the whole ‘It’s neolithic’ hype. to me it’s very much in Winter Hill’s shadow. As I passed by the turn off for the ‘super path’ I did consider revising my decision, but, no: the path could wait for another day. The views across Anglezarke and as far afield as the Peak District where so good that I cursed my inability to name what I could see. That should not detract from the quality of this walk though. I knew that although not a busy road per se, this was a road that can (and does) bring out a driver’s need for speed. I had to cross the road a number of times, estimating where potential death might occur from some lunatic flying around the corner at sixty. As you’re reading this, you can assume that my estimations served me well. It seemed hardly any time at all before I was turning left off Rivington Road and onto Belmont Road (seriously, why can they not give more than one name to different streets in this locale?) at 53.631227, -2.552341.
The last time that Chris and I were here there was a bit of snow and a vast puddle which cars were struggling to get through, fortunately the puddle had receded, the sun was by now blazing away and it was only three-twelve, I should make it back to the car in no more than fifteen minutes. There was even time for me to buy an ice cream from the van parked up at the meeting of the paths…but as I had just burned off around two thousand calories I thought this might appear, well…stupid, so I just headed back to the car instead.
I eased my way through the paddock at ‘The Meeting of the Paths’ after struggling to open the gate. This area is normally rife with sheep but I think the superabundant human presence was having some affect on that and I don’t remember seeing any. A five minute walk down the same cobbled path that I had walked up five and a quarter hours earlier and I was back in front of the Barn. There were a lot more bikers around now and the enchanting smell of hot coals and beefburgers was getting in my head. I restrained from eating and simply absorbed what I had done – Map My Hike said that I’d hiked 14.85 miles. Actually I forgot to switch it from ‘pause mode’ when I had my lunch and only remembered half way up Great Hill!
Without doubt, this is the best, most enjoyable solo walk that I’ve done. Yes the weather helped greatly. A growing familiarity with the environment also helped. But, more so a new born confidence in me has helped immensely – I’m no longer terrified of being on my own. And for that I’m eternally grateful.
I walked roughly fifteen miles over around 1,883 feet and it took me just short of five hours actual walking – though there was the pause mode mess-up to take into account.
Song of the walk – well, there wasn’t one. I know it sounds a bit soppy but I was thinking about my lovely partner Christine (who was at work), my friends, colleagues and I was also busy reminiscing about the Amble and how much I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year! However, here is a musical montage of the photos I took:
Downloading the route:
Sadly, WordPress is far more Draconian than it ever was! It takes over your server. Thus if you want to download the .gpx file for this route then you would need to do the following:
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- For some reason, IE tries to rename the file as a .xml or .txt instead of .gpx. If this happens then just rename it back once the download has finished.