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Winter Walk: Sunday, 6th March, 2016

Reporter: Helen Richardson

Frances’ winter walk started from Hollingworth Lake, near Littleborough, Rochdale. (OS Maps: OL21 South Pennines, and OL277 Manchester and Salford, both 1:25,000). The lake and surrounding area have a varied history. Wikipedia tells us that it was built as a reservoir in 1800 mainly as a feeder to serve the Rochdale Canal, completed 4 years later. It was not a natural hollow, so had to be dug out, and earth embankments constructed. There was a lot of opposition from local mill owners. It became a tourist attraction from the 1830s, and later became known as the Weighver’s Seaport. It was used for swim training by the first man to swim the English Channel (Capt. Matthew Web in 1875) and for a long-distance swimming event, the ‘World Professional Mile Championship’ in the 1880s. Its popularity declined early in the 20th century. The area was used as an army camp during the First World War, and was later sold and used for water supply in the 1920s. After the Second World War, Rochdale Council bought the boating rights and, in 1974, developed the area into Hollingworth Lake Country Park. With restoration of the 32 mile Rochdale Canal, (reportedly now with a walkable towpath along its length), the Lake once again serves mainly to supply water to the canal!

Eight walkers and two dogs met at Hollingworth Lake Visitor Centre on a damp, grey cloudy morning, and wrapped up warmly against the unpromising weather. We set off just after 10’oclock in a generally easterly direction along the undulating Rochdale Way, which proved sometimes less easy to identify on the ground than the map would suggest. Turning north, we joined the Pennine Bridleway on Whittaker Moor, then turned sharply east and followed Red Brook between Stormer Hill and Draught Hill. Soon we began to climb much more steeply, crossing the snow line as we ascended Blackstone Edge Pasture Roman Road to the Aiginn Stone, a gritstone pillar at the County boundary. Some of us found the snow ascent quite a challenge, though for others it seemed a doddle. With the considerable height gain and much clearer weather, we now enjoyed superb views as we walked along Blackstone Edge, a gritstone escarpment, to reach its trig point at 472m. To take advantage of some rocks a short distance from the path for shelter and seating for our lunch stop, we crossed the deep snow, sinking into it with each step!

Continuing in a southerly direction along the Pennine Way, we gradually walked downhill to cross the M62. The many fords crossing the path gave a feeling of walking along a streambed for much of this section. Our route then took us westwards past a radio mast to Tag Heys and Windy Hills. Continuing westward, we re-joined the Rochdale Way, then changed direction once more to re-cross the M62 and return past Rakewood to complete the walk with a pleasant amble along the Lake shore path, and welcome refreshments at the cafe.

Many thanks to Frances for leading this enjoyable walk.

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