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Summer Stroll, 15th August 2021

Leader: Vanessa Miller

Reporter: Helen Richardson

What does the SCoM Mid-Summer Stroll in 2021 have in common with formation of the Metropolitan Police Service in 1829? Well, in 1829, Sir Robert Peel, then Home Secretary, founded the Met., and, when Vanessa Miller led a recent SCoM walk in the Hawkshaw area of Bury, this was a topic of conversation, inspired by seeing the Peel Tower, that bears his name. This commemorative monument high on Holcombe Moor, dominated the skyline from various points along our route. Along the way, we learned that Sir Robert Peel was born in Bury, in 1788, and served as Prime Minister twice (1834 – 35, and 1841 – 46). Although a Conservative politician, he had supported liberal legislation, relating to Catholic Emancipation and repeal of the Corn Laws; as well as modernising the Conservative Party. The Tower built in tribute to Sir Robert Peel, is 128 ft high, and was constructed in 1851, after his death in 1850.

Nine of us plus three canine friends, Jim, Freddie and Fossie (aka Foster) joined Vanessa’s walk. We met in the car park of the ‘Red Lion’ Inn, where the landlady congenially allowed us to use the facilities before our walk. It was rather misty and the light had a slightly eerie quality, as we headed north through Redisher Wood, an ancient woodland and local nature reserve with picturesque Holcombe Brook meandering through it. Soon we were walking away from the brook, uphill and out onto open moorland, with signs warning of danger in the form of military rifle ranges. Fortunately, there was no military activity on the day we were there. Crossing a stile away from the firing ranges, we stopped for a break where there was a stone seat set into the hillside. Some of us recognised the spot from a refreshment break on a previous walk in the area, approached from another direction across the moor.

Our route ascended gently to follow a contour part way up Holcombe Moor, around the rim of a great ‘bowl’. Here we enjoyed astounding views south and west, across a varied landscape, where remnants of what had once been ancient farming settlements could be seen, and further in the distance, a modern ‘farm’, in the form of wind turbines. Some adventurous members of the party had by this point peeled away for an ‘off-piste’ hike to and up Red Brook, — a steeper scramble on the rugged and rocky streambed to meet those of us on the ‘rim’ route further along. It struck me that it was rather like a ski run where a gentle green or blue route skirts around a tougher challenge, except that here, the challenge was up rather than down! Soon we stopped for lunch in a sheltered spot, and Steve generously handed out Eccles cakes all around. (“Many thanks, Steve!”).

Suitably refreshed, we continued on an undulating section of the route, gradually losing height as we headed south- west along a track to pass Red Earth Farm. Throughout this part of the route, the Peel Tower continued to dominate the skyline, evidence of how well it was located on the top of Holcombe Moor. We continued south and finally south-eastward passing woodland close to Top of Quarlton, as we made our way back to Hawkshaw. Towards the end of our walk, we crossed more stiles than I recollect ever crossing on an individual walk before! No sooner had we climbed one, we seemed to arrive at another. It wasn’t until I looked at the map in more detail later that I realised how many paths criss-cross the area.

Back in Hawkshaw, most of us stayed to eat at the Red Lion, where we were well looked after. The service was prompt, slick and unfussy, and the plates came laden with very generous portions. Choices included roasts of the day, battered fish with chips, and various pies; and everyone seemed well satisfied with their meals and drinks. Replete and relaxed, we bade one another farewell, and headed home.

On behalf of everyone there, here’s a big ‘Thank you’ to Vanessa for leading this walk, and to both Vanessa and Dave for arranging such a good pub meal to end an excellent day out.

Members can view or download the full newsletter containing this article here.