Autumn Ambles




Sunday October 2nd.

Douglas Valley Way Part1.

18 miles from Westhoughton.

Leader: Norman Thomas.




What a shame only nine people made it to this walk as it really was one of Norman’s “crackers”! Over two Sunday outings in October we are tracing the River Douglas nearly forty miles of its length from where it bubbles out of the moorland just below the Winter Hill transmitters to its entry into the River Ribble, and subsequently the Irish Sea, at Longton near Southport. Norman as ever had researched his walk in depth prompting new signing debutant Mark Davies to comment in pure admiration, “Crikey Norman it’s like CSI Horwich!”


We met up at Westhoughton railway station and used half our cars to get to Wilderswood near the walk start. At the end of an excellent day we caught the train back to Westhoughton from Gathurst and sorted the car situation out.


It was fascinating over the day to see a little trickle of water widen, expand and build in volume to the river which flows out of its subterranean tunnel under Wigan. Along the way the route utilises footpaths which stick closely to the river course but always with half an eye on making an interesting route. So the river became our friend “Dougie” and we were able to keep shouting “Hello Dougie” as it reappeared and disappeared.


We came down from Winter Hill bisecting Horwich and Rivington, bypassing Blackrod and Adlington and onto a small woodland valley path to emerge – to the amazement of us all - not a stone’s throw away from the site of the old Wigan Rugby League ground, Central Park, now a Tesco’s. We saw Wigan Little Theatre and Wigan Pier and then the DW Stadium, the latter section of the walk being along the Leeds/Liverpool Canal to Gathurst. Perfectly timed by Norman to allow for a pint before our train came in!


One slight sour taste on the day was a rather over-officious and not very polite lady at Wigan Golf Club who prevented us from showing those who had not seen it before the magnificent old clubhouse and its moat. She explained that they had had several complaints from golfers of walking parties “making a noise” as they were playing their deadly serious game. It did seem a bit churlish not to say unjust. One of their golfers had just nearly taken someone’s head off with a golf ball without so much as a “fore” or “sorry”. Only Norman’s eagle eye in spotting a swinging his club and grabbing us all back prevented what could have been a nasty incident. So to ask us to apologise for laughing at one of Norman’s jokes didn’t seem on to be honest!


It was a great day Norman despite the rain and we can’t wait for the next section.


Just a mention before I finish of our debutant – Mark Davies. Let’s hope he can get out with us regular ‘cos he could be a major signing!




John Bullen







Wednesday October 5th.

Bronte & Hughes Walk.

13 miles from Howarth. Leader: Mike Lee.

9 walkers and 2 dogs.

The weather forecast was a bit dire but it actually stayed dry all day with quite a bit of sun, although it was getting a bit wuthering on the heights by mid-afternoon. And despite the red flags and dire warnings as we set off no-one got shot so that was a bit of a bonus.


After leaving Pennistone Country Park we headed for Leeshaw Reservoir before tackling the long pull up to the aptly named Top of Stairs where we got our first views of Stoodley Pike. We followed the newly created Calder-Aire Link bridleway down into the valley, eventually dropping right down into Crimsworth Dean for a coffee stop at Lumb Hole Waterfall, the setting for Ted Hughes’ poem Six Young Men. Points lost for a late coffee break were apparently regained for the beautiful setting, but unfortunately nobody could be persuaded to do a public reading of the poem, which is based on a photo of six local youths who were all tragically killed in the First World War.

From the waterfall it was another climb up to Shackleton Knoll where we were rewarded with a panorama from Stoodley Pike to Widdop Reservoir. After passing through the picturesque estate hamlet of Walshaw, lunch was taken on the incline which once carried a railway line up to Walshaw Dean Reservoir. The remains of a bridge can still be seen where the railway crossed Hebden Water. We joined the Pennine Way on the approach to Walshaw Dean reservoir and followed it all the way to Top Withins and the Bronte bit of the walk. A further disappointment in that nobody would lead a Kate Bush tribute act at this point although the dogs were up for joining in – what a load of shrinking violets.


The last section of the walk took us down the hill, over the Bronte Bridge and back to the cars. For those who thought the walk was a training session for base camp it was actually less than 1400ft of ascent, but a drink at the Old Silent Inn on the way home was still very welcome.





Sunday October 16th.

Jump in the Lake.

18 miles from Hale.

Leader: John Jocys.


The conditions were rather damp and drizzly as 24 eager(ish) walkers gathered in the quiet environs of Hale, all ready to embark on the 2nd ‘Jump in the Lake’ walk – a gentle wander around some of the little walked paths of north Cheshire.


The start of the walk, due at 9am, was delayed slightly due to two walkers deciding to start their version of the walk elsewhere. A phone call to Martin & Sue, querying their whereabouts, soon had them appearing in the near distance - Martin looking slightly sheepish at getting the wrong start location.


A passer-by was kind enough to photograph the group, but not before questioning the sanity of our mission. 


At 9.13am prompt, 26 walkers and no dogs left the tarmac of Bank Hall Lane to join the slightly muddy north bank of the River Bollin which we followed upstream, under the M56 and then under the magnificently engineered Runway 2 River Bollin culvert. It was the construction of this idol to the aeroplane, or more accurately, the destruction of the countryside, that gave great fame (but little reward) to ‘Swampy’, the environmental protester.


 The group, suitably impressed by this man-made structure, headed SW alongside Runway 2 of Manchester International Airport, but not before stopping to admire Norman’s Trig-Point – a famous local landmark. Sadly, Norman (57), was unable to join us on this stravaig, preferring to stay at home and eat bacon sandwiches.


The poor visibility made it difficult to see the aircraft as they hurtled down the runway – but we certainly heard them well enough. There were fewer aircraft taking off this morning than two weeks ago when the route was last reconnoitred, indication of the end of the holiday season or perhaps the recession.


Manchester Airport, previously called Ringway, was named after the village of Ringheye which has long since disappeared under the tarmac and concrete of the airport. It was used extensively during WW2 for a variety of purposes, most famously as the home of No1 Parachute School, where The Parachute Regiment did their parachute training. Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) – his dirty-tricks brigade, whose main purpose was ‘to set Europe on fire’, also received their parachute training here. 


Leaving the airport behind, our route skirted the village of  Mobberley at about the same time as the sun had decided to make a welcome appearance. This coincided with the decision to call a halt to proceedings and enjoy elevenses in surprisingly hot sunshine. It was at this point that Sue, Martin’s wife, decided she had had enough of our company and headed off to catch the train home from nearby Mobberley Station. Sue had recently started work so her spare time was now at a premium, she had stuff to do at home.


Martin chose this moment to reveal his secret weapon, his guarantee of being invited on our walks: a tupperware container of Chocolate Caramel Shortbread and Chocolate Fudge Brownies. Martin had however rather blotted his copy-book, he had under-estimated the number of walkers on this trip. I had a piece so that was okay!


Waterproofs were packed away, shirts sleeves rolled up and sunglasses donned as the group of 25 set off, this time to cross the railway line and then on to the affluent Cheshire town of Knutsford, named after the little known experimental car produced by the Ford Motor Company. The illiterate marketing manager of Ford, disgusted by the failure of this automotive adventure, described the designer as a knut…hence ‘Knutsford’. Honest. Norman told me.


The American General Patton had his headquarters in Knutsford. It was here that he made a speech which almost cost him his job. He announced that when the war was over, the world should be ruled by Great Britain and America. This speech, which became known as ‘The Knutsford Incident’, rather miffed the Russians whose sense of humour had taken a bit of a pasting during the war…..they had decided that THEY wanted to rule the world. Now that bit IS true.


An unwelcome kilometre of tarmac took us to the southerly-most entry gate of Tatton Park, the back garden of Tatton Hall, family seat of the Egertons. The property is now jointly managed by the National Trust and Cheshire County Council. NT members still need to pay for car parking, although they are exempt from the entry fee to the hall.


Walking north, along the eastern shoreline of Tatton Mere, we soon arrived at the site of Tatton Old Hall – a manor house built at the turn of the fifteenth century. Looking west across a large and open expanse of grassland, we could see groups of hinds being jealously guarded by magnificently antlered stags. We are entering the rutting season.


This open ground was used as an airstrip in both world wars, and also a dropping zone for trainee paratroopers during the last war. Tatton Mere and the soon to be seen Rostherne Mere were used to train the troops to land on water – hence the name of this walk,  ‘Jump in the Lake’. The Special Operations Executive had a training centre at nearby Dunham, they also received parachute and other training here at Tatton.


We crossed the open ground to the monument, erected as a tribute to No1 Parachute Training School, 1940-1945. Bunches of flowers usually adorn this memorial, whatever the time of year. Looking East towards the Peak District, bathed in sunshine, we were easily able to identify Shutlingsloe and other points of interest.


The rumbling of empty stomachs drove our band on to Tatton Hall, a neo-classical mansion designed by Samuel and Lewis Wyatt. Our lunch stop was to be in the courtyard of the hall. The courtyard was very crowded, the sunshine having brought the day-trippers out. We all managed to find somewhere to sit to eat and enjoy the break.


The courtyard has a small, semi-permanent fairground - a great attraction for children of all ages. Unfortunately there was insufficient time for this child to take a ride on the merry-go-round. Fast Blackshaw marched our merry band away from the courtyard and through to Home Farm where time has stood still since the 1930s. It is an authentic working farm that uses traditional farming methods and where traditional breeds are still resident.


Leaving the park behind, the village of Rostherne soon came into view. It’s church, dedicated to St. Mary, is quite ancient. Although little is known about the building, a deed dated 1188 states that a church had been on the site at that time. The colours of the local Parachute Regiment Association hang in the church, the more observant visitors spotted the kneelers and cushions bearing the regiment’s colours and insignia. We were treated to a short guided tour of the church by a local resident – who promised us tea if we came back next year. I think we shall have to!


Now on the final leg of our little jaunt, we left Rostherne on the recently created concessionary path that grants views over Rostherne Mere, the largest expanse of water in Cheshire. At it’s deepest point of 100ft it rarely freezes, such is the sheer volume of water.


More tarmac (not THAT much) led us to Birkin House Farm where we once again tramped along pleasant footpaths which took us to a footbridge over the M56. It was an unpleasant shock to be faced with the sight and sound of busy road traffic after we had been enjoying the tranquility of rural Cheshire.


A long farm track from Ryecroft Farm took us north-east for almost a mile where a footpath across farmland led us to a footbridge across the River Bollin, close by Ashley Heath. It was then a short walk on tarmac which took us back to Bank Hall Lane and the end of our walk.


Thanks to everyone who joined our party – especially those who had travelled quite a distance to get there, I really enjoyed the day and I hope you did too.





 Please click on link below to see the great photos of this walk.


Please see link below for Martin's blog about this walk.






Bowland Round Part 6. High Bentham to Crook O'Lune. 13 miles.

19th October 2011.

Oh the joy of midweek walks, when all around you is chaos and confusion, to stride out with the sun on your cheek and the wind in your hair!

And so it was that, over six Wednesdays since mid May, the Bowland Round came to be completed.

The last leg attracted sixteen people and one dog, and after a minor hiccup (one member was left behind in the car park!), the coach took us to the start at High Bentham.

We headed south to the River Wenning, and strode out along the banks before heading off to the River Hindburn at Furnessford Bridge. Staying above the river we made our way to Wray (famous for its display of scarecrows at another time of the year), but no time for the café – sorry Mary! Then it was on to Hornby, with its impressive if rather recently built castle, for the lunch stop at the play area by the familiar River Wenning, where the zip wire just had to be checked out!

Views of hills near and far, dominated by the majestic Ingleborough, were stunningly set against a blue sky, and with sunshine all the way, we couldn’t have asked for more.

Then it was on to Farleton before cutting across the A683 to head for our final river, the Lune, which was looking quite powerful after recent rainfall. It had evidently swept away a footbridge some time earlier, causing us a little local difficulty in negotiating an alternative route. A few people were lucky enough to see salmon leaping in the Lune (probably blowing raspberries at the numerous fishermen along the banks!). A flock of around a hundred greylag geese took off near us and wheeled around the valley entertaining us with their calls before eventually settling down again.

The final stretch was completed along the course of an old railway, now part of the Lune Valley Ramble, taking us back to the cars at Crook O’Lune, followed by some amber nectar at the Black Bull in Caton.

Everybody who took part in the walks would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Chris, Ian, John and Norman (and anybody else who helped out) for all their efforts. Magnificent!


Barbara Shelton



Sunday October 23rd. Douglas Valley Way Part 2.



8 people – no dogs                   17 miles                                    Ldr : Norman Thomas


Sadly only a small number of us again but we had a great time. This walk completed the tracing of the River Douglas from its source just below the Winter Hill television masts all the way out to Longton where is joins the mouth of the River Ribble and subsequently flows into the Irish Sea. It was quite an experience seeing a trickle of water come out of the moorside to grow into a brook, stream, then river wide enough and large enough to take sailing boats and to provide fisherman with their sport.


The date of the walk had to be brought forward a week due to Norman’s hospitalisation for varicose veins (in other words cosmetic surgery on those short, fat, hairy, legs!). I have just spoken to him and all has gone well by the way. The other problem we were presented with was from Northern Rail. Work on the lines between Southport and Bolton saw the usual trains replaced by a bus service. We had to change our plans and thankfully it worked out quite well. We met at Westhoughton station and in as few cars as possible travelled to Gathurst where we had finished the first leg. By nine we were underway and walking.


The first four miles was along the Leeds/Liverpool Canal with the river almost parallel to our left. We bypassed Appley Bridge and on to Parbold where we left the canalside and picked up the river bank, prompting further cries of “Hello Dougie!”. The Sefton countryside is unique, flat as a pancake, riddled with water defence embankments and draining channels and home to crop upon crop of leeks, cabbages and cauliflowers. It certainly makes for an interesting walk. We met a broadly-smiling farmer harvesting leeks, each of which was the length and breadth of a man’s arm.


We passed Rufford Hall and Tarleton on the left, Croston on the right, before beginning the long arc into Longton along an embankment which had thankfully been strimmered since the recce when it was quite overgrown. We finished about quarter to four, had a lovely pint in the Dolphin Inn, marvelled at the Man Utd v City scoreline and then boarded our minibus back to Gathurst via a vehicle change at Leyland so the driver could pick up his own cab. What a character he was - Wiganer through and through and he and Norman entered into the Lobby-Gobbler v Pie Eater badinage. I sat in the back and acted as interpreter for those who could not understand the broad Wigan accent!


Well done Norman – this was a wonderful walk and the sadly-few attendees had a thoroughly enjoyable time.


We also picked up two new members – Mark Davies on the first leg and John Gillatt on the second. Hopefully these two enthusiastic and entertaining gentlemen will join us for future walks. It could have been three new members but sadly Andrew Smith had missed the info on the change of start time and missed us at Westhoughton station. We are so sorry Andrew and look forward to seeing you soon on one of our treks.   

John Bullen