The Rochdale Way
by Richard Catlow
The Rochdale Way is a newly-opened 45-mile route around the borough of that name, devised by Richard Catlow of the Rochdale Observer group of newspapers, John Cole and Martin Riley of Rochdale MBC and Rossendale map illustrator John B. Taylor. It aims to take in almost all the best scenery and many of the most interesting buildings in the area.
It has been broken down into easily walkable sections. You can either start and finish at places where public transport is available, use public transport to return to your car at your starting point, or do a circular route by combining a section of the Way with an alternative route.
The route has been waymarked using temporary signs, but permanent signs and marker posts are already appearing. A guide is to be published soon, but the route has already been published in a series in the Observer.
Our description begins at Hollingworth Lake Visitor Centre. From here the Way heads north to Whittaker hamlet and then to Lydgate. Blackstone Edge is climbed via the Roman road. Follow the Pennine Way to the White House Inn and on to Warland Reservoir.
Here bear left, downhill, to Warland and the Rochdale Canal. Go north for a short distance, cross Stonehouse Bridge and the main Littleborough Todmorden Road.
The next section is the most difficult. Follow the footpath sign pointing to Calderbrook and take a grassy track rising gently up the steep hillside. At a small side valley with crags above, the overhead cables of the pylons make it easy to recognise, turn sharply, almost back on yourself, up the hillside to reach a track at the lip of the gorge.
Turn left, briefly and then aim for the base of the pylon on the right. The path runs parallel to a wall some yards to the left. Where the wall ends, the Way bears slightly left. Follow the escarpment around to left finding a track which curves down to a gate. Do not go through it, instead turn sharp right along a not very distinctive track until a ruined building is met. Bear right here along a shallow, dry valley which shortly turns to the left. Cross a broken wall and, on the hillside to the left of the valley that opens before you, a good path is met. Follow this down Ringing Pots Hill. After a while you will hit a track. Turn right on this, into the heart of the valley, which it crosses by means of a very obvious stone embankment. The track climbs and bears left to end at a ruin.
A stone stile over the wall leads into the smaller Turnslack Clough. We cross this and in a few hundred yards, leaving the more obvious path straight ahead, bear right and uphill to where a wall is crossed by means of another stone stile. Continue to climb steadily again to a promontory between Higher and Lower Stone Pits. Cross a much more obvious track and head downhill to the track below.
Follow the track to the right (north west) and a substantial wall appears on the left of the track. A conspicuous ladder stile is used to cross the wall and an overgrown track is met. Follow this down to Watergrove Reservoir.
The route goes to the north of the reservoir across to the ruins of Hades Farm and then via the Rossendale Way to Healey Corner on the Bacup to Rochdale road.
To make the most of spectacular Healey Dell, we take the walker along Station Road and then down to the river and "Fairies Chapel". Climb up to far side of viaduct and then back across it. Follow old rail line and then track to Prickshaw, going on to meet Rooley Moor Road.
Cross to Naden Reservoir, bear down the valley then dog leg back up the hillside to Knowl Hill. Then it's on to Owd Betts.
Go left and follow track to Marcroft Fold and then field paths to Milleroft Tea Rooms and Three Owls Bird Sanctuary. Follow path down Ashworth Valley to Bury-Rochdale Old Road.
Cross this down to River Roach and then to Hooley Bridge. Go upstream and cross footbridge into Queens Park.
Take track towards Crimble Mill, then field path to Rochdale-Heywood road near Chamber House. Follow track to Francil, then left on track and into Castlehawk golf course. Follow waymarks to cross rail line and and then via green lane to Heywood to Middleton road.
Follow this over M62 then right to Siddal Fold and then Langley Lane into Birch. Path goes at "back" of Bowlee, along sculpture trail to Rhodes Green. Follow lane to main road, cross to Boothroyden Road.
Follow bank of River Irk upstream and then into Alkrington Woods and past hall to Middleton centre which has many fine buildings.
Make way through town centre to Long Street and then past parish church to old grammar school and Boarshaw Road. Then left up this and into clough to Middleton to Rochdale Road. Cross into Hopwood Hall woodlands. The Way circuits this before crossing road again to Rochdale Canal and following this to Slattocks.
Follow Thornham Lane and then field tracks to Burnedge, continuing to join Oldham Way and down into Jubilee. Path via Top o'th Hill Farm has been blocked, but is being reopened. Alternative is using Bethany Lane.
At Ogden, route visits ancient hamlets and goes to head of Piethorne valley before heading back by ridge to drop beneath M62 viaduct to Hollingworth Lake.
In our view: Some great scenery where you would expect it; moors, Healey Dell, Ashworth Valley etc, but also many little known but very scenic areas, such as Alkrington and Hopwood woods, Jubilee, Thornham and the Roch valley.
Also many historic buildings, such as Middleton's rich heritage from the ancient parish church, grammar school and Olde Boars Head inn to the Art Nouveau of Edgar Wood.
(Further details and certificate for completion from Richard Catlow, Rochdale Observer, Dale St., Rochdale OL16 1PH. I have a detailed booklet with map and pictures of the route if anyone is interested. Ed.)
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Content Copyright © 1998. Walter Waide