First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Walsden lies in a hollow of the hills in bleak moorland country where Yorkshire meets Lancashire. Strong sunlight and a cold wind greeted us as we climbed the stony trod of Long Causeway. Below, swathes of blanket bog cradled the reservoir of Cranberry Dam in cushions of pale brown velvet.
For all its upland wildness, this is a landscape of industrial endeavour, past and present. Sheer-sided scoops in the sides of the steep little cloughs or stream valleys showed evidence of lead and coal mining. Pylons like skeleton trees strode across the country. And high on Noon Hill and Ramsden Hill, tall white wind turbines lazily turned their three-blades apiece with a gentle, greasy whine and whoosh.
Among these ghostly giants we found an old track that rose past the gritty spoil banks of long-gone lead mines in the flanks of Rough Hill. Far in the south, beyond the million diamond sparkles of Watergrove Reservoir, the towers and factory chimneys of Manchester lay hazed with distance.
A confusion of ill-marked paths had us scratching our heads at the junction with the Rossendale Way, but soon we were heading north over squelchy black peat, through sedgy fields where sheep grazed. A pair of baths, complete with shiny chrome taps, stood beside the fence half-full of scummy green water, waiting for a walker too hot and sweaty to resist their allure.
On the heights of Trough Edge End the broad walled track of the Rossendale Way met the old trodden track now styled the Todmorden Centenary Way. It dropped down a bank among mine ridges to the ruin of Coolam Farm, and followed the old road past Pot Oven, once a beer-house for travellers in these lonely wastes. ‘Deaf old Sam’ Jackson, farmer, fustian weaver and tenant here in 1784, raised ten children with his wife Martha Woodhead. Foulclough Mine opened in the 1790s, and Sam and Martha’s sons became colliers and left the fustian trade forever.
A final descent into Ramsden Wood’s narrow clough, and a teetering path through bluebell woods high above waterfalls and cascades, back to the lake where stolid fishermen with twenty-foot roach poles were patiently sitting the evening out.
Start: Ramsden Wood fishing lake, Ramsden Lane, Walsden, W. Yorks OL14 7UN approx (OS ref SD 928213).
Getting there: Bus 589, 590 (Todmorden – Rochdale)
Road – A6033 (Todmorden – Littleborough) to Walsden; Ramsden Wood Road (next to Border Rose Inn); in 600m, left up Ramsden Lane to car park. Also parking in Ramsden Wood Road.
Walk (6 miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL21): On up lane. At Plantation Barn fork left (924213) over cattle grid. In 200m, right through gate (‘Long Causeway’). In 1 mile cross wind turbine service roadway (918199); in 200m, right at marker stone on moor track. In 400m, left across stream spring (914200, yellow arrow/YA). Track rises through mine heaps. 100m beyond last heap, fork left on rutted track (910201). In 200m wall comes in on left; follow it for 600m to turn right along gravel road (903198).
In 200m, at post with red reflectors, left (904199); turn left to follow enclosure fence, keeping it on your right. At northwest corner, keep ahead on track over Hades Hill. In 450m through gate (906203); left along fence; in 300m, left (904207, stile) across field to ladder stile (903206). Don’t cross it, but turn right/north with wall on left, on Rossendale Way. In nearly 1 mile right (901221) along Todmorden Centenary Way/TC.
In 350m, cross stile (904218); left along fence to trig pillar (906219). Half right on path down hillside towards Coolam Farm ruin. Near ruin, left through gate (911215, TC); follow rocky lane downhill. In 200m left along walled lane (913215, TC). In ⅔ mile, pass Pot Oven (920219); in another 200m, right (922220, TC) across farmyard. On down green lane. 50m before it turns left across Ragby Bridge, left through gate (923216, YA), on path (see below) above river to car park. Alternative: follow TC up past Inchfield to meet outward route (923212); left to car park.
Conditions: Rough moor paths. Riverside path to car park – steep drops, narrow path.
Lunch: Border Rose Inn, Walsden OL14 7UA (01706-812142)
Accommodation: Moorcock Inn, Halifax Road, Blackstone Edge, Littleborough OL15 0LD (01706-378156, themoorcockinn.co.uk)
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