First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Dove Stones, Yeoman Hey and Greenfield reservoirs lie linked in a graceful curve under Saddleworth Moor, with wild walks radiating out from them across the moors like spider threads.
A good flat path led us north beside Yeoman Hey and Greenfield reservoirs. Their waters rippled lightly as though the valley wind was chiselling millions of scallop shapes in shiny black slate.
We passed the tall grassy wall of Greenfield dam. There was fine Victorian attention to detail in the rusticated facings of sluices channelling moorland streams down to the reservoir. High above ran the black gritstone edges or cliffs of the valley rim, where tiny figures of early-bird walkers posed on rock tors sculpted by weather and time into crenellations and towers.
At the head of the valley we crossed a sluice and turned aside into Birchen Clough. Greenfield Brook came rushing down over boulders and rapids, a puzzle to get across. We teetered and hesitated, then hopped and flopped from rock to rock before climbing by hand and boot tip up the steep rough path on the other bank.
Past a waterfall, kinder gradients took over. We recrossed the brook with a splash and leap, and followed a squelchy trail of black peat up to Raven Stones Edge. Here, looking down the valley to the reservoir, I pictured in awe the sheer grinding power and weight of the glacier that carved these cliffs tens of thousands of years ago.
The more subtle ministrations of frost, rain and wind since then have shaped the rock piles into grotesque faces and tilted piles of pancakes. Chief totem among them, The Trinnacle stood out with its three great square towers, a narrow ‘drawbridge’ giving access to those foolhardy enough to want to be king of this perilous castle.
Rain clouds were massing in the west. The path led away across the moor to reach a sombre gritstone memorial cross to James Platt, MP for Oldham, who died in 1857 when his shooting companion Mayor Josiah Radcliff stumbled and accidentally shot him. A dark monument in a dark rocky wilderness, from which we descended towards the valley and the manmade lakes still brushed with sunlight far below.
How hard is it? 5¼ miles; strenuous; for fit, active walkers; some mild scrambling in Birchen Clough, boulder-hopping while fording stream. Avoid after heavy rain.
Start: Binn Green car park, Dove Stone Reservoir, Oldham OL3 7NN (OS ref SE 018044)
Getting there: Binn Green car park is signed off A635 (Mossley-Holmfirth) near Dove Stones Reservoir. NB – very popular car park; start early!
Walk (OS Explorer OL1): From lower car park, steps (‘Reservoirs & Trails’) descend to road. Left (‘Yeoman Hey’). Follow roadways along left banks of Yeoman Hey and Greenfield Reservoirs. 700m beyond Greenfield Reservoir, right across culvert (038050), up Birchen Clough, on right bank. After 100m choose place to cross (boulder hop – may be impassable in flood). On up left bank. 100m above waterfall, choose place to recross (040056) onto path slanting right up to Raven Stones (037048). Follow path along edge for 400m, then trending left from 033048 across moor for 400m, till Dove Stone Reservoir in view. Left (030047) on clear track up knoll; on past Memorial Cross (031044) and Ashway Stone outcrop (032042). In 150m, sharp right on lower path; in 150m, immediately below Ashway Stone, fork left (031042) on path downhill for ⅔ mile to cross Yeoman Hey dam (022046). Left to Binn Green.
Accommodation: Pickled Pheasant, Woodhead Road, W. Yorks HD9 2NQ (01484-687652, thepickledpheasant.com)
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