#23 Blackstone Edge

16 04 2010
16th April 2010
Solo
6.8 miles
Explorer OL21 (South Pennines)
Sunny, some patchy cloud

This is probably the furthest of the walks from my house, and given that the M62/M60 is generally more congested than the M6 north of Lancaster – likely the longest journey. So with this in mind I set off early (8:30 ish) and was pleasantly surprised to find myself parking up at Hollingworth Lake (just to the east of Rochdale) before 10 o’clock. The carpark was large an almost entirely empty, there is a fee but it is small.

Blackstone Edge

The walk starts through the back of the country park and out into gentle farmland, it winds in and out between some cottages (I almost went wrong but if you obey the rule of not walking theough peoples gardens then you’ll end up on the right path), eventually emerging onto Whittaker golf course. The path crosses the entire course, the later sections follow a path between fairways – but the initial part involves crossing a fairway, and the path is partially hidden from the tee so care (and luck) is required. the path through the course marks the start of the ascent,

and halfway along the rocky Blackstone Edge comes into view – I’m pleased to note it doesn’t look that intimidating a climb. After the golf course I bear left onto a road towards the hamlet of Lydgate, and on reaching Lydgate I can see the A58 bending around to the north, and starting alongside it – for the first time – I can see the ‘Roman Road’ that is my way up onto the Edge.

Working my way up towards the A58 there is a lovely cottage with a perfectly postioned conservatory on top of the garage, so positioned that it gets the setting sun, access to it’s hilly garden,

and a perfect view of Blackstone Edge. The climb gets a little steeper here, and the sun is really quite warm, it’s only April but I find myself wishing I had worn my zip-off walking pants. I’m a little out of breath when I reach the curve of the A58, from where the ‘Roman Road’ heads east straight as an arrow up towards the Aiggin Stone at the northern end of the Edge, whilst the road curves north towards Halifax.

View from the Aiggin stone

Although known as ‘Roman Road’ it is now thought not to be of Roman origin, it is paved though, albeit it patchy and somewhat overgrown in places. It is neither as hard or as steep as Pendle Hill, but it’s a disheartening trudge in that you don’t seem to make any progress, plus the heat means I’m always stopping for water. In cycling terms this would be a hill for Denis Menchov or Brad Wiggins, one of those where you set yourself in a lowish gear and plug away slowly but surely until you reach the top, one for a diesel engine. Unfortunately I can’t seem to tell my brain that, it thinks I’m Marco Pantani or Alberto Contador and I start to walk at a briskish pace, inevitably I tire and stop, then I start off again too quickly before I have to stop; repeat this seven or eight times before I reach the Pennine Way, this isn’t the top of the climb but provides an excuse to stop and recover. The rest of the ascent is short and I reach the Aiggin Stone which has apparently stood at this spot for 600 years, the view back across Hollingworth Lake is worth the climb alone.

From the Aiggin Stone I walk across the top of the boulder-strewn edge towards the trig-point, the path isn’t clear and twists in and out around the boulders and over some volcanic looking dark soil. There is no-one around on the top of the Edge as I climb onto the rock that bears the trig-point. I sit on the rock with my legs dangling over the edge and eat my lunch in perfect solitude, I’m so lucky to be here on my own on such a lovely day!

I walk further south along the edge, as the ground drops away on the eastern side I can see the M62, and as it stretches away into Yorkshire I can see Booth Wood reservoir, and Stott Hall Farm which sits stubbornly in the middle of the carriageways. Around here the book directs me to “descend obliquely” where “the opportunity presents itself”. Not sure if I picked the right spot but I managed to clamber down a likely looking sport in the rocky escarpment – and then – compass at the ready – headed due west until I hit a rough path alongside a man-made irrigation channel; this channel is one I crossed earlier on the ascent up the ‘Roman Road’. The path follows the channel for a while before it bends around the shoulder of Clegg Moor and Hoar Edge, here the wind picks up and it is a little bracing; then suddenly as the path drops a few feet, the wind dies down, a lovely pool (Dry Mere) comes into view and the temperature soars again. There is a family picnicing by the pool, and their Alsation piles into the pool after a stick, it’s an idyllic

English summer scene in April!

Whittaker

From here we keep descending towards the cottage at Syke. It’s here that I second guess myself and end up accidently leaving the route as prescribed in the book. I was meant to continue past Syke, to the south of Holingworth Hill until I reach the lake, but instead, thinking I was still slightly higher up on Syke Moor I turned rright (to the north) and followed a path climbing through woodland until I reached the wealthy hamlet of Whittaker, where they were in the process of setting up a large marquee. Having realised my error I then navigated through farmland to reach the bottom of the carpark I originated from. Much to my surprise – the carpark is suddenly very busy, it’s a completely different place to that I’d left 3 hours ago.

All in all, this is a great walk, an easier version of Pendle Hill with a thoroughly rewarding view halfway round.

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