Roddlesworth to Clough Head – Northern Section

This 11.4 miles section of The West Pennine Way like all the other sections can be walked in stages: Roddlesworth Info. Centre to A666 at Bull Hill is 4.3 miles, A666 at Bull Hill to Lay-by at Pickup Bank is 4.9 miles and Pickup Bank to Clough Head is 2.2 miles.

Public Transport
Bus No 38     Darwen > Belmont via Roddlesworth Information Centre. (Very infrequent)
Bus No 223   Blackburn > Belmont via Roddlesworth Information  Centre. (Very infrequent)
Bus No 1        Bolton to Blackburn via Bull Hill.  (Good Service)
Bus No 244   Haslingden to Blackburn via Grane road.

Refreshments
Roddlesworth café (inside the Information Centre.)
Royal Hotel Tockholes Road
Ocean Palace Catonese Restaurant near Bull Hill
Crown and Thistle Grimehills (on Roman Road)
Clough Head café (inside the Information Centre)
Gray Mare near B6232 road crossing.

Public Toilets inside the above

Car parking  – large car park adjacent to both the Information Centres and Lay-by near Pickup Bank

Essential kit The OS Explorer Map No. 287 (West Pennine Moors) provides excellent aid and information on all areas covered in this guide.

Click Basic route instructions Roddlesworth to Clough Head for this section of the West Pennine Way
Click Links to Urban Areas for transport links to this section of the West Pennine Way
Click Roddlesworth to Clough Head to see photos of this section

More detailed maps for this walk can be seen using the links below.

Click Roddlesworth to Ocean Palace to see a map of this section of the walk
Click Ocean Palace to Pickup Bank to see a map of this section of the walk
Click Pickup Bank to Clough Head to see a map of this section of the walk

There is good car parking at Roddlesworth Information Centre  post code BB3 0PA grid ref. 665215 and at Clough Head Information Centre grid ref. 752231 and at various places near the route, together with opportunities for refreshments at cafés and public houses, Royal Hotel Tockholes, Roddlesworth Information centre café, Crown and Thistle Inn Grimehills and Clough Head Information Centre café are all on route with others nearby.

A very pleasant walk over the Darwen and Haslingden moors, only moderately steep, combining woodlands, moorland with spectacular views and with the bonus of a great historical landmark with fantastic panoramic views on route.

The section after Bull Hill has many interesting features, not least a Roman road and extensive evidence of 18th and 19th mining activities, remarkable feats of Victorian engineering and splendid moorland views.  It must also be the least walked trails in the West Pennines.  Resulting in the paths across the tops of both Cranberry and Audshaw Moss becoming indistinct and difficult to follow through lack of foot traffic and may prove difficult for the occasional or inexperienced walkers. It certainly took us many hours of walking different routes to find the best rural one to take across this area.

The walk starts from the car park adjacent to the Roddlesworth Information Centre and Café (were the home made  pie come highly recommended) making it a perfect place to start or end a walk.

Turn left out of the car park and left again onto the bridleway to the right of Hollingshead Terrace, built originally for millworkers. Go through the five barred gate and past the first of several very useful natural stone way-markers, each one hand carved with a picture of Darwen Tower and an arrow pointing the way to the tower. The bridleway climbs gently uphill over a rough pasture to a second five barred gate and enters a small wood Stepback Clough.

This is a typical example of the small wooded valleys to be found on the fringes of the high moorland in this area. Stepback it is believed to have got its name when Oliver Cromwell, on the moor with his troops in bad weather said, ‘step back – go no further’. How true this is, no one can really be sure! There is however some evidence to suggest that opposing forces skirmished not far away in Tockholes.

 

On Bridleway leaving Roddlesworth Cafe & Info. Centre

On Bridleway leaving Roddlesworth Cafe & Info. Centre

Take the first opening on the left, go around the horseshoe bend, ignore the first stile and take the flight of steps going uphill on the right. Turn right at the top of the steps following the path past the remains of Stepback Cottage.

Better known as ‘Owd Aggies’, where local folklore has it, about 150 years ago the foul murder of the defenceless and grizzled “Owd Aggie” took place in a robbery at the remote cottage.  And that three local louts were caught the very same night splashing her money on drinks at a town centre hostelry and were arrested and subsequently hanged … Or so the story goes. When In fact “Owd Aggie” was found to be alive and kicking a year after her “murder.” She must have been a tough old bird.

 

Towards Darwin Tower

Towards Darwin Tower

Continue uphill going left at the top by the first of several strategically placed wooden benches along this walk.  To join a well trodden ‘terrace’ path that runs along the hillside just below Darwen Moor. Enjoy the amazing vistas on the left preferably whilst sitting and having a picnic on one of the benches beside the path. To the south are Winter Hill (1,498ft) and also Great Hill merging with distant Snowdonia and Great Orme’s Head and the Irish Sea beyond. On a clear day the Isle of Man can be seen and looking north along the coast, Preston and the Ribble Estuary, Blackpool and its tower lead to the River Lune and Black Combe in Cumbria. Continue along the path, forking right past another stone way-marker up to the Tower.

suggestion that it should be demolished as itDarwen’s Victorian forefathers certainly stretched the imagination of local folk, far beyond the soot – grimed chimneys and the mills; the back-to-back terraces and the cobblestones, when they built this famous landmark. In spite of the grim conditions in which most Darweners lived and worked there was plenty to celebrate in the closing years of the 1800s. The extensive sweep of the moors had just been freed after years of often bitter wrangling and Queen Victoria was about to reach her diamond jubilee. What better way to mark the occasions than by building a lasting monument high on the surrounding hills and with a vast panorama over Lancashire. A tender of £773 3s 5d from local builder James Whalley had been accepted and during the following months two of his stonemasons, Peter Brindle and Harry Flew, toiled away often in appalling conditions, swept with rain and sleet and often frozen to the marrow. The opening ceremony, on September 24, 1898, was performed by the Rev. Duckworth and he took the opportunity to make a plea to townsfolk to cause as little disturbance as possible to game, especially in the mating season. More than 3,000 people assembled for the festivities. The Tower, 86 feet tall overlooks the town at a height of 1225 feet. It is open to the public free of charge has a circular viewing platform on the way up as well as the parapet walk at the top. It has certainly stood the test of time despite the original wooden dome and weather vane being blown off in 1947 and the fibre glass replacement coming to the same end during an 80 mph gale in 2010. The new steel dome and weather vane costing over £35000 was made by Darwen Engineering Company WEC Group as a gift to the town.  A helicopter was used on 13th January 2012 to winched it into place.  It even survived a war-time was feared it could be a useful landmark for enemy bombers!

 

Darwen Tower

Darwen Tower

Ascent of the tower is well worth it for the panoramic 360 degree view, which on a clear day is breathtaking.

Directly below the Earnsdale and Sunnyhurst Hey Reservoirs, Sunnyhurst Wood, Darwen golf course, HoghtonTower and the densely wooded Billinge Hill. The hills of the Lake District grace the northern skyline and join the Forest of Bowland and the Yorkshire Dales, where the three giants, Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent tower beyond Pendle and the Ribble Valley’s. The Hills of Rochdale and the nearer Holcombe with its PeelTower are framed by the south Pennines of Yorkshire which join the Derbyshire Peak District to complete the panoramic view. A splendid view of Darwen can also be obtained. Note the 300ft India Mill Chimney which was modelled on the style of a Venetian campanile. Taking all of14 years to complete at a cost of £14,000 it was opened in 1868. In recent years peregrine falcons have successfully nested on the chimney.

 

Admiring view from Trig. Point

Admiring view from Trig. Point

Leaving the Tower ignoring the wide and well maintained paths going downhill to Darwen and join the much narrower double rutted ‘Tacklers Section’ of the Witton Weavers Way keeping the Darwen Valley on left   (the TV mast on Winter Hill can be clearly seen peeping over the top of a hill in the distance).

If walking early in the morning, look out for the occasional fox out hunting. Red Grouse can be seen all year round on the moor, with Curlew and Meadow Pipit in the rough pasture. Peregrine Falcons can sometimes be spotted circling overhead. Alongside the dry stone walls in the spring look out for Wheatear. The walls are also home to mice, weasels and the Common lizard.

Many of the tracks and paths across the moor were developed to service the coal mining activities in earlier times and this first section of the Weavers Way between the Tower and the T junction, ½ mile distant, is an excellent example of this. Albeit it fairly narrow the path had been raised above the level of the surrounding moor to provide a comparatively dry and firm all weather path for man and beast in days of yore.

Turn left at the ‘T’ junction as per the ‘Weavers’ way-marker and shortly afterwards go straight ahead past another ignoring the right turn beside it. Continue along this rather pleasant and distinct path following the contours in and out along the ‘shoulder’ of the hill just below the Moor. Eventually the path drops downhill into Duckshaw Clough and to a very useful notice board displaying large scale map of the ‘Weavers Way’ with a ‘you are here’ arrow to reassure walkers they are still hopefully on the right track together with pictures of wild life that can be seen on the moor

Duckshaw Farm in the valley directly below is thought to have been the destination of three boys who in 1917 set off on a walk to see their grandfather after Sunday School and are  thought to have taken a wrong turning in a sudden snowstorm / blizzard and sadly all three were found dead two days later on the moor not far away.

 

Near Duckshaw Brook

Near Duckshaw Brook

At the board turn right and ‘zig- zag’ down to join the asphalt access road up to ‘Lords Hall’ a large modern cream coloured building standing alone on the moor above. Turn right up the access road and just before the entrance gate to the ‘Hall’ take the signposted footpath on the left.This path goes straight ahead and rather like the ‘curates egg’ is good in parts going above White Hall Farm and up over the hill in the distance. With stone paved sections over boggy ground. On the far side of the hill cross the wooden stile, where the path improves immensely as it crosses a well- drained rough pasture and enters via duckboards and a second stile a small coniferous plantation.

Go through the plantation and over a stile on the far side to emerge onto more rough pasture where the path becomes indistinct and difficult to follow. But don’t despair, from the stile bear left up the field for about 150 metres then turn left leaving the Witton Weavers Way to head downhill on raised path coming down from the topof the hill, to go through second gate in fencing after the plantation, just walked through,follow this hard track down to Prospect Farm below.

Go past the farmhouse on the left and then turn right up the far side of the large green shed and over the stile by the gate at the far end of the yard. Head slightly to the right across the field, a pond can be seen on the left of path keeping a lookout for make shift stile in the Bull Hill Farm garden fence directly ahead. Cross the stile and go up the ramp and between the tennis court and the side of the recently renovated property, down the drive and out through gate at the side of large black iron security gates.  Turn right and follow the road, then grassy track round the bend to an old metal gate. Don’t go through this but take the narrow footpath on the left following garden fencing down to access road.  Continue down this to the A666 at Bull Hill. Cross the road and turn right, follow pavement for about 150 metres, then turn left onto Bull Hill Road heading uphill onto Cranberry Moss.

Cranberry Moss is littered with the legacy & remains of early coal mining and coking activities. Scattered around the moor are a number of shaft mounds indicating locations where coal was extracted; these survive as circular hollows each surrounded by a mound of spoil. Adjacent to many of the shaft mounds are gin circles, horse powered winding arrangements for raising coal from the shaft, or platforms on which stood man powered cog-and- rung gins. Many of these dispersed shaft mounds are connected by a network of raised earthwork roadways. The stories of the men that worked them are legend. The late John Entwistle, better known as John o’ Oliver’s, was brought up on Cranberry moss. There were four sons John, Joseph, Thomas, and James.  The Entwistles used to sink little pits on, just a few yards deep, the coals were hauled up by horse or man powered windlass.

There were lots of stories of fighting amongst the men, some were too lazy to go down for coal, but when it was brought up they would fight for its ownership. The Entwistle family got Green Leech Pit, James was killed there. When he was brought to the top a man who had brought breakfast for him said: “Jim, tha’s worked hard, but tha’ll work no moare.” Then it was said, he sat down and ate the breakfast so it wouldn’t be wasted.

 

Coke overs after crossing A666 Bolton toDarwen road

Coke overs after crossing A666 Bolton to Darwen road

At the first junction bear left again, signposted Pleasant View Farm, passing through a pair of rather ornate black cast iron gate posts on route. On the final bend just before the farm, take either one of the two stiles on the right and go hard left once over the stile at around 45 degrees across the field to the far corner and the next stile.

Note, the path across the rough pasture is at best indistinct, if in doubt, head for the fence ahead of you running away to the right from the farm and follow it into the far corner to find the stile.

Go over the stile and turn left along the dry stone wall, noting on the right in the near distance, a rather squat somewhat mysterious round red brick structure, which is in fact an atmospheric vent from the railway tunnel, running deep beneath the moor. Follow the dry stone wall to the junction of the path and a stream. (Below your feet, at this point, is a remarkable piece of early Victorian engineering, the Cranberry Moss railway tunnel still in use to this day.)

The construction of the railway line between Blackburn and Bolton for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Co. employed around 3000 men, women and children mainly unskilled and of Irish descent. To dig the tunnel under Cranberry Moss from Whittlestone Head to Sough Village — a distance of 2015 yards. The men, women and children lived in nearby camps for two years and life was tough. Law and order was practically non-existent and the navvies’ main pastime was gambling and fighting – “Clog fighting almost naked for a five pound wager was common practice,” Drunken brawls were very common. But eventually the job, including a fine stone viaduct 100 feet above Bradshaw Brook, was completed in time for the inaugural run to Bolton at 7.05 am on Monday, June 12, 1848.

 

Air vent for Bolton to Darwen railway

Air vent for Bolton to Darwen railway

Turn right down the path / track on the right hand side of the stream following the stream and fencing on your left and head for the right hand side of the Church of Saint Mary’s whose tower is now clearly visible on the hillside ahead, standing on Roman Road.

During the Roman occupation of Britain, around AD78, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman Governor of Britain, founded a fort at Manchester and from it built a series of radial roads. One of these toRibchester ran north through Affetside in Bury where it’s called Watling Street. Further remains of the old road reappear here running several miles  north from Edgworth  Like most of the Roman road network, the Roman paving fell into disrepair when the Romans left Britain, although the route continued to be used for centuries afterwards. A Roman mile is 1,000 paces and a milestone was set up to mark each mile, roads were built at the rate of 1 kilometre every day.

From St Mary’s turn right down the Roman Road (imagine for a moment you are now walking in the footsteps of Roman Legionnaires that marched this way  2000 years ago) past the cosy and inviting  18th century  Crown and Thistle Inn. An excellent country inn steeped in history. It is said, the legendary Scottish hero Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed at the inn during his adventures up and down the country and because of this they changed its name from the Rose and crown to the Crown and Thistle in 1745 during the Jacobite rebellion. Good food and traditional ales are complimented by excellent views even from the gent’s toilet window.

 

Down Roman road passing Inn

Down Roman road passing Inn

Go over the bridge, take the first turn on the left up to Higher Aushaw Farm and Audshaw Moss beyond.

Arriving at the farm where the track turns hard right into the property, take the footpath going straight ahead alongside their wooden fence. Go through a gate and down a couple of steps turning right onto a partially overgrown cart track running uphill behind the farmhouse. Known locally as the old ‘Coal Rd’ as there were no roads fit for carts in 1729, the coals were carried along it in panniers slung on packhorses down to the Roman Rd below.

Arriving at the top of the hill, look for a way-finder post beside the path and take the path left through the small conifers plantation. Emerging from the trees look carefully for the ‘difficult to spot’ narrow continuation of the path winding ahead across the moor through the heather and couch grass to a wooden stileover the fence that runs left to right across the moor directly ahead. Just beyond the style you will see clear evidence, in the form of grassy mounds, of the early and extensive mining activities on Audshaw Moss much the same as there was on Cranberry Moss earlier.

The extensive coal workings on Aushaw Moss are a rare surviving example of 19th century coal workings where steam power was never introduced. Remains of more primitive arrangements of both horse powered and man powered winding shafts survive and these features, together with the remains of coking ovens which survive reasonably well and form a well-preserved low investment coal mining landscape.

 

Crossing moors beyond

Crossing moors beyond

Turn right to follow the dry stone wall downhill part way down the hill the path crosses over a broken section of the wall and continues downhill on the other side of the wall. Eventually the wall crumbles and disappears completely, however do not despair, continue heading in the same general direction as far as a small stream, take the path down the left hand side of the stream, until it veers left and a dry stone wall now appears on the right running around a massive heap of bare stones above an hidden quarry.

Where the wall disappears around 200 metres on the right  (due south) there’s a monument on the moor consisting of the upstanding and buried remains of eight 19th century beehive coking ovens together with associated extensive coal workings consisting of shaft mounds, gin circles and platforms, and connecting roadways.. The upstanding remains are two rows of three stone built coking ovens situated facing each other towards the eastern side of the monument, and one pair of stone built coking ovens in the northern part of the monument. The ovens have an opening in the top  for charging or filling, probably by wheelbarrow, and an opening at the front for drawing out the coked coal. As coal loses weight when turned into coke the coking ovens here are thought to have made an important contribution to the economic viability of the mining operations at Aushaw by reducing transport costs down the moor.

Leave the stream and follow the wall downhill to join the stony track, clearly visible now, running left to right along the hillside which makes a very pleasant change from playing ‘spot the footpath’ on the open moors behind Turn left along the track, passing Longshoot Farm on the right continue on this track for about 1 km, then  through a couple of 5-barred gates and downhill into an ‘open yard’. Take the track uphill out of the yard towards ‘Pastures’ a white painted farmhouse. Turn left just before the farm through a 5-barred gate by one of the out-buildings and go straight across the open field  in line with side of property and parallel to road on the right, head for the ‘tractor wide’ gap in the somewhat sad and overgrown remains of a dry stone wall. Continue in the same general direction across a second similar sized field and the farm access track beyond. Cross the stile in the fence on the far side of the track and having negotiated the ditch just beyond it head for the 5 barred gate in the corner of the fencing, in the field just ahead.

Go through the gate turn right and follow the path that runs alongside the fence, unfortunately this becomes difficult as the path has been scraped out to become a drainage ditch. So should you wish to keep your feet dry, suggest you pick a path through the reeds on the bank above the ‘ditch’ Eventually the new drainage ditch (ex path) joins a much deeper one and as the original pedestrian wooden bridge across has been removed, take care when negotiating the deeper ditch to gain access to the stile on the opposite bank. From the stile walk down towards Lower Pastures Farm and once over the next stile head at around 45 degrees  up and across the field to the 5-barred gate in the corner between the fence coming up alongside the farm access track and the one running across the middle of the field to meet it. Go up the farm access track, then turn left, when the track turns sharp right to join Broadhead Rd just above to go over stile, then bear right to go on path as it curves round the hillside soon becoming choked with reeds and eventually morph’s into the bed of a stream.

However again, it is possible to follow it by walking on the clear grassy areas between the reeds above the old path to the last stile before Pickup Bank. Cross the stile and follow another short but little used  path by following a somewhat decrepit wire fence on the left, passing a breeze block garage to join a hard track running behind several  farmhouses and other properties to eventually arrive at the main road through Pickup bank.  Cross the road to follow track opposite passing Pickup Bank Congregational Old Chapel on the right.

The chapel was built as an Independent School in 1834 and consecrated as a chapel in 1860.In 1972 the Congregational church joined with the English Presbyterian church to become the United Reformed Church.

 

On track passing Chapel

On track passing Chapel

Just before old farm buildings on the left, take footpath on the right which winds its way up through Chapel Wood Gardens, here there is a picnic bench and viewing point. Leave by asmall gate ahead and walk up to the road, turn left and  follow road to T junction. Cross this minor road to take footpath opposite through field passing telegraph pole and 3 stiles to the grass verge on the Haslingden to Blackburn busy B6232 road. Take care crossing this road to take footpath opposite which goes diagonally right through the unfenced rough area to go over stile in the stone wall. Follow footpath alongside stone wall on your right until it bends to the right.  Here take the footpath left heading for the cairn onthe top of the nearby hill.

The Hynburn Wind farm on Oswaldtwistle Moors with its 12 turbines is just to the left and the three Haslingden Grane reservoirs, Calf Hey built 1860, Ogden 1912 and Holden Wood 1842 can be seen in the valley below on the right.  This area called Haslingden Grane reached its most prosperous point around the 1840’s with people employed in farming, handloom weaving and quarrying as well as being the centre of an illegal whisky distilling industry.

 

Cairn on hill after crossing Grane road

Cairn on hill after crossing Grane road

From the cairn continue in the same easterly direction  just below the top of the moorland following one of the paths running roughly parallel to the high stone wall and the road  on your right continue for about half a kilometre to the top corner of isolated stone walled field. Take the stile near the corner and follow the wall and fencing on your right steeply downhill towards the kissing gate.  At the junction of paths leave the West Pennine Way and continue downhill to Clough Head Car Park and Café which is only a short distance away.