This 13.3 miles section of The West Pennine Way like all the other sections can be walked in stages. Jumbles Café to Egerton is 3.3 miles, Egerton to Belmont is 2.1 miles, Belmont to Rivington Hall Barn is 7.9 miles, can be shortened to 5.9 miles by direct route from Winter Hill. (If this is still too far then using Wilderswood car park before Rivington Pike is only 4 miles from Belmont and from this to Rivington Hall Barn car park is 2 miles.)
There is good parking at Jumbles Café post code BL2 JS grid ref. 736140 and at Rivington Hall Barn post code BL6 7SB grid ref.632145 and various places near the route, together with opportunities for refreshments at cafés and public houses, Jumbles, Turton Tower, San Marinos are all on route and others close to the route.
From Jumbles car park follow track passing café and continue to almost the end of the reservoir. Turn left over main bridge then take footpath right off track up towards wood.
A path to the right through a gate goes to a viewing point to see a fossilized tree millions of years old. It is well worth taking a short cut to see this.
Continue through wood and field to the main road B6391.
To the left of the path just before the road is a Second world War Pill Box, strategically sited for use by the Home Guards to protect access to the largest reservoirs and keep watch over Horrobin Mill used for wartime storage.
Cross road and follow pavement left up to the entrance to Turton Tower, turn right and continue straight on to the railway bridge passing in front of tower.
Turton Tower is a grade 1 listed building, set in attractive woodlands and gardens, built around 1420 as a two storey stone pele tower, over time it has been extensively altered and was given to the public in 1929 and now belongs to Blackburn and Darwen council. It is open to the public and has a tea Room.
The large ornamental railway bridge is over the Bolton to Blackburn railway which fully opened in 1848.
Continue over bridge and follow track uphill to T junction. Turn right and continue following this track with stone wall on the right as far as a kissing gate on the left. Go through this and up the fields passing a barn on the left. Continue in same direction up through wood and field and through a kissing gate onto moorland. Here turn right on well- trodden path to trig point on Cheetham Close.
Here there are remains of an Early Bronze Age stone circle. Until 1871, 7 of the estimated 11 stones still remained, varying in height from 30cm. to 1.2m with another 2 stones outside the circle, but a tenant farmer angered by the many visitors it was attracting, took a sledge hammer to the stones and destroyed most of them. There are small stone circles all over this moorland.
Continue in same direction to go over stile in wall ahead. Turn sharp left and follow stone wall downhill and round the corner down and passing metal footpath sign to stile at junction of walls.
Go over stile then turn sharp right through kissing gate. Keep to footpath with stone wall on the right, shortly passing a bench. Continue on this higher path through more kissing gates until reaching a farm track. Turn left down this stony lane passing a bungalow and then a sign saying ‘Private Drive’
This is just before Dimple Hall, a private residence built in 1688 for barrister Sergeant Welch.
Just after Dimple Hall take the footpath left through field down to minor road, cross the road and go down footpath opposite, following a stream down to the busy A666 road.
Cross road then turn right for a few metres to go over stile at the back of the bus turning circle. This can be very overgrown, after 2 more stiles go diagonally right across small field to gate onto lane. Turn left passing house and barn to take stile ahead, then cross field to Walmsley Unitarian Chapel built in 1712.
Turn left to follow footpath between stone walls and then alongside the grassy embankment of Delph reservoir to Longworth Road. Turn left and follow road to just before Higher Critchley Fold farm, first property on the right, here turn right and follow footpath down fields over stiles onto dirt track. Turn right to junction of paths. Here bear right passing information panel on the left to follow main track through Longworth Clough Nature Reserve.
Longworth Clough with Eagley brook running through has woodland, grassland and wetland ideal for a great variety of flowers, trees, birds and other wild life.
Pass concrete building on left and keeping stream on the left continue until footbridge. Cross this and continue to the high fencing of a huge desolate complex which was once a paper mill. Take footpath right following the railings. Keeping brook always on the right continue through the clough. After path goes steeply uphill continue across heathland then on path between mill leat on the left and deep drop to the brook on right. Go over gully on new bridge, the old one was washed away in a landslip on 29th August 2012. Just a short distance after this, about 1km from disused factory, where a path goes beside a mill lodge, called the Ornamental Reservoir take the unclear path which winds steeply uphill to field. Follow this path with deep gulley on the left – same gully just crossed over on new bridge, continue following edge of field as far as a garden hedge, here take right fork to head to San Marino Restaurant’s car park
Go through car park and turn left towards Bolton for around 50 metres cross the road to take the first footpath on the right sign posted Winter Hill.
After walking through the small plantation of fir trees and going through the kissing gate, take the wide and well- trodden path opposite leading up towards the broadcasting masts standing proudly along the crest of the hill.
As the elevation increases, wonderful moorland vista open up to the north and to the east and the giant TV mast that by now looks as though it touches the sky, seems almost within touching distance.
Traces of early coal mining activities can be seen here and there on either side of the track. They were worked in the 18th and 19th century and known as ‘bell pits’. On the moors the coal seams are close to the surface.
On approaching the top you may wish to visit the ‘trig.’ Point on the actual summit. To do this take the path on the right going past the only bench on the route (dedicated to the memory of Jim Robinson)and head across the moorland with the fencing on your left, after rounding the high fenced off area head for the stile which takes you to the trig.-point at 456m 1498ft high on this windswept summit. Here you have marvellous views including the four national parks – The Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Peak district and Snowdonia. You can return to the bench by turning left down the access road and going between the two stand- alone stone gate posts
Winter Hill can be bleak and inhospitable in bad weather but in good weather, interesting and enjoyable with miles of glorious moorland. Man has roamed these moors since Pre-historic times, with evidence found in the many Bronze Age burial mounds. Since then man has always made use of these moors, up to the 1870’s the area was covered in coal mine shafts and the ones on the summit where some of the highest in England.
It has also seen many tragedies. On 9th November 1838 George Henderson a young travelling pedlar from Annan, was walking over these hills from Bolton to Blackburn when he was shot and killed. James Whittle , a 22 year-old collier from Belmont, was brought to court and found guilty of murder. However, he was found not guilty at a second trial in Lancaster. There is an iron post with a plaque in memory of the victim erected in 1912, replacing a tree that was earlier planted opposite the television station.
The 300m 1000ft towering transmitter is the highest in the country and is host to antennae which send analogue and digital terrestrial television into millions of homes in the northwest of England. Imagine the men that built it in 1965 in what must be one of the most hostile environments imaginable. Even today the painters who maintain it have a hoist to take them half way up and then use ladders the rest of the way and take one and a half hours to get there.
The 24th February 1958 was a cold and blustery day with severe blizzard, heavy snowfall and strong winds. The next morning there was sleet, drizzle and dense fog. This was when a plane from the Isle of Man crashed on the moors killing 35 of the 42 people on board. The weather that morning was so severe that none of the engineers working in the transmitting station were aware of the crash, It was only by good luck that one of the survivors managed to get to the radio station from where a most difficult rescue operation started. There have been several other aircraft crashes around Winter Hill. During World War Two an American Fairchild UC-61 Forwarder crashed in August 1942. In the following year, the crew of a Wellington Bomber, flying from Blackpool to Manchester, were killed when it crashed just to the north of Winter Hill.
For the shorter option continue on tarmac access road going past the towering transmitter and follow the road down to a left hand bend here take the footpath on the right up to the top of the hill called Two Lads, where there are 2 big stone cairns. At this point the route joins with the longer route which you now follow from ***
For the longer option
When almost at the summit just before stile/gate turn left and follow boundary path with fencing and stone wall on your right. The well- trodden paths are now left behind and for the next 2 km the path following Dean Ditch is just about discernible in the grass as it runs south straight as an arrow across the featureless moor, but once over Counting Hill there are wide panoramic views from the Pennines and the Derbyshire hills on the left to the mountains of North wales and the Irish sea to the right with the vast spread of the suburbia of Greater Manchester in between.
This barren moor was once covered by woodland and it is thought possibly to have been inhabited. There is a Bronze age round cairn dating from 1600-1400 BC. A stone axe dating from 2500BC has been found in the area of the River Douglas in Tigers Clough, a flint knife plus two arrowheads were also discovered.
Whilst crossing the empty moor it’s perhaps an opportunity to reflect on the accounts of UFO sightings down the years in these parts.
In 1950, a witness described a ‘dark flat iron shaped object hovering close to the ground’ and an encounter with a being that returned to a craft before disappearing. In 1999, in what became known as the ‘Murphy Incident’, a farmer said he saw an object hovering over his cattle field. On investigation, the object moved away and the farmer reported the incident to the police. The farmer returned to the field and discovered the object had reappeared. He reported the incident to the Manchester Aerial Phenomena Team (MAPIT), who investigated it. The UK government released previously classified information on UFO sightings in May 2006, one picture appeared to show an unidentified object over Winter Hill.
Continue on this footpath ignore the wooden stiles located at regular intervals along the fencing and only cross it via the first and only kissing gate. Cross the broken down dry stone wall behind it and head diagonally left across the field to the bottom left hand corner of the Dean Mill Reservoir.
Walk on footpath along left side of reservoir and just before the corner take the footpath off to the left, in a short distance this forks. Here take the footpath right heading in the direction of the mill chimney at Barrow Bridge, which you can see in the distance. The path becomes much more distinct as it winds its way downhill.
Go through the 2 closely spaced kissing gates and follow path down through the plantation to emerge via a kissing gate and a wooden ramp on to Coal Pit Lane.
Turn right along the lane then at the first left hand bend take the track that goes straight on, through a kissing gate by a five barred gate and in just a few paces you will pass a stone memorial.
The stone memorial is to commemorate the Mass Trespass in 1898 when 10,000 people took to the moors of Smithills demanding the right to access this incredibly beautiful place at risk of being closed. This was 30 years before the famous Kinder Scout mass trespass! The Winter Hill mass trespass occurred after Colonel Ainsworth of Smithill’s Hall closed the moorland footpaths to protect his grouse shooting interests. This action caused considerable outrage resulting in the mass trespass through Smithills moor to Winter hill and down to Belmont.
The whole of the 1700 acres Smithills estate is now in the hands of The Woodland Trust which intend to restore and revitalise the area and preserve the lands wealth of history.
Continue on this good path following the edge of the moorland and after descending the steps take the stile on the left through Roscow Clough Tenement, a beautiful wooded area.
On leaving the woods turn right and follow farm lane to Holden Farm. Here take the alternative bridle path round the front of the farm ignoring the footpath heading down the valley.
Continue on stony track through wooded dip then take right fork on grassy track up to signpost.
Turn right up hill keeping fencing on right and continue following fencing through kissing gate, then bear right up to tarmac road.
Go right up the road for 50 metres then left at signpost once over the footbridge head on path to top of Two Lads hill with its 2 large stone cairns.
THOSE DOING SHORTER OPTION REJOIN HERE***
Bronze Age burial mounds were excavated here many years ago, but no records were kept. The two stone cairns are modern with people regularly altering their shape.
From the hill top continue in the same direction on well- worn path down to Pike Cottage. Turn right on rough stony road heading for Rivington Pike. At the fork in roads take the right one which leads up to Rivington Pike.
This is the site of an ancient beacon which was lit on July 1st 1588 to warn of The Spanish Armada. The Tower was built on the beacon site in 1733, some of the stones to build the tower are from the beacon. The tower was used originally as a shooting lodge. It is a grade 2 listed building.
It is a marvellous viewing point, on a clear day the hills of Wales and the fells of the Lake District can be seen as well as the Flyde coast line. In the far distance in line with Blackpool tower is Snaefell on the Isle of Man.
Go down steps, then through gate and across road to enter the grounds of Rivington Gardens by the two stone gate posts. Carry on for 500 metres. At open space bear right across open ground where old tiles can be seen.
These are the only remains of ‘The Bungalow’ which was Lord Leverhulme’s garden residence. Lord Leverhulme was born in Bolton, made his fortune with Sunlight Soap which eventually became the world wide Unilever. He bought Rivington estate in 1900 and at once started building the ornamental Terrace Gardens and bungalow residence. It is part of Lever Park one of the largest and most impressive examples of landscape design in Edwardian England.
From the ruins we can marvel at what sort of place it was with magnificent stone archways, flights of stone steps climbing up the hillside, numerous summer houses, ponds, waterfalls and grottoes, exotic oriental gardens which once had pagoda- like buildings and willow pattern footbridge. The original bungalow was wood and burnt down by suffragettes in 1913. It was replaced by a stone bungalow, but this was demolished after the 2nd World War.
Go down the concentric stone steps to what was once The Orchestra Lawn. The base of the sundial still stands in the far corner.
Turn sharp right to take footpath parallel to the stony track which was crossed before entering the grounds. Follow this to The Pigeon Tower.
The Pigeon Tower was originally a dovecote with 4 rooms and a spiral staircase with lady Leverhulme’s sewing room on the top floor.
Do not go up to the Tower but turn left down the stone steps then left again to follow the path at the side of the Italian pond where Lord Leverhulme and his guests took a morning swim. Turn right down main steps and then over the seven arched bridge.
Continue going down by taking every footpath going right and finally through a kissing gate and through a field and another kissing gate into the woods. Here go straight on following track, which bends to the right and goes behind Rivington Hall and barn to Rivington Hall Barn car park.
Rivington Hall Barn is very interesting and is said to have been built about 1550. It is what is called a cruck building as massive split oak trees stand on stone pillars to support the roof. It was restored and enlarged by Lord Leverhulme.