Thursday, 1 October 2009

Weekend at home

With Pauline away at the FRA Navigation Course in Elterwater and the Bob Graham attempt I was planning to help on cancelled at the last minute I found myself without any plans. So after several days with spectacular sunrises I decided to enjoy Saturday’s from the summit of Winter Hill which would mean running there in the dark – not that it would be a problem and it can be done on tarmac which, unusually, would be a benefit. Last weekend on Bill’s Ramsay attempt I kicked a rock near the summit of Beinn na Lap and unfortunately, rather than merely resting on the mountain, the rock was attached to it. Although not too painful to run on, the big toe on my right foot had been weeping all week and it seemed better to avoid running through peat bogs.

The first light in the sky showed the day was going to dawn grey and overcast without even a hint of sunshine as the sun slipped over the horizon. The overwhelming, omnipresent greyness provides poor light for photographing landscapes and so I decided to have a closer look at some of the man made additions to Winter Hill.

Communications Mast

The most recent addition is a considerable array of communications masts. The tallest, know simply as “The Mast” reaches up to almost 2000 feet above sea level (the summit is at 1496 feet) which is a very convenient guide to the cloud base both locally and for the Lakes which are only about 100 miles away to the north west. Winter Hill has been lived on, cultivated, mined and grazed on for hundreds of years. The mining is long gone and the mines, more or less, all sealed. When the reservoirs to the west were built the land was cleared of farms to prevent contaminating the catchment area – ironically one of the farms to be cleared was “Drinkwaters Farm” on adjoining Great Hill, so named because of the spring (that still flows) near the farm house. A fascinating history of Winter Hill can be downloaded from The Winter Hill Scrapbook.


There are about twenty ruined farm houses on this, the west side of, Winter Hill. Little remains of them apart from low walls and in a few places there are the remains of boundary walls that seem to have survived better.

Sunday’s forecast was a little better but at 05:30 even the lights on the mast were obscured by the low clouds and so I waited a while and had a run along the Leeds-Liverpool canal which climbs out of Wigan to New Springs. This is also where the ambitious plans of the Lancaster Canal Company’s plans to reach Manchester via Westhoughton ended in a very short stretch of canal and one bridge.

The Top Lock The lower of the gates of the Top Lock at New Springs

Basin below Top Lock

Basin below Top Lock at New Springs

Sunk boat with duck

Sunk boat and a duck that expected to be fed

New Springs

New Springs above Top Lock

The ‘very short’ stretch of canal is only a little longer than the distance from the narrow boats to the ducks in the foreground. This was taken from the bridge that marks the very end of the ‘Manchester extension’.


  1. it's always good to take a fresh look at your local surroundings. it's easy to forget what's on your doorstep when every weekend is spent somewhere else.

  2. I know, I never get bored with Winter Hill and although in mid-Winter up over my ankles in icy bog I may wonder why I am there I won't be bored :)