Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Winter Hill Brocken Spectre – 23 January

With the prospect of another spectacular winter sunrise I left Horwich before first light on a gloomy foggy morning en route to the three Trig Points on Winter Hill. 10 or 15 minutes later the first light appeared in the sky above the clouds covering Greater Manchester and the surrounding towns. For the rest of the morning I enjoyed bright, in not warm, sunshine and drifting clouds.


Winter Hill 23 Jan 10 (2 of 8)First light

Winter Hill 23 Jan 10 (3 of 8)  Sunrise

Winter Hill 23 Jan 10 (1 of 8)Looking back down to Horwich from just above the cloud ceiling

The best known of the three Trig Points is on the summit but there are two others overlooking Bolton, south east of the summit. Both were above the clouds and bathed in golden early light.

Winter Hill 23 Jan 10 (5 of 8) Old Harpers with the masts beyond

Winter Hill 23 Jan 10 (4 of 8) Slack Hall catches the sunshine

After leaving the second Trig Point on Whimberry Hill and crossing Counting Hill to reach Winter Hill and the third Trig Point the golden glow was gone. All around low clouds boiled up out of the surrounding valleys making a concerted attempt to engulf all the high ground.


Winter Hill 23 Jan 10 (6 of 8) Over Spitlers Edge towards Great Hill

Winter Hill 23 Jan 10 (8 of 8) Towards Walker Fold with clouds drifting north from Manchester

Finally, making my way back to the summit for the third time with the clouds swirling around the highest ground I glanced to my left to see my own Brocken Spectre to complete a magical morning.

Winter Hill 23 Jan 10 (7 of 8) Brocken Spectre

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Cut Marks, Bolts and Flush Brackets

At the end of last year we bumped into the greater world of Ordnance Survey marks; a world than includes but extends well beyond the Trig Points found on some hill tops. The best place to start is the Bench Marks database which “contains records of Ordnance Survey bench marks, with particular focus on the numbered flush brackets which appear on walls and buildings across Britain. In addition, fundamental bench marks, projecting brackets, tidal observatories, and other bench marks are also included, to help give a more complete picture of the levelling lines.”

This is a national treasure hunt or rather, like an iceberg, just the tip of a national treasure because in addition to the marks recorded in the database there are between 250 and 500,000 other OS marks. Search using your own Post Code to find those nearest to you but be careful this is highly addictive, believe me.

The table below describes the different types of bench marks -



Flush Bracket

These are rectangular metal plates affixed to triangulation pillars, walls, buildings etc. If they are not affixed to a triangulation pillar they are often referred to as Non-Pillar Flush Brackets (NPFB). They are about 6" x 3" in size and the location of most of them is known through Ordnance Survey (OS) records. Each Flush Bracket (FB) has a unique serial number which makes them highly 'collectable' and there are several numbering types.

One to four figure number

The earliest FBs you can find and date from 1912-1921. Numbered from 1-3000. A few can be found on triangulation pillars.


Introduced in the 1920s these are found on pillars and as NPFBs. There are two sub-types, S below the number and S left of the number.


First appeared in 1936. Unlike S-series brackets numbers below 1000 do not have leading zeroes. Used extensively in Scotland and never found on triangulation pillars.


Just sixteen brackets used in London in the early 1930s.

Five figure number

These are effectively S-series brackets above S9999 where they ran out of room for the S (S-below was discontinued as the S interfered with the measuring equipment).

Projecting Bracket

An early type of metal bracket used for a short time before the introduction of flush brackets. They are all the same and have no unique attributes.


Used alongside the G-series of flush brackets these are placed where there wasn't a convenient building or wall to provide a vertical surface on which to affix a flush bracket. They are domed metal bolts about 1" (50-60mm) in diameter fixed to horizontal surfaces engraved with OSBM and the benchmark symbol.

Cut Bench Mark

By far the most common type. Used and made from the 1800s to around 20 years ago. You won't have to walk (or drive) very far in any village, town or city in Britain before you spot one of these. Chiselled into stone, brick or wood on all sorts of vertical structures. A familiar horizontal levelling line with a three line arrow pointing towards it (usually upwards). Each one is unique depending on the mason who cut it, some are plain, some decorated. Some roughly cut, some exquisitely cut with high accuracy. Some small, some huge.

Cut Bench Mark with Bolt

Old and rare these have a metal bolt screwed either alongside the horizontal cut of a cut bench mark or at the point of the cut arrowhead. Usually has what appears as a screw head horizontal in the head of the bolt. These are highly prized by benchmarkers.


Usually found on horizontal surfaces these are cut marks with a small metal domed brass rivet at the apex of the cut arrowhead marks.


Fairly rare these are used on horizontal surfaces such as soft sandstone, where the insertion of a rivet would break away the stone. They consist of a small hole or depression cut to take a pivot, a steel ball bearing of 5/8" diameter (16mm). In use, the pivot is placed in the depression and the levelling staff held on top of the pivot.

Fundamental Bench Mark

These are the key to the whole levelling of the UK. Granite blocks with large domed metal caps. Just like an iceberg this is just the tip of a fairly extensive underground structure. Highly accurate height stations still used today as the baseline to levelling.

Triangulation Pillar

Familiar to anyone who walks in the British countryside, these can often (but not always) be found at hilltops. Most have a flush bracket affixed to one side.

Last weekend we travelled to Glasgow to celebrate my Dad’s recent birthday. As usual I try to get some miles in even if it is very early in morning and quick look at the Bench Marks database showed a number of churches on my regular route had bench marks. Two of them are Cut Marks with Bolt dating from the first survey conducted between 1844 and 1860. I also found some other churches I knew that also had marks so parts of the weekend were given over to finding them – 8 marks in total, all found.

Glasgow Bench Marks (1 of 5)

Cut Mark with Bolt (at the top of the arrow where it meets the horizontal line) on Old Mearns Kirk

 Glasgow Bench Marks (2 of 5) Cut Mark with Bolt on Eaglesham Parish Church

The most observant will already have spotted the above were taken using flash – the first one was especially difficult as it involved skulking around the Churchyard with a torch at around 6 o’clock in the morning as the last of the Saturday night revellers made their way home. The second, at Eaglesham, is in the centre of the village where I was again happy to avoid the local constabulary – explanations could have been difficult especially had I been unable to find the bench marks.

Glasgow Bench Marks (3 of 5) Cut Mark with Bolt on the derelict Old Parish Church at Cathcart

Glasgow Bench Marks (5 of 5)close up of simple Cut Mark on Mount Florida Church

Glasgow Bench Marks (4 of 5)  simple Cut Mark on Mount Florida Church

Finding bench marks is, like any treasure hunt, great fun and I have been astonished to find how many there are in places I have walked, run, cycled and driven passed for years completely unaware of their existence. The Bench Marks database allows you to log your own visits and record details of the condition of the particular mark. If you want to log visits to Triangulation Pillars have a look at Trigpointing UK

Back to the hills next week, I hope, and perhaps a few more bench marks too.


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Winter Hill Sunrise – 9 January

Having planned to do The Rucksack Club Marsden-Edale Double (Edale-Marsden-Edale) I was increasingly concerned about the weather as the week wore on. Finally, on Friday morning I concluded the powder snow on Kinder and elsewhere was so deep that a double crossing would probably be impossible and so we bailed out. In the event both double crossing and the single crossing were abandoned because of the snow but one individual did mange to ski a single crossing in about 12 hours.

Having seen a particularly stunning sunrise on Friday morning I thought an early run to see it from high on Winter Hill would be worthwhile and I persuaded Colin it would be worth it too. Off out of Horwich before the crack of dawn (literally) only to see a bank clouds on the horizon where the sun would rise. Although we denied the earliest sunlight we were treated to a glorious early morning run on dry powder snow. I know the snow on the pavements is getting to be a chore – I ran on it all week – but had you been with us on Saturday morning you too would have forgiven the inconvenience for the joy and exhilaration of those first few hours of sunshine on snow.

Winter Hill Sunrise (1 of 6)First light over Bolton with the moon high on the right

 Winter Hill Sunrise (2 of 6)The masts

 Winter Hill Sunrise (3 of 6)The TV mast with the moon sinking

 Winter Hill Sunrise (4 of 6)Trig Point


 Winter Hill Sunrise (5 of 6)First sunlight

 Winter Hill Sunrise (6 of 6) Winter Hill from nearby Noon Hill

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Winter Hill – 3 January

A late afternoon walk up over the Two Lads to the masts where we saw hang glider pilots hanging about, as it seems they must, whilst waiting on a breeze. Rarely are we here on a Sunday afternoon and so we don’t know how busy it usually it but there were many like-minded people out catching the last of the sunshine at the end of the “mid-Winter break”, as it is becoming known.


Winter Hill 03 Jan 10 (1 of 5)Rivington Pike through the wall below the Two Lads

 Winter Hill 03 Jan 10 (2 of 5)Trig Point

 Winter Hill 03 Jan 10 (3 of 5)Hanging about waiting on the breeze with the Cumbrian fells in the distant background


Winter Hill 03 Jan 10 (4 of 5)Boundary wall leading to Counting Hill

Winter Hill 03 Jan 10 (5 of 5) Two Lads with Daresbury power station still making clouds

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Fair Snape Fell – 2 January

With snow already causing access problems and more forecast for today we decided against a trip to Blencathra and settled, instead, for Feinsdale in the Forest of Bowland. Snow greeted our arrival and despite a couple of inches on top of a similar depth of ice we reached Fell Foot without incident. Parlick Fell had been saving a blizzard for us and as we gained the summit conditions deteriorated and we decided going beyond Fair Snape Fell wouldn’t be wise.

Tony, Albert, Colin & self on Fair Snape Fell summit Tony, Albert, Colin & self on Fair Snape Fell summit

The storm seemed even more intent on leaving the ridge than we were and it started clearing out as we left the summit. Despite this and quite out of character we stuck to our decision to cut short the run and returned the way we had come to Fell Foot for a very short outing of about 4 miles. As the storm moved south we were treated to a winter wonderland landscape to the north west.

 North west towards Morecambe Bay (1) North west towards Morecambe Bay (1)

North west towards Morecambe Bay (2) North west towards Morecambe Bay (2)


North west towards Morecambe Bay (3) North west towards Morecambe Bay (3)


 North west towards Morecambe Bay (4)  North west towards Morecambe Bay (4)


Fair Snape Fell (5 of 6)  South towards Parlick Fell


Monday, 4 January 2010

Inversion over the Lancashire Plain

A couple of days after Boxing Day, making an effort to burn some Christmas calories we ran over Healey Nab, Great Hill and Winter Hill. In very low temperatures with much of the snow turning to ice the going was difficult in places. Approaching White Coppice we started to see an inversion covering most of the Lancashire Plain and the most surprising aspect was that we would climb above it before reaching the lowly summit of Healey Nab (630ft). This turned out not to be quite true as the slightly hazy photographs will show.

Winter Hill Winter Hill


Inversion over Lancashire  South west over Chorley towards Liverpool

Reebock Stadium in the distance  South towards Bolton with the Reebock Stadium lights in the distance

Daresbury Power Station West towards Warrington with Daresbury power station adding to the clouds