In complete contrast with yesterday’s sunshine, even in Manchester, Saturday dawned damp, grey and misty with much of Lancashire enveloped. Winter Hill was above the low lying clouds but beneath an unbroken blanket of grey. The ground is close to saturated – Thursday’s deluge simply ran off the moors, they couldn’t absorb any more water – I know, because we were out running as the surface water drained from the moors. While many walkers, cyclists and runners enjoy Winter Hill and the surrounding moorland as a playground others are trying to eek out a living from the same moors. Regrettably, interests are not always shared and, at present, the differences are on the increase.
The quarry operator wishes to expand into an adjacent quarry which would remove these trees and the footpath alongside them – in doing so it would deny direct access, from Horwich, to a great swathe of Winter Hill. Perhaps as much as a quarter of the hillside would be isolated by the expanded quarry. Any expansion beyond this would threaten, or consume, part of the “Two Lads” fell race route.
I was going to write that the Winter Hill fell race too is under threat because of new fences erected to reflect recent changes in farming practises but the situation has deteriorated further so that parts of the route are now blocked by these fences. Discussion with the landowner, United Utilities, hasn’t been particularly helpful and while I have no wish whatsoever to make the situation more difficult I am disappointed that the landowner is unable to suggest anything other re-routing the race over existing tracks and footpaths. I appreciate it is a privilege to be able to run and race over this land but I had hoped that a formal approach concerning a race that has been run over these moors for more than 25 years might have been treated more sympathetically. As things are right now there is little prospect of the race taking place.
The loss of the Winter Hill fell race would be a significant one and as things develop I will endeavour to post updates here. Fingers-crossed that a more empathetic approach might result in the race taking place over its existing route in 2013.