Sunday, 18 August 2013

Sunay Morning in Saddleworth

With one or two Sunday morning runners nursing sore heads, after last night's wedding, a good strong group set off from the Castleshaw Centre, in Saddleworth.

Heading up the valley we made our way onto a windy Millstone Edge, before heading north along the
Pennine Way. At the Nant Sarah's Road we continued north for a short while before crossing access land to Readycon Dean Reservoir. From here we picked up the Pennine Bridleway and passed below Lurden Top, on route to Dowry Reservoir.

After a morning of showers, the sky now cleared and we removed wet cags as the sun broke through the scattering clouds. Continuing on, we climbed the PBW and picked up Moor Lane and then on to Four Lane Ends. Enjoying the delightful grassy descent we dropped into the valley to return to the car park on waterworks Road.

Another great Sunday morning run.

Friday, 9 August 2013

A Walk Round Dove Stone Reservoir

Dove Stone Reservoir, situated in the Chew Valley, Greenfield, is a popular tourist attraction for Oldham residents and visitors from farther afield. Considered as the northern gateway to the Peak District this beautiful valley offers an array of low level strolls and high moorland walks.

Setting out from the RSPB operated car park, adjacent to the Sailing Club, I made my way along the southern shores of Dove Stone Reservoir, with the evening sun warming my back. Turning north, at Chew Brook I watched a flotilla of sailing dinghy’s straining to make forward progress as their crews attempted to harness the light breeze in loosely flapping sails.

Passing below Dean Rocks the air was still and quiet, except for the distinctive calls of the Peregrine Falcons which nest high on the cliffs. Reaching the foot of Ashway Gap I sat on a bench in the grounds of the former Victorian Hunting Lodge, called Ashway House, and trained my binoculars to the sky in search of the high speed raptors. Previously owned by the wealthy Platt family the once majestic, castle-like, building was sadly demolished in the early 1980’s.

Continuing north I made my way along the eastern shores of Yeoman Hey Reservoir, which was the first to be constructed in the valley. Following the clear path I climbed to the south-east corner of Greenfield Reservoir and crossed the dam to reach the far bank.

Looking up the valley I watched two climbers scaling the formidable tower of gritstone rock, known as the Trinacle. The sound of their clanging ironmongery drifted down the valley on the still air.

As the setting sun bathed the valley’s upper, west facing slopes, in a blanket of orange light, I turned south and headed along the wide track, below Bill o’ Jacks plantation. Named after a 19th century pub which once stood close by, on the Saddleworth to Holmfirth Road, it was the scene of a most gruesome murder.

At the end of the track I dropped down the path and continued along the shores of Dove Stone Reservoir, as a pair of ducks escorted their young brood along the water’s edge. Crossing the dam wall I made my return to the car park to complete what had been a wonderful evening’s stroll in the Chew Valley.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Saddleworth Runners Summer Solstice Coffee Run

The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year and is also the birthday of one of the members of Saddleworth Runners. At 8pm on Friday 21st June over twenty club members met at the Clarence Hotel, Greenfield, for birthday drinks before departing on a night-time round of the 20 mile Saddleworth Trigs route. Inspired by a previous, nocturnal winter round by two fellow SRC members, Nicky Torr wanted to complete the route, with friends, to celebrate her 40th Birthday.

Arriving at the half-way point
Starting out at 9pm, on what was a perfectly mild summers evening, the group was full of laughter and joy, as the 20 strong group made their way up Alphin Pike to the first trig point of the night. With a bright moon peaking from behind dark clouds the contingent made their way along the Chew Valley edges past Wimberry Rocks to Chew Reservoir and onto the 2nd   , and most remote trig point of the round, upon Featherbed Moss.  With the conditions ideal the miles were quickly ticked off as the going underfoot, along the Pennine Way, was ideal and Black Hill trig point was soon attained.

Get the coffee on love they're coming
Happy birthday Nicky
At Snoopy’s lay-by, on the Saddleworth to Holmfirth Road, another group of SRC members were waiting to join the first group for the second leg of their overnight journey. Husband and wife duo, Ruth and Stuart Hutchinson, had offered to set up their outside catering van to provide everyone with copious amounts of their finest coffee. Recently married, the SRC couple, who’s relationship was cemented by a love of the outdoors and a passion for fell running, own a newly established business called ‘Coffee Run’. Their specially kitted-out van can be seen every day, outside Greenfield Railway Station, serving Tea and Coffee to Saddleworth’s early morning commuters. At lunch times they provide hungry workers, at several business premises, with quality sustenance to see them through the remainder of the working day. Having a passion for fell racing they are now looking to set up stall at local fell races, to share their wonderful range of coffee’s and light snacks with fellow hill loving folk. Indeed they recently quenched the thirst of runner’s at two of SRC’s popular races, the Cake Race and the Saddleworth Fell Race.

Thanks for the wonderful coffee!
No sooner had their stall been set out, with lanterns glowing and birthday balloons floating in the wind, when a line of head-torches could be seen descending the northern flanks of Black Hill. As the group arrived, Ruth and Stuart set to work serving cup after cup of freshly brewed coffee to the parched runners. Within the space of a few minutes they had served around thirty nocturnal runners with freshly brewed coffee’s and home-baked cakes.

West Nab trig point - one to go
With everyone suitably refreshed, the ever growing group set off on the final leg of their Summer Solstice run. Under an angry looking sky we reached the trig point upon the rocky summit of West Nab in good time. A heavy rain now moved in, on an ever increasing wind, and it was time to don cags for the remainder of the outing. Making good progress down Wessenden Valley we once again followed the Pennine Way past Swellands and Black Moss reservoirs before traversing Broadhead Brow to reach South Clough.

With the weather now turning to near winter conditions and the driving rain reducing visibility to only a few metres ,everyone was still in high spirits as we marched on a bearing across the bleak and featureless Wicken Clough Moss. Crossing the Cotton Famine Road we drifted a little too far south and had to readjust our sights in order to reach the final, elusive trig point of the night.

Wessenden Valley
Upon reaching Sykes Pillar (Broadstone trig point), named on OS Maps after the late Frank Sykes, one of Saddleworth Runner’s founding members, we didn’t linger long as some of the group were now beginning to feel the effects of this unusually chilling weather. Dropping off the hill, to escape the worst of the driving rain and bone chilling wind, we headed down Broadstone Clough and past Slades Barn to reach Pobgreen. With dawn now breaking we followed a much more sheltered course along the lower flanks of Primrose Hill, below the Pot’s and Pan’s War Memorial, and into Greenfield were yet another strong contingent of club members had turned out to toast Nicky’s birthday and mark the passing of the solstice.

Nicky had thoroughly enjoyed her birthday run with her husband, Matt – a member of Oldham Mountain Rescue Team – her sister-in-law, who had travelled up from Sheffield to take part in the fun, and all her friends from Saddleworth Runners Club, for making her birthday so special. Nicky would like to pass on her thanks to everyone who turned out to support the run and a special thanks to Ruth and Stuart for providing the freshly brewed, energy giving, coffee’s. If you would like to book the ‘Coffee Run’ to support a race or club event, you can contact them via their facebook page at

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A Walk Along the Denshaw Valley to Heights

On Bank Holiday Monday my son enjoyed a rare opportunity for a rest day from swimming training. With me just having returned from a weekend in the Lake District, working with a group of Youth Workers on a Forest School and Bush Craft training course, we decided to get out and enjoy a pleasant evening walk in Saddleworth.

Setting out from Denshaw we made our way along the upper-reaches of the River Tame, where a lone Heron stalked the shallow waters in search of an evening meal. At New Years Bridge Reservoir we made our way over to Ox Hey Farm, where, more used to being seen in the high mountains of Peru, Llama grazed in the lush grassy meadows .

With a light rain being blown in, from the south-west, we headed over to Heights where we looked around Heights Chapel, which has appeared in many a film and TV production. Afterwards we enjoyed a coke and a packet of nuts each in the Royal Oak, opposite. Sitting in front of the open fire we chatted with the landlord and his wife, who were very friendly and welcoming. Soon afterwards their son arrived, and we discussed a trekking trip to Nepal which he was about to embark on in a few days time. Over-hearing several conversations it was clear that many of the regulars were keen walkers and anyone calling in, when passing by, would fit in and be made very welcome.

With the refreshments and warming fire taking effect we left the comfort of the pub and made our
way down into the Denshaw Valley, past the cricket club. Crossing the fields we discovered a Lapwing's nest complete with incubating eggs. The protective parents had taken to the skies to chase off a couple of marauding Carrion Crow. Hopefully the batch of eggs will hatch and the chicks survive to adulthood, as unfortunately the lapwing (or Peewit as it is also known, in imitation of its display calls) is now on the RSPB's 'RED', endangered, list.

Continuing north we made our way along the valley bottom to return to Denshaw. We had enjoyed a couple of hours gentle stroll and had seen a range of wildlife on route. With a great sense of humour and an ability to hold varied and interesting conversations my son is fantastic company to be in and we had enjoyed some great Father and Son time together.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Cross-border skirmishing into West Yorkshire

Due to a busy work schedule and my son's swimming commitments it's been awhile now since I've managed to get out for a Sunday morning run. With a free morning slot in my diary I was determined to get out on the hill today. I decided a walk, instead of a run, would give me a chance to assess how my injured knee was recovering.

Setting out from Standedge Cutting, which is a century's old trade route crossing, I headed along the old Turnpike Road to Pule Hill. The climb up the southern face of Pule Hill is steep and a great test of leg strength. The views from the summit are wonderful and reach far across the windswept moors. The route to the Memorial Cross, which over-looks Marsden, was a delight on such a lovely spring morning. Passing several groups of walkers I could here the clanging of metal, drifting by on the wind, from the rattling racks of ironmongery clipped to the harnesses of climbers on the crags below.
Descending to Intake Head Farm I crossed the busy A62 and made my way to the Tunnel End Visitor Centre where I enjoyed a fresh cup of Yorkshire tea and a cream bun. The visitor centre is well worth a visit and if you're lucky you may see canal boats emerging from the dark tunnel after their deep passage from Diggle on the opposite side of the Pennines.

Heading along Waters Road I made my way to Close Gate Bridge which spans Haigh Clough. This narrow packhorse bridge stands at the start of an ancient trail that once crossed the moors to Rochdale. The course of the trail is now a designated Bridleway which I followed up the flanks of Willykay Clough. The moorland grasses appeared to flow in the wind like waves in the ocean and on the leeward slopes, new-born lambs were nestled amongst the grassy tussocks, sheltering from the wind, as their mothers stood close-by grazing.

At the top of the climb, on Little Moss, I turned south and followed the course of the Pennine Way along Millstone Edge to return to Standedge cutting. The morning had been lovely and whilst a strong wind had blown throughout, the weather had been mild and dry. However, I had timed my return perfectly for dark menacing clouds had now blown in and were beginning to unleash their sodden contents upon the parched moors.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Joe Mbu - The Running Man

A few years ago, whilst out on an evenings run in the Pentland Hills, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, I bumped into the comedian Eddie Izzard. At the time I didn't recognise him as we ran together and chatted about his 40 marathons in 40 days, to raise money for Sport Relief. It was only later that day, whilst writing a report which I had promised to do for him to raise more awareness and hopefully funds for his chosen charity, that I discovered just who's pleasant company I had enjoyed that evening whilst out running.
Today a running friend of mine, whilst out for a run around the hills of Saddleworth, bumped into and got chatting to a gentleman who was running Lands End to John O'Groats, to raise money for charity. That gentleman turned out to be, Joseph Mbu.
Below is a short statement from Joe's website. Please take a look at his site and, if possible support his cause and help spread the word.
Former professional rugby player Joe Mbu is running from Lands End to John Groats to raise money for charity

On 29th March 2013, Joe embarked upon an epic challenge to raise money for a good cause close to his heart. Joe is running solo...
from Lands End to John O’Groats to raise money for a hospital built by his grandparents in Okundi, Western Nigeria. The hospital was built in 1998 in memory of his late father and uncle and is called The Joedy Memorial Hospital. Originally built as a maternity hospital, it soon found itself treating everyone who came through its doors. It is now in great need of refurbishment as well as ongoing financial support to ensure that there is free medical treatment available for everyone in the surrounding area. Joe is trying to raise £100,000 through his UK contacts and about £500,000 worldwide.

Just £5 will pay for a mosquito net to protect a child or pregnant mother.

You learn more about Joe's challenge and follow his daily blog at:

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Castleshaw Skyline - A lovely winters morning

Date: 31st March 2013

Only a small contingent of seven runners met at Brownhill’s on what was a gloriously sunny Easter Sunday morning. Many of the regular Sunday morning crowd either had family commitments or must have forgoten to change their clocks to British Summer Time and therefore were still lying content under warm bed sheets.

Brownhill countryside visitor centre is the traditional meeting point for the Saddleworth Runners Club’s Sunday morning outings. Operated by Oldham Council’s Countryside Service, the visitor centre and Lime Kiln CafĂ© is situated in the heart of Saddleworth, on the banks of the Huddersfield canal.

Leaving the visitor centre car park, at just gone 10.00am, we headed North along the canal for a short while before picking up the A670 for the short stretch of tarmac to the Navigation Inn. Passing through the little wooden gate, at the side of the pub, we ascending the series of paths which provide a route up onto Lark Hill. Turning North along Harrop Edge Lane we were confronted by a cold wind blowing in from the East. It was these chilling Easterly’s which had brought in the recent bout of snow over the past weeks which, although now receding, as the spring temperatures begin to rise, was lying in deep drifts upon the frozen ground.

As we dropped into the saddle before Hunters Hill a couple of our group muttered suggestions of dropping down past the Saddleworth Hotel into the Castleshaw Valley, to avoid the wind, and follow a route back along the Tame Valley Way. Not wanting to miss the delights of running on the high moors on such a beautiful morning I instigated a coup and led a break-away group in the direction of Millstone Edge.

Parting company with the others we headed for Bleak Hey Nook and, after crossing the normally busy A62, passed behind the old, now long derelict, Horse & Jockey pub and headed up Whimberry Lee Lane. At Stanedge the remaining five ascended pure white, crisp snow fields to attain the trig point on Millstone Edge. Under a clear sky there was not but a breath of wind on this rocky edge which marks the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. The views all around were magnificent and far reaching and we reflected on what the others were missing after opting for lower ground.
Whilst today was glorious this rocky edge is often battered by strong winds, the year round. In bad winter weather this must have been a grim posting for the Roman soldiers stationed at the fort in the valley below, who’s job it was to guard the military road from Chester to York. One of a series of Roman Forts the original stronghold covered over three acres and garrisoned around 500 infantry. At some point it was abandoned until being re-occupied in the early 2nd century A.D. as a small out-post.

Following the Oldham Way we made good progress over the firm snow, the frozen surface of which was yet to thaw under the warming sun. Looking over to the West, the Denshaw reservoirs could be seen glistening in the morning sunlight.

Picking up the Pennine Bridleway we dropped down Moor Lane where it meets Ox Hey Lane, at the old Cross Roads known as Four Lane Ends. Continuing South we enjoyed running on the deep snow drifts that had completely filled the sunken track that is Broad Lane. The views down into the Castleshaw Valley were a delight as we headed towards Heights.

Although we wouldn’t be passing it today, St Thomas’s church is located just a few hundred metres further along the lane. Known locally as Height’s Church it has featured in many film and TV productions. Opposite is a small public house called the Royal Oak which is well worth a visit, if passing this way, as they are reputed to offer fine ales and good food.

Opposite the entrance to Spring Hill we turned South East, towards Grange, and descended the sunken bridleway, which is believed to have been an old packhorse road or ‘saltway’. This area of Saddleworth was part of Friarmere which in turn was part of the Roche Abbey estate.  Local historians believe that the Black Friars had a house or ‘Grange’ here which possibly lends its name to the area.
Our descent once again took us over deep snowdrifts and we eventually emerged at the ford which crosses Hull Brook. In summer, after a long run, crossing the ford offers a welcoming, cool relief to hot, tired feet. However, with the brook flowing cold from melt-waters gathered from the frozen moors high above the valley we chose to cross the wooden bridge, a little further upstream, and keep our feet warm and dry.

With our morning outing nearing the end we followed the course of Hull Brook, picked up the Tame Valley Way and followed its route through Delph and Dobcross and back to Brownhill’s in Uppermill.

We had had a fantastic run and marked the start of British Summer Time on what was a beautifully clear sunny morning. A nice hot brew and bacon butty was all that was now needed to end what had been a perfect Easter Sunday morning.