SWOG “Ocean’s Eleven” team set off with an unpromising weather forecast from Healey Dell Heritage Centre Tea Rooms between Rochdale and Whitworth. An area apparently unknown to all previously. The valley of the River Spodden which flows into the Rochdale Roch, is a deep picturesque place where there were once several mills and two intertwined railtracks which now form part of the many trails in the area.
Fortunately, it remained dry all day apart from the last 25 minutes or so, with gusting winds on the moortops, though not at all cold.
Crossing the rail viaduct some 30 metres above the Spodden, we headed north past Fold Head passing a deep pool with swans dipping for food. Chris Shea spotted their nest with 4 eggs. The hill lead to a deep sunken and somewhat boggy path up to a view overlooking Cowm Reservoir and around to the moors beyond, where we had a coffee break in the shelter of huge stone slabs used as a field boundary.
Next we passed a farm unusually named “Limed” and took a track past the disused Goat’s Hill Quarry. At the end of the track, Chris Shea was a great help in negotiating the next mile of unknown territory, as on the recce the hail, sleet and snow had sent us scurrying for shelter via the deep wooded valley lower down.
After some pretty rough moorland terrain, where the paths were not at all obvious, we arrived at the top of Hamer Hill at Rooley Moor Road where there is almost a forest of wind turbines. As it was very blustery, we decided to delay lunch and find a more sheltered spot, which we did in the folds of disused Pike Brow Quarry.
As we headed down Rooley Moor Road to Catley Lane Head, the drizzle started but we soon were sheltered in the wooded valley beyond Smallshaw Farm and fishing pool. (A very interesting and attractive farm dated 1622, marred by the satellite dish on the wall). Here we encountered one of the muddiest paths in a long time – much worse than on the recce day, but then it was a Denise walk where mud seems obligatory. Sandra took a fall, with soft landing, but did not even dirty her hands.
Crossing a footbridge over the Spodden, we returned to Dell Road and our start point. A shorter walk than advertised (almost 8 miles), as due to the weather forecast, I had left out the circuit round Cowm Reservoir. Just as well, because as we set off home the heavens really opened. Thanks again to Chris S for his help and for a good turnout considering the forecast.