Some people do business in the boardroom, others on the golf course. A friend and I had some running club business to discuss, so chose to conduct our meeting on the moors …
Howard and I are both members of Saddleworth Runner’s Club, which is a fell-running club whose headquarters are based at the Cross Key’s Inn, Uppermill. Howard is the club’s long-standing secretary and I the Chairman. With the club approaching the end of the administrative year and with the our AGM looming, there were various matters which needed our attention. With both of us having a passion for the outdoors, and a loathing of sitting at desks or in stuffy meeting rooms, where better place could there be to hold a meeting than on the open moors, whilst partaking in our first love – fell-running.
After enjoying a delightful, early morning walk in Tandle Hill Country Park, with my son and our dog, it was clear that the best part of the day had passed. Picking Howard up from his house, at about 10.45am, the weather had closed-in and the windscreen wipers on the car were working flat-out in order that we had a clear view of the road. Reaching the White House Pub, on the A58, above Littleborough, the wind speed had increased and upon opening the car doors we were met with a surge of rain, which swept straight through the vehicle. Gore-Tex until end-ex, would be the order of the day!
Initially heading east, along the Halifax Road, we hugged the right-hand verge as a few high-sided vehicles sped past, en-route to Rochdale. After about a kilometre, we left the road and followed Rishworth Drain, on ground more appealing to fell-runner’s. After crossing the Old Packhorse Road, we skirted below Flint Hill and descended a section of path, to the east of Thief Clough, which is always wet and boggy, even in the driest of weather. After the prolonged rain of the past weeks the ground was now more akin to swamp-land, and we had to carefully pick our way around the worst sections.
Reaching firmer ground, we crossed a small footbridge and turned west, along a good path which follows the course of another drain to Green Withens Reservoir. Passing the West Yorkshire Scouts Outdoor Pursuits Centre, we followed the reservoir access road south, before hand-railing the M62, for a short while, to meet up with the Pennine Way, where it crosses the motorway (see: http://www.saddleworthdiscoverywalks.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/the-m62-pennine-way-footbridge.html )
The M62, trans-Pennine motorway is one of the busiest motorways in the country. However, today there was not a single vehicle to be seen, on either carriageway. Highway patrol vehicles, parked at junction 22, were a clear indication that the motorway had been closed. Behind their road blocks, long lines of static vehicles had built up in both directions, on the A672. We just hoped that no one had been seriously injured or worse.
Continuing north, we now followed Britain’s most popular long-distance footpath, the Pennine Way. As we climbed to higher ground, and emerged from the shelter that we had been afforded whilst on the Yorkshire side of the Pennines, we once again encountered gusting winds and driving rain. This section of footpath from around Longden End Brook to Sun End used to be in a bad state of repair and very boggy underfoot. However, a new stone slab path has now been laid, making forward progress very easy. Howard and I debated the merits of managed paths on open moorland and, whilst recognising their need, in order to prevent further erosion of this fragile environment, there is no doubt that they are an unpleasant sight.
Reaching the top of the climb, we traversed the geological ridge, which is Blackstone Edge, which once marked the former Lancashire/Yorkshire border. Passing the summit trig point, we flitted between the gritstone rocks as we made our descent back to the White House pub.
We had been out on the moors for a little over an hour and completed a circuit of just over 6 miles. Whilst others may shy away from venturing on to the high moors in inclement weather, we had embraced the opportunity. Being out on the hills instead of stuck in a dreary office would always be our preferred choice, whatever the weather. The only thing left to do now was conduct the rest of our business over a welcoming pint and delicious hot meal, in the White House.