This is a short post on my climb up these two hills – though “climb” is perhaps a bit of a misnomer for Billinge Hill.
I used the opportunity following dropping Julie off at Manchester Airport for her Australian adventure to visit some hills a few hours away from home.
Billinge Hill is a Marilyn and also the highest point of St Helen’s Unitary Authority and of the County of Merseyside. I was able to park about 500m from the top and there was a pleasant stroll with Jet along the public footpath on the edge of a field with a golf course on the other side of a hedge. Although it is not strictly a public right of way, the farmer has cleared a track across the field to enable access to a tower and trig point at the top.
There are extensive views out to the south west over St Helens and Wigan. Apparently Snowdonia and Blackpool Tower can be seen, but not today. But in other directions the views are relatively limited, other than to the Pennines to the east and the sprawl of Manchester to the south east. Winter Hill, my next target, could be seen peaking over the foreground. There are a number of communications masts nearby.
The tower was built in the 18th century and is little worse for wear.
A guy on a mountain bike came up as we were there. We had a brief chat. He was on his usual early morning circuit. Jet and I then returned to the road. As the high point of Wigan Unitary Authority was only ten minutes’ walk away, I decided to go there. It was a rather uninspiring corner of a wet field with very little prominence – so no photo.
We then drove the short distance to Winter Hill. The start point was Rivington Hall, now owned by the local authority. Further up the valley to the north there are a series of reservoirs created by flooding the valley in the 1850s onwards. There is plenty of parking here and, being a weekend, it was fairly busy.
My first objective was Rivington Pike, the site of another tower and beacon. The climb was steep and wound its way up paths through woodland and terraced gardens that had seen better days. Emerging from the trees, the tower on the Pike could be seen. A rough road that runs just below the 300m contour is crossed before the final steep climb. The tower dates back to 1733 and is in slightly better condition than that on Billinge Hill, but the door and windows are blocked up. It was originally a hunting lodge.
The Pike is at 1,193ft (363m). Being the site of a beacon there is a grand view. To the east is an expanse of gently rising moorland leading to the top of Winter Hill. This is Rivington Moor. I was going to circumnavigate this in an anti-clockwise direction. To the west the reservoirs can be seen nearby and beyond lies the Lancashire Plain and the conurbations of Wigan and Bolton and, further away still, Manchester.
The Bolton Wanderers stadium could even be seen!
I briefly had the top to myself. But, like the car park below, there were plenty of people about. Many were fell runners. I wish I had the energy and strength!
The next destination was the intriguingly named, Two Lads. This lies 1.5k away to the south east and can be reached either by returning to the rough road or more directly across the moor. I chose the latter. Here is a look back to Rivington Pike. This route could be quite a wet alternative after rain.
Two Lads is a feature at the south east corner of Rivington Moor sporting a couple of cairns. According to one story the cairns mark the spot where two children of a Saxon king lost their lives in inclement weather. The views are similar to those on the Pike.
The way on becomes more straightforward once the service road to the masts that litter the summit of Winter Hill is reached. More fell runners and mountain bikers were encountered along this stretch.
The summit of Winter Hill was a further 1.5k away. It marks the high point of Blackburn with Darwen MBC. But before then I took a slight detour to a point a little over 400m south east of the summit trig point to visit the high point of the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton! This is marked by a cairn on an imperceptible rise. You wouldn’t bother unless you were in the area anyway!
Nearby is this memorial plaque.
Apparently the weather at the time of this crash was so severe that no-one working in the nearby transmitter station was aware that it had occurred. Winter Hill has a bit of a reputation for being a magnet for aircraft mishaps with at least 10 other crashes having been recorded on the hill or nearby.
But that is nothing compared to the UFO sighting in 1950. According to ufoinfo.com there was the following report:
“The witness, R Chapman sees a dark flat iron shaped object hovering close to the ground. Suddenly out of nowhere a “majestic” being appears. He is tall, well built, with black hair and beard, dark eyes and very pale skin. There is telepathic contact between Chapman and the humanoid for several minutes. The humanoid then turns around and glides back to the UFO apparently decreasing in size as he did. After he enters the craft the UFO leaves leaving a vapor trail behind. The witness apparently encounters the same being again at the same location. (No details on that).”
It was obviously time to move on and the trig point leaves you in no doubt as to the county you are in.
I was now on the northern edge of the moor. Here it falls away in steeper slopes, quite a contrast to the gentle slopes to the south seen here with Rivington Pike in the centre.
The distant Yorkshire Dales can be made out to the north. A chill breeze was blowing so I did not stay long. Another couple of mountain bikers cycled by. The next objective was Noon Hill at the north western edge of the moor. This is a far less frequented section. Although there was an eroded track it was very boggy. So some hopping over wet ground was needed.
Although it is described as a “hill”, Noon Hill has no real prominence. It is of archaeological interest though as the summit of Noon Hill is home to a protected Bronze Age burial mound. There is another such mound near to and to the west of Winter Hill itself. Here is the view back to the top of Winter Hill.
and down to the reservoirs
I sat here a while and had an early lunch, looking at the views. It was only 11am. But the wind had died here and it was warmish. Eventually we moved on, following a trail through the grass west to the rough road whicih was only 300m or so away. We turned left on reaching this. In another 750m we came across this tower (which looks as though it has a face!)
This is the Pigeon Tower, a folly used as a dovecote and a part of the Rivington terraced gardens. There is a speedy, if steep, way down to the car park near Rivington Hall by the side of this tower.
This walk was an enjoyable one with a number of points of interest in a part of the country I would not normally frequent. Thank goodness for Marilyns!
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