#49 – Blackstone Edge, back to “True Grit”.

On Blackstone Edge

 I’ve previously proclaimed my allegiance to gritstone edges and peat moors in this blog, and as a true Lancastrian you wouldn’t expect me to say anything else.  The trouble is, I’ve been spoiled by years of walking and climbing in the Lake District, Snowdonia, Scottish Highlands and abroad, so the dubious pleasures of wading through knee-deep peat bogs are even more dubious than they were in my youth.

Blackstone Edge from near Littleborough

Looking down towards Hollingworth Lake and Littleborough

 My early walking days were on the gritstone moors of North Lancashire, but I never really got to know the edges and moors of South Lancashire or the Peak District, so this year I’ve been filling in some of the gaps.  Bleaklow (#19) was an early trip this year, followed more recently by the Saddleworth Edges (#44) but I had never set foot on the moors adjacent to the M62 – time to have a look at Blackstone Edge then.

Manicured paths near Hollingworth Lake – not a peat bog in sight

The “Roman Road” above Lydgate

 It all starts out in a very pleasant (but very manicured) way at Hollingworth Lake near Littleborough. You could walk these paths all day in your best shoes and come back clean, but before long the route starts to head for the heights and the “black stuff”.  Beyond Lydgate there was a feeling of history starting to creep in, and no wonder – this is where we joined the so-called ‘Roman Road’ next to the A58 Trans-Pennine road.

The so-called ‘Roman Road’

Close up showing the paved section with the central channel

 I say the so-called Roman Road, because some experts have disputed its Roman origin – the road probably follows the line of a Roman road, and is certainly medieval, mentioned in records dating back to the 13th Century.  It runs straight as a die for over two miles, with a well preserved paved section and a central drainage channel.  It also gives speedy access to Blackstone Edge, whilst keeping your boots clean as well.

The 600 year old “Aiggin Stone”

The Pennine Way over Blackstone Edge

Just before the highest point on the Roman road there is a 600 year old boundary stone called the Aiggin Stone.  Earlier references have the stone as being 7 feet high, but in the 1930’s it was found to have toppled over.  It was re-erected in 1933, only to fall over yet again – since then it has been re-erected in 1978 and 1979.  At the Aiggin Stone the Roman Road meets the Pennine Way, which heads south to the summit of Blackstone Edge.

Blackstone Edge summit and Trig Point

The Pennine Way, looking back towards Blackstone Edge

Looking towards the communications mast near Windy Hill

The crest of Blackstone Edge is a classic gritstone edge, with black gritstone crags and loads of nooks and crannies giving shelter from the wind – there is also a Trig Point perched on a boulder as an extra attraction.  From Blackstone Edge the Pennine Way continues south to cross the M62 near Windy Hill, better known to motorists as Junction 22!

The M62 crossing near Windy Hill, otherwise known as Junction 22

The footbridge at Junction 22

The M62 is probably loathed, or at best endured, by thousands of commuters, but it is a fantastic feat of engineering and England’s highest motorway – it also allows easier and faster access to the hills and mountains, which I class as ‘a result’!  There was recently an item on our local TV news about the M62 being exactly forty years old, so a quick chorus of “Happy Birthday to you….” seemed appropriate.

The Windy Hill bridleway

Lower down, the bridleway looks more like a drove road

After crossing the modern Trans-Pennine route by the narrow footbridge, we headed west down a much older Pennine crossing, the Windy Hill bridleway.  Initially following the crest of a broad ridge, it was amazingly dry, and remained reasonably so lower down where the bridleway was walled on each side, looking very much like a drove road.  We followed this ancient route for nearly 4 kms, with the modern upstart M62 parallel to us, until the time came to pass under the 840ft long and 140ft high Rakewood Viaduct, leading us back to Hollingworth Lake.

Rakewood Viaduct carrying the M62 over Longden End Brook

p.s. These gritstone moors must be losing their touch – we arrived back at the car with scarce a trace of peat on boots or trousers!

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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8 Responses to #49 – Blackstone Edge, back to “True Grit”.

  1. Paul, nice write up. I like walking this part of the Pennines on day trips. I tend to go further afield on longer trips and as you say, you can get spoilt walking in the Lakes . I passed this way with my youngest son on the stretches of the Pennine Way that we did back in 2008. I also pass under that M62 footbridge on a regular basis when travelling on business 🙂


  2. Thanks for the comment, Mark. I had never previously thought about walking the Pennine Way, but seem to be doing in installments – I quite expect that one day I will find I’ve done it by default!


  3. Paul, it is pretty easy to walk in sections using public transport to get you back to the start point on each section. From Edale up to Tan Hill ( about half of the way is fine).. I have done this so far. It is the second half which requires longer trips as there is no easy way to get back on day trips.


  4. stan bonnar says:

    hi paul,
    walk much enjoyed as usual – love all these obscure ancient roads and looking forward to #50


  5. Hi Stan – thanks for dropping in.


  6. Pingback: #63 – Rishworth Moor from Ryburn | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  7. Really goos advanture and thanks for sharing!

    it support in littleborough


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