Doing the Rochdale Way #1: Heywood, a bramble ramble, and low-flying golf balls

The Rochdale Way is a 45 mile route that loops (mostly) around the Rochdale borough, it is one that should probably be split into parts as the full route may be too long for even the most hardy long-distance rambler.  Designed in the late 1990s by Richard Catlow, John Cole, Martin Riley and John Taylor it takes in some of “the sights” of the Manchester Pennine Fringe – places like Blackstone Edge, Light Hazzles Clough, Rushy Hill, Healey Dell – offering a swathe of green and good vantage points for the landscape.

Did we start as it recommends from Hollingworth Lake?  Nah, that’d be too easy and I’m interested in the more “urban” parts the route takes in. We started the route from Heywood (via the 163 bus from Bury) but didn’t get very far as we couldn’t locate ourselves on the online map.  After another bit of accidental trespassing we found the route located off Canal Street.  There was no sight of a canal anywhere near this road but there was what looked like a factory at the end of it, an arch of hawthorn cast shadows on the dirt path – the Rochdale Way!  (I think.)  This path took us to the north of the (trespassed) farmland then bent back on itself, past pylons in the middle of being fixed, over the East Lancs railway track, then to a fork and a stile to the right and A SIGN POST with round metal  plaques, one of which said “Rochdale Way” with cartoon boots on it. HURRAY!  We leapt the stile and found ourselves on the manicured lawns of a golf course.

After wandering up and down the golf course for nearly an hour, trying to find Roeacre brook but finding a long, narrow puddle of ochre.  Passing a pond filled with cottony cattails three times and avoiding the men playing golf.  I couldn’t help but notice that the men looked vaguely the same – brothers? – soft rounded bellies, white hair, bright clothes.  They payed no heed to us, however.  We wandered back to the stile to retrace our steps but could not find the Rochdale way route.  Fearing a repeat of the Springwater Park adventure the GIS map was scrutinised until we saw what looked like it was a route.  This route/bridleway was all tangled in bramble, nettles, willowherb, and (suspected) hogweed.  A bit hungry by this point and under pressure from the seasonal earlier sunset we decided that it was time to call it a day.

Thanks to a weird, bloody-minded disposition, I’ve committed to this route now, to be completed clockwise, however, it will occur at leisure around my PhD writing (it’s a nice idea but it’s my final year so got to finish).  However, things to bear in mind the next time I get a day off to do this, is to bring the Ordnance Survey maps (OS maps 277: Manchester & Salford, & OL21: South Pennines, if you want to have a go), compass, and high calorie/high carb snacks.

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