West Pennine Moors walk - Belmont and Winter Hill
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 March 2016 | UPDATED: 14:06 26 February 2020
Murder, a plane crash and the remains of Bronze Age man accompany John Lenehan as he walks to Winter Hill on a day when it lived up to its name
This walk was published in March 2016, so the details of the route may no longer be accurate, we do advise these articles should only be used as a guideline for any potential route you take and you should double check an up to date map before you set off.
The seemingly empty uplands of the West Pennine Moors were quite heavily populated in the Bronze Age and evidence of this can be found in many locations.
Bolton Museum has a good collection of artefacts found on the moors and it is really worth visiting. The most famous excavation was at Noon Hill above the village of Belmont and I thought it might make for an interesting walk. However the whole area is dominated by the 1496ft Winter Hill with its television and radio masts, and I thought that a walk to Noon Hill would be made a little more demanding if it included Winter Hill summit.
1. Leave the car park and turn right onto the main road then follow this towards Bolton, passing the old Dye Works and San Marino Restaurant on the left.
2. Once past the restaurant there is a stile on the opposite side of the road leading into a small wood. A path leads up to another stile that leads out into open moor. Take the path that goes right and up hill and follow this as it climbs steeply up towards the TV masts and Winter Hill.
Note: On the map there is marked Winter Hill Tunnel. This is in fact a disused coal mine and NOT to be explored. I mention it as parts of Winter Hill particularly above Horwich are supposed to be virtually hollow due to all the old mining workings.
3. Eventually the path leads to a stile and gate. Cross the stile then turn right passing in front of the radio and TV masts. Carry on the track past all the buildings until the last one. Ignore the two stiles that appear on the right and go around the back of the last building on a path.
Note: The main TV mast is 1015 ft/ 309.48 metres high and can be seen as far away as Keele on the M6. There is a monument called Scotsman's Stump not far from the walk route commemorating the murder of George Henderson, a Scottish merchant who was shot here in 1883. In 1958 a passenger plane crashed near the mast killing 35 people. On a lighter note a good friend of mine worked inside the mast when someone dropped a bolt from near the top and he and his fellow workers had to wait with bated breath as it clanged and banged its way down hoping it wouldn't hit them. Luckily it didn't but he said those 10 seconds seemed like 10 years.
It is worth taking time to explore the magnificent viewpoints so pick a good clear day and take a camera.
4. Head straight out over open moor following a path that can be very muddy and a little indistinct at times. It passes a pile of stones that mark a cairn and is the site of a Bronze Age tomb, though excavations proved fruitless, then carries on to a distant mound with stones on top. This is Noon Hill.
5. Noon Hill isn't particularly exciting or spectacular but what you stand on is almost 4000 years old and was a Bronze Age tomb. It's worth taking time to try to imagine what it must have been like then as the moors would almost certainly have been forested. In the distance looking north you can see a small perfectly formed hill, this is Round Loaf another Bronze Age grave.
Note: Bolton and District Archaeological Society excavated Noon Hill in 1958 and found the human remains of a male, a female and a child. They also found arrowheads and a knife as well as other artefacts.
Leave the hill and head down hill keeping diagonally left towards a wide rough stone track and a stile in a wire fence.
6. Cross the stile then turn right and follow the track all the way to the main road.
7. Join the main road and turn right and follow this over the crest of the hill called Hordern Stoops, then going downhill a stile appears on the left.
Note: Belmont was called Hordens in times past.
8. Cross the stile then bear right on a muddy path that leads down hill past an old quarry. Eventually the path reaches a gate and stile, cross the stile and keep following the path until it reaches a wall with a stone step stile. Cross this and keep straight on with a wire fence on the left until a gate with a stile on the right.
9. Go through the stile then turn immediately right and go down hill with a wall on the left then turn left then right and follow the path down to the main road.
10. Exit the path to the road and turn left and walk back to the start of the walk.
Note: The reservoir opposite as you enter the road is called locally the Blue Lagoon and was built to feed the Dye Works. You can see on the far side the feeder stream from the moors as it drops sometimes quite spectacularly over the man made falls.
Start and Finish: Black Dog Pub at Belmont
Terrain: Good tracks mostly but can be extremely boggy in sections. Good boots and gaiters are recommended.
Distance: 5 miles/8 kms
Map: OS Explorer 287 West Pennine Moors
Facilities: No public toilets
Parking: The Black Dog allows parking for patrons only but will allow walkers to use the car park but please ask permission. Parking on the main road is possible but limited.
For more information about the Bronze Age remains can be found at Bolton Museum. 01204 332211. www.boltonmuseums.org.uk/museum
We did the walk on a cold day with arctic conditions on Winter Hill. The open fires and the warm welcome of the staff at The Black Dog at Belmont made us feel at home. We were tempted to try a pint from the excellent range of real ale, but both had to drive so decided on the homemade tomato and basil soup, so good I can still taste it. The rest of the menu and the food we saw being carried into the very busy restaurant looked superb. Next time we come we are having the huge Holts Triple Decker Burger. We may need a ladder to climb it.
For more info go to www.joseph-holt.com/pubs/view/black-dog.