Knoll Moor, Hail Storm Hill & Top Of Leach
Start Point: Cowm Reservoir CP (pay & display) at The Water Ski Academy
OL12 8BE: Back Cowm Lane
GR: SD 882 187
Length: 10 miles
Cowm Reservoir, close to Whitworth, is a great place to start a walk to explore the expansive moors that lie to the north of Rochdale. It is an easy area for all to enjoy; once up on Knoll Moor, the tracks that connect the wind turbines make for easy walking and offer far-reaching views.
From the car park, walk across the dam to the southern corner of the water, continue around the edge, through a gate until meeting a broken gate on the left-hand side. Here (approx. SD 878 187) leave the path, cross the field to join a walled pathway. Turn back on yourself to venture in a south-easterly direction, beginning a steady but gentle ascent between two stone walls.
Reaching a house, marked Fold Head on the map, pass through the gate, past the building then bear right, joining the Rossendale Way. You continue between more houses and continue in a straight line until the path turns a distinct right-hand turn before Spring Mill Reservoir, climbing over a stile and following a wall. You begin a descent, another stile leads to a clough, here you cross the footbridge (SD 873 176) and continue back up the other side.
The Tree-Filled Clough, Rich In Autumnal Colour
You follow the edge of the clough, with a steep descent on your right, filled with trees. Up ahead a former quarry comes into sight. Here you need to turn left (approx. SD 867 177) leaving the Rossendale Way to clamber up to a clear track above, marked Broad Lane on the map. Follow the obvious path (turning left) as it enters open fields and above, on the right, the Cat Stones are dotted along the summit.
When the path splits (approx. SD 867 167) take the right-hand pathway (if you continue ahead, as did I, you will have to venture over open access land – across Whimsy Hill - to re-join the ‘proper’ footpath!) The path curves to join the Pennine Bridleway, (Rooley Moor Road) – turn left, then a distinct right-hand turn continues along another bridleway towards Forsyth Brow. You soon pick up the Rochdale Way, which is now followed for quite some distance.
Friendly Cows Towards Naden Middle Reservoirs
You pass through a hillocky stretch of moorland to reach a tarmac lane than curves round and descends beside Naden Lower Reservoir to then cross in front of Naden Middle Reservoir. The steep western slopes of this valley conceal the moorland onto which you will next head, except for the wind turbines that poke above the visible summit.
Continue to follow the Rochdale Way, heading south to the fourth reservoir in this chain – Greenbooth Reservoir – before turning back on yourself to head north with a short, steepish ascent up the valley side.
At the top, continue beside a wall and the Rochdale Way will reach a wall-stile, the path continues west, towards Knoll Hill, which appears deceptively as only a small hump atop the moor. Pass beneath the wind turbines and ascend to the trig point on Knoll Hill, which expands the views towards the West.
From the trig point, there are several turbines ahead – aim to the one on a north-westerly bearing. Cross the open access land to reach it – boggy in places, but you cannot lose your way.
Once at the gravelled track it becomes an easy passage – venture still west, then follow the track as it sweeps in a northerly direction and it will pass beside a mast, marked on the map as Higher Hill. At the track junction, turn left then again sweep around to the right and continue in a north easterly direction across Hail Storm Hill. The track turns right, but instead continue straight ahead (approx. SD 846 190). This is another short stretch of open access land, but there are faint pathways where previous walkers have taken the same route. You see up ahead the trig point, marked as Top of Leach.
At the trig point there is another pillar on which is an engraved metal map, which can be used to identify aspects of the visible landscape, such as Pendle Hill.
Continue in the same direction as before and you meet the very distinct Pennine Bridleway. Turn right, venturing south-east. As the track makes a gentle s-shaped curve, a path joins you on the left, shortly after which you turn off left (SD 857 189), heading towards a field boundary marked by a wall.
At this point in the walk the path can become unclear, with various passages trodden through the undergrowth, and I did venture off the intended pathway. However, should you too take a wrong step, there is no cause for concern as it is open access land, and if, like me, you follow the purported path to meet a boundary blocked by a gated wall, there is a clear sign informing you that it is private land.
On leaving the Pennine Bridleway, therefore, I would advise using a compass to orientate on a bearing of (give or take) 100° (almost directly east – becoming south-easterly). You should come to a field boundary and corner, with a gate above a narrow clough (approx. SD 865 187). Walk beside the clough (left bank), cross the water below, beside a small, isolated brick building, continue in the same direction (passing through the area marked Meadows on the map) and the path should bear right after passing another wall and crossing another minor passage of water.
The final stretch of the moorland follows a pathway beside a wall, venturing directly west, until ultimately coming to a farmhouse (Limed Farm). Here, cross the driveway beside the entrance to the grounds, hop over the wall to continue east, pass between a short walled stretch and you will have returned to the pathway you followed at the beginning.
From here, it is a simple case of turning left, retracing your steps north, descending back to the water edge of Cowm Reservoir and a gentle stroll back to the start.