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Lancashire Times
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Caroline Spalding
Features Correspondent
12:24 PM 10th June 2020

Northern Walks: Mossley, Uppermill & Hartshead Pike

This route epitomizes one of the pleasures that walking can bring – discovering the beauty of landscape where you might not expect it. Located on the periphery of Oldham and Manchester, the contrasting views of “civilisation” and “wilderness” you experience from the hilltops is wonderful, before descending to the canal, from where the concrete and cacophony of the big city feels a million miles away.

We began from a layby of the A62 between Delph and Oldham, however the route could easily commence from Mossley or Uppermill. Just under ten miles, it is clear to navigate, no big climbs, easy underfoot and requires the OS Map OL1.

The layby from where we started is located above Albion Farm Shop, just outside Delph (postcode OL3 5RQ) – between the junctions of Doctor Lane and Wall Hill Road with the A62 (GR SD 975 061). We walked towards Doctor Lane, turning left from the road just before it, following a flat path across large fields. Here is where the views contrast – Manchester and urbanity to your right, with the Dark Peaks to your left – views towards Pots & Pans Stone, Alderman’s Hill, hiding Dovestone Reservoir beneath.

Pass what appears to be a former quarry - at the field edge you meet houses and continue down the wide driveway/ yard – another inviting view beckons you ahead.

At the road below, turn right; and again at the end another right (onto Lovers Lane). Cross a busier road to pass Grotton Hall (Woodbrook Lane) – marked on the OS Maps and now, the internet tells me, is a holiday home, at least in part. The lane runs beyond the tarmac to transform into a descending, rutted track, concluding at a ford – Woodbrook Road climbs up the other side into Austerlands (SD 967 052).

Cross the water, take an immediate left along the flowery pathway which then meets a narrow lane. Continue heading to your left, pass beyond some properties then under trees to meet the main road (A669). Descend opposite (Old Mill Lane) to cross a footbridge below.

Nearby is the former train station for Grotton. The station was one of nine on the line between Oldham and Delph, nicknamed the Delph Donkey – the reason for which attracts various explanations. There is still one platform visible and the information board there provides much more detail of this branch line that ran freight trains until 1964, serving Greenfield.

Turn right onto the former railway line, passing through a large, open green space. Then peel off left (SD 961 044), another left to cross a footbridge into a wide field. Beyond the field, turn right along a quiet country lane (the Oldham Way) to pass St Agnes Church. Turn left off this road (Knowls Lane) and follow this for a while, before bearing right onto a track immediately preceding a single, wide fronted building. The track becomes a rutted, stony route with a gradual ascent; the dumb steeple of Hartshead Pike becomes visible ahead. The name originally referred to the hill on which the monument stands, and the folly was built in 1863 to commemorate the wedding of the Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

Juxtaposing views across Ashton
Juxtaposing views across Ashton
It looks out over Ashton-under-Lyne, Mossley and Oldham but on clear days you can see as far as the hills of North Wales. The internet informs me that initially at the site stood a stone pillar, marking a journey through the area of King Canute (1017-35) who is perhaps better (but incorrectly) known as a deluded monarch convinced of his ability to halt the tide when actually he established a period of relative stability and wealth over the kingdom of England, which sadly diminished upon his death.

Hartshead PikeHartshead Pike
Views across MossleyViews across Mossley
Leave the track to approach Hartshead Pike – take in the views and perhaps a spot of lunch, before turning east towards Mossley to descend via the Tameside Trail. Turn left below, swing around to the right and follow the lane until a path waymarked “Tameside Trail - Mossley”.

Reaching the main road far below, venture left for a while; cross over in front of the San Giorgio restaurant, turning right down the B6117/Stanford Road. Turn off left opposite the blue-plaque of the Mechanics Institute down a narrow, sloping ginnel. Turn right at the bottom, passing under a railway bridge, cross the main road, turn left then follow the waymarked path on the right signed “Micklehurst”.

Cross the river behind the new homes, reaching the canal at Lock 14W and follow the towpath left. This stretch to Uppermill is tricky in the current climate – busy at weekends and unfortunately hard to maintain social distancing. It is about 2.5 miles to Uppermill. On arrival, leave the canal to walk along the High Street – in due course we can hope here to enjoy the quirky and characterful shops of the town. Turn left to pass through the park, cross the river at the steppingstones. Re-join the towpath, turning left at the bridge labelled 23W.

A world away from the big city
A world away from the big city
The lane ascends; you pass under an arched bridge before turning right to join the dismantled railway track, now a greenway. Just before the information board on Dobcross (with further info on the Delph Donkey Branch railway), turn left, descend the steps and pass under the bridge. Reaching a main road and a junction of many roads, find Wall Hill Road: this makes a steady climb back to the A62 above, with a short walk to return to the layby and the start.

Further information can be found from the following websites:
https://saddind.co.uk/day-the-donkey-carried-its-last-passengers/
https://www.britain-magazine.com/people/king-canute-the-great/
http://www.ashton-under-lyne.com/history/hartshead.htm