Today I did a 6 mile walk organised by Mid Pennine Arts, “a commissioning agency, working through collaboration to create high quality art in response to the rich and diverse contexts of North West England.” The walk was led by Steve Messam, an artist who is exploring the diverse landscape of the West Pennine Moors with a view to create an installation of some kind. He has not totally decided what the outcome will be, but he is thinking about an organising a day on which huge kites will be flown from all tops above 1,000 feet in this fantastic landscape. When that happens the kites can be seen from a great distance and it will be a great spectacle.
In preparation for this Steve has researched the area, its landscape and its history extensively and on the walk he shared some of his detailed knowledge with us. For instance: the sugar magnate Henry Tate, whose art collection was the basis for the National Gallery Of British Art (renamed Tate Gallery in 1932) was born in White Coppice a village that we passed. Nowadays there are just a few houses, but in the early 19th century it was a thriving community with water powered mill and quarries and coal mines nearby.
From there we walked across good paths to the top of Great Hill, passing the ruins of several farms on the way. Steve pointed out the remains of a major road that was used by the inhabitants of those farms, on their horses and carts. You can just make them out if you know they are there, but soon they will have totally disappeared and become part of the boggy landscape. From the vantage point of Great Hill we could see Darwen Tower and Rivington Pike. On a clear day you can see Peel Monument and Blackpool Tower too, but not today. We were lucky with the weather though: no rain or wind, so not many layers of clothing required. There were still a few snow drifts around, but walking was easy and we ambled along at a leisurely pace.
From Great Hill there is a path made of large flagstones that goes all the way to Winter Hill. We left this path pretty soon a walked across the bog towards a small, man made hill in the middle of it. It is called Round Loaf and rises about 30 feet above the bog. It has probably been made of stone in pre-historic times. It is now covered with earth and vegetation and as no excavation has been done nobody knows why it is there. It stands out from the bog, not just because of its elevation, but also because it is a bit of green in the sea of brown bog. If you look here on Google Earth you can clearly see it. From here it was all down hill Steve told us….
Before returning to our cars the last point of interest was Pikestones, a neolithic cairn with a single burial chamber at its centre. It was created some 6,000 years ago and must be the oldest man man structure in Lancashire. There is not much left now, apart from the big slabs of stone that formed the chamber and even those have been vandalised by people making carvings on them.
All in all a very nice way to spend a few hours out and about with good company. Thanks Mid Pennine Arts for organising this!