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Lancashire Walk
Darwen's Jubilee Tower from Abbey Village

County/Area - Lancashire

Author - Allan Friswell

Length - 9.0 miles / 14.6 km    Ascent - 1400 feet / 424 metres

Time - 5 hours 50 minutes    Grade - easy/mod

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Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - Darwen's Jubilee Tower from Abbey Village
Click image to visit gallery of 10 images.

As you head west on the M65 and approach Junction 3 you are confronted by what appears to be a small mountain with a rocket on the top. This is, in fact, Jubilee Tower, and its apparent height is slightly deceptive. Certainly the climb to the top of Darwen Moor is rather gentler than you might have believed, and of course the views from the Tower are marvellous. The walk is therefore described as easy/moderate with 9 miles of mixed woodland, reservoirs, moorland, deciduous woods, and lush meadows. The paths are all very straightforward in terms of surface and ease of navigation, but there is some climbing to be done. Much of the early and closing sections of the walk are along the Witton Weavers' Way with very little on-road walking.

Leave the M65 at J3 and take the A675 towards Belmont and Egerton. Reaching the village of Abbey, park considerately at the far end of the main street. There are many places to do so. Walk south to the Hare and Hounds pub (grid ref. SD643223), and turn down the path beside the water, making for the first and lowest of the three reservoirs, Rake Brook. This is part of the Witton Weavers' Way, and we will continue to follow it for the next 2 ½ miles. The path brings you to a house on your left. Take the steps down past it and cross either the bridge or the spillway (bone dry when we saw it in April 2009). Continue following the path until you reach Roddlesworth Lower Reservoir where you turn left and cross the dam. The view of the trees in autumn here matches anything you'll find in New England!

Follow the climbing path around the water's edge, taking care at a fork to follow the left hand track upwards. At grid ref. SD661218 you take a clear path right, heading downhill and marked with all sorts of warning signs. Cross the bridge over the beck and then carry on ahead, leaving the water of Roddlesworth Upper Reservoir on your right. You are now in almost entirely deciduous woodland where spring offers an abundance of bluebells and autumn the most glorious palette of russets, yellows and browns. Cross the ugly concrete slab of a bridge and continue following the river on your left, passing an attractive high waterfall just before you get to a sturdy stone bridge and a gate. Go through, cross the bridge, and pass by another gate. The path continues along the river, but with it now on your right, and it gradually climbs high above the river's level, passing through the two Tockholes plantations. Eventually the long climb ends where a gravelled path enters from the left at a gate (grid ref. SD662201).

Shortly after passing through this you will arrive at the ruins of Hollinshead Hall (pictured) (2 ½ miles). This was the Manor House of the C18 and C19 though there is evidence that such a house was to be found here in the C14. Especially interesting, if somewhat eerie, is the intact well house (pictured) set high to the left of the information board. Its purpose is debatable, and the most popular theory is that it houses a holy spring or magic wishing well. The information board gives more details.

Do not be tempted by the obvious path through the ruins, but instead pass between the two tall massive gateposts and climb through the wood following an un-waymarked but clear path with the ruins on your right. You will soon come to a new gate on to Tockholes Road, (grid ref. SD664201) and the path to Darwen moor is across and to your left. Follow it to a gate, after which the path climbs the moor, (ignore any path leading off left) and zigzagging a fairly steep ascent to the gates and the splendid views at the top (grid ref. SD670203). Keep ahead along the obvious path to the next gate where you take the left hand fork and then almost at once bear left, ignoring the rutted track ahead. At grid ref. SD676209 you come to a bench and a path crossing yours. Turn right along this, and then, at grid ref. SD678209 you come to another bench, where there is a faint trod leading down to the obvious track of the Witton Weavers' Way climbing to the tower. Follow this upward to the building. (pictured) (4 ½ miles).

On one level the Jubilee Tower was a gesture of loyalty to Victoria, a monarch celebrating her sixtieth year on the throne. But on another it was a gesture that struck at the very thing that monarchy is all about: the ownership of land and the power and privileges that go with it. It is as much a defiant celebration of the local people's right to freely roam the moors above Darwen and their defeat of the local squirearchy. The Tower has been described over the years as a pepper pot, a space rocket, a stumpy, awkwardly proportioned piece. The Germans in World War II believed it was some kind of rocket. It is in fact an octagonal structure with outer faces fifteen feet in width. It has sixty five stone steps and an iron staircase of seventeen steps, which you can climb. From it, on a clear day, you can see as far as the Isle of Man and North Wales. Below you on the left Earlsden reservoir sits next to the larger Sunnyhurst Hey Reservoir.

With the trig marker on your left, walk away down the broad track on the right which takes you all the way down to the village of Sunnyhurst and its eponymous pub. (5 miles). As you descend notice down on your right the magnificent Grade II Listed 303 feet high campanile-style chimney of India Mill (pictured) which dominates the town of Darwen almost as much as the Jubilee Tower. Turn left in Sunnyhurst, and then pass under the lych-gate and descend into Sunnyhurst Wood. The path bears left towards the reservoir, and shortly after you should take the right-hand fork at the green seat. The path takes you down to a children's play area - turn left, cross the bridge and follow the river on your left on another section of the Witton Weavers' Way upwards to a trio of benches, and a gate (grid ref. SD669223) with a view of Earnsdale Reservoir.

Keep ahead between two boulders and follow your nose slightly uphill, the path being setted in places (pictured), You will pass a sign indicating the Janice Cowell Bridleway and this brings you to the Tockholes Road once more. Turn right, (grid ref. SD662222) and after 300 yards take the third path on the left, Higher Hill, immediately after entering the 20mph zone. At a "No parking" sign, fork right, then climb the narrow grass slope to a small gate. Then keep the wall to your right to a second gate and Old School Lane, Tockholes. Turn left and follow the road out into the country, once more on the Weavers' Way as you head for Lower Hill, along a walled green lane which is also a bridleway. Cross the stile at grid ref. SD653227, turn sharp right and follow the right hand edge of the field. You shortly come to a waymarker pointing ahead. Ignore this completely (I didn't!) and head across the field at 11 o/c to the stile at grid ref. SD650227.

The next stile is a few yards to your left. Turn right, passing through the gate, keep ahead, and shortly before you get to the metalled private road, keep an eye out for a subdued stile set in the right-hand hedge (grid ref. SD647228). Go up the path, ignoring the deep noise from the Old English Mastiff. When you reach the small development of extremely wealthy houses by Red Lea Farm, go through the gate on the right. The Weavers' Way goes obviously away across the field, but you must follow the fencing downhill, walking behind the house to the far fence. From here drop downhill to the steps leading to the bridge (grid ref. SD646227). Cross this and turn right along the lane, passing Benson's Farm. This track will soon bring you back to the Hare and Hounds.


Other walks nearby

Walk 2732 Darwen Tower & West Pennine Moorseasy/mod5.5 miles
Walk 1850 Great Hill from Anglezarke Reservoirmoderate9.0 miles
Walk 2245 Winter Hill & Rivington Pikeeasy/mod6.0 miles
Walk 2532 Rivington Pikemoderate8.0 miles
Walk 2564 Calf Hey, Ogden & Holden Wood Reservoirsmoderate7.5 miles

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