Superlative WalksUrban and rural trails, each with something very special
This walk is east of Greenfield in Saddleworth, Greater Manchester. The first industrial looms were designed and built in Saddleworth. In addition, the world’s first rock climbers’ sit harness was invented in Saddleworth in the 1970s, variations of it now forming the basis of almost all the world’s climbing sit harnesses. Before 1974, the area was part of Yorkshire. The walk starts about two miles from Greenfield station, if arriving by train. The walk is partly inside and partly outside the Peak District National Park.
The area contains four reservoirs, three of which are linked to one another: Greenfield, Yeoman Hey and Dove Stone. The fourth is Chew reservoir. Dove Stone reservoir lies at the convergence of the valleys of the Greenfield and Chew Brooks. Work started on Dove Stone in 1960 and was finished in 1966. It is the lowest and largest of the three linked reservoirs. Dove Stone’s dam is possibly the last large dam to be built in Britain with a conventional puddle clay core. Above it are the Yeoman Hey and Greenfield reservoirs, completed in 1880. Chew Reservoir is in the upper Chew Valley and at 1,600 feet (488 metres) above sea level was the highest reservoir in the British Isles when it was built in 1914.
1. Begin at the car park below the dam of Dove Stone reservoir. Take the footpath at the top of the car park, keeping the reservoir on the left.
2.150 yards after the sailing club, turn right up the farm track. On reaching the farmyard, go through the stile by the first gate on the left.
3. Keep to the left of the wall. At the next corner, climb the stile into Chew Piece Plantation, then turn right up the path.
4. Turn left on meeting the next path at a crossing of paths (opposite a gate in the wall on the right – part of The Oldham Way). After ½ a mile cross the stile and continue following the clearly marked path.
5. Cross the wooden bridge over Chew Brook, then follow the path up to the road.At this point, there is an option to turn right up the road for about a mile to Chew Reservoir and another mile back. You may not find the diversion worthwhile.
Chew is one of the reservoirs seen below the flight path from the north-east into Manchester Airport. From the reservoir, return down the road.
6. If not taking the optional section up to Chew Reservoir, turn left over the stile next to the gate and down to the bottom of the hill.
7. Before the path turns sharp left down hill to descend to a bridge, fork right on a contour. Follow the path, which turns from tarmac to a stone surface. Dove Stone Reservoir is on your left.
8. At the gate marked Ashworth Gap on the left, either stay on the path or go through the gate and through Pennyworth Woods. The two paths are parallel and of similar length.
9. If taking the path through the woods, go through two gates, and after the second one take the right fork up through the picnic area, then turn left over the bridge, rejoining the main track.
To the right, at the northern end of Dove Stone Moss, above the Ashway Gap, the Ashway Stone is a memorial to James Platt. In 1857, one of Oldham’s recently elected Liberal MPs, James Platt, was shot dead by his close friend and relative, Josiah Radcliffe, the mayor of Oldham. Radcliffe’s gun had discharged accidentally after he stumbled while they were out with a shooting party on the moors, hitting Platt in the lower leg. Doctors were summoned, but Platt died just over an hour later, having suffered extensive blood loss.
Just five months earlier, Radcliffe had presided as returning officer at Platt’s election as MP for his native borough. With his older brother John, Platt was a partner in the largest machine-making firm in the world, Platt Bros. & Co., which manufactured machinery for the textile industry in Britain and overseas.
10. At the top of Dove Stone reservoir, there is another optional addition. Either cross the dam or go around the middle reservoir, Yeoman Hey.
11. If taking the diversion, walk to the right of the black railings and follow the Yeoman Hey sign. At the top of Yeoman Hey reservoir, cross the concrete bridge below the Greenfield reservoir dam and take the track to the left. At the Y-junction, take the narrower track to the left alongside Yeoman Hey reservoir until reaching the Yeoman Hey dam.
During a visit in 1981 to attend the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga visited Dove Stone reservoir. To commemorate the visit, a carved stone has been set into the dam wall of the Yeoman Hey reservoir.
12. After either crossing the Yeoman Hey dam or reaching it via the diversion, take the road and then go through the gate 50 yards on the left, following the Dove Stone circular walk sign. Follow this path back to the Dove Stone dam, then turn left along it and back to the car park.