Yesterday I blogged about the Howler Virtual Challenge (read about it here). Today I can confirm that our little family (seen below) ticked off the nearest of the ten routes, named Dakota, which is an out and back route from just north of Belmont to Rivington Pike.
I wasn’t too sure about the small lay-by for parking at the start/finish point, but it was almost full of cars when we arrived as there is a good hill for sledging nearby. I also knew that there was a good sized car park up Sheephouse Lane, about half way through the route, where we could potentially park if we needed to. As it turned out, Sheephouse Lane was definitely not a road I would have wanted to drive on without 4WD and winter tyres.
Anyway, we set off and I was in charge of navigation and Helen was on photo duty. The first mile was slow going as we tried not to get our feet too wet in the typical fell terrain. Fortunately at the top of the first hill the path became very easy going as heavy flags had been laid down many years earlier. We almost danced the next mile in the snow. The views were amazing with the masts on Winter Hill visible in the distance. Helen was incredibly pleased with how this photo came out.
First navigation error came up soon after we had passed a group of runners from Chorley. I had assumed that our route would go up and over Winter Hill, which it didn’t so we had to back track a hundred metres to find the appropriate footpath turn. Helen informed me that she had enough photos of me and that she wanted one of Nelly. Fair enough really as she is the best dog in the world.
From here we reached Sheephouse Lane, which was covered in hard packed snow and was incredibly slippery. We skittered along the road until we found the correct footpath. However we also found a family who had only moments earlier rolled their car. Their 4WD car had lost traction around a tight bend and slowly slipped off the road. Fortunately everyone was OK with multiple air bags deployed. The woman asked if we had one of those foil blankets to help keep their very young child warm. We unwrapped one and once we knew that they were all OK and that help was on the way we set off again.
The next section was typical Howler territory with a very steep slippery slope down across a small footbridge and then steeply back up the other side. We let Nelly off her lead to make her own way. She stayed off the lead as we wound our way through a magical snow filled wood and then down to the overflowing Pigeon Tower carpark. We couldn’t believe how many people there were.
Second navigation error as we picked the wrong track, but we managed to find a cut through, as we joined the correct path up to Pigeon Tower.
Lord Leverhulme (William Hesketh Lever), the soap magnate and founder of Lever Brothers (now Unilever) conceived and built Rivington Terraced Gardens with the help of Thomas Mawson between 1905 and 1925, with the Pigeon Tower being a present to his wife Elizabeth Lever.
As we reached Pigeon Tower there were hundreds of people. We had to walk as the track was covered in packed down snow and was again incredibly slippery. We gingerly made our way up to Rivington Pike, the turn around point on our run. There were hundreds of others enjoying the fine views or attempting to sledge down the steep hill. We didn’t hang around long.
All that was left was for use to retrace our footsteps and head back to the car. It had taken us far longer than expected, mostly due to having to walk most of the Rivington section. We let Nelly off her lead for most of the route back, right up until less than a mile to go where upon she headed off in the wrong direction. A couple of frantic minutes later and she reappeared looking very pleased to see us.
Overall an amazing run, mostly because of the stunning conditions. This is the only out and back route of the ten Howler Virtual Events, and I think the route might have been improved with a little loop from Rivington Pike to Winter Hill before joining the route back to the start/finish, but that is just my opinion.
We are definitely looking forward to completing the other nine routes and had thought about doing the other Lancashire one on New Year’s Day, but with so much snow and ice about we opted to stay local. Hopefully we’ll soon be in Tier 2 when we’ll be able to travel out of the county.
If you fancy a challenge I would heartily recommend this Howler Virtual Challenge.