A tough one! About 3 to 4 hours allowing for sniffing time en-route. Lots of steep climbs and VERY boggy ground when wet. Poor paths in part. Do not do this walk in bad weather unless you know what you're doing and always go prepared for the weather to turn. Some stiles over which you will HAVE to lift your dog. Lots of sheep so not too many off-lead opportunities. Signs on entering the estate say that 5 sheep have already dies this year because of uncontrolled dogs. Keep your dog on a lead for the whole route at this time of year.
Todays walk started at Rivington Barn, near Horwich. Open fields next to the long driveway provide a good chance for an off lead run and play before the walk starts. In summer, hundreds of bikers meet up round hear so be prepared for it to be busy and park on the driveway, not at the barn car park itself! We walked up the terraced path to Rivington pike but there are lots of routes to choose from. The path up is steep but the views from the top are great. Watch out for mountain bikers tearing down the hillside!
From the pike's tower, we retraced our steps to the road/track that crosses below and (after seeking out the letterbox hidden in the area) headed North towards the road that crosses the moor between Belmont and Rivington. A mile or along this path a moorland track over a wooden footbridge (to cross the mud!) and stile led us up to the masts of Winter Hill. From the top, we took the obvious path North (very steep and boggy) to the road at Horden Stoops. Crossing the road, a footpath beside the river yarrow led us to some ruined farm houses and then back to the road. A short path over Moses Cockers (lots of stiles!) led us back to the Barn.
This was a good walk but we wished the wind had eased a little. As usual, the dog was filthy when we got back to the car but still had the energy for another game of fetch.
Not a great map here. You should have an os map for this walk and a compass if the cloud descends.
(Update April 2010) You can download a book with everything you could ever wish to know about Winter Hill from Dave Lane's website here. All profits from the full download or paper versions go to Bolton Mountain Rescue Team.
Doggy rating 6/10 - would have been more but I think he'd have like to have been off the lead at times and having nearly been yanked off stiles a few times I certainly wish he had been!