Walks Around Heywood

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When I first moved to Heywood in 2018, I said to my partner (a Heywood lass born and bred) that the place had little to offer on the walking front … boy, how wrong I was!

To atone for my ignorant comment, I have put together a series (not exhaustive) of summer walks that circumnavigate the town … each one is around 7 miles and is laced with a heavy dose of history!

I have followed a familiar Blue Fox format … the routes are on 1:25k maps (enlarged x 2 for ease of identifying specific details) or ‘Streetmaps’ where appropriate. Each one is accompanied by several points of interest.

Oh yes … every walk has a suggested pic-nic / break stop and, of course, pub-stop factored into it!

Heywood can trace its roots back to the Anglo Saxon period. The Saxons cleared thickly wooded areas into ‘Heys’ or fenced clearings in which wild animals were driven for easy capture … likely giving

the area its name. The Anglo-Saxon word “haga” means a hedge, thus Heywood possibly means ‘the wood surrounded by a hedge.’ At one time Heywood was spelt as ‘Eywode’ which points strongly to its derivation being from the Anglo Saxon ‘ea’ meaning water – thus ‘the wood surrounded by the stream’ is another possible source of the name.

Originally part of the township of Heap, Heywood grew to be the town we know and love due to the Cotton Trade. With excellent transport links, thanks to the M62 and M66, Heywood to-day has become the centre for the distribution of goods.

It’s not known exactly when Heywood first got the nickname “Monkey Town” but the term was being used as far back as 1857. Bob Dobson in ‘Lancashire Nicknames & Sayings’ states that the nickname originated from Irish immigrants pronouncing ‘Heap Bridge’ as ‘Ape Bridge,’ and believes that the name ‘Monkey Town’ derived from this. With the nickname came the stools with holes in them – supposedly for the monkey’s tails. In fact the holes were for carrying the stools!

The railways are inextricably linked to the area’s industrial past, providing vital links to the country’s network of import, export, raw material, and, most importantly, workers. The East Lancashire Railway is now a 12.5 mile heritage steam line, running between Heywood and Rawtenstall, with stations at Ramsbottom and Bury in between.

WALK No.1 –

Simpson Clough & Bamford ~ 6.8 miles / 850 feet ascent

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Start/finish point: St.Luke’s Church, town centre

WALK No.2 –

Birtle & Roch Valley ~ 7.6 miles / 800 feet ascent

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Start/finish point: Sports Village, Back o’th’ Moss

WALK No.3 –

Castle Hawk & Crimble ~ 7.6 miles / 500 feet ascent

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Start/finish point: St. Luke’s Church, town centre

WALK No.4 –

Ashworth Valley & Deeply Vale ~ 7.5 miles / 1050 feet ascent

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Start/finish point: ‘Tractor’ blue plaque, town centre

WALK No.5 –

Rochdale Canal & Hopwood Woodlands ~ 7.6 miles / 400 feet ascent

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Start/finish point: East Lancashire Railway, Hopwood

WALK No.6 –

Summerseat to Heywood ~ 7.7 miles / 1150 feet ascent

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Start/finish point: East Lancashire Railway, Hopwood

WALK No.7

Pilsworth Fisheries & Hollins ~ 7.7 miles / 500 feet ascent

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Start/finish Point: St. John’s Church, Heap Bridge

WALK No.8

Springfield Park & Queen’s Park ~ 7.4 miles / 650 feet ascent

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Start/finish Point: Queen’s Park, Heywood North

WALK No.9

Walmersley & Chesham Woods ~ 7.4 miles / 1000 feet ascent

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Start/finish Point: St. John The Baptist, Bircle

WALK No.10

Healy Dell & Pennine Bridleway ~ 6.7 miles

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Start/finish Point: Catley Lane Head

NOTE: These walks were researched and reconnoitred in beautiful sunshine! … when the paths were bone-dry and streams a mere trickle. Please be aware that large areas could be prone to heavy mud and it is highly inadvisable to attempt any riverside sections in times of spate. Although much of each route are mere strolls, there are still some parts only for the sure-footed. Every walk includes a DIFFERENT pub for you to enjoy along the way, or an alternative pic-nic/break stop if preferred(?). You can alter the start and finish points to suit yourselves (eg if you want the pub at the end). Knowledge of map-reading would be advantageous to yield the most from this project.

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The Rochdale Way

This 45 mile / 6500 feet ascent long distance beauty is a route around the Borough of Rochdale … over moorland, through wooded valleys and passing historic urban sites. Blackstone Edge, Healey Dell, Knowl Hill, Queens Park, Tandle Hill and Piethorne Valley are visited along the Way. I have broken this down into three (Heywood orientated) more manageable sections.

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Cycle Routes

Cycle Route ~ North

15.4 miles circular / 2200 feet ascent

Ashworth Valley > Shuttleworth > Nangreaves > Birtle

Cycle Route ~ East

16.0 miles linear / 900 feet ascent

Hebden Bridge > Castleton via the Rochdale Canal

Cycle Route ~ West

14.4 miles circular / 1300 feet ascent

Prestwich > Radcliffe > Moses Gate > Ringley

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Cycle Route ~ South

15.2 miles circular / 900 feet ascent

Castleton > Alkrington > Heaton Park > Bowlee

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Heywood’s Hidden Treasures …

Heap Bridge Branch Line

Heap Bridge has a history with papermaking that dates back 300 years! The Heap Bridge sidings were a freight-only line built for Bridge Hall Mill (BHM), but was latterly and solely used by Yates Duxbury (YD) when the mill closed down in the mid 1920’s.

These modern-day pictures trace the line’s short journey ….

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ~ my gratitude to Andrew Stocks for the photography and for assisting me with my research.

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A masterpiece short film by Gandy Dancer Productions explains all …

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The Bridge Hall mill was on the opposite side of the river to the branch line, access was achieved by using turntables … two tracks crossed the river on their own bridges at 90 degrees to the railway and river. They connected to two more turntables on the mill side, one bridge was used for incoming traffic, the other for outgoing.


Could this be one of the crossing points ~ an old nearby picture of the mill ~ a possible clue remains in a retaining wall on the right-hand side of the crossing??? …

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CROSS REFERENCE ~ Walks 6, 7 & 9

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RAF Heywood (35 Maintenance Unit)

During WWII (and into the 1960s) Heywood had a huge RAF site. It was a maintenance unit for storage and repair, staffed mostly by civilians. To-day it is Heywood Distribution Park … a massive industrial estate.

One of its main purposes was to provide replacement aircraft parts to RAF bases throughout Britain and abroad. A massive transport operation was required to reach the bases and ports … many parts were moved by regular lorry conveys, often at night (to minimise enemy detection) and by women drivers … travelling alone, on unfamiliar roads and during ‘black-out!).

One of the few remnants of the RAF’s presence is the old guard-house for ‘5 Site’ on Manchester Road. It is still under government ownership in the guise of the Department for Work and Pensions, aka Heywood Stores … the huge warehouses store the documents for benefit claims!

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ~ my gratitude to Roy Pickup for his historical information and for inspiring me to undertake this short project.

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CROSS REFERENCE ~ Walks 6 and Cycle Route South

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Heywood Branch Canal

Deeply Vale Rock Festival