A dam fine outing
When it was constructed in 1832, the dam of the Entwistle Reservoir was the highest in Britain. Standing 108ft high, it is 360ft long and holds back some 726 million gallons of water and, together with the Wayoh Reservoir lower down the valley, provides about half the water needed for Bolton.
Shortly after it opened, the area was once more over-run with navvies who were brought in to construct the railway between Bolton and Darwen.
The moorland terrain made this a massive undertaking requiring embankments, cuttings and viaducts almost all the way, the culmination of the work being the mile-long Cranberry Moss Tunnel driven through the hillside just to the north.
The workers and their families were housed in a temporary camp outside Entwistle, and at one stage there were 3,000 men women and children living there.
Today, the area is populated only with a handful of farms and cottages built in the heyday of the railway, but there is a pub, originally known as The Station, but since renamed The Strawbury Duck.
It has a good reputation for its food and makes a satisfying end to the day.
The walk begins through the forest at the edge of the lake, returning along an old track across the hill above the valley.
1 Drop to the lake from the car park and go right, climbing out on to a drive running across the dam. On the far bank, bear off left through a gate and follow a track at the edge of the forest fringing the northern shore. After later winding around an inlet, keep left at a fork to return to the lake and continue at the waters' edge to the tapering tip. The path swings away beside the feeder stream, passing one bridge to reach a second.
2 Ignore it and instead go over a stile in the fence facing you. A short path twists through a small clump of trees, leading to a second stile then on your right. Mounting that, climb away on a rough trod up the steep grass bank, bearing left higher up to set a course parallel to the forest boundary over to the left. You will then shortly s ee a pair of redundant gateposts, aim for those to meet a rugged track. Follow it up to the left, now rising more gently up the open hillside. As it later levels, there is a striking view left into the head of Yarnsdale, overlooked by a stark gritstone crag, Fairy Battery. Its older name is 'Pulpit Rock', and refers to the time when it was a meeting place for non-conformists during the early part of the 17th century, when their religion was outlawed and they were forbidden to gather for worship. Behind, the moors rise to Winter Hill, unmistakable for the cluster of transmitter and communication masts crowing the summit.
3 The track then soon ends at a gate to meet an old stony lane. To the right, it undulates easily across the open rough grazing fields of the hill, offering a fine view across the valleys to the south. Prominent in the distance to the south east is Peel Tower, which stands on the edge of Holcombe Moor overlooking Ramsbottom. It commemorates a famous Ramsbottom lad, Sir Robert Peel, who became Prime Minister and amongst other things, founded the Police Force and repealed the oppressive Corn Laws, which was what most endeared him to the ordinary people who contributed to the monument.
4 The track winds uneventfully on, eventually coming upon a lonely farm at Edge Fold. The way now falls more in earnest, curving right past a cottage and then narrowing to a sunken path. Reaching a junction at the bottom, by the entrance to Edge Foot Cottage, go right and follow the broad track all the way down to its end beside the Strawbury Duck and Entwistle Station.
5 Bear right around the pub and walk past a neat row of Victorian brick railway cottages. Keeping right at a later fork, the way now heads down towards the reservoir. Return across the dam to the car park.