2:24 AM 7th September 2020
The Border Moorland - North Of Denshaw From Buckstones
I would venture to suggest that the patch of moorland explored in this route is perhaps underappreciated, located where it is just south of the M62 and, for most, likely used as a cut-through by car from the motorway into Saddleworth. Buckstones, as I know it, is certainly a busy stretch of road, the A640 a commuter route by week, and a leisure route for motorcyclists and cyclists alike on a weekend. But whatever your reason for travel, you can't argue that the views are not outstanding and the landscape mesmerizing.
I'd recommend this 10.25-mile route for a clear day to take in the vistas. Most of it is easy underfoot; worth remembering for the winter months, however, the first section ventures off grid, taking advantage of the open access land, therefore not the easiest to traverse and liable to render your boots a touch soggy.
View towards Pule Hill
We began from the Buckstones CP on the A640 (at junction with B6114; GR SE 018 136). Immediately you are struck by the intense beauty of the view across March Haigh, towards Marsden and Pule Hill beyond.
It begins with a short road walk, bearing west for approx. 800m towards the isolated house and former inn, Buckstones House. Just beyond the house, spot a stile onto the moorland (on your right-hand side). Climb over and follow the fence - this is your guide for the next couple of miles. At the second stile climb back over, there is a very faint path running beside the fence, but none of these are marked on the OS Map (however the fence boundary is). The fence will meet another at a fence ‘junction’, so hop over the stile, bear left and continue, still following a faint path. The conditions will depend on the time of year you walk, currently it is navigable but with patches of spongy grass tufts and hidden dips - just watch your step.
The fence will turn left (SD 999 139), so follow its course - here the path is less trodden but doable nonetheless. It will then veer right and you catch sight of a more solid fence with a couple of gates. Pass through one of the gates to make a gentle ascent, a vaguely westerly direction. At a second fenced gate, you reach the trig point atop White Hill and the westerly views across Rochdale and towards Manchester are revealed. The M62 is close by, and indeed you mirror it for the next few miles, but remarkably it does not disturb the peace, it remains largely out of sight and really it just blends into the background, barely noticeable.
At the trig point, note the transmitter to your right - that's the next destination. Bear right along the distinct Pennine Way and it will come to and cross the A672. Cross the car park toward the transmitter, then turn left to pass around it, as said mirroring the direction of the motorway. You traverse Windy Hill on a defined pathway that largely follows a wall at various stages of collapse.
In no time at all you round a corner to bump into the Pennine Bridleway, helpfully waymarked with a nice new signpost. Here we scrambled up the track ascending Turf Hill (still open access land so permissible) and over the top, meeting a wall, we turned right to descend alongside it to meet the bridleway running beneath, just beyond the ditch. Turn left and at the end you meet a clear pathway, turn left again and this path follows the contour curving around the land above Kitcliffe and Piethorne Reservoirs, before entering a small patch of woodland from which you emerge to rejoin the Pennine BW.
Navigation hereafter is dead simple. Just follow the Pennine BW as it makes a long and gently ascent back up to meet the main road, at first mirroring Cold Greave Clough. At the road, you cross beside the Rams Head Inn and farm shop, the path runs beside the road (turn left) and is clearly waymarked. Continue on the Pennine BW on the flat gravel track toward Readycon Dean Reservoir, you cross at the dam and continue on the far side.
The next stretch is perfectly straight. The Pennine BW actually turns off (right) but you continue the gentle ascent on what has become a byway. Over the brow, a slight descent to another road (A640), turn left along the road for approx. 400m to the junction of the Pennine Way.
March Haigh Reservoir
Turn right from the road and the path immediately splits. Take the pay way-marked ‘Marsden via Close Gate Bridge’ (note this isn't the Pennine Way). It is instead a former packhorse route and it makes a clear descent beside March Hill. March Haigh Reservoir comes into view, as does the car park, but note the map doesn't show a pathway cutting across. However, when you line up almost level with the reservoir dam, there is a clear path curving left following the reservoir conduit (largely unseen) which quickly brings you to the waterside. Cross over and then the final section is an energetic scrabble back up to the top, where if you are lucky, an ice cream van will be waiting to reward your efforts!