The Singing Ringing Tree
On the edge of Lancashire, the moorland rises dramatically from the settlements of the valley floor. The moorland altitudes are expansive; somewhat desolate despite the golden hues, with views into West Yorkshire and into Lancashire beyond Pendle Hill. Following relaxation of lockdown rules, it is a good route if you seek a sense of escape and some hearty exercise.
This (almost) 11-mile route contains some sharp ascents (and descents) and is best accompanied by the OS Map OL21.
Between Portsmouth and Holme Chapel on the A646 (GR SD 890 270) is a lay-by from where to begin. A path enters Ratten Clough Wood (opposite bus stop) which begins a steep climb, almost a scramble at times, up beneath the pine canopy. The path continues over a stile beyond the trees and eventually begins to flatten. Sometimes difficult underfoot, the path is rugged.
Join the Burnley Way beside a building and adjoining metal barn, on the edge of Beater Clough, looking over towards Chatham Hill Plantation. Shortly after, the path splits, go right (a way marker indicates the Burnley Way – SD 886 260). A gradual incline to the summit reaches a crossroads; turn right to venture across the plateau of Heald Moor, likely to meet Aberdeen Angus peacefully grazing along the way.
It is a flat passage across the moor, joining another pathway at a wall (way marker indicates a bridleway). Quick research suggests it was once a packhorse route. A stone pillar directs to Rochdale (10 miles) and Burnley (4 miles) and ahead sits the trig point of Thieveley Pike.
Continue straight ahead, leaving the Burnley Way. The path becomes stonier underfoot, it dips and curves around the edge of a deep ridge. The track follows a wall, passes through and continues alongside until it bends to meet the Burnley Road/A671.
Cross over to join the Pennine Bridleway. The path turns left beside another road, at the gate, cross over, join the path opposite then take the first right. This is Dunnockshaw Community Woodland and the path leads to a road (marked Crown Point on the map.)
Singing Ringing Tree
Here you encounter the Singing Ringing Tree, it soon becomes visible. This “panopticon” was designed by architects Tonkin Liu as part of a series of constructions between 2003-2007 to symbolize the renaissance of the East Lancashire region.
An eerily beautiful and evocative structure; constructed of pipes through which the wind rushes, provoking almost a warble, perhaps an echoing melody. Its presence is subtle, the structure doesn't dominate, however its sound drifts down the hillside, reminiscent of a Siren, luring unfortunate sailors to the rocks by way of a captivating song.
Beyond the Tree, cross a stile to descend diagonally towards the bottom right hand corner of the field (SD 854 290). The path is not obvious at first through the golden, undulating surface of this rugged enclosure, but tracks can be discovered.
Pass through the gated stile, continue beside the wall to reach a gated wall stile with a house immediately beyond. The tarmac track returns to re-cross the main road. Opposite, you stand above a wooded dell. Descend along the right-hand side, however if a crossing cannot be found, follow the left-hand edge; a footbridge allows passage to reach the stile beneath.
Beside the farm building, follow the stony track to your right - again the Burnley Way. Keep on the track (Burnley Way turns off) passing another building and then joining the Pennine Bridleway at the way marker indicating Holme Chapel 1 mile ahead.
Beyond another building, at the edge of the property grounds, the Pennine Bridleway turns left. Keep on this path until it splits. Leave the Pennine Bridleway; pass under the railway arch to meet and cross the road. To your left, with the way marker on opposing side of road, follow the path which presents a steep ascent diagonally-right towards a gap in the wall.
At Helley Platt Farm, take the track leading away from the buildings, turn left along the next track until reaching two ladder stiles either side. Climb over the right-hand side. This enters a beautiful secluded woodland - Merrill Head Wood. The pathway curves around the edge of the dell, the woodland slopes away, still displaying bluebells.
A footbridge crosses stream and slopes back up the opposite bank, hugging the fence as it curves. Join a track passing Light Birks Farm, bear right at the gate. At first opportunity leave the gravel track along a clear pathway on the left.
Another ascent, more Aberdeen Angus. Follow the shallow ridge up and cross over when you can. Aim towards the ladder stile and line of electricity pylons visible ahead. When directly beneath the pylons, bear a slight right to follow the wall.
Towards Stoodley Pike
Having reached this intermediate plateau, the pathway flattens. Ahead on the horizon Stoodley Pike stands proud above Hebden Bridge, the expanse of Chatham Hill Plantation is dramatic and the wind turbines stand above you, with a glimpse at the Bride Stone rocks beyond.
Follow the bridleway (named Black Scout on the map) mirroring the passage of the Long Causeway above.
The valley slopes weaves in and out, you pass high above the lay-by where you began. Judge your position on the map by observing the contours and the correlating landscape. When a large farm (Coal Clough Farm) is visible directly to your left, turn right to descend (SD 902 270), and right again along a ridge path, close to the edge. Several small ruined buildings will indicate the spot.
This final steep descent arrives beside the fishing lake, joining a tarmac lane beside a building. Circle the pond along the lane to return to the main road. Here, turn right and the pavement provides a safe passage back to the start.