Douglas River Source Trip

As part of the Douglas River Project, last month Eric and I met at Rivington Barn for a trip onto Rivington moor. This was to see if we could trace the route of the River on the moor and perhaps find its source (clues where to look are in the name i.e. Douglas Springs). Having climbed up through the terraces of Lord Leverhulme’s Japanese garden onto Belmont Road, we soon had our first encounter with the River – little more than a stream at this point, it passes through a culvert under the road at a place called Brown Hill. As you can see, I had brought the drone and was determined to use it despite the gusting wind conditions (the light wasn’t the best but the results were good enough for our purposes). From here the River winds its way down the hillside towards Horwich, passing under Rivington Lane at Jespon’s Bridge, then crossing in front of the Lower Reservoir before passing under Bolton Road on its way towards Anderton and Adlington.  Looking the other way, the River can be clearly seen snaking its way up the hillside (the one on the right in the photo below) with the Pike summit in the distance on the left. Our next stop was the boundary stone, just a hundred metres or so further along Belmont Road. It marks the boundary between the metro boroughs of West Lancashire and Greater Manchester. Following the dry stone wall the boundary continues all the way up to the TV mast (up till this point the boundary had been following the River). As we cross into Bolton, the road changes its name to Georges’s Lane and just another hundred metres along is Sportsman’s Cottage, which is now a boarding kennels and small gift shop. Just beside it is the path which takes us onto the moor. The view at the rear of the Cottage shows a well manicured garden, deceptively making you forget you’re on the high moor. The path past the Cottage leads to our next stop i.e. the Two Lads hill and its cairns. There are actually three cairns, the first is a well built and well maintained structure but the other two are basically just piles of stones. However looking more closely, beneath the rubble, circular structure can be detected under the rubble. Many myths seems to be associated with these cairns and there has been periods of collapse and rebuilding have been recorded but I don’t think anybody really knows their origin. Chorley Archaeology Society showed some interest in the 1950’s and carried out some ‘excavations’ there. In his diary published on their website, John Winstanley claims to have found amongst other things Roman artefacts i.e. pottery and glass (a word with  his companion at the time, the venerable Jack Smith, may shed more light on this).

From Two Lads we made our way up towards the Winter Hill TV mast which was quite easy once we located the single track road leading to it. Once there, we noted the Manx Memorial to the air disaster in 1958 when thirty five people lost their lives And also beneath the mast guy ropes, Scotchman’s Stump, a memorial to George Henderson, the Scottish merchant who was shot dead on the moor in 1838. Wandering around the back of the TV station we came across a concrete culvert carrying the track over what we perceived to be the early vestiges of the River. Just a few metres further north from here, Eric point out what he deduced to be the actual source, a spring (or at least one of them, we assumed it to be the highest). It was getting late and feeling we had achieved our goal, we started to make our way back down the hill, looking for the track that would lead us back to the Pike (other sites such as the Winter Hill Cairn and Noon Hill would have to wait for another day). However this is where we came unstuck, marshy ground hidden between the grassy tufts proved our undoing and both at one point time or another ending up on our backsides, knee deep in the bog. We did eventually find the track we were looking for but not before stumbling on strange linear features of light coloured vegetation and mounds of earth (surely not undocumented tumuli). On closer inspection they turned out to be constructed of pit soil and the rubble from brick and stone buildings. This was clear evidence of mining activity in this area. Researching later on the 1849 OS map, we could see there has been extensive coal mining on the moor but this seemed to be confined to the area to the east of the county boundary. Wildersmoor Colliery is marked as having pit shafts either side of the road leading up to the top of Winter Hill and Holders Colliery is shown further east but nothing is shown in the area we were at. Having found the track we quickly made are way back off the moor towards the Pike and eventually came across our last encounter with the River, i.e. footbridge leading us to the back of the Pike. Here I decided to have another go with the drone but this time the wind was too strong and soon realising its limitations, I returned it to base before I lost control of it altogether.
It was time to pack up and head off home, this time following the track round the back of the Pike. It had been quite a successful day and Eric and I thoroughly enjoyed it (despite the mud). The intention is to return perhaps with better weather conditions to get some good drone shots and also visit the sites we missed (i.e. Winter Hill Cairn and Noon Hill). The sites we did visit are indicated with orange stars on the map below.
For more information about the mining activity on Winter Hill Dave Lane’s website gives a fascinating insight into an industry that was still active as late as the 1960s

Roman Road Research Online

Lockdown has given me the opportunity to catch up with all the research we have carried out over years on the Roman roads in our area. Our investigations go back to the earliest days of the Society – we made our first foray into the field as early as 1985. However our researches began even earlier when, in 1983, we produced our first report on the road leading north out of Wigan. You can now see all this work here  .Also

Wigan to Walton-le-Dale
Wigan to Warrington
Wigan to Manchester
Wigan to Burscough
Wigan to Ribchester

St Wilfrid’s Ledger Stones Survey

Following on from our Graffiti Survey last year in the Parish Church at Standish, it has been our intention to record the grave slabs (ledger stones) inside the church. These were exposed when the carpets were removed last year. These ledger stones have not seen the light of day in a good many years and we thought it would be a shame for them disappear again without being properly recorded. You can follow our progress here.

GM Festival of Archaeology 2019 (Toddington Lane Well Site)

Another great festival weekend with eleven bodies on our site at Toddingtons on Saturday and a further nine on Sunday – including a total of seven members of the general public. We also had a good number of visitors stopping by over the two days inquiring about our activity on our Well Site, which is on the west side of Toddington Lane at Haigh. 
We were looking for the old well marked on the 1849 OS but not on any later maps, and also evidence of the possible Roman road linking Wigan with Ribchester. You can follow our activities on our site diary here.

Eye in the Sky

We bought our new drone in October last year after being inspired by our unusually dry summer. It was obviously too late for us to take advantage of those conditions but we have found plenty of opportunities to try out our new toy. This last week has been no exception – with the unusually warm and sunny weather for this time of year, we took advantage of the ideal conditions to visit sites north of Coppull at :-
Row High Wood and
Charnock Richard where the line of the Roman road extends towards Euxton – also
Pingot Valley where 4 years ago we looked for remains of The Arches viaduct, and
Dean Lock a new site for us on the Douglas Navigation where the remains of a river lock may have survived.

GM Festival of Archaeology (& Brimelow Farm Open Day)

The weekend Festival and Open Day was a great success with a good number of volunteers and many visitors over the two-day event. Friday volunteer numbers were down (probably as it’s a weekday) but, on Saturday, we were oversubscribed.

Saturday’s volunteers and crew. Left to right: Chon, Tracey, Al, Darren, Alex, Vanessa, Bill, Patrick, Andy and Mark. Front row: Lily, Indiana (Bones) the dog and Lucas.

Throughout the two days we had a constant stream of visitors, particularly from the local residence who were keen to have a look at the Roman road we had discovered on their door step (encourage to have a look by Trevor acting as gatekeeper).  It was particularly pleasing to see David Ratledge who hasn’t been too well recently – his Gazetteer of Roman Roads in Lancashire is quite comprehensive (and he’s currently working on roads in Cheshire – we all wish him well on this project).

Friday’s contingent: Left to right Patrick, Andy, Dave North, Mark, Dave Flanagan and Tony Boylan

Much Progress was made on searching for the Roman road between Wigan and Walton-le-Dale and you can see the details of our work here.