Douglas River Project

Douglas River Source Trip

Posted on October 15, 2020 by Bill Aldridge

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