Three reservoirs situated between the towns of Oldham and Rochdale, Greater Manchester, above the village of Milnrow. A super walking escape that is not far to travel to, for the many who live in the area.
Our most recent visit to these reservoirs was last summer when we decided to have one of our Sunday rambles. I think it was actually on one of the hottest days of the year, when we enjoyed exceptional summer weather. We don’t often get great amounts of sun in Blighty so when we do, we tend to go for it. The phrase ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen go out into the midday sun’ springs to mind 🙂This was a hot day though and even the sheep looked a bit hot and flustered, taking shade wherever they could find it and in some unlikely places!
We parked up in the car park on Ogden Lane and with sunscreen applied, water bottles in rucksacks and sun hats on we set off up the lane towards Kitcliffe reservoir. This is a traditional reservoir walk, very peaceful and calm, looking over the reservoirs and the reflections in the water. It’s an easy walking route, approximately 4.89 km and takes about 1 ½ hours in total. It is suitable for all ages and also for dog walkers, good exercise for all 🙂
Onto Piethorne Reservoir which was built to cope with the population growth of Oldham as it expanded from 25,000 in 1830’s to 120,000 in 1870. The town’s original two reservoirs and local well were only managing to supply a few hours of water per day. As Piethorne Valley is only 8 miles from Oldham, Oldham Corporation bought watershed land at Piethorne Valley and construction work was started in 1858.
During the excavations, a celtic spear-head with a 5” blade was discovered, showing that there was human habitation here during the Bronze Age. Due to moorland silt being carried into the reservoir from its feed streams, Hanging Lees Reservoir was then built as a settling reservoir. Four further reservoirs were built after this, Kitcliffe and Norman Hill in the 1870’s. Ogden was started in 1878 to compensate mills further down Piethorne Brooke, for loss of water supply, followed by Rooden Reservoir.
A stone-step cascade (man-made waterfall) carried Piethorne Brook from Norman Hill Reservoir to Piethorne Reservoir. Another one was built as an overflow from Ogden Reservoir.
All the reservoirs were built using an impermeable clay puddle core to seal the dams. Navvies (short for navigational engineers), trod clay wearing boots with sacking tied around their legs until the correct reservoir height was reached. The navvies worked on the reservoirs under a “Butty Gang” system. They were paid a fixed lump sum and left to divide the money between themselves. They were well paid and worked hard. A local woman described them as “having a pocketful” of money and a bellyful of beer”. It was said they ‘spilt more beer than locals drank’ and fights were not uncommon – hardly surprising really!
Piethorne Reservoir carries 344 million gallons of water (enough of 7 million baths). It is 22m at its deepest and has a 25m embankment.
Thanks to the hard work from these brave men, Piethorne Valley now has many walking trails, this being one of them. As we strolled round on this hot Summer’s day, we took time to appreciate the scenery and tranquility it has to offer. We listened to the curlews and skylarks as they circled above and enjoyed one of our best summer days in the outdoors so far 🙂