Walk: Springmill, near Rochdale

As readers of this column well know I have been interested in the history of the cotton industry for many years. I love to enjoy a stroll around the old mill areas.

Leave the car park and ascend a gentle slope through the historic hamlet of Springmill where there is a row of cottages originally built for those who actually worked at the Springmill.

This was once a water-powered textile mill dating to the early days of the Industrial Revolution. After passing Gate House which has a datestone of 1862 continue to ascend.

Follow the unsigned but obvious track leading off to the left as it drops down towards Kitcliffe Farm.

At a cattle grid turn through a gate, follow the footpath and keep close to the retaining wall of the reservoir on the left. Descend steeply to a footbridge.

Carry on and pass through a series of stiles and follow the track up on to the moors. In about half a mile the path sweeps right.

Here are the remains of a settlement dating to the 13th century. There were once barns, farmhouses and cottages and records show that barley, rye, wheat and root crops were grown here and the people and their livestock were self-sufficient at this time. Oldham corporation was allowed to compulsory purchase this hamlet, Binns, in 1867. It paid £2,430 and began to construct reservoirs to meet the demands of King Cotton.

The obvious footpath sweeps left and right before reaching Old House Ground Plantation, which locals now refer to as Bluebell Wood.

My winter walk was cold and dry for once. On the northern side of Piethorne reservoir United Utilities now allow the site to be run by the local Wildlife Trust and is another chance to enjoy a winter bird watch. Here I watched yet more teal along with Wigeon, goldeneye, pochard and tufted duck.

At the end of Piethorn reservoir turn right to a point where the footpath needs a winter track. To the left is the old lime storehouse; this was once shovelled into the feeder stream of the reservoir in order to reduce the natural acidity of the waters in this area. As modern treatment methods evolved the solidly constructed lime house became redundant.

The track now sweeps to the right. As Kitcliffe reservoir is approached the water treatment works can be seen down to the right. This treats eight million gallons of water each day.

Descend into Springmill and back to the car park. Look out to see the warden’s office where there was once a weighbridge, not for lime but for coal, dating back to the days when the mill converted from water to steam.

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