Gelder Wood, Ashworth Valley, Lancashire

My First Adventure

Armed with a plastic bag with my flask of coffee and my sandwiches for the day, I really didn´t have a plan on where I was going. This was a first adventure for me!

All I wanted to do was escape the noise of home, and my mum shouting at my two younger brothers for whatever reason!

I knew of the local parks around my area after visiting them many times with my friends. But, I wanted some place new, a place I had never adventured before!

I was in charge now, no friends to influence me on what I should do, and where I should go.

The walk down into the valley to the local scrap metal works, and the towering gasometers which was my initial hurdle, because to get to where I was going, I needed to cross the local river that cut through our town.

I balanced along the cast iron pipe and scaled the barbed wire gate. This was supposed to deter people from attempting the dangerous crossing, but being young & carefree, I was on a mission!

Hooley Bridge Mill, Heywood
Hooley Bridge Mill Heywood

Hooley Bridge Mill – The first mill was established by Joseph Fenton in the quiet valley of Hooley Clough in 1826. It soon had two mills, one large shed occupied by 900 fustian looms constituted the factory, the machinery of which was driven by an 80 h.p. steam engine and a water wheel.

A little village grew around the new mill, becoming home to about 160 cottagers. Their homes were among the best provided for workers in Heywood. 


Negotiating The Obstacles!

Once that was negotiated, it was a quick run through the gas works. So as not to be caught by the workers, and onward up the other side of the valley. Safely through, and now it was a nice amble along the river bank towards a picturesque place called Ashworth Valley

Now considered a natural heritage site of Lancashire, it once was home to many of the local cotton mills prior to their demise in the late 60´s. For me it was filled with adventure and intrigue. I am only around 9 years old at this time!

Having passed the mill at the entrance (one of the very few still in operation), I was entering natural beauty. Fauna & flora abundant throughout my walk along the road. Then the first sign of a footpath came into view, and now it was a new exploration.

The footpath took me through a local caravan site, which at the time I thought was just for holiday makers in the summer. I later found out this was a static homes park for many residents. Mainly retirees enjoying the quieter time of life, who had also done their time in the mills over the decades.

Gelder Clough Caravan Park
Gelder Clough Caravan Park

Making The Right Choice?

At that moment I knew I had made the right choice on my day´s adventure, and it was going to be a great day for me. Just walking slowly and taking in all the sounds, smell, and colorful views, took me away from hectic home life. 

Yes, even as young as I was, I still wanted serenity now and again. I had found it today, and I was going to make every minute count.

I wandered on through the place called Gelder Wood, which was just a fantastic experience, with birds of all types crossing your path at every step. Kingfishers in the stream below preying their next catch. Magpies & Jays flashing by your eye line. Blue Tits, Grey Tits & Wrens flitting between their feeding routes to their nests.

Ashworth Valley Heywood
Ashworth Valley Heywood

Wow, and I have not traveled more than half a mile or so without experiencing so much fauna & flora. I was still mesmerized by how beautiful this walk had turned out already. I probably walked another 2 or 3 miles without realizing the distance I had covered.

I sat down after what might have been 2 hours walking, I had no concept of time, and I didn´t have a watch. I poured myself a cup of coffee from my flask, and ate my first jam sandwich while taking in the views around me. Thinking to my young self, this is heaven, this is “bliss” being here right now.

I was lost in my own little world, and surprising as it was at the time, I never came across any other person on that particular path. Just myself, a young kid enjoying being there in total beauty.

One more stop, one more coffee, and I packed up the flask once again. I ate the last of my sandwiches along the path, back the way I came, and knew there was so much more to explore of this place on my next trip.

No I didn´t want “my first adventure” to end, but I remembered what mum said before I left the house, “don´t be late for your dinner”!

Gelder Wood

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