The Irwell Valley Sculpture Trail



Too many parents overlook the overwhelming benefits of walking as a way to occupy children during the school holidays. Firstly it’s cheap. Secondly it occupies a good block of time. Thirdly it is healthy for both parent and child. Finally it is a pleasant way to spend quality time together. Of course judgement has to be made the type of walk to suit the age group of the children but here’s one that would appeal to most with a linear trail from Rawtenstall to Ramsbottom and then returning on a steam train.


Start: Rawtenstall ELR station. BB4 6DD GR SD809 224


Fact file: 

Distance: 5 miles 7.9k
Time: 2 - 3 hours
Summary: Easy and mainly flat. 
Maps: OS Explorer 287 West Pennine Moors & OS OL 21 South Pennines


Map by kind permission of Johnston Press


1. From the station follow the footpath on its right skirting the terminus buildings


so that the railway is on the left. Keep on the path as passes the Old Cobblers Inn on your right towards a prominent mill chimney.The way passes under an arch


to enter a flagged garden. Keep ahead. Quickly you reach a pastoral scene with the River Irwell on the left.


After passing a riverside cottage you arrive at a lane.


Turn left


and cross the river on a road bridge. 

2. Walking towards the level crossing turn right into an area of commercial units.At the end turn right onto a path that is on the left of a mesh fence and fluorescent yellow gatepost.


This leads round into a sheet metal yard.


A right turn between buildings will bring you back to the riverside path. This leads beneath the A56.


After crossing a road (B6527) at the next bridge the trail continues passing beneath the railway twice



to arrive at the small community of Irwell Vale. 


3. Here turn right (not through the subway) and then cross to the cul-de-sac opposite


towards Meadow Park. After passing a converted chapel on the right keep ahead through a residential area. Do not cross the bridge but keep ahead on a riverside path


as it enters a wooded stretch and soon you will find yourself walking alongside the railway again. 200yds along turn left under the railway


and then continue alongside it.


A short distance along there is a sculpture


to view on the hillside to the left.  This next part of the walk is rather attractive as trail, rail and water find their own route through the valley.


Here you will come across more art work that gives the trail its name. 

4. As the path approaches Chatterton it reaches a track close to a footbridge.


Here turn left to walk through the settlement.


Cross the A676 and continue on an unsurfaced track.


You will soon come to open riverside meadows. Through a kissing gate


keep to the left following a wall.


After crossing a footbridge


the trail takes you towards an imposing chimney,


and then veers leftwards to put you on a footpath


that takes you through a semi-industrial complex. Keep ahead and on reaching Bridge Street turn right and walk over the river to reach Ramsbottom station.

POI The ELR which should stand for Excellent Little Railway but in fact stands for more descriptively East Lancashire Railway. (See )  


It runs from Heywood through Bury to Rawtenstall and is a most marvellous example of a preserved railway run by an outstanding team of volunteers. On most weekends throughout the year a steam or diesel service is run which is extended into the week during the summer (May to early September). Walkers wishing to explore the Irwell Valley can use the railway to bring them back to their starting point. As it happens the Irwell Sculpture Trail runs parallel with the ELR providing many options for walkers


Where to eat and drink

Both Rawtenstall and Ramsbottom have a number of pubs, cafes and restaurants.

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