The Smithills Estate


The Woodland Trust the UK's largest conservation group for woods and forests has as its mission to protect, restore and create woodland as a vital community asset for people all over the country. Here in the North West it is engaged in its largest and most ambitious project with a public appeal to purchase the Smithills Estate on the edge of Bolton. This is an area of 1,700acres and is twice the size of the largest English site to date. The Estate is diverse wild moorland, farmland and mixed woodland dominated by the highest mast in Britain at the summit of Winter Hill.

As well as its obvious natural heritage the Estate is full of historical interest as well. The bleach works near Barrow Bridge set up in the 19th century was the biggest in the world employing over 600 people. Now all that remains is it's chimney (one that Fred Dibnah from nearby Bolton unaccountably missed!) The route described below takes you past the memorial stone commemorating the mass trespass of 1896 when 10,000 townspeople took part in a demonstration to assert their rights to roam the moors. Through its appeal the Woodland Trust will ensure that this area remains a vital public asset to pass on to future generations.

So far the campaign has raised sufficient funds to purchase two thirds of the Estate. If you are interested in helping to secure the rest check out or 0845 293 5858 to make a donation.


Start: Barrow Bridge car park BL1 7ND

Fact file:  

Distance: 7miles 11k

Time: 3 - 4 hours

Grade:  Moderate with some steep bits

Map: OS Explorer 287 West Pennine Moors 


Map by kind permission of Johnston Press 

1. Turn left out of the car park pass attractive cottages


and at the bend enter woodland and soon after climb 63 steps


up an incline. (This is an old miners' route). The path leads to more open ground.


A sign post indicates the direction of Walker Fold - follow it taking an enclosed path


across fields. At Walker Fold


turn right onto Colliers Row Road and then after 80yds turn left


on a footpath leading into Walker Fold Woods. After crossing a footbridge


keep on the main path


which leads out into open land.


As you arrive at a fence to the left of a farm  turn left


and then cross a stile near the corner and follow a path leading into woodland.


After a footbridge keep ahead to a farm road. Turn right. When you reach a junction


turn right and keep on the lane for 500yds. After passing Gilligant's Farm on the right turn sharp left onto a public footpath.


2. Just inside the gate there is a memorial stone to the mass trespass of 1896 when the towns people of Bolton asserted their rights to roam freely on these moors.


The path leads up to the summit of Winter Hill with its array of masts.


After 400yds the path dips to cross a stream and then continues gently upward. As you near the masts


follow a flagged path that place you on the service road. Turn right for the trig point which is reached by following the service road past the main complex and then bending left. Just as you approach a trio of masts on the northern edge of the hill the trig point is to the right.


3. Retrace your steps to the place where you joined the service road and then continue downhill


for 750yds. Where the road sweeps left keep ahead on a footpath indicated by a signpost crossing moorland to two prominent cairns on the skyline.


This feature is called Two Lads and it will come as no surprise there is a tale linked with it.

4. Follow an eastward path (that is left as you approach the cairns)


back to the service road  and then cross the road leading into a valley.


After a kissing gate the path leads onto Holden's Plantation.


As you join a broad track keep left. Stay on the track as it passes through a wooden gate


and then turn left onto a grassy track as it leads down to the edge of Walker Fold Wood


with steep ground to the right. As you reached the woods stay on the path that skirts them


which will bring you out opposite Walker Fold.


From here retrace your earlier steps. 

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