From Buckton Castle to Harrop Edge: A Very Rough Guide to Stalybridge’s Hills

Ever wondered which hill is which in Stalybridge? Our guide might help you

There is a certain mystique about the Pennine foothills that frame Stalybridge, Mossley and Dukinfield. Especially when you leave the centre of Stalybridge proper towards the wilderness. A ‘wilderness’ that is accessible from the town centre on public and private transport, foot and bicycle.

One of the greatest things about Stalybridge is how you are never far away from open country as well as urbanity. On a clear day, the views towards Manchester and beyond are staggering. In less than an hour, you could be forgiven for thinking you are in the Scottish Highlands as you head towards the Swineshaw Reservoirs. Or on the Moon as you head towards Harridge Pike, looking towards Buckton Castle.

From North to South, the heights of the hills and (in the case of Scheduled Ancient Monuments) Buckton Castle are as follows. Please note that all measurements are in metres and that not all sites may be accessible to ramblers.

  • Buckton Moor: 356m (north of Buckton Vale Quarry, inaccessible);
  • Buckton Castle: 343m (west of Buckton Vale Quarry, SD 98916 01605);
  • Irontongue Hill: 414m (north of Higher Swineshaw Reservoir, OS Grid Ref.: SE 00945 00725);
  • Hoarstone Edge: 497m (highest point in Tameside, OS Grid Ref.: SE 01978 01685);
  • Harridge Pike: 395m (south of Buckton Vale Quarry, OS Grid Ref.: SJ 99160 99979);
  • Ridge Hill: 207m (highest point off Arlies Lane, OS Grid Ref.: SD 96514 00025);
  • Lees Hill: 357m (east of Lower Swineshaw Reservoir, OS Grid Ref.: SK 00949 99304);
  • Hollingworthall Moor: 380m (south of Brushes Reservoir, OS Grid Ref.: SJ 99673 98247);
  • Hough Hill: 244m (south of Cheetham’s Park off Early Bank Road, OS Grid Ref.: SD 96514 00025);
  • Wild Bank Hill: 399m (south of Walkerwood Reservoir, OS Grid Ref.: SJ 98875 98009).

Buckton Moor and Buckton Castle:

For the first two, we have taken a bit of a liberty. Both locations fall under the Mossley Town Council boundary, yet are accessed from Stalybridge by road. By bus, the 343 and 348 stop nearby on South View.

Just to the left of the brow of Buckton Moor, near the quarry, is Buckton Castle. Records dating from 1360 stated that the castle was in disrepair. It is assumed that the castle was built and demolished in the 12th century. In more recent times, it has been the subject of archaeological digs and, during the Second World War, used as an anti-aircraft decoy site.

In 2011, archaeologists came to the conclusion that Buckton Castle was built to stop Tameside becoming part of Scotland. During the 11th century, the King of Scotland tried to lay a claim to Lancashire and Cumberland. If the Earl of Chester didn’t succeed, Ashton-under-Lyne and Mossley could have had Members of the Scottish Parliament. If Scotland chooses to go for independence, there could be border controls on County Bridge, with passports being shown on the 346!

The summit of Buckton Moor (356m), which is directly north of the quarry, is out-of-bounds to walkers, being within the quarry site itself. Several years later than the 12th century, a far less tumultuous scuffle took place on Buckton Moor in 1991; it was after a wedding in the BBC drama series Making Out.

Irontongue Hill

Irontongue Hill is part of the Dove Stones and Chew Valley water catchment area owned by United Utilities. It is the source of Iron Tongue and Swineshaw brooks, which ultimately reach the River Tame via Carr Brook and Ditchcroft respectively. At 414m, its exposed summit looks towards Stalybridge town centre, Manchester and further afield. Part of Swineshaw Moor, it is (as you would expect) quite boggy. The summit is a few yards off a private road that begins at the dam of Higher Swineshaw Reservoir.

It is close to a pipeline that carries some of the water from the hills and a tunnel that leads to Chew Brook. (The excellent Bee Here Now YouTube channel has a video on this subject).

Hoarstone Edge

Irontongue Hill and Swineshaw Moor’s parent hill is Hoarstone Edge. At 497m above sea level, it is the highest point in Tameside – literally metres (centimetres even) away from the Oldham MBC/Tameside MBC boundary. As well as looking out towards Swineshaw, its better views are reserved for the Chew valley. The hill looks towards the Chew Brook and the Chew Road that leads to Dove Stone Reservoir and the Chew Reservoir.

Harridge Pike

Looking out towards Heyrod, Stalybridge, all parts Manchester and (on a clear day) North Wales, is Harridge Pike. It frames part of the Pennine Bridleway, Millbrook and the lower lying parts of Carrbrook from the bleakest weather conditions. It is also the source of Harridge Brook, a short stream that feeds into Swineshaw Brook.

At 395m, it is the next highest peak in the town after Wild Bank Hill. The other side of Harridge Pike is more forbidding, especially at the point where it meets Turf Pits and gives you the views of Buckton Castle. Seen below is the Dark Side of the Pennine Bridleway, photographed last month.

Here’s one of Harridge Pike itself. Slightly discernible in the top left of the hill is a cairn.

Once you head towards the Swineshaw Reservoirs, the payoff is superb, as seen in this view.

Ridge Hill

For many ‘Bridgeites, Ridge Hill isn’t just the town’s second best known hill (Cocker Hill is probably the top answer in a Stalybridge Hills round on Family Fortunes). Since the 1950s, it has been a popular place to live, thanks to social housing schemes by Stalybridge Municipal Borough Council. Before then, north of St. George’s Church and Hague Estate, predominantly rural.

The highest point on Ridge Hill is on Arlies Lane, close to Flaggy Fields. The fields are so-called due to its stepped stone path that leads to Heyrod village. It is close to the bus stop for the 389 route, now the only bus service to serve the estate following the 387’s omission of Springs Lane and Ridge Hill Lane.

Lees Hill

Of the hills that frame Stalybridge, Lees Hill (357m above sea level and right of the pylons on this photograph) seems to be overlooked in favour of Harridge Pike and Wild Bank. Yet, if you are walking towards Wild Bank from Higher Swineshaw Reservoir, you pass the hill en route. You also touch its sides if you continue to walk to Swallows Wood and Arnfield Reservoir (or the path along Ogden Brook for a muddy and challenging way to Chew Reservoir).

Around the hill, paths continue towards Wild Bank Hill and Hall Farm, taking us into Hobson Moor. The former path continues up to Hollingworthall Moor (380m above sea level) with excellent views of the reservoirs.

Hough Hill

From one side of Hough Hill, you can get a superb view of Bower Fold, home of The Mighty Stalybridge Celtic. In fact, one or two fans have gone for that cheap and cheerful severely restricted view option since 1909. On the same side, there are stunning views of Wild Bank and Harrop Edge.

The most fascinating views from Hough Hill can be gained from its Dukinfield side (seen above in our picture from 2006). Especially as the views of Manchester and North Wales on a clear day (as well as Ashton and Oldham) are superb. Longstanding readers of East of the M60 may remember seeing this view in use as our background image. Trying to find the triangulation pillar is a bit of a challenge, due to fences and a nearby service reservoir that is close to the summit.

On the other hand, Hough Hill is the easiest hill to explore from the centre of Stalybridge. You can reach the hill via Gorse Hall Park, Cheetham’s Park and Matley Lane (from these points, both via Early Bank Road). If you insist on taking the bus, the 389 will take you to Tennyson Avenue in Dukinfield, the closest bus route to that hill. Or you could get the same bus – or the 343 – up to Albert Square (just before The Wharf Tavern) and walk up Gorse Hall Road.

Wild Bank Hill

The best known, and the highest hill in full view of many ‘Bridgeites from Melbourne Street or Mottram Road, is Wild Bank Hill. At 399m above sea level, it has amazing views of Manchester and Lancashire from one side. On the other side, stunning views of the Walkerwood, Brushes, Lower and Higher Swineshaw Reservoirs, and Mottram-in-Longdendale. It also has an ancient cairn, a few metres away from its triangulation pillar, which dates from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.

There is more than one way to get to Wild Bank Hill. You can go via Walkerwood, Brushes, and Swineshaw Reservoirs up Brushes Road (the 343 stops nearby just outside an off-licence and Chinese takeaway) and take the path by Lees Hill. The most popular way of getting to the hill is via Gallowsclough Road (the 237 and 387 bus stop is nearby, opposite The Waggon and Horses). Even in August, as I have found myself, it is a pretty windswept yomp. Still, as you could see from our view, it was well worth the effort.

Before I go…

At this time of writing, you are welcome to visit most of the hills if you are local to the area. Please note that due to the lockdown that travel should be within your locality only be for taking exercise, medical reasons (surgeries or trips to the chemist), or going to essential shops. Unless you are a Key Worker, or that part of your job requires specialist equipment or vehicles, please work from home.

To avoid being caught, it is best to assume that travel within your locality means your Metropolitan Borough, Unitary Authority or (if you don’t take the proverbial too much) the whole City Region like Greater Manchester. Please remember to practice social distancing techniques (two metres apart; or one metre apart if you wear a face covering), wear a face covering in enclosed areas, essential shops and on public transport, and carry some hand sanitiser with you. Oh, and if you choose to take some sandwiches with you, please leave your preferred dinnertime spot exactly as you found it.

Once we have got rid of this doggone pandemic, we might expand on this entry – or create another one – with a few suitable walks. Fingers crossed this will be nearer to August than November.

S.V., 02 February 2021.

Photographs taken between July 2006 and January 2021.

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