This outing was kindly arranged by Plodding Supremo, Reg, for those who had not joined him previously on this section of the Thirlmere Way.
We started, in true septuagenarian style, from Reg's house in Adlington.
A bus took us to Horwich, whence we wandered down Crown Lane in rather dull and uninspiring weather. Soon we found a rusty old gate. It was locked.
After Reg’s lecture on ‘The Life and Times of a Waterworks Gate’, suddenly Phil exclaimed, "Look, there's another gate". We explained to him that two gateposts don’t constitute a ‘gate’, and he wandered off, disconsolate.
Then we came across some inspection covers, marked ‘MCWW’ ‘TA’. “These initials are a clue” enthused Reg, “has anyone got a divining rod?”
This gate was locked, but not in terribly good condition.
Back on the main Bolton Road, Rivington Reservoir looked less than inviting. Curiously, the Thirlmere Aqueduct’s huge pipes seemed to emerge from under the reservoir.
Reg set a cracking pace as we headed relentlessly north towards Thirlmere through the M61 woods.
"Ooh!" exclaimed Phil, as he spotted another locked gate.
By and by we reached Chez Reg, where an array of picnic tables and tasty banana fritters awaited our arrival.
Luckily, cake was also available.
Suitably fortified, we continued for a while along Reg’s ‘Fish ‘n Chip Walk’ route, with a number of river crossings taking place, luckily made easy as a result of artificial aids.
The pipeline neatly avoids Chorley Town Centre, and winter sunshine now provided lovely mellow lighting, albeit the paths were a little muddy at times, unlike Chorley Town Centre.
Buried deep on either side, the Thirlmere pipes were briefly exposed in this secret location where Norman, the magician plumber, surprised us all by popping out of a nearby inspection chamber, waving maniacally, and disappearing again.
Near Healey, the path steepened as we flew through a few fields in the bright afternoon sunshine.
More mud was encountered, and luckily, aid was provided for this river crossing by Higher Healey.
The last of the sun guided us relentlessly towards the North Pole.
Then the orb disappeared behind Chorley's religious turrets and the hills started to take their toll. We wouldn't be reaching the North Pole, or even Thirlmere, today despite Bernard's aspirations, as several aged Plodders were heard to mutter “slow down, this is a Plod, not a Bimble”.
We lined up to record the identity of this select group. Despite his gaudy jacket, Reg had earlier managed to mislay his entire party when they chose their own alternative route on the wrong side of the M61 motorway.
Approaching Wheelton, a small village, we passed a large church, then "one last waterworks gate for today", announced Reg.
"Oh dear, it's locked" complained Bernard, still satiated with wonder as to how and why we kept coming across these magnificent artefacts.
Then we caught a couple of buses back to Adlington.
Here's our route - roughly 18km with 220 metres ascent, in about 5 hours.
There are a few more photos in this slideshow.
Thanks again, Reg, for organising this mini adventure.