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Strinesdale and Waterhead

23rd December 2012.

This section of the walk picks up from Cairo and Majestic Mills near the Huddersfield Road in Oldham. Aptly named ‘Waterhead’ is the local area for two reservoirs and a water treatment plant. It is owned an managed by United Utilities. The site around Strinesdale was landscaped in the 1990s when the drinking water reservoirs were decommissioned. It is now a nature reserve. The upper reservoir is particularly lovely and leads up into the meandering valley of the Medlock to Roebuck Lane.

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Upper Strinesdale reservoir…

Strinesdale is an area of water and woodland covering approximately 40 acres (162,000 m²). In 1991, the reservoirs were drained and replaced by two smaller lakes with the old reservoir sites being planted with trees and grassland. The original reservoirs were built in 1828 and the erected plaque can be seen at Upper Strinesdale.

Strinesdale derives its name from the Old English “Strine” meaning boundary in connotation to the old Lancashire/Yorkshire boundary that ran through the middle of the site.
A flood struck Oldham on July 11 causing major damage across the area.

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Medlock emerges from bridge at Roebuck Lane. Not far beyond here is the source of the Medlock.

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Turning round and returning along the tracks on the east side of the reservoirs. There are many solid, yet rusting, signs of the industrial heritage.

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Back to the Huddersfield Road. The Waterhead Academy website says:

Our Academy opened in September 2010 and embodies the coming together of our two predecessor schools at Breeze Hill and Counthill, which were founded in 1960 and 1951 respectively.
Our Academy’s twin specialisms are English and Creative Technologies, each of which gives special impetus to our students’ ability to succeed in every area of the curriculum.
Our Academy embraces two Campuses: our Main Campus on Huddersfield Road and our Sports Campus on Counthill Road.
Our Main Campus is built on the site of a former spinning Mill and on the boundary line which separates the counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire. One of the original boundary stones has been retained and is set within the wall at the Academy Entrance.

The Academy was built on the site of Orb Mill (demolished in 2004)

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Link to some interesting UrbEx exploration of the culverts under and around this area: Majestic Culverts

Link to United Utilities wiki

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The Source of the River Medlock

There is something invigorating about tracing the source of a River. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is the satisfaction of a bit of geographical detective work. Perhaps a more symbolic sense of returning to origins; a psychological ritual. Maybe resonances of spiritual quests. I drove up to Bishop’s Park, Strinesdale, north of Oldham. Parked in the snow on Badger Edge, and checked out the monument and trig point on the hill looking back to Oldham and Manchester. I walked down past the two football pitches marked on my A-Z map. It didn’t take long to find the rusty outlet emerging from under a footpath. The water flows immediately under some rhododendron bushes and on into a trench on its way towards Oldham, Ashton-Under-Lyne and Manchester city centre.

The source is flanked by a seemingly gated, unattractive,  private estate of houses. Yet just behind the wall containing the footpath is a circle of trees – some silver birch, some I couldn’t identify. My sense of ritual journey led me to relate to this tree circle as a sacred site. The area inside the trees is reedy and boggy. As often at such places, my mind flipped between rational skepticism and imaginative release. I decided the site was indeed a valid pilgrimage place and, as such, worthy of honour.

Looking south west from Wotherhead Hill

Looking south west from Wotherhead Hill

Monument on Wotherhead Hill

Monument on Wotherhead Hill

Monument on Wotherhead Hill

Monument on Wotherhead Hill

Monument on Wotherhead Hill

Monument on Wotherhead Hill

Looking south west from Wotherhead Hill

Looking south west from Wotherhead Hill

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Medlock way

Medlock way

THE SOURCE OF THE MEDLOCK

THE SOURCE OF THE MEDLOCK

THE SOURCE OF THE MEDLOCK

THE SOURCE OF THE MEDLOCK

THE SOURCE OF THE MEDLOCK

THE SOURCE OF THE MEDLOC

081212_0027SACRED TREE CIRCLE….

081212_0030 081212_0034 081212_0035FOLLOWING THE EARLY STAGES OF THE RIVER….

081212_0039 081212_0041 081212_0043BRIDGE AT ROEBUCK LOW JUST BEFORE ROEBUCK LANE….

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081212_0049From here the River and path winds down to Strine Dale and Strinesdale Reservoirs…..

081212_0053Derelict school….

081212_0054 081212_0055Exclusive privacy…..(actually the local feature is called ‘Badger Edge’ singular)…..

081212_0058The derelict school from the fields….

081212_0060 081212_0061 081212_0065 081212_0067Making scrap wire sculptures in the snow……

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On the 21st December, the winter Solstice,  I returned and performed a brief pagan ritual: circulating the trees and placing almonds in amongst their branches.

Also on that visit, with my partner, we wandered into the woodland slightly up the hill from the source. In amongst the pine trees we discovered two small pools with water gently bubbling up. I wandered if this was to be considered the true source – the secret source?

Water bubbling up in pine woodland on the way up Harbour Hill

Water bubbling up in pine woodland on the way up Harbour Hill