Name: Hollingworth Lake Country Park
Address: Rakewood Road
Post Code: OL15 0AQ
Distance: 2.5 miles (4.0km) appx
Ground Type: Gravel and Tarmac
Area and History
Hollingworth Lake was once known as “The Weavers’ Seaport” a very popular spot to visit for the local Weavers until transport made it possible to access places like Blackpool and the lake saw a decline in visitor numbers.
Today, visitors can continue to enjoy many outdoor attractions, and the Visitor Centre. The Park covers 118 acres and the lake remains one of the most popular places for a day out in the area. The Park can boast boating, a nature reserve, trails, events, guided walks play areas and picnic areas as well as environmental exhibitions and community arts within the Visitor Centre.
The Lake is a base for a sailing and rowing club and the Water Activity Centre caters for those wanting instruction in windsurfing, dingy sailing and other water based sports as well as mountain biking and climbing.
The wider Country Park has plenty of walking routes, from easy strolls around the lake shore – and subject of this guide – to sturdier treks in the surrounding hills. This location is served by a number of cafes, pubs and restaurants as well as Bed and Breakfast locations and a Caravan and Camping site.
The lake was originally built as the main water source for the Rochdale Canal, but developed as a tourist location from the late 1860’s. The railway arrived in 1839 which brought day trippers and weekend visitors from Manchester, Bradford and Leeds.
In 1974 the area was developed into the Hollingworth Lake Country Park by Rochdale Council and it has been developing steadily ever since and is now a thriving centre for water sports and other activities. In 1875 the lake was used for training by Captain Matthew Webb before he became the first man to swim the English Channel and was used for the ‘World Professional Mile Championship’, a long distance swimming event, in the 1880’s. Rochdale’s Hollingworth Lake Rowing Club has used the lake continuously since 1872.
The scenic walk, 2.5 miles (4.0km) appx. Around the lake, passes a nature reserve with a bird hide in an area where the boats and water sports are prohibited. The lake provides habitat for a variety of wildlife and is used for fishing. The path around the lake is mainly a good, level gravel track from the Beach Hotel to the far side of the lake when you come will come across a café with all amenities including an easy access toilet, and at this point the gravel become tarmac around to Rakewood Road and then along Hollingworth Road. It is important to note that Rakewood Road is a vehicular route and for the most part, there is no footpath and you will be walking along the narrow road. When you reach the Wine Press and Hollingworth Road, there is a pedestrian footpath separate from the road.
Disabled car parking can be found at the Visitor Centre – and currently no charge for ‘blue badge’ holders, and also at the Watersports Centre on Hollingworth Road, adjacent to the Beach Hotel. There are also disabled toilet facilities in this car park.
This is a circular route, so eventually you will return to the point you set off. My personal preference is to park at the Visitor Centre, where you can get a drink, look at any events or exhibitions that may be displayed and there is also a small sensory garden to experience provided by the friends of Hollingworth Lake. A good place to relax after your walk. There is a short incline from the car park to the lake which may deter you from using this car park, in which case, make your start from the Watersports Centre but I have not had a problem getting up this incline with either Power Chair or Self Propelled Chair.
As you head out of the Visitor Centre car park, and reach the top of the slight incline, my preference world be to turn right and when you find a safe place to cross the road, you need to be on the lake side footpath heading towards ‘The Wine Press’
Rochdale Council have been very good at introducing drop kerbs, but even so, you will find that some still have a rise that we found a challenge in the power chair, but self-propelled chairs or pushchairs are fine as you can get a reasonable tilt on them to overcome the rise. As our power chair struggles with anything over a 10mm rise, we have taken to carry a portable collapsible ramp, for times like this. It packs away nicely and very lightweight and is able to be carried strapped on the back of the chair. [check my page ‘You might be interested in’ for some support suggestions]
When you reach the junction, with ‘The Wine Press’ on your right, follow the footpath left, moving down a small gradient onto what looks like the Lake ‘promenade’ fenced to the lakeside and stone wall to the road side of this footpath if you pause in your walk you will get fabulous views over the lake towards Rakewood Viaduct carrying M62 into Yorkshire from Lancashire and Manchester.
As you walk along, you will pass a pump station, and if you’re lucky you may see rowers out practicing, or yachtsmen/women as well as wind surfers. I would also recommend looking along the edges of the pathway for the plants that are ‘growing in the gaps’ amongst the colourful weeds you can catch sight of other plants that have taken hold over time. Keep walking along the pathway, which will split to offer an opportunity to reach a higher level parking spot and benches, but stay on the lower pathway as this skirts the lake and exits into the Hollingworth Road car park.
This area is where the main sailing activities are launch from and boasts picnic areas, cafés and toilets, including accessible facilities. It is here that I would suggest you park if you wanted to avoid the incline out of the visitor centre car park. If so, pick up our walk from this point and follow the details I have already started with when you reach that point in this walk, where we conclude.
At this point of our walk we pass through the car park and head towards the exit point over to your left as you leave the footpath. You will see an array of shops and cafés over the road here, but unless you want to visit these, turn left along the road keep to the narrow footpath until you reach the car park of the Beach Hotel, once again you need to cross this car park and head for the right hand side of the building which gives you access to the ‘restricted access’ part of this walk on a gravel bed. You will pass through a restricted access point which allows for wheelchair and pushchair with ease, it is vehicular access that is restricted.
Re-enter the Country Park walk
You will now get a sense of being in a country park as the lake once again opens up in front of you. Follow the path around to your right. Its width is ideal to allow cyclists, runners, walkers, wheelchair and pushchair users easy access in either direction. My preference to walk this way, is that you pass the ‘hustle’ of the car parking areas first when you have more energy, and as you get to the end of the walk and perhaps tiring a little, the walk is more leisurely.
As you walk towards the end of the lake, you will see some fascinating ‘grand design’ architecture on your right, constructed by those eager for lakeside view residences and have completely restructured the original dwellings. When you do get to the edge of the lake, be sure to look out for some of the signs of the old ‘Rochdale’ with cobbled access points and dry stone walling. Benches are plentiful up to this point, so if you are with anyone walking, there are ample opportunities to sit and watch …….. and open your flask!
Restarting your walk, you will – if starting at the Visitor Centre car park – nearing the half way point and as you naturally face the opposite end of the lake here you will see in all its glory ‘The Wine Press’ and behind that ‘Blackstone Moors’ – depending upon time of year, these can be coated white as the snows usually hit this part of the Pennines, even if Rochdale in the valley remains unaffected. Keep walking around the track, it will take you around to the right, opening up another countryside view and then to the left as you walk along one of the walls to this reservoir, turning sharply left when you reach the end. By now you will have seen many ‘bridleways’ and ‘footpaths’ leading off this walk and they are well worth exploring if you are able – sadly these are not accessible to the wheelchair, but I will include images of these walks in a later post so everyone can have the benefit of seeing what I do and maybe give some recommendations about suitability of a ‘Tramper’ over this terrain.
Having turned left we again follow the footpath, at this point you may well be accompanied by horse riders who use the nearby stables and are regular users of some of these lanes. Keep following the path and you will reach another sharp left turn and building which was once used by the sailing club.
Now largely disused you will pass in front of this building and carry on along the lane. Shortly you will come across another café, with picnic area, toilets and easy access toilets (Remember to have packed your RADAR Key) – in truth, these are basic, but clean enough and fully functional and as we are out on a country park, you would not expect ‘Hotel’ levels of finish, and I have come across far worse.
Time for another short break if you feel like it, look across the lake at the places you have walked, our ‘Grand Design’ houses, Watersports Centre and car park, ‘The Wine Press’ and Blackstone Moors, and you will see recently introduced Wind Turbines dotted along the moors looking like sentinels watching over the town from on high. Again depending up the time you complete this walk, you may see competitive rowing, certainly practicing, sailing, wind surfing, fishing, many dogs having fun in and out of the water at the shoreline and possibly a range of birds, Heron, Cormorant, as well as the ducks, swans and seagulls as we are about to head towards the protected bird and wildlife park. A word of caution at this point and that is to be cautious of vehicles, the terrain is tarmac from this point, which is ideal for wheelchair, but it is also used as a service road for this café, not heavy traffic, but access non-the-less.
When you’re ready, again follow the pathway in the direction we have been heading, the path moves ever so slightly downhill here and just at the bottom you will meet up with a junction where other walks I referred to, converge with our main track, keep following the main path along the lakeside you will see fields on your right and naturally grown plants to you left, a path heading down to a bird hide will appear on your left if you want to take advantage, though the viewing openings may be a little high to
view from a wheelchair. Continue around the pathway following it to the left, you will see on your right a caravan and camping site, ideal for those from out of town who want to explore this and local areas. Walking along the path you will leave the caravan and camping site and come upon a children’s play area before traveling over a small bridge to a junction in the road. At this point turn left.
You will be walking in the road here, it’s narrow with passing places for vehicles and a drop to a brook on one side and the lake on the other side of the road for quite a length, so do take care as you come along this stretch. Once again you will see footpaths leading from this road that take you into some of the areas hamlets and fields.
My suggestion is to walk on the right hand side of the road. It’s always advisable to walk facing oncoming traffic and also as we reach the point where there is a footpath, it will be easier when we turn back off this road into the Visitor Centre car park, to be on the correct side of the road. As you reach the footpath, do take it, you will pass another pump house and drain hole and depending upon water levels, you may just see overflow water being pumped away to the rivers and fields. Another point of caution at this point, you will be walking along [although it is a road] the wall of the reservoir – any breeze blows like a gale across the water at this point and you may feel the chill and if your unsteady, be prepared as there is a grassy bank at the side of the footpath, if you lose your balance, you may tumble!
As you walk along the footpath, you will see the turn-off on your right to the Visitor Centre car park and where your walk began. When you get to this point you will have completed approximately 2.5 miles (4.0km) and could chose to call it a day, go the café and have a cup of tea, or you could reverse the route and walk around again in the opposite direction, [It’s fun and you will get a completely different perspective] or just complete it again, the same way around – if you are in a power chair, do check on your battery reserves – If you started your walk from the Water Sports Centre car park, you will need to follow this road to the end, at ‘The Wine Press’ and then turn left following the ‘Promenade’ walkway along the lakeside until you reach the car park you left from.
I hope you find this guide useful and informative, I’d love to get your feedback on it and if you can add to it, please let me have any information you feel I should consider. I’d also love to see your photographs of your walk and I can add a scrapbook of pictures to help others see how accessible this walk really is, and encourage them to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.