The Pennine Hills, east of Manchester separate Lancashire and Yorkshire. Walkers in good condition can hike the longdistance trail the Pennine Way the full length of the “Backbone of England,” savoring to the full its natural beauty. But even from a car, you can get a sense of this wonderful landscape with its green hills criss-crossed with drystone walls.
From the M62, exit 21 puts you on the A640, which runs in a south-easterly direction to Newhey and on to Huddersfield. At Denshaw, a minor road leads to Delph, deep in a valley below the moors. The place name derives from the Old English “delfan,” a cognate of “delve,” meaning “to dig,” reflecting ancient mining activities in the area. A walk up the river a mile or so (2 km) will bring you to an excavated Roman fort (beside Castleshaw Reservoir). The A6052 crosses the A62 to reach Uppermill, where a left turn onto the A670 leads to a car park by the canal. Before the waterway to Huddersfield was completed, goods were transferred, in the warehouse opposite, from canal-boat to pack-horses for the journey east over the hills – 600 horses were needed for every boatload! If you walk northeast along the canal, you’ll come to the mouth of the Standedge tunnel, England’s highest canal tunnel, at Diggle.
In the 19th century, the development of steam power and water transport led to the building of enormous mills (factories) in the valleys; but older, smaller mills powered by the rushing streams cascading down the hillsides, can still be found east of Uppermill, in the area around St. Chad’s Church (also known as Saddleworth Church) and the Cross Keys pub. In the little valley, or “dough” (pronounced “duff”) to use the Yorkshire word, just north of the church, are the remains of two little woollen mills, typical of the hundreds that were scattered over the landscape in the 18th century.
If you follow the A640 northwards from exit 21, you’ll come to Smithy Bridge and Hollingworth Lake. Set in lovely country, this is actually a reservoir used for supplying the canals. Here Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the Channel from England to France, trained – he later died attempting to swim the rapids at Niagara. The visitors’ center tells the history of the area, and a walk through Smithy Bridge leads to another scenic canal, the Rochdale.