The Reveal Begins at Cown Reservoir

What will emerge from the Spodden Valley Revealed project will be a ‘greenway ecomuseum’ – not a building but a whole area, a ‘string of pearls’ of special places, revealing fragments of history, little windows into the past. It is based around the new, extended Valley of Stone Greenway that will link Rochdale via Bacup to Rawtenstall. From this central spine we will signpost the links to historic sites higher up around the moors.

Since the feasibility stage of the project, we have been working with social enterprise Newground and their Landscape Architecture team to identify potential routes for the ecomuseum, and assessing those routes, to identify an improvement programme, in anticipation of the increased visitors to those areas once the ecomuseum launches in 2019.


The first site where this improvement work has started is Cowm Reservoir.  This site provides a panoramic view of the landscape and its heritage, with stories marked on to the land. Stories such as the ruined villages, abandoned for the development of the reservoir.  The gravity tram lines along the rutted road, evidence of industry that took place here, and the pitted scars in the hills telling the tale of quarrying all around.  There is also the tale of  James ‘Treacle’ Sanderson, a Whitworth blacksmith who, in the 1860s, was one of England’s greatest runners, and his mark here, made in stone, was to help him train for  middle distance races.

Improvements include dealing with drainage issues to deal with the levels of rainfall and extreme weather experienced in the valley.  At our initial visit during the development phase we traversed what felt like a little river along the old rutted road, used previously by the horses and carts of those working alongside the ruined villages at Cowm.


BEFORE – issues with water run off. AFTER – Rebuilt walls to help prevent run off.

Other works include clearing vegetation on the rutted road, clearly revealing the beautiful road and the heritage story of the site as a work route during busier times on the moor side.  It is fascinating to not only see the remnants of the villages, but the scars in the road created by years of use by horse and cart.


BEFORE – overgrown and covered with vegetation. AFTER – cleared of vegetation, rutted road clear to see


BEFORE: Overgrown vegetation, land slippage and poor drainage. AFTER: Starting to clear vegetation and land slippage – road made visible.


Improvements have also been made to some of the old dry stone walls, building them back up and generally tidying and improving the site. The old interpretation panel for the ruined villages has been removed and will be replaced, alongside new signage and waymarkers for the Spodden Valley Revealed Ecomuseum routes and the stories they tell.

Make sure to follow this blog to find out about improvements to the remaining sites and the other actitivies taking place.

The landscape improvement work for Spodden Valley Revealed is is made possible by investment from Heritage Lottery Fund, and is also supported by Lancashire Council Council, and the Lancashire Environmental Fund.


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