walkers looking at reservoir map

Reservoir Trails and Watershed Walks in Rochdale and Oldham

Those of us living in developed countries in the twenty first century take it for granted that when we turn on the tap, fresh clean water will come gushing out. The South Pennines enjoys the greatest density of reservoirs in the country yet the story of how they came into being is largely untold.

As partners in the Watershed Landscape Project, Rochdale and Oldham Councils, along with reservoir owner United Utilities, have been keen to encourage residents to explore the landscape on their doorsteps. The network of reservoirs that lace the two boroughs provide attractive, readily accessible trails offering immense amenity, biodiversity and heritage value.

These reservoirs also have a fascinating history: they required farming settlements to be cleared and retain evidence of land use in centuries gone by, and they demonstrate tremendous feats of 19th century civil engineering. Their past reveals stories of life among the navvies who built them, some of whom died during their construction.

As part of the Watershed Landscape Project, a researched guidebook and companion walking map featuring eight circular routes have been developed to help visitors explore and understand different parts of the Rochdale and Oldham landscape. These materials bring the history of the reservoirs to life and also explore contemporary issues around conservation and water management. While we may take our water supply for granted, climate change, floods and drought are making us aware that careful stewardship of our reservoirs and landscape is vital. As well as providing a perspective on the reservoirs in this particular part of the South Pennines, the guidebook also looks at measures to sustain the watershed for the future – and keep that water flowing to our taps every day.

Special Reservoir Trails way-markers have been put in place along the routes and guidebooks and maps are available for free from Hollingworth Lake Visitor Centre in Littleborough, Brownhills Countryside Centre and Saddleworth Museum in Uppermill, Hebden Canal and Visitor Centre and Touchstones, Rochdale.

Further imformation on the project can be found here.

The individual trails are also available to download from the Resources section: click here

A mobile app is also available to download: click here for more information.