13 Feb 2018

Dove Stone Reservoir (Oldham, UK) - Winter Ramble

We live in a part of the country where snow invariably falls as rain. So imagine our surprise when we woke up to more than a light dusting of snow. A quick look at the weather forecast revealed a day of glorious sunshine. So we decided to wrap warm and head out on a winter ramble.

The idea was to go somewhere that promised lots of snow and spectacular vistas. M decided that the Dove Stone Reservoir in Saddleworth, on the northern fringes of the Peak District National Park, was a good location for our first family winter ramble.

Dove Stone Reservoir in Saddleworth, on the northern fringes of the Peak District National Park in North West England, was a good location for our first winter 'snowday' ramble.

Dove Stone Reservoir is easily accessed via the M60 motorway from Manchester. OL3 7NE is the postcode if you are driving here. You can park in the pay and display car park available on site. There are about 85 spaces and it costs 60p for 3 hours or £1.20 for the whole day. The drive is not spectacular and it can get incredibly busy through Oldham, Ashton-under-Lyme or Stalybridge, depending on which approach road you choose. But it is worth it when you see the spectacular landscape around Dove Stone. 

There is a toilet block near the car park and a map outlining the numerous walks around Dove Stone Reservoir. Walks range from gentle strolls suitable for all abilities to more challenging hikes. We decided to start off on the Dove Stone Reservoir Circuit, a gentle ramble of 2.5 miles. 

J however, was more interested in playing in the snow than walking. He was not the only one. There were lots of children sledging and snowboarding on the snow-covered hillside. We hadn’t had the foresight to buy a sledge, so had to convince J to walk instead. I prompted him to make snow balls out of the snow settled on the reservoir wall, as we walked along. It was an excellent idea, for it meant he and M had their much-awaited snowball fight as we kept moving on.

I was happy to be the official photographer rather than participate in the fight. For one, I did not want to check the supposed waterproof capacities of my iPhone X. Secondly, I was wearing woolly gloves while the boys had sensible waterproof ones. Mine were soaking wet in about five minutes of handling my first snowball. I had to abandon my gloves altogether and warm my frozen fingers in my coat pocket instead. Not that it dissuaded the boys from throwing snowballs at me! I managed to stave off most of the attack by turning my back on them and running away to put distance between me and the boisterous pair.

We reached a point along the embankment where there was a neat patch of undisturbed snow. J refused to go any further till he had built a snowman. M got in on the act and between them managed an impressive one with a nose modelled out of snow and pebbles for eyes.

Our walk took us along a well-gritted path along the reservoir, past a few benches and through a metal gate. The circular walkway was unfortunately cordoned off at this point, due to work being done. So we continued along an alternate path lined with pine trees that took us to the top end of the reservoir. The sun shining on a white blanket of snow on the hillside, sparkling on ice-cold water and leaving a silver glow on the horizon. Breathtaking!

We had two options now. We could follow the path all the way along the other side of the reservoir back to the car park. Or we could retrace our footsteps back. The path carried on, but wasn’t as well-marked as the one we had come along. And it looked extremely muddy. M went ahead to explore, only to slip and fall in the mud. It was enough for me to decide to go back the way we had arrived. It was a good choice, as the return was downhill and quick. We also managed to stop for a snack and another snowball fight. J defied the cold by making a lovely snow angel.

By the time we arrived back at the car park, the snow on the little hill was melting. There were still a few children sledging down the slope and J wanted to have a go. I okayed one slide down on his bottom. Big mistake! There wasn’t enough snow, most of it was muddy slush. And J thought it would be fantastic to roll down on his side! By the time he landed at the bottom, he was soaking wet and covered in mud. Good job I had a warm blanket in the back of the car. It was just enough to keep him warm on the car journey home.

Now as a reasonably seasoned rambling family, I had packed a backpack full of walking essentials that I always carry on any outdoor expedition. I even remembered to pack a pair of extra socks each for the three of us and a warm blanket for J. Experience, however, is the best teacher and here is what I learned after being woefully underprepared for our first snowy day ramble.

  • Snow melts to slush in the winter sun. So an over-layer of waterproof bottoms is a good way to stay dry.
  • Always pack a spare set of clothes, especially for children.
  • Avoid rolling down a hill that is covered in melting snow and slush, especially if you have forgotten a change of clothes.
  • Wellington boots (or snow boots, if you have them) are a better alternative to walking boots when rambling through snow.
  • Waterproof gloves (as opposed to woolly ones) hold the edge in a snowball fight. 

This was our first snowy day ramble and from how things panned out, I bet it will not be our last. 

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