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Exploring Rooley Moor

The ‘yellow brick road’ above Rochdale crosses a piece of untamed moorland with a great deal of history

Members in the Rochdale area will probably already be familiar with one of Rooley Moor’s most distinctive features – the Cotton Famine Road. Built by unemployed mill workers during the ‘Cotton Famine’ caused by the American Civil War, each of its stone setts was hewn from local quarries and laid by hand in order to receive poor relief. Despite the hardships caused by the lack of cotton coming into the mills, the Lancashire workers supported the abolition of slavery in the civil war. This memorial to solidarity with oppressed and enslaved workers in the American South rather than the slave owners speaks volumes about solidarity and its strength; a more meaningful and useful monument than a statue. This road is now widely used by walkers, equestrians and cyclists, the reward for ascending its steep gradient being fantastic views.

Walkers are rewarded with fantastic views for ascending the steep gradient | David Pheasey

The Rooley Moor area is a haven for walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders, located close to densely populated urban areas and providing essential countryside on the doorstep for those in the Rochdale area, and a recreational resource to over seven million people who live within an hour’s travel time. Despite this, the moors offer a truly wild environment, home to the mountain hare, and providing a habitat for the Merlin, Short-eared Owl and Twite. The peatlands that make up much of the moors are a natural carbon sink, locking away greenhouse gases and providing a valuable habitat for ground nesting birds.

Connecting with the Pennine Bridleway | David Pheasey

There is more information on accessing the Moor on the Rooley Moor Neighbourhood Forum website, with information about heritage walking trails, links to the local bridleways association, a horse trekking venue offering rides through the moor, the local Ramblers group for group walks, and information about the Mary Towneley Loop (a bridleway accessible to mountain bikers) and the purpose-built Mountain Bike parks.

Memorial to solidarity with enslaved workers in the American South | Ruth Howard

Unfortunately, as well as being a much-loved site for ramblers, riders and cyclists, the moors are increasingly being targeted by off-roaders travelling from other parts of the UK to access the moors on motorbikes, quad bikes and 4x4s which erode the peatlands, displace birds and mammals, distress livestock, and damage the footpaths and bridleways which allow legitimate users to visit the moors. The Members of Rooley Moor Neighbourhood Forum group are working with local authorities, Police, the Duchy of Lancaster and other local organisations to assess improvements that can be made to fencing and paths to keep the area safe for walkers, equestrians and cyclists.

Unfortunately, the moors are targeted by off-roaders which damage the footpaths and bridleways | David Pheasey

If you are visiting Rooley Moor and witness any illegal off-road drivers, please contact the Police on 101, or report using the ‘live chat’ facility on the Greater Manchester Police website. This will enable the dedicated off-road team to attend, if available.

We’d love to hear your experiences of Rooley Moor, or share photos – please email us.

Update from Rooley Moor Neighbourhood Forum

Work has recently started on new mitigation measures to protect the moors from off-road vehicles. Find out more below:

David Pheasey