19/12/2023: The South Pennines Park organisation has closed. This website will remain online for information-only and not be updated.

Littleborough: conservation, heritage and watersports activities

Nestled into the foothills of the South Pennines and the beautiful Upper Roach Valley, sits Littleborough, a town with plenty of history, heart and thriving conservation areas.

Named in a survey by Hunters Estate Agents as ‘one of the top six commuter towns in the country’ in 2021, Littleborough is the most northerly borough of Greater Manchester.

Its stone-built town centre and special architectural qualities have secured protection as a designated conservation area and as its popularity has grown, so have its house prices.

It’s clear why Littleborough is heralded as a great place to live with good transport links, beautiful green spaces, a good school and a variety of community activities and facilities.

The jewel in Littleborough’s crown is Hollingworth Lake, a 130-acre reservoir built in the 19th century as the main water source for the Rochdale Canal. Known as the “weaver’s seaport”, an accessible 2-mile path weaves its way around the lake and there are plenty of walking trails within the surrounding country park suitable for varying ages and abilities.

In addition to peace and tranquillity, Hollingworth Lake is also a hive of activity boasting a number of water-based activities and lessons including sailing, kayaking and wind surfing.

Residents can fish coarse fish including bream, carp, tench, roach and perch although there are restrictions to where you can fish and you will need a permit from Hollingworth Lake Visitor Centre.

For gentler strolls try Hare Hill Park, which sits right at the heart of the town and is a well-cared for by its community. With play areas, a skateboard park and bowling greens, the park is a charming spot to spend a few hours and enjoy an accessible walk.

Make sure you plan your visit around one of Hare Hill House’s community events so you can grab coffee and a cake at one of their charity coffee mornings or festive fairs.

If you’re looking for a more challenging walking or climbing route, explore Blackstone Edge. A wild rocky outcrop with spectacular views over the surrounding Pennine countryside, Blackstone Edge is popular with rock climbers and walkers alike.

The Watershed Landscape Project’s trail was created to celebrate the network of reservoirs stretching across Oldham and Rochdale Borough Council’s boundaries and takes in Blackstone Edge. Delivered in partnership with United Utilities, you can find these trails here.

And after a brisk Pennine walk, you will need a cosy corner to warm up and re-charge. Options in Littleborough include The Olive and Pickle, which sits on the lake and serves delicious homemade food all day with freshly ground coffee and homemade cake.

The Wine Press also overlooks Hollingworth Lake and serves great gastropub cuisine with a mix of traditional and contemporary English food. Or there is the Hare on the Hill, a cosy craft ale pub which is dog friendly and offers “an unbeatable menu of incredible small plates, all with a distinctly British feel and wherever possible using local ingredients.”

The dog-friendly Red Lion is a traditional pub, popular with the locals. Or if you want to spice things up, check out The Rake’s fresh tapas with local ales, Mediterranean wines and lovely rooms to bed down for the night in.

If you’re heading home, pick up something for tea at Cryers Butchers, who supply many of the local bars and restaurants, or enjoy hot fish and chips and homemade pies from the family-run White Fish.

A lovely place to spend a day exploring the spectacular South Pennine countryside and accessible by car, train and bus, Littleborough has something for everyone.

Photos: Paul Haywood