• Neil

Top 5 Viewpoints In North West England

I've been in a pretty bad way with my foot in recent weeks. The joy of approaching my forties and all the aches and pains that come with it - namely for me arthritis. Nice. Anyway, I've had a few steroid shots (from the hospital, not from some dodgy guy down the gym) and on the mend and on course get in a few hikes through the fjords over in Norway next week, which has been an absolute dream of mine for years.

Aches and pains aside, I still wanted to get out and take some photos/video as I'm slowly getting addicted to my drone. So I figured driving out to spots from where I could launch it was a way of still getting outside, but letting the drone do the 'walking'.

I started the day sending it up over The Dream sculpture. Its in my hometown, and whilst I get what it symbolises etc, I can't help but feel it loses out on being a major draw because of its location. Its on a hill, and from there you should be able to see out over a few counties, but your view is severely limited by it being completely surrounded by trees (see video). Now I'm all for trees, given without them we'd all be in pretty bad shape oxygen wise, but their positioning up here is all wrong. You can't see the sculpture from the surrounding areas (just the tip of the head but that's a different story) and you can't see the surrounding areas when you've walked all the way up to it.

It got me thinking about how with a lot of my walking, a huge pay off and sense of achievement for me is the views and I suspect its the same for a lot of other people. Now sure with a drone I can make anywhere have a decent viewpoint, but not everyone has access to one or even wants one. Whether its dedicated photographers, or walkers wanting to share their experience/challenge the sharing of photos captured can inspire others to do the same.

Listed below are five of my personal favourite viewpoints from across North West England (although I could probably do a list a heck of a lot longer). Despite it being a county within the North West, I'm omitting anything from Cumbria and The Lakes as that place (as much as I adore it) is worthy of a post in itself. Some are probably obvious, some maybe less so and some you possibly don't even need much more than your camera and a car park space to go and enjoy them. Post codes (where possible) are for the nearest car park points that I've used previously, not for the actual summit!

1. Winter Hill, Rivington Moor, Lancashire (BL6 7SB)

Straight in with a big hitter. I work right by here but live about 30 miles from it, and even then it still looks prominent on the skyline. Its topped off with a HUGE TV mast which transmits out across Merseyside, Lancashire, Cheshire and even parts of North Wales. It is a beast. But so are the views from up there. Accessible from several points around the foot of the hill (I recommend the car park at Rivington Hall Barn) you'll have views out across all aforementioned counties but also Cumbria and the Peak District. Rivington Pike near to the transmitters is a good place to take them all in, and if you do park at the Barn you'd take in the terraced gardens, seven arched African bridge and the odd yet awesome Pigeon Tower (which will soon be a place you can go and stay over in).

Above shot of Media City in Salford was taken using the Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR lens. I quite often have this lens out with me when up high.

2. Beeston Castle, Beeston, Cheshire (CW6 9TX)

NB: Drone shot taken using the DJI Spark. Beeston Castle is English Heritage owned, so drones aren't allowed to take off on their site. Photo was taken launching from outside the grounds.

When you visit Beeston Castle you can see why a castle was built there. You'd easily see any enemies approaching from up there. The crag it sits on is a complete abnormality in the Cheshire Plains that surrounds it. It sticks out like a sore but beautiful thumb. Once up top (about a 20min walk from the entrance) the rolling patchwork quilt farmlands of Cheshire for miles around it stretch out on either side with the Pennines on one side, Welsh Mountains on the other. The Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank is also visible, and always reminds me of the big satellite dish the Empire built on Endor in Return of the Jedi. They hold all kinds of activities here throughout the year, and also have caves within the grounds that were revealed when they scaled back the vegetation around the foot of the hill. Beeston is also on Cheshire's Sandstone Trail which can lead on to...

3. Frodsham War Memorial on Overton Hill, Frodsham, Cheshire (WA6 6HH)

Which is where the Sandstone Trail begins on Overton Hill above the market town of Frodsham. You can walk up the steep paths out of Frodsham to get to it if you so wish, or handily, there's two car parks at the summit right by the memorial. I've walked up there as part of a 40 miler from St Helens down to Farndon/Holt on the England/Wales border, which was a challenge in itself, made that little bit more taxing by those steep paths. Always populated with ramblers and photographers at the top, whilst only a few miles further along than Beeston the views change quite drastically. Here you see the River Mersey snaking through the landscape and the new and old bridges that span it. Landmarks such as the Norton Water Tower, Frodsham Viaduct, the flaming crude oil burning towers of Stanlow refinery and the skyline of Liverpool city are clearly visible. Not to mention with John Lennon International Airport across the estuary you can sit and watch the planes flying in over Speke Hall on the opposite side of the river at any time of the day. Frodsham has plenty of cafes and pubs, and nearby on the River Weaver you can kayak near enough up to where it joins the Mersey (going under both the Weaver and Frodsham viaducts) courtesy of Frodsham Watersports (which you can usually grab a Groupon deal for).

4. Pendle Hill, Nelson, Lancashire (BB12 9JX)

Along with Winter Hill this is another of the Marilyns in the British Isles, and a prominent feature seen from miles around. You can park at various points around the foot of it (the car park in Barley is your safest bet otherwise you may be bumped up on narrow roads). I've already done a post about Pendle Hill here but it still makes the list. You can see the Yorkshire 3 peaks, vast swathes of Lancashire and the Lake District, and the very flat tabletop plateau of the hill means you can sit and take in these views for hours if the weather is kind. Keep an eye out for the witches though.

5. Billinge Hill, Billinge, Lancashire

Inferior in size to many of those listed previously (but a cheeky 5m higher than Overton Hill) this makes the list as its right on my doorstep so gets bonus points for being in my borough. It may not seem to have as much prominence as the others, but it doesn't detract away from the view. Wales, Liverpool, the wind turbines out in the glinting Irish Sea and even right up to Blackpool Tower. You can also look out over Manchester City Centre (particularly awesome at night when it is all lit up). You can also look out across to Winter Hill too. I've only dabbled with astrophotography, but do have desire to take advantage of the miles of sky visible from here to capture some Milky Way shots. All that open space means its great for drone pilots too (see video below). There's a few tiny lay-bys near the top of here on Crank Road that can cater a handful of cars, but it is probably easier to park up on the roads below and walk up as. An excellent viewpoint on Bonfire Night and New Year to take in the thousands of firework displays taking place across the North West. The sky lights up, but the hill gets busy. Swings and roundabouts!

So that's 5 of my favourites, and there are many many more (see honourable mentions for another few). I tried to pick a few dotted across the North West that give different levels of accessibility and also the vistas you take in at the top). Some may agree with me, some may have your own (and there were a few comments over on a recent Instagram post about it). Interested? Get outside and see for yourself!

Honourable mentions:

Chew Reservoir/Dovestone Reservoir on Saddleworth Moor

Jubilee Tower at Clougha Pike near Lancaster

Parbold Hill in Wigan

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