Great Hill with my dog.

I walk our dog, Freddie, every day but don’t usually think of our walks as exercise. Today, though, in glorious sunshine, I decided we should walk to the top of Great Hill. I usually arrive at the top by mountain bike which I ride from home but that would be too long for a dog walk. Instead I drove to the hamlet of White Coppice to start our walk.

Many of the houses surround a picturesque cricket pitch. The top of the hill is obscured by the lower slopes.

The start was at 450 feet and the top of the hill is 1,250 but it’s quite steep in places. I would walk just under 2 miles in each direction. After skirting round the cricket pitch you’re soon onto a steep section which is very rocky. I’ve climbed every part of the route by mountain bike without a foot down but that was 20 to 25 years ago. Later it felt like no fun because it was too hard for me and now I wouldn’t contemplate the ascent. I use a gentler trail via Brinscall Woods and can easily get the whole way by bike without needing to walk. I also think I can have a better time on the way down on the bike if I use Brinscall Woods. It takes twice as long but the trails are fantastic. Freddie was climbing enthusiastically and spotted another dog ahead. Honestly, it’s like being out with a minor celebrity when you’re with Freddie. The dog owner said, “This is Freddie, isn’t it?” I didn’t recognise dog or owner but we must have met on other walks.

After the first steep section the summit comes into view. Though there might be important things to sniff at.

There were several farms on the hill until the 1930s when the area had been bought by the Liverpool Water Company who refused to renew the leases. This was to stop animal and human waste from polluting the water run off but sheep still graze on the moor. The gradient towards the furthest clump of trees in the picture above was less severe and here lay the ruins of Drinkwater’s Farm.

Lying at just over 1,000 feet Drinkwater’s must have been a bleak yet spectacular place to spend the winter. There was one farm even higher than this.

Freddie kept introducing himself to all the dogs we passed whether they were ascending or descending. I kept him on the lead because he can take a lot of time to fully sniff at other dogs. After Drinkwater’s is a straight section of trail with some savagely sharp rocks which , just this year, have punctured my rear tyre. Over a final stile we climbed steeply before the gradient slackened for the summit.

As when Hillary and Tensing climbed Everest in 1953 it wasn’t important who set foot on the summit first. We’d climbed it together.

We didn’t stop on top but started down the stone slab path, which was constructed with the help of a helicopter. The light from the horizon bends in different ways on different days. Sometimes the sea appears as a thin line but today the light was bending through the atmosphere so you could see some way out into the Irish Sea.

We were soon back to the car and I’d looked at the last steep part of the descent and thought that, although I could ride it, I really don’t want to take that risk any more. In addition I now have a better way down so there’s no need to try to relive the past when I rode this hill as fast as I possibly could with no thoughts about the danger. Freddie has rested this afternoon so maybe he did find it harder than a normal walk. I can feel that I’ve expended some effort but it wasn’t as hard as a mountain bike ride and was far less aerobic. I bet we’ll both sleep well tonight.

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