Saddleworth Moor towards Dovestone Reservoir
|Parent range||South Pennines|
|Easiest route||Pennine Way|
Saddleworth Moor is an area of the South Pennines in Northern England. It is within the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park. The land reaches over 1,312 feet (400 m) above sea level. It is crossed by the A635 road and the Pennine Way passes to its eastern side.
The moor takes its name from the parish of Saddleworth to the west, historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire although on the western side of the Pennines, but a part of Greater Manchester since 1974. The parts of the moor east of the present county boundary with West Yorkshire are known as Wessenden Moor and Wessenden Head Moor. It straddles the metropolitan boroughs of Oldham in Greater Manchester and Kirklees in West Yorkshire. The moorland is an elevated plateau with gritstone escarpments or edges and, around its margins, deeply incised v-shaped valleys or cloughs with fast-flowing streams. (Clough is derived from the Old English cloh which means a deep valley or ravine.) The overlying peat is cut by drainage channels or groughs. The high moorland is sparsely inhabited. Scattered farmsteads, built of local gritstone, and fields demarcated by dry stone walls are on the lower land and in the valleys where there is some coniferous woodland. Much of the area is open access land.
The landscape is traversed by an A road between the Greater Manchester Urban Area and the West Yorkshire Urban Area. The A635 road, known locally as the Isle of Skye road, passes across the moor taking its name from a former public house at Wessenden Head which was demolished after a fire. The Pennine Way arrives from the Wessenden Valley to the north and crosses the moor on its ascent to Black Hill on Holme Moss to the south.
Blanket bog in the area is the most south-easterly occurrence in Europe. Cottongrass is the most dominant feature and sphagnum mosses scarce. Heather, crowberry, bilberry and the rare cloudberry are also found. There are extensive areas of bare peat from which the surface has eroded. The peat formation is 9,000 years old.
Dovestone, Yeoman Hey, Greenfield and Chew Reservoirs east of Oldham, are accessed from the A635 road. The reservoirs supply water to the surrounding area. The valley is surrounded by rocky outcrops and moorland. Spruce and pine plantations are found in the valley and broad-leaved trees have been introduced to provide a more diverse habitat.
Yeoman Hey was built in 1880 and Chew Reservoir was built in 1914, and when built, was the highest reservoir in the British Isles at 1,601 feet (488 m) above sea level. The bed of the tramway, built to aid its construction remains visible. The area around the reservoir is used for recreation.
The moor became infamous as the burial site of four victims of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the Moors murderers. In October 1965 the bodies of Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride were discovered, having been buried there during the previous two years. John Kilbride was murdered on the moors by Brady in the absence of Hindley, while Lesley Ann Downey was murdered at the couple's house in nearby Hattersley before being buried on the moors. The body of Pauline Reade, their first victim in July 1963, was recovered on 1 July 1987, almost a year after Brady and Hindley admitted murdering her. They also admitted murdering Keith Bennett in June 1964, but his body has never been found.
In December 2015 the body of an unknown man was found beneath Rob’s Rocks on Chew Track between Chew and Dovestone Reservoirs. He had died of strychnine poisoning and his identity remains a mystery.
- Peak District National Park, Peak District National Park Authority, retrieved 20 July 2012
- Dark Peak (pdf), Natural England, p. 3, retrieved 20 July 2012
- Mills 1998, p. 402
- South Pennine Moors, Defra, retrieved 21 July 2012
- Dove Stone Reservoir, United Utilities, retrieved 21 July 2012
- "Accident Description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
- "20 November 1986: Police renew hunt for Moors victims". On this day 1950–2005. BBC. 2008.
- "Body on the Moor". BBC News. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
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