Bolholt (Bury) to Helmshore via the old ELR railway.

Version1 December 2005

Click Map left for a more interactive map.

This is another one of the routes that myself and Duncan have wanted to do for a while, however other commitments, work mainly, have meant we haven't had the time. Anyway we had the opportunity one Sunday to take the route. The idea was to get a feel for the route and the access points, ready for a more prepared take on the route so we could cover it in more detail. However curiosity got the better of us and we ended up doing more of this route than we first thought. However weather got the better of us, plus we were not fully prepared for such a ride and sadly we had to turn back before we got fully in to Helmshore. Don't despair, we do plan to do this route again and get more pictures, plus now we have a better understanding of where the route went at Helmshore and beyond.

Thanks to Nick Melling for his advice on the route, also we have been using Gordon Suggitts "North West Rail Trails" book as a guide to key landmarks and access points.

The Start of the route - Bolholt (Bury)

We started from Duncan's house, the plan was to cut across to Tottington road, via Bolholt, to get to the start of the Bury to Holcombe brook railway. As you have seen from one of our other rides, this railway has now been changed in to a great cycle and pathway.

The start of the Bury to Holcombe Brook railway line.

We are looking up the route towards Holcombe Brook. This is a great route to take and can be seen in more detail here.

It gives you the opportunity to head up the valley away from busy roads.

The gradient is steep, but consistent. It must have been quite a struggle for the steam engines on this route.


The site of Tottington Station. For some reason we had missed this on previous rides on this route.

This is what is left of the station platform at Tottington.

You can see the platform edge running on the left of the picture.

A closer look at the platform edge.

We have took quite a ride to get this point. From Holcombe Brook we rode (on the road) through Ramsbottom to Stubbins.

Here we came off the Stubbins Lane and took the smaller, Vale road which runs parallel to the railway.

Here the ELR preserved line runs too, however their line to Rawtenstall bears off to the right, while the old line to Accrington, via Helmshore, runs to the left.

Here we are at the top of Vale road, where the disused line passes above. We took the smaller access road to the left to get on to the line. We found out the route is part of the National cycle route - number 6.

A couple of shots taken from the bridge over Vale road.
We liked the design of the bridge here - quite unusual.

You can just see the ELR preserved railway line running from left to right (through the trees).

This was taken from the disused line.


Sadly this is a bit blurred, it had started raining at this point, and my hands were getting a bit cold!

Anyway this is the view up towards Helmshore. As you can (just) see there is a dedicated cycle/path way starting here.

Further up the route we came across this viaduct which takes the railway over the Irwell. In fact the Irwell snakes along this route and the railway crosses it at numerous places.

We are in a location called Alderbottom.

This is view from the viaduct looking down to the ELR railway. Its quite a view from this viaduct, I bet the views are a lot better too when it isn't raining!



Here is the viaduct that took the railway over the Irwell at Lumb. Unfortunately this viaduct is not open to cross. However we have heard that in the future it may be re-opened.

This picture doesn't really give this structure justice. Its a spectacular viaduct that will be great to cross once re-opened.

At this point we lost the scent of the railway. It curved off to the left round to Helmshore. Trying to get back on the trail of the railway, we came across this interesting piece of kit over the Irwell.

We think it is a wire for a cable car or areial tramway. What it is used for we don't know! Answers on a postcard please!

Irwell Vale - we came across this tiny village trying to get back on the trail of the railway. Sadly with out a map we took the wrong route and took a very hilly approach in the outskirts of Helmshore. We turned back from Helmshore and headed home.

Once back home we discovered we were not far from the railway, if we have taken the right road.

This made us more determined to go back to this point to find and document the railway.


We hope you have enjoyed this potted view of this old railway route. Myself and Dunc are determined to re-trace our steps and follow this line in more detail. Keep checking the site for further updates.

If you do plan to cover this route, keep in mind it is quite hilly and steep in places. We only covered 12 miles, but it felt like 25! Maybe the rain didn't help, but the hills do sap your energy. Also note there was quite a bit of road riding too, so please take care when on the roads.

There is loads to see in this area, so its worth taking a look. Maybe you could take the ELR railway up to Ramsbottom and take this route in on foot.

Thanks Jon and Dunc.

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