Shaly Dingle is an area on the Northeast side of Winter Hill, near to Belmont in Lancashire. Slightly difficult to reach for the casual visitor it is incredibly interesting for those with a dedicated interest in landscape use, geology and archaeology.
Land use in the area stretches from prehistoric times to the industrial revolution and to the present where it is home to wildlife and recreational walkers. At least one stone age arrowhead has been found on the slopes of nearby Egg Hillock which overlooks Shaly Dingle.
Shaly Dingle is located at the point where several moorland streams converge to form Three Nooked Shaw Brook which flows out of the area through privately owned Three Nooked Shaw Clough.
This old map shows the stone bridge at Shaly Dingle marked as an aquaduct. Also on this map is a dashed line showing the route of an underground water conduit leading through several old wells and across the bridge.
Also note the tunnel and shaft shown on the map that has also caused some speculation online but is very similar to a tunnel that can still be found leading down from Reservoir of Dean Mills nearby. That tunnel also has a shaft sunk into it but marked ‘Air Shaft’ on the old map of that area. The wells and tunnel here are in an area known as Daddy Meadows Springs which may be the source of the water they were designed to carry.
A decent stone bridge crosses the stream leading down from the Whimberry Hill area and this has two implications as it could have enabled transport of material from the old coal pit on the other side of the stream, but on old maps it is labelled as an aquaduct - a bridge used to carry water.
There is nothing on top of the bridge to support this but I have posited elsewhere that the bridge which is visible high sided, would be large enough to contain one of the stone water conduits previously mentioned within it.
Several stones have been found in the stream bed that look very much like they have been carved, at one time several had been placed on a ledge on the stone retaining wall next to the stream. Many interesting rocks can be found in the stream as it seems they are all washed down to collect between the weirs.
Here a coal seem has been revealed by erosion in the Shaly Dingle ravine. The black coal appears with associated fireclay that is characteristic of the Winter Hill area. Looking across Shaly Dingle we can imagine the level of the coal seam in relation to the coal pit, although there are possible several seems at different depths in the area.
One mystery of Shaly Dingle is the date stone that can be found above the West tributary running down towards the valley bottom and close to the site of an old weir and what was perhaps a small area for holding water that can be seen on some old maps.
The stone itself is a reasonably large boulder of the local stone and is marked on some old maps but seemingly not the oldest OS map for the area. It has the appearance of a boundary marker of which there are several similar in the area of an important historic boundary at nearby Dean Ditch. However, no modern or former parish boundary appears to be in the location of the date stone.
Carved into the top surface of the stone are three years, 1805, 1912 and 1922, the meaning of this is inscription is not known. What can be said is that the 1805 is larger and of a slightly different style to the other carvings. One difference that is quite apparent is the base of the numeral ‘1’. The inscriptions of 1912 and 1922 look very similar and are fairly close in date. It seems that the inscription of 1805 was not added by the same hand as the other two, and may be much older as the dates suggest.
Strangely, the 1805 inscription, though much larger is not in the middle most prominent part of the stone surface and it looks as though space was left for the other years to be added and perhaps more. Unless, the stone has fallen over and the 1805 was originally intended to be on the ‘front’ of the rock.
Searching the internet will reveal that important events did happen in the years inscribed, for instance the battle of Trafalgar in 1805 (there are other diverse monuments to that event all across the country). Also Scott reaching the South Pole in 1912. To be fair the wealth of information available to us online today means we could find significance for almost any year.
Perhaps the dates are simply denoting when quarrying, mining or other work was completed in the area. Some local quarries and mines were re-worked years after their initial closure as better equipment or techniques became available and material that was thought uneconomical to remove was able to be retrieved more cheaply.
There was once a coal pit on the South side of the Shaly Dingle area, another reason why the stone bridge might have been constructed. The shaft is now covered by a standard NCB cap shown here with legendary moorland beast for scale. There is only one shaft marked on the old maps with no associated colliery shown, but there are several features on the opposite Northeast hill that may be another mining area or old quarries.
There are what appear to be the remains of several building structures on the opposite hillside above Three Nooked Shaw Brook but it seems strange that coal or stone would be transported up a hill for processing. Maybe the buildings are unrelated or perhaps some sort of work offices for the local quarrying work.
A steep rocky ravine is found in the stream from Lower Height, that flows down into Shaly Dingle. It is subject to extreme erosion and several interesting geological features are revealed within.
As mentioned the ravine at Shaly Dingle is rocky and therefore dangerous and unstable but when the water flow is low it is reasonably possible to ascend, at least towards the top.
Above the ravine is a small stream in a deep trough carved through the moorland peat. There isn’t much to see but is can be followed with difficulty towards the area of the Great Ravine where water flows into Ward’s Reservoir or The Blue Lagoon as it in known colloquially.
As can be seen in the photograph the stream erodes away the deep moorland peat to reveal several successions shale like strata and clay down to a sandstone bedrock.
One of the old stone weirs in Three Nooked Shaw Brook as it flows out of Shaly Dingle. A succssion of weirs are marked on the old maps and some remain today. Stones and debris washed down the streams collects here and are washed by the flowing water.
A good place for a paddle and a look in the stream bed for fossils, interesting stones and prehistoric tools.
Shaly Dingle image by munki-boy
Shaly Dingle Aquaduct image by munki-boy
Shaly Dingle Bridge image by munki-boy
Shaly Dingle Carved Stones image by munki-boy
Shaly Dingle Coal Seams image by munki-boy
Shaly Dingle Date Stone image by munki-boy
Shaly Dingle Mine image by munki-boy
Shaly Dingle Ravine image by munki-boy
Shaly Dingle Weirs image by munki-boy
The highest point for miles and just short of a mountain, Winter Hill is a key part of the West Pennine Moors and a habitat for a huge range of wildlife. With evidence of occupation going back literally thousands of years there is plenty of history on and under the hill. Winter Hill was also the site of a historic mass trespass that gave us open access to much of the moorland today.
The site of a small hamlet and fireclay works high on Winter Hill, once housing families employed in the local quarrying, mining and fireclay industries. Often passed by walkers on their way up the hill, there are a number of interesting industrial remains hidden in the moorland grass.
High on the summit of the often foreboding Noon Hill is a Bronze Age round cairn topped by a more recent cairn of uncertain age. The round cairn was excavated in the 1950’s/60’s and yielded several cremations and funery ornaments now in the possesion of Bolton Museum. This site is rumoured to have been put to use in more recent times as a secret meeting place for persecuted Christians.
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