Holcombe Hill rises steeply above the village. It is the end of a ridge of the West Pennines which extends from the Peel Monument northwards past the south-facing bluff of Harcles Hill and the Pilgrim’s Cross to Bull Hill which is the highest point. Thereafter a broader ridge continues as far as Musbury Heights above Haslingden Grane and its line of reservoirs. There are the remains of numerous gritstone quarries all along the ridge.
The moorland is very popular with walkers (and runners). There are many footpaths, including one, boggy in places which leads along the top of the ridge from the Monument to Bull Hill. The views on a clear day are very fine, extending from the Pennines across the Manchester basin and Cheshire to the Clwydian Hills and the Wirral. The Jodrell Bank radio telescope is a prominent feature.
Many moorland birds can be seen including skylarks, curlews and lapwings. Deer and foxes are commonly seen on the lower slopes.
At the time of writing (early 2017) the government is consulting on a proposal to designate much of the open moorland area from the Irwell Valley to Winter Hill as a Site of Special Scientific Interest with the objective of conserving the upland habitats including breeding birds and other wildlife.
There is an MOD firing range on the Western side of the hill and access to some areas is prohibited when flags are flying (typically once or twice a week). The assault course on this range was used for the filming of the Krypton Factor TV series.
The photo above shows the view over the Irwell Valley to Scout Moor and the wind farm. Knowl Hill, which overlooks Rochdale, is on the extreme right and the flat mound of Cowpe Lowe to the left of centre. The built-up area in the centre is Edenfield.
This is the Pilgrim’s Cross with the broad top of Bull Hill behind. The post is used for a warning flag when there is firing on the range; in this case the route to Bull Hill is out of bounds, but the path skirting the right-hand side of the hill is OK.