Hollingworth Lake

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I first spotted this gem of a walk a few years ago when visiting a client in Smithy Bridge, Greater Manchester. I returned with my partner on a sunny Sunday, parked in the car park by the sailing dinghies and set off on our walk round the lake, a short (two & half mile) but pretty hike. Half way round we paused by the nature reserve and from the neat little hide scanned with our binoculars for any signs of rare birds! No! All we saw was a black headed gull skimming low across the lakes surface. However a local " Twitcher” armed with a serious looking camouflaged camera told us he had got some good shots of kingfishers and other elusive wild birds. We lunched on our picnic of smoked salmon on brown bread and a beaker of Chardonnay on a shady bench with a great view through the trees of this lovely lake. Later at the Visitor Centre we admired an exhibition of art work by local artists. We learned that this lake was a much loved Victorian attraction at the time known as “The Weighvers Seaport” and covered around 130 acres. There were old photographs of ladies in big hats and gowns on parade around the lakeside, a steamer boat offered trips around the lake and there was outdoor dancing at lakeside hotels on stages lit by gaslight. Although a prim local Victorian Council at the time thought these were places of “ill repute” and condemned the pursuit of immoral practices! Well London has its Brighton for illicit weekends so this must have been Manchester’s “Brighton!” Apparently back in the 20s the whole lake froze over and there was ice skating. Now there are just two hotels. The Beach Hotel (lunches on the terrace with views of the lake) and the charming “Wine Press”. The Lake’s other claim to fame is that it was here that Captain Matthew Webb used to practise swimming before he became the first man to swim the English Channel from Dover to Calais. Well, he had plenty of water here to play with; apparently the lake holds four hundred million gallons of the stuff! With a great backdrop of the hills of Blackstone Edge for the more adventurous there are some good walks and trails to enjoy (some guided, ask at the visitor centre) Sailing, of course, is very popular and, with a good wind coming off the Pennines, looks quite exhilarating! Children are well catered for with play areas and pretty picnic spots, cafes, and snack bars and massive car parking close by. All in all a super days outing that caters for everybody whatever their interests.

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