Benches on Rivington Pike
Posted May 25th, 2014
Two benches appeared recently on Rivington Pike. Rivington Pike (for anyone who doesn't know it) is a hump on Winter Hill near Bolton in Lancashire, England and is a popular landmark in an area of great natural beauty known as the West Pennine Moors. The Pike is visible from miles around—a lot of miles actually. When you stand on the top you can see right round from the Pennine Hills in the east, south in the distance to the Derbyshire Peak District, across to Cheshire and beyond to the mountains of Wales, then west to the sea and Anglesea, Merseyside, Blackpool Tower and beyond that the Isle of Man (on a very clear day), but not quite the Lake District although even that is visible from Winter Hill. It follows that Rivington Pike must be visible from all these places; it really is a landmark, which must be why it was chosen as the site of one of the beacons spanning England from as long ago as the 10th Century, one thousand years ago. The beacon was lit in the year 1588 to signal the Spanish Armada's approach to the English shores. A couple of benches in the year 2014 might seem long overdue but I find them entirely inappropriate.
Rivington Pike is geographically associated with Horwich but is officially part of Chorley and the benches face Chorley. If Horwich had put up the benches they might face Horwich but they don't. The land itself is apparently owned by United Utilities but the indications point mainly to Chorley's involvement (I'll look into it).
My objections are that (i) benches should not be put on hilltop summits other than in very exceptional circumstances and (ii) memorial furniture (they are memorial benches) should be restricted to memorial places unless the furniture would be there anyway.
Rivington Pike is a proper hill. It's 1,191 feet (363 metres) high and is an integral part of the open moorland to its north and east: Winter Hill. There is a memorial on Winter Hill, in memory of the victims of the Winter Hill Air Disaster, a plane crash in 1958, but I think most people would accept this as a special case. The Pike is for walkers and walkers don't—and shouldn't—expect seating to rest on at the top of a hill, otherwise every hill top would be fitted with seats. Normal practice is sit on the ground. I have no objection to benches on low lying land or at the side of countryside paths but not on hill or mountain summits.
There's a building on top of Rivington Pike: a sort of tower thing with not much to recommend it architecturally, erected in 1733. Its strength is a simplicity of outline that from a distance marks the top of the hump nicely, like a nipple. Close up, the rough stone skirt around the bottom of the tower is especially crude and simple stone seating would improve it I think, all around it looking in all directions, not just at Chorley. So that's my suggestion: a feature that might have been there anyway, about 40 seats paid for by sponsors, first come, first served, built-in to the tower.
This is an age when national news 'stories' include tributes to private individuals lost to their families and friends in circumstances not only tragic but newsworthy enough for their personal qualities to be brought out so publicly. I wonder about this in the same way as memorial furniture in public places. Is one person's death any more tragic than another's? What justifies a public tribute for one more than the next? What does it mean if nobody claps at your funeral? How many benches can be fitted on Rivington Pike? (they are rusting already by the way—my stone suggestion above would be much better)
I have not referred to the names on those memorial benches nor did I know the individuals. It is not relevant to the argument. There's a memorial forest at Marklands Reservoir in Horwich and another on Healey Nab near Chorley. Those seem more appropriate places for memorial statements.