The River Spodden rises north of Rochdale on the moors near Whitworth. It flows south past Hallfold, Wallbank, Tonacliffe and Broadley and then enters a deeply incised valley known as Healey Dell. The river flows on through Spotland crossing under the A680 at Spotland Bridge before joining the River Roch within the Rochdale town limits.
Within Healey Dell, the local sandstone rock has been worn away over the years creating a tree lined valley with rocky outcrops and waterfalls. Near Healey Hall the river becomes constricted by the outcrops of rock in an area described by a Saxon word, "the Thrutch". It was in the vicinty of the Thrutch that a corn mill was constructed and that point in the river, where the remains of the mill can still be seen, is known as "Mill i' Thrutch".
The Spodden provided a source of power for the corn mill. In 1636 the corn mill was converted into a fulling mill for locally produced wool. In the years that followed more woolen mills and then cotton mills sprang up along the Spodden. As steam power was introduced, chimneys rose up among the trees. The once picturesque Dell took on an industrial face and the pristine river that had once abounded with fish was increasingly polluted.
Ironically, back in the days when Lord Byron was for a time the Lord of the Manor of Rochdale, local residents had a romantic view of the Dell seeing it as the home of fairies. A section of the river, marked by an overhanging rock ledge, was known as the Fairy Church.
At the northern end of the Dell there are two remarkable viaducts. In 1867 the builders of the Rochdale to Bacup railway line constructed a viaduct across the valley. This structure stand 105 feet above the valley bottom. The second, which is shown in the image above, carried a road providing access to the station at Broadley.
Today, only remnants of the industrial era in Healy Dell remain. Visitors to what is now "Healey Dell Nature Reserve" can still see evidence of the old mills along the valley bottom but the chimneys are gone and the river flows unimpeded.