Spring for me, always heralds green pastures, rolling hills, white limestone, heavy showers and blue skies. It means for a period of walking in the White Peak where there is a release from peat bog, groughs and bleak desolate moorland. The winter slog slips away to be replaced by a warming sun and longer days.
I chose the boundary between dark and white, strolling up from the plague village of Eyam towards the north and the dark. Eyams an interesting place, one of Ranulph Feinnes heros for their selfless act of sealing themselves off from the outside world when the plague arrived, you can spend hours there tracing out the tragedy, just don’t go in tourist season.
My first trig objective was Sir William Hill, which gives wonderful panoramic views across the whole of the Peak District. Its a gentle climb out of the village, through woodlands and across green pastures, at one point you pass an abandoned lead mine, redundant industrial buildings incongruous in the landscape. A large badger set protects the trig from the Eyam approach and the dogs spent long moments with the snouts down the entrances trying to figure what the scent was. The eye can see right up the Derwent Valley, across to Kinder and Bleaklow, down to Bakewell and across Froggatt and Curbar edges. I sat and took it all in until two people arrived and I left to let them have the trig and the views in peace.
I headed out to Abney Moor via Bretton Clough, a secluded valley sitting between the gritstone and limestone. The Abney Moor trig requires a degree of stealth, although I did not know this at the time. Crossing moorland to reach a stone wall that surrounds the glider airfield a decision has to be made. Do I hop over the wall and hope not to be noticed, or take the long walk round to ask permission. I know which is the right way and after choosing my course of action I strode through the gate that gives access to the trig from the airfield. There is a little plaque on the trig, placed there by the glider club, which is ironic as they refuse access to land based mortals. The views out to Castleton, Mam Tor and the Great Ridge are superb, below is industrial farm buildings blotting the landscape and filling every green patch with junk and rubbish. The sign on this side of the access gate stated no access to pedestrians, so I skirted the wall dropping down to reach a track that took me to Great Hucklow and the door of the pub slammed in my face just as I was about to enter, lovely people.
Head south along old walled trackways through rolling pasture, true limestone country this, the eye seeing for miles, and aim for Wardlow and another stealth trig, protected by drystone walls and gated farmland. No easy access and definitely walls and fences to climb over. This trig a high point in the land around, the vistas long and low, I sat in the fading light, my back to the pillar and just watched. A bird of prey, I could not tell you which, soared up from Cressbrook Dale and quartered the land.
A long walk back to Eyam across pasture and through squeeze stiles, entering Eyam from the old Tideswell Lane and then along quieter streets to the end.
I know this may sound wrong, but walking from the Hayfield quarry where the 1932 Mass Trespass set off from, was a new experience for me, I had never been to this spot before, in fact I had never been to Hayfield. That does sound wrong doesn’t it coming from someone who has walked in the Peak District for near on 40 years and is a National Park Ranger to boot. Well confession over.
I had set off from Hayfield centre and walked along the river to reach the quarry. I didn’t realise that I was on such hallowed ground until I spotted the commemoration plaque on the quarry face. It is quite a thing when you think about it, all those people, extra ordinary people, who worked in everyday jobs during the week and looked for release on a Sunday, having the temerity to go against the land owners and the establishment. It must have been quite exciting and ever so slightly frightening at the same time. What will happen? Will I get into trouble? Will I lose my job? Some lost more than their jobs, some lost their liberty and I need to remember that when I am out on the moors, especially the Kinder plateau.
I retraced their footsteps, up William Clough, a beautiful little ravine complete with tumbling stream and long narrow vistas. I gradually worked my way along, stopping now and then to look back and take in the views. It really is wonderful, the feeling of peace, quiet and solitude is incredibly intoxicating. This is the way to live my life I thought, none of the work day drudgery, but this glorious release into another life. I could see why it was worth contemplating a fracas with the rozzers at the top of the Clough in 1932.
The cloud was low and as I reached the top visibility was down to 50m, nothing unusual in that for Kinder. It did make for some good navigation practice, use of compass, following a bearing, pacing, all good solid stuff. I reached the Triangulation pillar at Harry Hut quite quickly, painted a bright white it is pretty hard to miss. I like to see the pillars painted, but disappointed to see that the Flush Bracket had also been painted white. Would it have been too much trouble to leave the bracket in its natural form?
It was windy up there and so I dropped down the shooting track to have some lunch hidden behind a wall. Today it was soup and corned beef sandwiches, the dogs had some chews which kept them at bay for at least a few seconds, they then turned their attention to me and used telepathic staring techniques to gain more food for them and less for me, very selfish in my view.
Cutting across the moorland I arrived at the Grouse Inn famous for getting snowed in no end of times in bad weather. Just across the road is a surface block, hidden in the grass, these are fun to find, mainly because you get lots of odd looks from passing motorists as you prod away at the ground trying to locate the blasted thing. A walking pole with a pointy tip is a very good location device, sadly I had forgotten to bring mine so I was reduced to tearing bits of grass up with my bare hands until the surface block showed itself.
Down the road I turned off on to an old pack route, now the Pennine Way Bridle Path, a green lane stretching for some miles, passing farms and fields it winds its way up on to Lantern Pike, with panoramic views all round.
Lantern Pike is a forlorn place, windswept and dishevelled it has an air of subsistence about it. The triangulation pillar just adds to the gloom of the place, laid on its side as it is, half way down a slope, abandoned and unkempt. I do not know the history of the pillar, why it has come to such a sorry end or when this happened. In Mark Richards excellent book High Peak Walks mention is made of the view-point panorama from which there are marvellous views of Kinder, Mill Hill, Hayfield and the surrounding hills and valleys, but no mention of the trig. Lantern Pike is National Trust land, but like so much of their estate I feel is not sexy enough or would not generate enough revenue to warrant a helping hand, best save those efforts for the tea shops and stately homes.
It’s in there somewhere, but where was a mystery, should have brought my prodding pole, there was no way I was going to scrabble around the cow muck, I may well have to return.
I followed the Pennine Bridleway back to Hayfield and the car. Quite a nice days walking with varied views and not too much ascent.
This walk was a bit like last minute Christmas shopping, recovering my tracks several times, it’s what comes of leaving one triangulation point out on its own. There was another odd thing about this walk, two of the triangulation pillars were not even shown on the map, but did appear in the definitive list, one has almost completely disappeared but the other still sits there all forlorn and unloved. I’d also made the mistake of parking my car in the wrong place, leaving it miles from my first point and my last whilst passing it during the course of the day.
I started off in Old Glossop a village on the edge of the Peak District. I guess its heyday is long past now, the textile, chemical and engineering works now a fraction of their former self. Glossop is trying to re-invent itself as a gateway to the Peak District and it is well placed geographically to make a viable future on this basis.
I headed across fields to meet up with the Longendale Trail, a 6.6 mile section of the coast to coast Trans Pennine Trail, that runs along the now defunct Woodhead rail line. It is a pleasant walk, with bikers and horse riders all enjoying the easy terrain. The trail follows an old pack horse route that still retains much of its history if you have the time to explore and also leads on to the original Road to the Isles, which must have been a massive journey in the days before the car.
I was heading for the last triangulation pillar, Hey Edge, left on the north side of the Woodhead Trans Pennine Road. This is an odd pillar in more than one sense. Firstly it does not appear as a triangulation pillar on any OS map, but is denoted as “Pillar” on the OS 1:25000 map. Secondly it is surrounded by much higher pillars that would have been more use in the survey, so its a bit hard to understand why it was erected, perhaps they got it wrong and found they had put it in the wrong place.
Its a simple walk up from YHA Crowden on the Pennine Way, through old quarry workings and onto a plateau that sits below Westend Moss and looks across to Laddow Rocks and Featherbed Moss. There are some glorious views from the pillar with wide panoramas stretching far in to the distance.
Head west from the pillar, dropping down into the clough bottom and you pick up The Pennine Way at Crowden, a stopping off point for many long distance walkers on their first day on this classic walk along the spine of England to Scotland. Follow the trail, crossing the Woodhead road, I told there was much re-tracing of steps, and staying on the Pennine Way ascend Torside Clough towards Bleaklow, heading for the second ford on the OS map facing Long Gutter Edge and Torside Naze. Readers of climbing history will know the significance of these rocks and the part they played in the lives of Manchester climbers in the 60’s particularly Don Whillans and Joe Brown. The Peak District in general was the birthplace of a new generation of climbers in the post war period. Working class men and some women, with no real experience of climbing began to put up new, exciting and daring routes along the gritstone edges around the Peak, advancing techniques and skill way beyond the then levels, and leading to many Himalayan conquests in later years.
Turn right at the second ford ascending a small gully, following a fence line until a track is reached. It may well be a noisy walk and do not be surprised to see helicopters constantly ferrying large white bags through the skies. This is Moors for the Future a government-funded project reversing 150 years of destruction of the moorland habitat. The idea is to return the moorland to its natural wet state full of wild flora and fauna, thereby increasing the production of peat aiding more growth. You may agree with the aims, but rest assured as you sink up to your thighs in the latest peat bog, those thoughts will be the furthest from your mind, so console yourself with the fact you are struggling to get out of a good cause!
The final leg led me past the car and over to the other side of Glossop to reach the final triangulation point on the plateau near Cown Edge Rocks. It was a journey through the town and out the other side walking up through horse manured fields with a final short scramble on to the plateau. The biggest problem was finding the remnants of a triangulation pillar that information stated had been removed at the land owners request. Why would you want to do that I wonder, especially when it is in the middle of a field with no real economic value. Doesn’t make sense.
After stumbling around in fading light I eventually found the remains hidden in the grass and was able to call it a day. The long trudge back to the car was, well a trudge. This was the longest day with 32 kilometres of travel and 1332m of ascent and 9 hours of foot pounding.
I attended my first Peak District National Park Ranger day since Christmas recently. It was an easy day with some maintenance work in the morning, scraping leaves off double yellow lines on the approach roads up the Derwent Valley. It felt good to be back with the shift. I’ve missed the lads, the work and the camaraderie.
After lunch we all went out on individual patrols. I like this part of being a Ranger the best. Talking to the public, helping them, educating them on what the landscape is doing this time of year in the valley. It was a nice day and I wanted to visit a small secluded valley, not often frequented as it is off the main trails. Walking down the old Derwent Valley road to what is now left of the village the sun warmed me up, the first time this year that has happened.
I reached my turn off and heading up a vehicle track, stopping off to view an old barn, now used for storage, that sits opposite a derelict farm-house. What life was like here I don’t know but I managed to conjour up an image in my mind of shepherds working with their flocks.
I continued up an old holloway, the ground still a bit muddy from all the rain we have had. About halfway up there is an old oak tree, all knarled curling branches. It sits on top of the holloway banking and looks out over a small dale. Clambering up I was pleased to see the roots formed a natural seat with the trunk forming a back rest. I took out my map and leaning back into the tree settled in to look at the landscape.
There were old lines where once field boundaries had been, these were long removed to facilitate larger fields. Some had the odd tree still standing in line with its neighbours, and looking at these markers in the land I could reconstruct the way the land used to be. How long back I could go I guess would have been a hundred years or more. The farm above is well over 300 years old and judging by some of the field boundaries I would say the landscape was at least 7 – 800 years old.
I sat there for an hour or more, taking in the sun and the landscape. It is one of the nicest hours I have spent this year.
Wasn’t looking forward to this walk at all. Studying the map I just kept focussing on all that moorland with all those blue lines stretching across and just knew this would be a slog across a quagmire. It wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience, but, not going felt like chickening out and I was on a roll now, a trig walk every week, so I had to keep going.
I took Monty and Ollie along, they’ve started accompanying me on the walks. I’m getting a little more relaxed about the boys being off the lead, they do love to run about the place. I calculated that my walk of 23 km was more like 50 for them. Setting off walking brought up the first problem in four bods from The National Trust mooching around on White Moss looking for goodness knows what, it may have been a contact lens for all I know. Do I let the boys off now, no sheep around and nesting time is a long way off, if I do, will I then be having a conversation with these people and how will it end. I decided to keep them on the lead until I was sure we and the fauna were safe.
The route to the first trig at Saddleworth follows two well-defined drainage ditches which made for comfortable walking. Maybe today wasn’t going to be so bad after all. From the trig you get a fine view of Manchester, a small town that is often trying to emulate the more prosperous and cosmopolitan Yorkshire cities, but with little success. The pillar has a plaque attached to it stating that it had been rebuilt and positioned after vandals had toppled it. This was done in the memory of a member of the Saddleworth Runners Club. I wondered if the height was still correct or indeed the position. A lone sheep watched unconcerned at Monty and Ollie as they sniffed around the base and tried to break free of their leads. If they had this would have been a short blog, as the leads were attached to my rucksack.
I sat an pondered the view whilst eating a few Jelly Babies and drinking a cup of tea. What to eat on walks has become a project in itself of late. I am trying to put together a snap tin that provides energy, taste, interest and self-indulgence, the last I believe sorely needed on moorland walks in winter.
Wandering off for Dovestones reservoir we passed a formidable war memorial, marked on the map as obelisk. It really is impressive, and sad, the names of so many from the villages surrounding the area lost to mans stupidity.
Passing through Dovestones car park, full with people walking and doing goodness knows what I headed up the Chew Valley. From the teeming throngs in the car park, with 200m I was alone, walking the long winding service road that leads to the Chew Reservoir. Superb scenery with huge cliffs, reminiscent of a miniature Troll Wall, the dark rock covered in green moss, and a couple of centuries of soot from the dark satanic mills of Lancashire. The summit is the Chew Reservoir and it is a curious place, probably because I never expected to see a large expanse of water at the top of a climb. It looks odd and out of place.
I did some pacing practice to identify the point on the reservoir track I needed to strike off for the trig on Featherbed Moss. I had it just right and found the trig with no problem. The moor appears to have sunk quite a bit of the base of the trig is anything to go by, can it really have dropped that much?
On my way to Laddow Rocks and the Pennine Way I scouted for a surface bolt, identified by Dave Hewitt and blow me down there it was right where he said and that was without the use of GPS, thanks Dave.
The Pennine Way is quite beautiful and winds its way through rock and moorland, switching at times from a slabbed surface to moorland peat a necessary control for erosion. I enjoyed the ascent to the final trig on Black Hill or Soldiers Lump. It is actually down as Holme Moss in the tables which is even more confusing. This trig has been rebuilt and repositioned and now has a significant list. Captain Hotine would not have approved, and neither do I. Is this really how we treat our history, to just forget all that went before when it is expedient.
I then had a 2Km slog across moorland and peat bog, and was within sight of the car, congratulating myself on not falling into any bogs. No sooner were the thoughts out then I landed face down in the last peat bog of the whole walk. Lovely!
I like moorland walking. Its a great way to get fit, improve calf and thigh muscles and once you get walking across peat moorland with lots of grass tussocks it will definitely improve you ankle strength, all in all a winner. I was scared of the moorlands as a kid because someone, I cannot remember who, put the idea in to my head that they were dangerous places where people died. I have grown to love the high moors, the loneliness mixed with wild beauty has a transfixing effect on my mind, after a few miles walking I have completely left my other lives behind.
The path up to Flask Edge was almost a sheep track, it was so narrow as it wound its way through calf high heather. In places I had to divert due to the amount of standing water. We have had so much rain this winter, peat bogs have become a soup as they stop being able to absorb any more rain. The path rises to a small plateau with broken down walls forming a handrail to the triangulation pillar. As I arrived, a huge group of ramblers also appeared and what seemed to be a bit of a stand off ensued. I wanted my photo they didn’t want to move. I decided to say my good mornings and take in the view. You can see for miles from here, across Sheffield, over to the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Power Stations, up in to North Yorkshire and down the Derwent Valley through Derbyshire. Eventually the oldies grew tired of the metaphorical staring contest and buggered off down the path I had ascended. I got my photo!
Then set off after them. They were surprisingly quick and noisy so I let them get on ahead. I am with Wainwright on walking. Being alone is enough company and being quiet is even better.
There is a track that winds its way down to the old abandoned Barbrook Reservoir and I ambled along it enjoying the easy walking. Along the track I came across a leaning stone pillar and noticed it had a benchmark with the levelling mark perfectly level, so assume this is how it is supposed to look and time has not pulled the pillar over. It would be easy to become disoriented in the area there being no water in the reservoir, the bottom being well overgrown with moorland grass. At first I thought, hang on, there should be a big blue bit here, then saw the hole, of Dambuster proportions in the dam. There is no way this reservoir could ever hold water with a hole that big, whatever are the water people playing at, come to think of it what are OS playing at, colouring in water when there plainly could not be any. By the way never ever ever call the thing that is supposed to hold the water in the reservoir a Dam Wall. Dam builders become very agitated when hearing this. The “Wall” is The Dam, there is no wall. Got It.
I did a little nav exercise here to a stone circle not far away. Got to the right point but couldn’t see the circle. I was looking for a small circle of stones, maybe a few feet in diameter. It slowly dawned on me that the stone I was standing in front of was part of a large stone circle and that I had in fact found it.
Lunch at a lovely little bridge where I enjoyed my Big Soup in my Thermos Soup Flask and some nice cheese and pickle sandwiches. The boys played around and had the odd chew to gnaw. Then we headed off across Big Moor,now part of the Eastern Moors Partnership of the National Trust and RSPB.
As we crested the hill I noticed quite a lot of people watching us, I could see their heads turned in our direction. It was only as we got closer that I realised it was the herd of deer that live on the moor. It is purportedly the largest wild herd in England, I have no doubt this is correct. Once they had a whiff of the boys, or maybe it was me and all that man made base layer technology, they scarpered and were never seen by us again.
We hit White Edge just to the left of the trig, this is called aiming off in navigational terms or just plain lucky in layman terms. The views were magnificent, Bleaklow, Kinder, Wing Hill, Lose Hill, The Great Ridge, Burbage and Stanage. Then down the Derwent Valley deep into the White Peak ans going east towards the coast. Viewpoints like this are magical places, giving a sense of scale to the landscape and the human. We really are of no consequence when placed in a landscape that does not even register our existence.
We worked our way along White Edge, the wind gusting strongly, but still quite warm. Ollie enjoyed it tremendously and kept stopping to face in to the wind for a bit of surfing. Monty was not so keen as the wind would have ruffled his coiffed hair doo. Heading back to the car we passed two relics of a lost transportation infrastructure.
The side tells the traveller this is the Dronfield Road, it also has a benchmark on the face. It was used to guide travellers between Sheffield, Dronfield, Tideswell and Bakewell. There is further information at artsinthepeak
There is something satisfying about walking an ancient route. I imagine all sorts of characters struggling along in dark days with howling gales across desolate moorland. Trains of horses loaded with goods, monks moving from monastery to grange, journeymen, quarrymen, stone masons and of course vagabonds. Imagine being out on these moors in bad weather, the depths of winter, no fancy hi tech clothing, no maps or compasses, only stories and the stones to tell you the way.
There are several salt routes that cross the moors around Big Moor and Leach Fen further south, major trade and communication routes. Many were marked by crosses, Ladys Cross on Big Moor is the third and most complete example I have seen on these walks. It still has some of its perimeter wall surrounding it. As a traveller these crosses must have been a welcome sight and visible for many miles.
Shortly after leaving Ladys Cross I arrived back at my car and the third and final Trig Point. This was the hardest to find. No pillar just a surface bolt in a lump of stone below ground level as it transpired. Some prodding around with a Leki eventually located it. This would be a fine nav test.
Walking through thousands of years of history all within a nine square kilometres is one of the joys of being outdoors, made all the more special when that history is so easily to hand and visible.
Do you go walking on your own or with friends? If you go walking on your own, how many people do you take with you? I ask the question because I sense a feeling of being alone in spending time on the hills with people who aren’t actually there. Never have a conversation with someone who is not in the room, goes the old maxim. Well by that standard a good proportion of my walking day would be spent in absolute silence. Am I mad, do you think? Or, and this is where I ask you to be courageous, do you, like me rant and rave at people who you probably haven’t seen for a decade or more, with me it can be up to five decades, that’s how long back my resentments can go. I only ask, that’s all. You don’t have to fess up, although if this were to become a platform for long held resentments being outed then I am happy to provide the service. Call it Resentments Inc.
Surprisingly there were very few time wasters on the latest trig walk. It wasn’t a walk I was particularly looking forward too to be honest. Natural beauty would not be a phrase you could connect with the landscape. It was within the National Park boundary, towards the northern tip of the park. The setting off point was the cross Pennine route of the Woodhead Road. A thundering line of heavy goods vehicles transporting wonderful things made by the clever people of Yorkshire to be sold to the not so clever people of Lancashire and Greater Manchester, told you old rivalries run deep.
I set of along the old original cross Pennine route, the packhorse track of Salters Brook. It was used to transport goods to and from the east coast to the west and vice versa. Near where I joined the route are the remains of an old public house and lodgings for the Jaggers and drovers, you can still enter the cellar, but be careful. On a high point of the route heading east is another old cross. Lady’s Cross still has part of the column intact, it must have been a welcome sight after the pull up from either valley each side of the summit.
Back across the Woodhead to my first trig South Nab, sounds like a whaling station in the Antarctic. A sign told me I could not use the bridle way due to severe flooding, no surprise really, and no problem. My route lay north east of the trig, with Emley Moor transmitter as the aiming point. Lots of windmills on the hills to the east, which to my mind look quite nice. There is a great debate going on at the moment re wind turbines. The fors and agins both have valid arguments and I for one would not want to see great plantations of the things, what’s wrong with out at sea anyway. But the odd cluster I do not mind and if it helps make us cleaner then all to the good.
I headed across moorland, past grouse butts and dropped down to the Trans Pennine Trail. On my way down I could be heard, if you had been there, arguing with someone I haven’t seen for more than a decade. They probably have forgotten all about me, but I am made of much sterner stuff. It’s not that they did anything to me, it’s that I didn’t win, or they didn’t do what I thought they should have done.
Skirting round a couple of reservoirs I made my way to Snailsden trig. The track winds round the hillside of out of sight of the trig, so I took the opportunity to do a little pacing exercise. When I reached my estimated number I climbed up the hill to find nothing. Not a sausage, never mind a trig. I can’t have been that far out I thought as I scanned the land in front of me. Turning round the other way, there it was less than a few metres away. What a pillock. Just remember to turn round next time.
Had my lunch here with fine views across the Peak District and on up to the Dales and North Yks Moors. I’m trying out some new lunch time tactics. Soup in a soup Thermos, with small sandwiches to dunk.. Today it was Mulligatawny and cheese with Branston. Very nice it was too. Monty and Ollie munched away on some twig sticks they seem to enjoy and then sat staring me out, willing me to give over the sandwich or anything else I had going. Not a chance.
Whilst doing all this I plotted the route to my final trig. Stay high I decided, lets not lose height just to gain it again. Remember last week all that ascent and descent and the cost on energy levels. At the end I had almost nothing left, in conditions that were pretty atrocious. Lesson learnt there.
I decided to use a shooting track to get me up on to the saddle over looking Longdendale. This did mean a descent at first, but avoided bog trotting and working my way through thick heather whilst ascending the other side of the valley I was looking down on from Snailsden, that was the direct route, but not necessarily the quickest. This proved the correct plan, and although the line was longer it was easier going and saved hugely on time and energy levels.
The route to Dead Edge End, where do they get these names from, followed a fence marking the line of several parish come county boundaries. Naturally I tried to remain on the Yorkshire side for as long as possible and only had to hop across to Derbyshire once I reached the trig. There were wonderful views from the trig, Kinder, Bleaklow, Black Hill, some great walking country and with plenty of Trigs some great walks to come.
Back to base now following the last leg of the triangle, heading for South Nab. I passed over the Woodhead tunnel and saw that there was smoke coming out of the air vents. Apparently this is condensation evaporating and not ghost steam trains, personally I prefer the latter.
I enjoyed this walk, even though the landscape was not picture book. After the previous walk, I took more care about route and timing and energy levels and that made a huge difference to the enjoyment. Have you noticed I left all those people in my head behind some while ago, well before Snailsden trig. That’s the beauty of walking in to a landscape, the land itself becomes my companion.