Getting lost in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District is a very common thing. Most people manage to get back on the right track, or find other walkers to help them out, or maybe a road to walk back to civilisation even if it’s in the wrong direction. Some people have to be found and rescued by Mountain Rescue, generally at night after the person has wandered around for hours trying to extricate themselves from the predicament.
The Dark Peak does give the walker a helping hand. Signs that say, “walker beware”, not in those words but if you study your OS map the clues just jump out at you.
Above is the signpost to the Wilderness from Chew Valley, take care not to go over Lads Leap as you reach the Longdendale Valley. You would want to avoid The Swamp on Alport Moor as you made your way over to Lost Lad above the Upper Derwent Valley. Mind you if you agreed to meet someone there make sure its the right Lost Lad as there is another just off Cut Gate near Langsett. And definitely stay away from the Black Hole on Black Hole Moor, it does exist, I promise you. Hades Peat Pits are possibly the entrance to another world, one of everlasting pain.
Of course if it says, Shooting Cabins, then stay well clear, goodness knows what goes on there. Which reminds me, any area that is called Target, begs the question, target who?And talking of mad things, do not enrage the woman at Madwoman’s Stones on Kinder, there is an ancient altar site nearby, goodness knows what became of people, when the encountered the enraged lady.
I had a day out on the high moors of the Dark Peak last Friday. The more I visit this area, the more time I want to spend here. In large measure it is the desolation, the quietness. No paths on a map mean very few people, long windswept views and time.
Just after the trig I sat on a spot height and just looked at the landscape. Following its contours with my eyes, seeing the shapes, curves, how sensual the wind and rain have made this moor with its rises and falls, like the shape of a woman laying on her side.
Following the curves with my eyes colours started to split, it wasn’t just brown, there were greens and orange, flame reds, yellows the black oily ooze on the surface of the peat, iridescent with blues and purples. The moor is dotted now with the vivid green, almost fluorescent, shock of Sphagnum Mosses, planted to hold the water there and regenerate the peat. It really is a shocking contrast in the midst of all the earth colours. Soon white cotton grass will bud near the mosses, splashes of white, like an impressionist painting. A double rainbow arched over Grinah stones against a deep powder blue sky, that changed with each new front of the storm, the sky shifting from blue to white to gray and then deep black.
Then the smell of the moor. The first I detected was of the peat, it was reasonably dry where I sat but the peat gave up its scent, earthy, metallic, primal. An old tree stub poked out of the peat bog grey and stark against the black peat backdrop. As I sat I became aware of another more powerful smell. Sea air, brought in off the west coast by the storm. It was heavy with sea salt and I was immediately transported back five decades to the end of the south pier at Blackpool and the smell of the green salty sea. I faced the wind and breathed deeply savouring the salty taste.