If you want a visual explanation of environmental damage, you could do no better than a walk up to Black Hill triangulation pillar in the north of the Dark Peak, Peak District National Park. This weekend take a walk; PB Walk 29, Dark Peak Walks
The trig base sits a good metre above ground level. This is not for dramatic effect; the trig is in exactly the same place that the Ordnance Survey surveyors levelled it in 1945, it is the ground that has shifted.
The Manchester and Lancashire cotton mills dumped all their heavy metal laden fumes out on to the moors. This simply killed any plant life, turned the soil to solid acid and prevented any further growth. Wind scoured the surface, stripping away any roots systems and then the job was finished by rain, which washed away the peat, down into the valley below. Considering the base of the pillar was at ground level, looking around it is hard to imagine the amount of peat that has been removed.
Black Hill was famous of course for the hell of its peat bog, made all the more famous by Alfred Wainwright who got stuck in it, because he was good at walking up hard rock and bits of grass, but crap at walking across a peat moor. A quote from 1975 on trigpointuk puts it thus;
A mess. Stands in acres of peat on Black Hill’s summit. Visited during Pennine Way walk.
Today the trig pillar stands surrounded by cotton grass and a healthier moor, thanks to Moors for the Future and its work. It is no longer approached through a thigh squelching peat bog, but along stone slabs retrieved from the derelict cotton mills that spewed out the poison all those years ago.
The pillar now sits surrounded by a stone plinth, courtesy of the Pennine Way rangers from the Peak District National Park. The pillar still sits on its concrete base which extends down well below the peat to bedrock where the lower centre mark sits.
Looking back at the photos from 2016 I came across this one taken of fellow team mates on a very cold January Sunday at 08:00 hours at Soldiers Lump triangulation pillar on Black Hill.
The reason why we had got up at an ungodly hour on a cold, frozen, snowy day was to walk in the dark, across the moor from Holme Moss Transmitter Station and set up a transmitter station and checkpoint at Black Hill for the fell runners taking part in that years Trigger Race from Marsden to Edale.
Woodhead Mountain Rescue team members man all the checkpoints and provide safety cover, especially needed on days like this picture shows. The fell running community are great supporters of Mountain Rescue and this is one way that they raise funds for the team; donations that are badly needed.
Winter is still holding back in England, but it will arrive and with winter comes accidents and people in distress. Already this year Woodhead Mountain Rescue have rescued a lost walker in harsh winter conditions and rescued a badly injured climber in the middle of the worst storm this year.
All this takes money, not to mention the time members of any Mountain Rescue team give voluntarily, leaving jobs and family to go and help total strangers. Money is critical in a voluntary service. It buys fuel for vehicles, provides funds for premises and training, and buys specialist kit for team members. Team members also buy their own kit too and the fuel to get to a callout. Each year a team knows it has to raise enough money to remain operational, if they aren’t there, who else is going to go out and find a lost walker, rescue the injured climber. That amount can be anything from £25000 upwards. It’s a lot.
Raising the money takes various forms. Team supporters, without whose help teams would not be able to function, hold collection days at local venues, sell merchandise, provide hot food and drinks at fell race events. Pubs and shops put a collection tin on the counters for locals to drop the pennies into. Local children raise funds through village fairs, school events. Local and national businesses provide donations to buy equipment.
All donations are welcome. One of the most treasured is from the people teams are asked to go and help. Mostly individuals who send a cheque and a thank you note; those are really nice to read. Sometimes, as in a recent Mountain Bike accident, friends of the injured party do something special, like cycling the Pennine Bridleway to raise funds for the team, a really wonderful way to give something back and fantastic to receive. One person sells a special beer and has raised thousands another sells neck buffs with team logos on. Team members play Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, Guy Fawkes in their communities at traditional events and helps raise funds. People give through websites such as Just Giving which increases the amount donated with Gift Aid. Donations range from the thousands to a 50p coin pocket money from a child. It all helps.
To those who give, it makes a huge difference to someones life, literally. Without your donations Mountain Rescue could not do what it does. What you do is vitally important.
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!
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.