One of the toughest ascents in the Peak District can be found just by Ladybower Reservoir in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park.
Parkin Clough leads up to Win Hill, a total ascent of some 300m in little over one Kilometer. The path, such that it is, is the old boundary wall running up the side of the stream which tumbles down the hillside. Parkin Clough is a narrow V shaped gorge cut by the stream, with steep sides, you would not want to slip down. It is very slippery under foot in wet weather as you are walking along what remains of the wall, with some high stepping required in places to get the thighs and calfs burning.
The climb up Parkin Clough is something of a test piece for fitness, the test being to make it to the top in the shortest time, the quickest I have heard of is 12 minutes unladen and a little over 15 minutes with full hill kit. The test for lesser mortals is to make it to the top without stopping. Ascending to the summit begins at the foot of Parkin Clough by the Peak and Northern Footpath Society signpost and ends when the hand touches the thoughtfully placed triangulation pillar on the top of Win Hill. The views across to the Upper Derwent Valley and along the skyline to Kinder Scout and Bleaklow make the effort worthwhile.
I have been commissioned to write my first book, which is as exciting to me as it was for Neil stepping off that ladder for the first time. Life just doesn’t get better.
It’s about walks in the Dark Peak. I am currently in the research phase, going out on walks, taking photos, dictating routes, making GoPro vids.
Seeing the area I love through the eyes of other people has given me pause for thought on where to go. I envisage a man and women visiting the area for the first time. They have a whole year to spend discovering the area, but know nothing about it to start with. I have carved the Dark Peak, it’s my version of the Dark Peak as none officially exists, up into sections each with a taster walk, a couple of reasonable days out and a few epics to grind the grit and peat well and truly in to the soul.
There are the usual hot spots, Mam Tor, Kinder Downfall, Stanage Edge, Salt Cellar, icons of grit. I also think we need to act on CROW and get away from the defined footpaths and head out across featureless moorland and on down into those secluded cloughs, real excitement and a real problem describing a route without resorting to grid references, bearings, pacing and timing. It’s a challenge.
Going off path brings in logistical problems that simply didn’t exist when I started walking in the area back in 1974. Getting around was simple, you joined the queues at Sheffield Pond Street Bus Station for wherever it was you wanted to go that Sunday morning and hopped on with everyone else. The bus dropped you at the allotted time somewhere remote from where you set off. You can’t do that today. No buses and no bus stops. And if there are buses its not guaranteed it will run. So it’s the car. Which means circular walks and parking in remote, tight little lay-bys. I should point out here that I am of the wainwright school of walking, one walker is sufficient, two is tolerable, any bigger groups are just a nuisance.
Then there is walking across moorland. Most of the upper moorland is grouse moor. Managed to produce a crop of stupid birds who fly in a low, very straight line towards a fat stupid human, generally a male, with a gun. A lot now falls under the open access agreements of The CROW Act. Which means you can wander at will and should, for exploring new areas is all part of walking. It also means that the moors can be and often are closed to the public, either for shooting or management. You can be asked to leave and technically you are probably trespassing, so it’s best to check on the CROW website which moors are closed and when. Meaning access to the moors is now dependent on access to the internet. Back in the old days, it used to be a few chosen words with a gamekeeper followed by a game of cat and mouse as you tried to evade them whilst still crossing the moor you had just been instructed to leave, such is progress.
A guide book may seem a bit outdated, old technology of no real relevance to today. After all you can download any number of walks in a flash onto a smartphone and have that take you along without any effort from yourself. I don’t suppose there is anything wrong in that, it gives Mountain Rescue plenty to do when the phone has died and the person is lost, late and trembling. I like the feel of paper though and to sit flicking through routes and interesting facts whilst my finger traces a line on a map. There is something comforting about that.