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.
Last year I walked one of my favourite routes in the Dark Peak. I followed a bed of Kinderscout Gritstone for several miles, using its vertical edges to cross the landscape.
Kinderscout gritstone is interspersed with layers of shale and mudstones. These can often be seen exposed in sharply incised cloughs, where a stream has cut through the edge of the gritstone bed and revealed its many layers. Going up or down a clough can literally take you through millions of years.
In places the gritstone is 150m thick and at Crow edge both the top and bottom edges of a gritstone layer can be seen. Kinderscout gritstone tilts both south and east as it flows down the Upper Derwent Valley from Swains and form one half of the watershed. To the north and west gritstone mixes with the coal measures of Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Bleaklow Stones, Barrow Stones, are good examples of gritstone left behind through erosion. Bleaklow Stones is a particularly good example, it is as if someone just walked away from a game of marbles. The Horse Stone is similar but has weathered differently showing a the wind sanding down the softer layers to leave a pancake stack effect. In places erosion has weathered the gritstone to form precariously balanced rocking stones, some of the best place to see this is on the tors and outcrops, Crow Stones is I think the best example.
Following a geological walk gives me a very different experience of the landscape and leads to areas well off the beaten path which often reward with wonderful surprises.
The other day I did a spot of checking for one of the walks in my Dark Peak book. It is always a quandary when I have more than one possible route. Which will be of more interest and why. Some routes are better at certain times of year, or have a completely different character. Walk on Bleaklow in summer with the cotton grass, golden plover, common lizards and bilberries and then do the same walk in deep winter, with windswept snow and ice and only the white mountain hare and a few brave walkers for company and you have two very different experiences.
Abbey Brook is a case in point, not so much for the seasons, although it presents a different face at each turn, but because there are so many walks that can lead to it. That is not by accident either, Abbey Brook was a major route across the area in the past. The area was owned by Welbeck Abbey who used it for sheep and the monastic outpost that was situated in this cleft in the hillside was connected to the Grange at Crookhill a little further down the valley by a path. On the moorland above tracks fed into Abbey Brook from North, East and South, the small valley providing easy access to the west.
One of the most prominent was the Dukes Road, named after the Duke of Norfolk, which led from Bar Dike over on Mortimer Road to Abbey Brook and onwards west or alternatively Bradfield Gate and Derwent Village. One of several ways to head east to west in the age before roads. The route was always public until the Duke decided to close it for his Grouse Shooting.
GHB Ward of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers was none too impressed and was convinced it was a public right of way and carried out research to prove so. It was decided to make a stand, this was several months after the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout and things were still tense between walkers and land owners. On Sunday 18th September 1932 several hundred walkers set off from Malin Bridge in Sheffield and headed towards Broomhead Moor and the Dukes Road. They were intent on walking on to Bradfield Gate and returning back to Malin Bridge. All seemed to go well with only the odd Gamekeeper spotted. That was until the reached Cartledge Bents overlooking Abbey Clough, where the Dukes men attempted to stop their progress. A small fracas ensued before the walkers were allowed to proceed unhindered.
The protest did not make the news nor the impact they probably desired and this was very likely due to the outcry that had followed the Kinder Mass Trespass and the imprisonment of the so called ring leaders. Nonetheless, a further blow had been made for walkers.
It must have been a fantastic site to see hundreds of walkers marching down the Dukes Road. Today you get the odd group of Ramblers, some fell runners and the lone single walker.
I have researched the route the mass trespass took from the Tram sheds at Malin Bridge and will walk the route come spring, who knows it may well make it in to the book. It might be nice to have two trespasses.
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.
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.