The road along the Derwent reservoirs to its terminus at Kings Tree is shut on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer. This makes this exceptionally popular area much more pleasant, especially for the cyclists doing a circuit of the reservoirs. A regular shuttle bus can however drop walkers off at various points along the way when the road is shut. The current timetable is here, if anyone is thinking of a weekend trip.
I had the good fortune to be off work on a Thursday and Friday which just happened to correspond with a spell of excellent weather. It was late afternoon when we arrived at Kings Tree and there were only a handful of cars left parked on the verge. Soon after setting off towards Slippery Stones we passed the last person we would see until late the following morning. That’s one of the greatest benefits of backpacking, you can have the hills to yourself when everyone else has gone home. You can then go home when everyone else arrives.
The walk to the head of the Derwent is an easy one along a land rover track. The surrounding hillsides and trees were almost a luminous green, the type you only get for a couple of weeks at the beginning of summer. The bracken which was only just starting to unfurl and cloak the hillsides added to the myriad of greenery.
Reuben happily trotted alongside, the warmth at the end of the day preventing him from racing about. In the summer I have to stop frequently and fill his bowl with water as he does not always think to have a drink out of a stream or puddle. Planning ahead for waterless stretches is not his best attribute.
The river was easy to cross and water bottles were filled. Five litres are heavy but I wanted plenty for myself and the dog to last until late the following morning. It would be unlikely there would be any flowing higher up on the moor. Unfortunately it had the colour and consistency of Newcastle Brown Ale, even down to a nice frothy head. I was glad of my water filter.
Climbing towards the Barrow Stones, two huge planes (no idea what as I’m not an aviation or military buff) flew over the ridge in front and down below me into the Derwent valley. It was an impressive sight and over all too quickly. I’m assuming that it was to do with the D Day commemorations that weekend.
The evening light was now as perfect as it can get, blue skies and endless views north across the South Pennines. It was warm with no wind and the midges had yet to wake up. It was only the constant air traffic going to and from Manchester airport that was a reminder of being sandwiched between two major cities.
Years ago I had picked out a potential wild camping spot close to the Grinah Stones. I remembered it as being flat, well-drained and with impressive views. My memory must be failing me as when we got there it was lumpy, sloping and very boggy. The view was good though. I spent at least half an hour walking around searching for somewhere suitable for the Trailstar. Everywhere was either deep heather and bilberry or soaking wet bog. In the end I found somewhere that would just have to do. It was very squelchy underfoot and hard to get the pegs to hold sufficiently to stop the shelter from collapsing. Luckily I had brought a Tyvek groundsheet which was put under the Oooknest to stop the bog seeping through. It was pretty much dark when I had finished with there just being time to watch the sun as it dipped below the main bulk of Bleaklow.
Soft bogs are comfortable to sleep on, although getting in and out of the Trailstar without getting my trousers wet was difficult. I ended up doing a manoeuvre that resembled a badly performed Cossack dance. This was performed at speed once the sun hit the shelter in the morning as the temperature suddenly shot up from comfortable to boiling. It was during this exit that I realised Reuben’s sleeping pad had been placed at the edge of a red ants nest. Despite his often sad looking face he is a stoical dog.
A nearby rock doubled up as a breakfast bar and I sat watching the distant rush hour traffic move silently across the Snake Pass. Coffee and noodles cooked with dark brown water. Reuben’s meaty pouch was served straight on the grass.
Packed up we headed down steep slopes on a narrow path to the head of Grinah Grain, where I found clear and cold running water. It was good to drink deeply without the metallic taste peaty water brings.
Surprisingly for a National Park the surrounding ground had been trashed by vehicles driving directly over the soft peat. This headed in the direction of a set of newly built grouse butts. It branches off from the well established track that serves the shooting cabins in Lower Small Clough. This is a hellish eyesore as it gouges its way through deep peat on the plateau. Why can’t grouse shooters walk?
An old ditch called Black Dike gave a handrail along the top of the moor which was left at the head of Linch Clough. Here a narrow trod was picked up and followed along the top as the ground dropped steeply away. Before the final descent back to the car a handy outcrop was in a good position for Reuben to do one of his mountain poses. The breeze wafting from the valley below was welcome before I joined the throngs at the snack kiosk at Fairholmes.