Posts tagged ‘Peak District’

July 23, 2014

Baking at the Bleaklow Stones

by backpackingbongos

Geoff and Tilly offered their company for a short, sweet and sweaty night on Bleaklow in the Peak District. They were duly picked up from chez Crowther and transported to Old Glossop where I parked the car. This is a less than glamorous spot from which to start a walk onto the moors, a large factory dominating the end of Shepley Street. There is however plenty of parking close to the start of the Doctors Gate track.

Both of our packs weighed a tonne, or to be more accurate 20 kilos each. With a trip to Sarek getting closer I wanted to get used to a heavy pack on rough terrain. I had also dug out my old Lowe Alpine ‘beast’ as I will be carrying ten days supplies on that trek. I wanted to check that it was comfy and up for the job. Another reason why both our rucksacks were so heavy was because of all the water we were carrying. We had five litres each, hopefully enough to last until the following afternoon. The moors were parched and it was not worth the risk of camping high and dry without anything to drink and cook with. Water is bloody heavy. Reuben carried his own water supply with two litres in his panniers.

Total Distance  – 18.5 kilometres with 500 metres ascent

Bleaklow stones

The climb onto Bleaklow via Yellow Slacks was a hot and humid one. Although late afternoon the temperature had failed to dip and I felt every gramme of my monster load. I’m glad that Geoff was equally as laden, it’s always easier if someone else is sharing the struggle. Reuben and Tilly had more life in them but were also taking things easy.

There was actually water flowing in the upper reaches of Yellowslacks Brook, at least what was in my pack was not the colour of ale. The infant stream led us to the Hern Stones, a good spot for a break before picking up the Pennine Way to Bleaklow Head.

The plan was to camp in the vicinity of Bleaklow Stones, across what used to be a wade through oozing black peat hags. It’s been a while since I have visited this side of Bleaklow and was amazed at the transformation after the recent regeneration project. The plateau is now a prairie of lush grass, no longer the dark and foreboding place it used to be. I have to say that all that grass played havoc with both myself and Geoff’s hay fever. Until I got back to the car the next afternoon it was the worst it has been for years.

I think that it is fair to say we were both a bit sloppy with the navigation on the way to Bleaklow Stones. First of all we got lured into following the path that leads into Near Black Clough. Realising our mistake we got back on track and then found ourselves veering too far south. The Bleaklow plateau is no knife-edge ridge and even in clear conditions can be a confusing place.

The grass near the stones is lush and lumpy but we both managed to find a good place to pitch our tents. It was late by the time we had done this and the sun was ready to dip below the horizon. It’s not often that you can watch the sun set from a high level camp in just a t-shirt, I did not need to put anything warmer on all night. A pleasant evening was spent emptying the contents of my hip flask before retiring to our respective tents to sneeze the night away.

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I woke just after dawn to find Reuben sitting upright with his back to me, the odour then hit me. He had managed to regurgitate his dinner into a large pile of stinking mess. Not only that but he had done so in the inner of a tent that I was using for the first time. Thank you Reuben. It took a while to mop up, especially considering that I did not really have the tools for the job with me. When I finally settled back down to sleep I kept one eye open, ready to leap into action and let him out in case he decided he needed to get more out of his system.

I think it may have been Reuben that woke up Tilly in Geoff’s tent. He did not get much sleep after that when a big brown labrador decided it was getting up time.

The hot sun had me up early anyway, it’s hard to sleep when slowly being roasted. We had a lazy couple of hours around camp before packing up and setting off. My hayfever was still really bad and I was beginning to feel dreadful. I was actually looking forward to getting back to the car, winding up the windows and putting on the aircon.

We did much better at navigating back towards Bleaklow Head, this time following the widely spaced wooden poles along the ridge. Once back on the Pennine Way we saw the first people since leaving the car the previous afternoon. The nearby summit of the Snake Pass road gives very easy access to the high moors.

At the junction of Doctors Gate Geoff and I parted ways, he heading for home in Hayfield via Kinder Scout, Reuben and I returning to the car via Shelf Brook. I took my time on the Doctors Gate path, stopping frequently to rest in the hot sun, making sure that the panting Reuben drank lots of water. I had not come this way before, a grand valley leading directly into Old Glossop. It was with relief that I got back to the car and ditched the heavy pack. The hay fever and heat had wiped me out, I’m not sure if I had lost most of my fluids through sweat or snot.

Once again a short and reasonably local backpack had provided a great weekend escape from work and city living.

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July 2, 2014

A night at the Grinah Stones

by backpackingbongos

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.

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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.

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May 9, 2014

A last minute night on the Howden Moors

by backpackingbongos

With a four day bank holiday I had planned to stay at home and relax. However come the Friday afternoon I found myself feeling restless. Two whole weeks had passed since I had slept outside, the wild camping addiction is a hard one to break. Maps were taken off the shelf and a quick and easy backpack was devised, leading to a spot I have fancied pitching on for a while. Texts and emails were exchanged with Rich and Chrissie and plans were made.

Rich and I met with Chrissie in a lay-by on Bradfield Moor at 5.00pm, just as the day trippers were heading home. She was dropped off by Geoff her husband / chauffeur / maker of fine cakes. He would pick us up at noon the following day from the Strines Inn a few miles away. That meant that we could do a good circuit on the moors without any road walking.

The bridleway of the Dukes road meant that we made good progress across the moor, until we left it at the head of Abbey Brook. Here the ground turned to awkward tussocks. We were in the land of the mountain hare, in every direction they ran, tails still with a hint of winter white. Reuben was quivering with the sheer excitement of it all. We passed a well camouflaged leveret, unnoticed by Reuben who walked within a few inches.

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We headed to the chosen camp spot, hopeful that the tussocks would disappear. They did to some extent, although the ground remained rather lumpy. A good spot to pitch the tents, a feeling of height with great views all around. Sadly the conditions were very murky, no chance of a sunset and rubbish light for photography.

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There was water within a five minute walk, although the colour of brown ale it was palatable after filtering. The stream we took it from even had a good beery froth to it.

Without a breath of wind we all sat outside to eat and socialise until after dark, the first time I have sat outside late this year. Reuben had kindly carried a couple of cans of beer for me in his panniers. It was a treat drinking them on the moor. A nice convivial evening.

The wind did pick up in the night, shaking the exposed tents. After spending the last trip in my Trailstar I had forgotten just how warm and cosy a ‘proper’ tent can be. Despite a period of doggy dreams where Reuben did a bit of wuffing and a mini howl (I reckon his head was full of mountain hares) I slept really well.

We woke early to wind-blown drizzle, the world outside looking less than appealing. Our agreed setting off time was not until 10.00am so I had a relaxing laze with lots of coffee and the compulsory bacon Supernoodles. Rich even made a delivery of homemade banana and chocolate muffins. I had a very full belly by the time we hoisted our packs and walked into the drizzle.

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We headed for Back Tor, initially along Cartledge Stones Ridge. Thankfully soon after setting off the rain stopped and a hazy sun came out. Three sets of Paramo were hastily packed away.

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Back Tor is a great spot, its rocky summit reminiscent of Dartmoor. It is an easy scramble to its trig point, although it took some pushing and lifting to get Reuben up there.

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A simple yomp down Foulstone Road led us quickly to the Strines Inn and a waiting Geoff. It was then a short drive back to my car.

Another trip that shows that backpacking does not need to be a huge epic or involve much planning. Throw some gear in your pack at the last minute and pitch on a hill. Even more enjoyable with good company.

Chrissie’s version of events can be found here.

April 13, 2014

A nearly Black Hill slackpack

by backpackingbongos

I had not taken into account the Friday afternoon traffic, therefore it was gone 4.00pm when I pulled into the car park at Crowden. As I was getting my kit together I have to say that I was a little perturbed by the pile of broken glass behind my car.  A popular spot next to the busy A628 meant that it was not the most salubrious place to leave a vehicle overnight.

The campsite was filling with weekend visitors as we passed by, a queue developing at the barrier by reception.  We left the organised ranks of caravans and started the climb towards the disused quarry above Brockholes wood.  A guy returning back to the campsite said that he was envious that I was going to spend the night on the moor.  With blue skies and light winds I was glad that I was.

The last people I would see that day were passed as we started along the track that contours above Crowden Little Brook.  This really is a delightful walk into surprisingly wild country, considering the main Sheffield to Manchester road is nearby.  The path stays level for much of the length, providing an easy promenade into the the hidden depths of the valley.

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The path eventually turns into a sheep trod as it approaches Wiggin Clough.  I had originally planned to continue up to the summit of Black Hill.  However I really could not be arsed.  We sat by the stream for a while for a snack (well I had a snack whilst Reuben watched intently).   A change of plan then saw us climb steep slopes above the clough.

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It was a rough slosh across Siddens, the hillside being littered with an aircraft wreck.  It was surprising just how far the debris was scattered. Overhead planes were making their descent to Manchester Airport, spoiling any feeling of remoteness.

I had a spot in mind in which to pitch the tent, so we headed across trackless ground to the head of Crowden Great Brook.

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I located a great flat, tussock free spot to pitch on.  It was about as hidden from prying eyes as its possible to be.  I reckon that you could camp there for a week and not be spotted.  I’m not saying where it is, get out a map and match the photos to the contours.  A good way to boost map reading skills.

I was very keen not to have to drop all the way down into the main valley to fill up my water bottles.  I ended up finding a boggy hollow and skimmed reasonably clear water off the top.  It was well worth carrying a water filter which soon made it palatable.

Once again I had brought my large and heavy Voyager tent, a comfy palace for myself and Reuben.  After darkness I climbed the nearby rocky outcrop and failed to get a good enough mobile signal to call my wife.  However it was good to stand there in the darkness, the outlines of the surrounding hills just about visible.  Back at the tent I only managed to read for half hour before falling asleep.

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I must have felt relaxed as I did not wake until 9.00am and it was 11.30am before I had packed up.  A cold wind hinted at rain later that day. We climbed to the twin rocky outcrops to take in the fantastic view.  I had been tempted to pitch up there but was glad that I had not as the wind would have been too brisk for a comfortable camp.

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We headed up the valley for a short distance before crossing the stream and heading south on the Pennine Way.  Here I met a nice couple and their terrier which had its own tiny panniers.  Its barking and lunging turned out to be a way of attracting Reuben as she soon offered him her rear end.  This offer passed unnoticed by my innocent dog.

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Above Laddow Rocks we headed west to the undefined summit of Black Chew Head, an easy bag to add to my list of Dewey hills. Laddow Rocks however are rather impressive, leading the eye towards the brooding hulk of Bleaklow.

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We simply followed the Pennine Way back to Crowden, passing this sign that almost tempted me to see if the nearby bogs were dangerous.

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I was relieved to find the car where I had left it with all its windows intact.

May 6, 2013

The Roaches from Gradbach

by backpackingbongos

I probably should be taking training for the TGO Challenge more seriously.  I originally had planned to go for another backpack, but after the previous weekend exertions in Allendale I really could not be bothered.  Instead I decided on a really long day walk in the Peaks, getting used to miles under my feet, that sort of thing.  However I ended up getting up too late and got a bit lost on the drive as I decided I could do better than my satnav.  Therefore it was not far off noon when Reuben led me out of the almost deserted car park in Gradbach.  The mileage would have to be far shorter than planned.

17 kilometres with 600 metres ascent

Roaches

My usual route when walking the Roaches is to ascend via Lud’s Church, a fine rocky chasm hidden in the woods.  Fancying a bit of new ground we followed the Dane Valley Way.  We walked the section as far as Danebridge, a very pleasant stroll in the spring sunshine.  There were views across to Shuttingsloe, which is often comically referred to as the ‘Cheshire Matterhorn’.  It does have a slightly pointy top though.

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Just before reaching the road a concessionary path led us steeply up through some woods and past Hangingstone farm.  I did not know that the nearby Hanging stone had a concessionary path to it so I admired it from a distance.  Although to be honest I could not really be bothered to climb up any further.

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I had never walked the wedge of moorland named Back Forest on the map.  Judging from the path along the wide ridge it does not get as much foot traffic as the nearby Roaches.  It gave a pleasant airy walk, the odd outcrop providing some visual interest and somewhere to plonk Reuben so I could take a photo.

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The Roaches itself was strangely devoid of people, a nice surprise considering that it can be such a honeypot.  However the lack of people was balanced by the sheer amount of tissues that littered the path.  How can people be so careless when blowing their nose?

The weather forecast had promised heavy thundery showers and I watched a few drift by in the distance.  However, because I was keen to test out a new waterproof jacket we managed to spend the day under a small patch of blue that moved with us.  The Roaches provide a high level promenade without much effort required once height has been gained.

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Reuben has a special knack of enthusiastically greeting people who are not too keen on him.  He went bowling over to one couple sitting having a break to introduce himself to their small spaniel.  I was told that their dog was nervous so both myself and Reuben sloped off with our tails between our legs.

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Past Doxey pool and there was a voluntary diversion in place to avoid nesting Peregrine Falcons.  We took the right of way to the left which sadly misses out some of the best views towards Hen cloud.  We were soon out of the wind where I found a perfect spot to sit and have a late lunch whilst Reuben looked on forlornly.

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I started thinking that if I got home early enough I could share a curry takeaway with my wife.  Suddenly the idea of climbing Hen Cloud and looping up and over Ramshaw rocks became much less appealing.  I was now motivated by my stomach rather than any notion of increasing my fitness.  Ramshaw Rocks looked impressive on the horizon as we lost height.

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A farm track led us onto a lane which we followed for a mile or so.  During lunch I had decided that my new waterproof would not be tested by any of the showers that appeared to purposely be missing us.  However with it tucked safely in my rucksack a beefy hailstorm came along and gave us both a battering for a few minutes.

There was a bovine blockage whilst walking through the fields above Black Brook.  Every eye was on Reuben as we passed through cows with calves and then a group of bouncy young males.  I kept as close to the wall as possible in case I needed to make a hasty retreat.  The cows thankfully were no bother but a couple of the boys were much braver.  It took a bit of jumping up and down and waving of arms to stop their advance.  Dogs and cows really do not mix very well.  Cows aside it is a nice scenic section.

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Back at the car I realised that we were ten kilometres short of what I had planned.  I will have to train properly for the TGO Challenge whilst actually walking it.  On the positive side I got home early enough to order a lovely curry.

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