For a map of this route click here.
My backpacking plans were once again put on hold for another weekend. A tiring day on the Friday followed by a last minute trip to the vets meant that my enthusiasm for a long drive that evening was pretty low. I then did a check of the mountain weather for the weekend and Sunday was now showing as having 80mph winds and blizzards on the hills. I sat on the sofa and sulked a bit. I still had a strong urge to visit some hills so decided to get up early the next morning and head to the Peak District for a day walk instead.
As I drove towards the upper Derwent valley I noticed that Win hill had a dusting of snow, once I had turned onto the Snake Pass the snow level dropped to the valley bottom with even a bit of slushy stuff on the road. The plan had been to park up in the layby at Birchen Clough but as I approached Alport bridge I noticed there were no cars parked. There is room for a couple of vehicles on the verge of the track leading to the River Ashop and I got the Bongo in after a 20 point turn.
10.2 miles with 620 metres ascent
I had a rough plan for the day, this being to follow the River Alport to Grains in the Water then picking up the Pennine Way before finally walking back through the Woodlands valley. I ended up doing a completely different route! I followed the track up the Alport valley and through the yard of Alport farm. The aim was to keep on following the course of the river through the entire length of this beautiful valley, my personal favourite in the Peaks. However the snow was wet, slushy and slippery and there is a bit of scrambling and contouring of very steep slopes further up the valley. The mist was also covering the higher slopes like a thick blanket so I decided to explore Alport castles first and if the mist lifted take the easier high level route to Grains in the Water.
From Alport farm I could see a wooden cabin up on the hillside that looked worth exploring on the way to the Castle. So after crossing the river I took a traversing climb towards it. Although pretty ancient it is still in good condition and provided me with some refuge from the fine cold misty drizzle that had started to fall. There were two rooms, one complete with sleeping platforms although there are plenty of gaps in the walls to let in a few drafts.
A couple of cups of coffee later I left the hut and continued up the valley on a contouring line before doubling back on myself to pick up the right of way to Alport Castle. As I climbed higher the snow became thicker and deeper and gave off a satisfying crunch as I walked through it. On the negative side I also entered the mist and found myself in a monochrome world.
The Castle loomed up out of the mist but was not really worth exploring as it came and went from view, a short climb later and I was on the edge of the moorland plateau. I now had a decision to make, head for Grains in the Water or head south to Crook hill, a route I had cobbled together whilst in the wooden cabin. It was a no brainer for me with absolutely no point in spending the entire day in mist, I headed south following the line of a broken wall which was the only feature of note in this white misty world.
There was a moment when the sky started to turn blue just before the mist suddenly parted giving murky views down into the Alport and Woodland valleys. My hope that the day was starting to brighten was quickly dashed when the mist returned as densely as before.
The walk towards Crook hill was disappointing in the mist as when I have done it before the views have been extensive. Moorland was soon left behind as the path goes through soft and squelchy pastures with the twin rocky peaks of Crook hill rising ahead.
It is a short easy climb to the first rocky top and even in the grey conditions there were extensive 360 degree views. My eye was led towards the white bulk of Kinder scout and I could also make out Lose Hill and Mam Tor, visible above the forested Hope Cross ridge.
I decided that the next slightly lower summit would be a good place for coffee and lunch as the views are slightly better, I found a comfy spot nestled between the rocks and out of the developing breeze.
I descended the ridge of the hill southwards across tussocky moorland until a stone wall marking open access land was reached, this was followed to a bridleway that descended down to the busy Snake Pass road. I then had no choice except to follow the narrow verge for roughly a kilometre whilst wing mirrors almost brushed my elbows, definitely not a road designed for walkers or cyclists! With relief I took a track that crosses the river at the end of Ladybower reservoir and took a succession of pleasant paths alongside the river back to Alport bridge.
Whilst the weather remains too poor for backpacking I look forward to continue exploring the Peak District on day walks. Although unplanned, this walk had been great excercise for the body and mind.