Archive for April 25th, 2011

April 25, 2011

The Howden Moors from Kings Tree

by backpackingbongos

There is something special about the drive up the Upper Derwent valley.  You leave the busy Snake Pass behind and head towards the popular Fairholmes visitor centre along the shores of Ladybower.  This is about as far as most people go and usually at weekends the road that eventually leads to the turning circle at Kings Tree is closed to Traffic.  A great idea as it means that the upper valley is safe and quiet for those that want to cycle, a cheap frequent bus service shuttles up and down the valley for hikers who want to reach the remoter stretches.  However on the day I did this walk it was a Saturday in March and the road was open.

Leaving Fairholmes it often feels to me that you are leaving the Peak District behind and entering another much wilder world.  The narrow road that twists and turns along Derwent and Howden reservoirs takes me in my mind to Mid Wales.  I passed no other vehicle on the few miles and there was only one other at the head of the valley where I left the van behind and set off into the wildest part of the Peaks.

11.3 miles with 730 metres ascent

The walk up the broad track to Slippery Stones is one that I have done many time before and one that I never tire of.  I can feel that I am getting further into the folds of the surrounding heathery heights.  A popular spot for picnicking in the summer but deserted on this visit.

Instead of delving deeper into the hills Reuben and I turned south and headed back to Fairholmes but this time on the track that skirts the east of Howden Reservoir.  The plan was to head to one of my favourite little valleys, or cloughs as they are known in this part of the world.  The retrospective views back up the way we had come looked lovely in the early spring Sunshine.

Abbey Brook is Dark Peak perfection, a steep valley which twists and turns its way onto the plateau.  These steep-sided cloughs are the best way to get onto the hills and it is always a joy to enter their hidden depths.  Abbey brook starts off tree-lined and a good track climbs high above the valley giving good easy progress.

The trees are soon left behind and much wilder country is entered.

The main track soon heads up towards Back Tor on the horizon and this is where most hikers also continue on to.  However a narrow path continues towards the head of the dale and it was along this that myself and Reuben put boot and paw.

A lofty perch was chosen for lunch, steep slopes falling to the river below.  There was one moment of excitement when Reuben started to roll about on his back.  He went the wrong way and slid a few metres head first with his paws in the air.  It was so much fun that he repeated the same action a couple of times.  Luckily he had an extendable lead connected to his harness, just in case gravity took full control!

Towards the head of the valley the contours gather ever closer together, tributaries needing to be crossed and map carefully checked to ensure the correct one is finally chosen to lead into the heart of the plateau.

Reaching the moorland after the deep cloughs can be a bit of an anti-climax, today being no different as the now infant stream snaked its indirect way towards Featherbed Moss.  Being in a wide boggy bowl the views were restricted so we headed across featureless ground until the edge was reached at Wet Stones.

There were no sheep or anyone around so Reuben was trusted off lead, I know that dogs cannot smile but the expression on his face said it all.  He happily raced up and down, nose pressed into the ground in full on hoover mode.  He had just enough time to model for the camera on the outcrops of High stones.

There was one moment of embarrassment when he suddenly spotted a couple of hikers a few hundred metres away coming over the horizon.  He was suddenly off at a great pace of knots to give them some love, totally ignoring my calls to come back.  He has a typical terrier trait of not being able to run and use his ears at the same time.  I set off at a trot behind him ready to offer my apologies to the couple who he was inflicting his canine love onto.  Luckily they thought it funny that he approached them with such gusto, jumping up and covering them with licks.  The guy commenting that Reuben appeared to be enjoying the hills.  He is now booked on dog training classes at the end of June to try to teach him better recal and manners.  I am not sure that other people would be so happy to see a large staffy type hound bound towards them at great speed considering the bad press they receive.

After sharing his love he was kept at a firm heel, getting called back whenever he got more than a couple of metres away.  It was hard work but worth it when we successfully passed a few sheep.  His attention was kept focused on me and I was really proud that he showed no interest in the funny looking fluffy things.

The trig on Margery hill was briefly patted and we then made our way down the bridleway of Cut Gate into Cranberry Clough and then back to the van via Slippery Stones.

The Bongo was a solitary vehicle at the road head when I returned.  Down on the valley bottom the air was completely still and there was not even a ripple on the surface of the reservoir.  Night was fast approaching and on evenings like this I often regret not having gear with me that would allow an overnight stay in the hills.

Driving back along the reservoirs I passed the Howden dam.  With the water like a mirror and the reservoir full to the top of the dam, I got the illusion of a giant infinity pool.  The glassy surface of the reservoir simply ended in mid-air.  Magical.