Posts tagged ‘Peak District’

August 15, 2015

Slackpacking North Peak Grit

by backpackingbongos

Although only a couple of hundred metres from the thundering A628, the car park for Arnfield reservoir feels a million miles away. Turn your back on the lorries and noise and the view is the western edge of the Peak District moors.

After parking I asked at the cafe if it would be ok to leave the car overnight, they confirmed that it was so we shouldered our packs and picked up the track around the reservoir. It’s been a while since I have backpacked with my good friend Rae, so we caught up with each other, accompanied by the crunch of gravel under our shoes.

It was a steep pull up the Pennine Bridleway and we were soon slowing, the early afternoon proving to be warm under the summer sun.


A concessionary path is shown on the OS map above Ogden Clough and Ornes Moor. We found the start but it was quickly lost amongst tussocky grass, heather and bracken. Not particularly tough but enough to warrant the pulling on of gaiters to stop my shoes filling with prickly heather. The views were good towards various conurbations and across the Cheshire plain to the west. We guessed that hills on the far horizon were in Wales.


We eventually picked up the path again as it crossed Ogden Brook, an unmistakable groove through the heather. At the top of Ornes Moor we came to an area simply called Wilderness. I’m not sure about the wilderness tag but I would imagine that it would be tough going after plenty of rain or when the cloud has come down. The large areas of bare peat were easy enough in the dry conditions, when wet you would be at risk of losing a shoe or simply disappearing altogether.

The crunchy bog slog however was worth it when we got to the escarpment overlooking the deeply incised Chew Valley. Pretty much right on the edge of the urban sprawl it is still a spectacular place, as good a spot as any other in the National Park. The area around Dove Stone reservoir can get very busy and there were a few families walking up the access road to the higher Chew reservoir. However we had the edges to ourselves.



The narrow edge path took us to Chew reservoir where a well-defined path led across Laddow Moss to the spectacular Laddow Rocks. With exposed drops below, views to Bleaklow and big fluffy clouds drifting across the sky it was an impressive place to be in the late afternoon light.


I have established a favourite place to wild camp nearby, so we followed the Pennine Way for a bit before leaving it for wet trackless ground. The secluded little spot was as good as last time so tents were quickly pitched.




After dinner I had a little wander around some nearby outcrops but was soon driven back into my tent by the midges.


I had for the first time brought with me just a light summer quilt, something I will not be repeating. Despite a relatively mild summer night I found myself cold in the early hours, drafts sneaking in from all angles. I was thankful for the sun that warmed me up in the morning. So glad in fact that I slept through the alarm that I had set.

After a leisurely start we were once again heading along the Pennine Way, south this time. On the path we came across a beautiful male Northern Eggar moth. I picked it up to move it to somewhere It would not get squashed as there was a day hiker chomping at the bit to get past (he had no interest in stopping to look at a moth).


Our route took us nearly all the way down to Crowden before we picked up a path through the bracken that climbed up towards Millstone Rocks and Lad’s Leap.



This is a route that I have only done once, many years ago. It is memorable because I left a library book up there one sunny afternoon, only realising on the train home. It is obviously long gone now, and the fine was paid anyway.




Throughout the late morning and early afternoon the clouds had been building from the west. A brooding wall of murk that had blotted out the long distance views. Descending into Arnfield Brook the storm suddenly hit. The wind picked up, gusting close to gale force and big fat drops of rain fell. Thunder rumbled above us, dark clouds rolling onto and covering the moors. I was thankful that we had descended in time.


July 25, 2015

Across the Peaks – Ashbourne to Hayfield

by backpackingbongos

I have always fancied walking across the Peak District from south to north taking in the best parts of the National Park. Before setting off on the TGO Challenge I planned to do just that as a way to get fit. However when I actually sat down with maps to plan a route it became apparent that it was too far for a three day weekend. The original idea was to go from Ashbourne to Marsden, but in the end Ashbourne to Hayfield was much more manageable at 63 kilometres and 1700 metres ascent. The route went through a great variety of landscapes, from deep dales to high moorland. It’s good fun linking areas that you know well from day walks into a long linear route. You get to see them from a different perspective, a small part of a bigger picture.

Wild camping is difficult in the Peaks, especially in the south. Rather than staying in large commercial sites I booked two Certified Locations that are affiliated to the Camping and Caravan Club. Chrissie joined me for the weekend and she helped with the travel logistics. Her husband Geoff picked me up from Monyash where I left the car and dropped us both in Ashbourne. Chrissie lives in Hayfield so after finishing she dropped me off in Monyash. It all worked rather well.

Anyway, rather than a blow by blow account of the walk, here are a few photos and comments.


Thorpe Cloud, a mini mountain that guards the entrance to Dove Dale.



Lin Dale, leading towards the famous stepping stones in Dove Dale.



Looking down at Dove Holes, Dove Dale.



Early spring in Upper Dove Dale.



Wolfscote Dale.



Campsite at Pilsbury Lodge. A bit overpriced at £10 each and spoiled by the hyperactive screaming children who were running round until 10.30pm.



Crossing the Limestone plateau just past the Bull-i’-th’-Thorn pub. 



Descending into Deep Dale.



Descending into Litton Dale.



Looking towards Tideswell Dale.



Millers Dale from the Monsal Trail.



The lower reaches of Monks Dale before it gets tricky.



The wooded section of Monks Dale is a chaos of slippery limestone rocks, tree roots, mud and vegetation. We were relieved to leave that behind and follow a simple path through the woods.



A lovely little campsite in Peak Forest that is basically someones back garden. A bargain at £8 between us.



Climbing out of Peak Forest.



On the limestone plateau above Conies Dale.



Rushup edge looking towards Mam Tor and loads of paragliders. Mam Tor and its surroundings were swamped with people on a fine Sunday. Rushup edge was all but deserted.



Looking down into the Edale valley with Kinder Scout on the skyline.



Crossing Moorland en-route to Brown Knoll.



Looking down to the upper River Sett.



South Head.

Three days of glorious spring sunshine and with good company from Chrissie. What the photos don’t show are the numerous stops for ice cream, cafe’s and a pub. Sometimes it is good to backpack away from wild and remote mountains.

You can read Chrissie’s version of the trip here.

February 14, 2015

Kinder – A night with a mermaid

by backpackingbongos

Mild weather and rain during the week had washed away most of the snow in the Peak District. A disappointment considering the amount that had fallen the previous weekend.

I had received an invite from Geoff and Chrissie to join them on a short backpack from Hayfield to Kinder Scout. They had just received a labrador friendly tent and were keen to test it. By the time I had driven over, eaten their food and drank their coffee it was late in the afternoon when we finally set off. Just three short hours before it got dark.

With it being their local stomping ground I left my map in my pack and followed them to Kinder Reservoir via a circuitous route through Little Hayfield and along White Brow.



From Hayfield I have always gone up Kinder via William Clough or Sandy Heys, so it was new territory for me as we followed the path around the northern side of the reservoir. It was then pathless as we headed up the Kinder River.



Geoff set off at a cracking pace along the river to Peter Nook woods, Chrissie following behind. Reuben thought that it would be better for us to have a slow amble up the path along the upper edge of the woods. The tortoise got to the Mermaids pool ten minutes before the hare.


I arrived at the pool exactly at the same time as another chap with his Labrador, he having the same idea of a nice quiet wild camp. I however was intent on a grassy shelf a couple of hundred metres further on. The area surrounding Mermaids pool is a bit on the soggy side to be honest.

Chrissie and Geoff managed to get their brand new tent up without too much fuss, good going considering that there was a keen wind and they had only pitched it once in the garden. My Wickiup gave me a bit of trouble to start with. Being tall it is difficult to get the flysheet on when fighting against the wind. Reuben chose to shelter behind a tussock rather than offering any help.

Because of the windchill it was not an evening to sit outside socialising so we hung out in our individual tents. The most exciting moment being when Tilly came along to say hello and knocked over my coffee. Reuben is currently being trained to return the favour.




The wind had died down by morning and there was the beginnings of a blue sky. The mermaid had not come along and drowned me in the pool during the night, as per the legend. My only mermaid reference point is Daryl Hannah in Splash so I’m sure it would not have been an entirely unpleasant experience.

We did not pick the easiest way onto the plateau, taking a direct line up impossibly steep slopes. The remaining slushy snow was best avoided. My asthma inhaler just about managed to keep my airways open as my lungs worked overtime on the near vertical grass.




The going was much more pleasant on the path that winds its way along the edge of the plateau. Chrissie and Geoff put on their microspikes but I found picking a route from boulder to boulder much easier. Reuben and Tilly with their built-in spikes and Four Paw Drive had no problems at all.



Kinder Downfall had the appearance of a set of giant organ pipes, great icicles hanging from the rocks. It was undergoing a transition from being frozen to its more usual liquid state. We took the three Knolls path back down to the valley just as cloud and mist swept in from the west. The plateau was soon hidden and a Peter Kay rain fell. Luckily we were dressed in Paramo so we were all snug, warm and dry and in the Paramo comfort zone.

Cheese on toast back at chez Crowther set me up nicely for the drive back home.

January 31, 2015

Thundersnow and a freezing night on the Derwent Moors

by backpackingbongos

It had meant to be a sociable weekend camping on the high moors in the Peak District. However a threat of snow had folk dropping out at the last minute. My rucksack was already packed so I headed off anyway. I erred on the side of caution and took the Bongo with its 4WD, also somewhere to sleep if turned out to be snowmageddon.

The ground was decidedly snow free when I pulled the Bongo into the car park at Langsett. I was lucky to get a space as this popular spot was almost full, even on a raw winters day. The path along the north shore of the reservoir was busy and I ended up walking its length chatting to a local guy who regularly does the circuit. Although he has a health condition it has not diminished his love for his local hills and he tries to get out for a couple of hours as much as possible. We soon parted company and I continued to the west, parallel with the busy A616 and its constant growl of traffic.

A track led me south onto the moors, brown and foreboding with patches of snow remaining. The sky was grey and overcast adding to the bleakness. I passed the cabin at Upper Hordron and descended into Hordron Clough, a sheepfold providing a sheltered spot for a late lunch.

The plan had been to cross the moors to the south and head for a wild camp up on Bleaklow. Suddenly there was a rumbling noise which at first I though was a low flying aircraft, this was soon repeated much louder and I realised it was thunder. This is my biggest fear in the hills, having been caught out in exposed places in the past during some violent thunder storms. I beat a hasty retreat back down to the valley just as I was engulfed in a furious snow shower. Within minutes everything was white and the black clouds above continued to grumble their displeasure. The shower disappeared as quickly as it had arrived and I started climbing again, only to see black clouds once again gathering to the west. Sod it I thought, there was no way I was going onto the moors if there was a further risk of a thunderstorm.


In the end I decided to pitch on a nice flat grassy patch next to the stream. It was early but I was well placed to get onto the hills the following morning, where hopefully the promised sunshine would make an appearance.

Th next heavy shower arrived as I was pitching, the wind picking up and making the task more difficult than it should have been. It was with relief that I could brush myself free of snow and climb into the Wickiup and put on a brew. It was barely past 3.00pm but I was happy to have a lazy afternoon and it was unlikely that anyone would pass me just an hour or so before sunset.

The snow continued to fall for most of the night and I had to frequently bash the sides of my shelter to encourage it to slide off. At one point I even had to go out and remove some of the snow that had accumulated around the bottom of the Wickiup. With the inner taking up the whole of the shelter and with no porch I managed to bring in snow with me. Despite the cold I was snug inside and with good mobile reception I could watch the traffic reports, the busy road not that far away closing due to the conditions.

After a long sleep I was keen to get up before dawn, the world clear, windless and frozen solid. Stars still shone in the sky and the eastern horizon had a smudge of yellow. I enjoyed the crunch of virgin snow under my boots as I wandered round with a cup of coffee in hand. It was gone 9.00am by the time the sun reached camp, only warming me psychologically, the air remaining far below freezing. It was tough going taking down the Wickiup, the snow and frost nipping at my bare fingers as I wrestled with a frozen flysheet.




The stream was a black streak in the white snow but easily forded. I followed a faint track past some grouse butts before striking up across heather covered snow. The heather was knee-deep with a few inches of snow on top, not the easiest of walking.



Once on the plateau the ground was wind blasted, miles of white hills ran to the horizon towards the west. If I ignored the steady drone of traffic on the Woodhead pass I could have been on a remote hilltop in the Highlands. There were even a string of wind turbines nearby to give it that Scottish authenticity.



I wanted to pay the Crow Stones a visit, they were not very far away but I underestimated the toughness of the ground around Stainery Clough. I’m sure that the snow did not help as I attempted to cross various deep peat groughs.

The Crow stones however were worth the effort. They are located in a remote spot close to the head of the river Derwent, the huge bulk of Bleaklow beyond, Kinder Scout on the horizon. A welcome spot in which to get out of the wind and boil some water for a brew on my stove. One of the benefits of backpacking is having the kit to make a hot drink.




Weather was building again in the west as I packed up and headed towards the trig point on Outer Edge. It overtook me as I picked a way through the rocks, snow and mist blotting out the sun.


Visibility was seriously reduced on Outer Edge and it was a bleak crossing to get to the security of the Cut Gate path. I passed a couple of groups of runners, rather them than me with so little kit on such a day. A quick chat with a National Park Ranger on the summit of the pass before putting my head down and yomping back to the Bongo.

Luckily once down at valley level the snow had melted, no issues in getting home. A short and sweet route but it’s amazing how a few inches of snow transform the familiar into something much bigger and wilder.

December 21, 2014

Below, in and above the clouds on Kinder Scout

by backpackingbongos

The drive from Nottingham to the Peak District was through varying levels of fog, at times visibility was down to a couple of hundred metres. That did not stop the maniacs hurtling down the motorway with their lights off. Coming over the highest point of the road between Chinley and Hayfield the world suddenly materialised in front of me. My rear view mirror showed a wall of cloud, surprisingly solid it draped over the hills and filled the valleys.

I left the car at chez Crowther and set off towards Kinder with Chrissie and Reuben. Rather than the usual approach via Kinder Road we climbed up the Snake Path and went past the shooting cabin before dropping down into William Clough. The path as it contours White Brow is particularly enjoyable, it gives great views without much effort. Cloud was clinging to Kinder south of the Downfall but the plateau to the north was clear. We had originally planned to head for the Downfall but at the last minute decided to head for the northern edge with the hope of a scenic mist free wild camp.


Although living just below Kinder, Chrissie usually avoids William Clough due to the numbers of people who use the route onto the plateau. Thankfully we had it all to ourselves, it’s a pleasant and easy way to gain height. Sadly our hopes of a murk free walk were dashed when the bank of cloud engulfed us. This was atmospheric though as it would often thin out allowing shafts of sunlight to penetrate. The surrounding hills would appear before disappearing again, distance being distorted.



It was totally clagged in as we reached the moors below Mill Hill and started the final climb onto the northern edge of Kinder. Suddenly there was a hint of blue above, the cloud thinning and breaking before closing in again. We were teased a few times before the clouds suddenly parted and dropped below us. The setting sun lit them from below turning them into a bubbling fiery cauldron, the moorland cast a golden glow.




We contoured high above the northern edge looking for somewhere sensible to pitch. It needed to be flat and comfortable for the nights are very long in winter. This was easier than we thought it would be as the bare peatlands have now been transformed into grassy prairies. The tents were set up in thick mist, the brief display of light and cloud had only lasted for ten minutes. It was that thick that I set a waypoint on my GPS when we went off in search of water. Less than one hundred metres away and our tents vanished in the gloom. Chrissie’s filter made short work of Kinder water, turning it from resembling a black stout to strong black tea.

It was one of the dampest nights I have spent outdoors, the outer of my Wickiup was saturated even before Reuben and I got inside. I sat and cooked and kept the door wide open for an hour or so, wet mist swirling inside the shelter. The mesh vents at the top soon got overwhelmed and started dripping onto the Oookworks inner. I’m glad I had that inner as it would have been a very wet night indeed. It protected me from the damp above and the veritable bog fest below.

It rained heavily for much of the night, adding to the already saturated conditions. One of those times that you can’t do anything to mitigate the condensation. The bottom of my sleeping bag was pretty damp so luckily we were only out for one night. Reuben also appeared to be less than impressed with the whole thing.


The plan for the morning had been to continue along the northern edge to Fairbrook Naze and then cross the plateau to Kinder Gates and then the Downfall. Chrissie had woken up with the beginnings of a nasty cold and the weather was not conducive to a crossing of the plateau. We decided that instead we would return straight back down to Hayfield via Sandy Heys.



It’s when on the winter moors that I think that I should invest in a fluorescent tabard for Reuben. He really is very well camouflaged, even with a bright green set of panniers on. With thick mist he is almost invisible, there were a couple of occasions when I would be calling for him to return, only to find he was sitting at my feet.


The path down Sandy Heys is short and sweet, quickly getting us below the clouds and out of the cold damp wind.



With this being Chrissie’s local stomping group she led us back to Hayfield via a different route without consulting the map. I liked the name of one of the roads that we passed.


Once again a night on Kinder Scout did not disappoint.


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