Posts tagged ‘Peak District’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Once again a night on Kinder Scout did not disappoint.

November 16, 2014

Certified in the Peak District

by backpackingbongos

I found myself wandering to the shops on Friday wearing a pair of Crocs. The main issue is that I felt no shame in doing so. This clearly demonstrates that at least half of my life is now behind me. The first sign of this was late last year when I purchased a membership to the Camping and Caravan Club. This is the preserve of pensioners and people who put lamps and bunches of flowers on the table at the back of their caravans. Those not in caravans tow small cars behind large mobile homes (this is really just backwards caravan behaviour). I now walk amongst them, although quietly as the sites can resemble something from the Stepford Wives and I might get told off. The loos are nice and clean though.

Obviously manicured lawns, measured pitches and having Julia Bradbury as club president are all very well. The most alluring thing about membership is the Certified Sites. There are literally hundreds dotted around the country, tucked away in fields and farms. A maximum of five campervans or caravans and members only mean that they are nice and quiet. It’s proper old fashioned camping with the toilet in a barn and a big spider on the wall. You are also unlikely to have a kid called Tyson kicking their football at your tent.

There is a superb one just below Chrome Hill in the Peak District, which I visited with Reuben and Bona-fide pensioners Geoff and Chrissie a few weeks ago. Three dogs was no problem for the farmer and she put us in a field away from the cows. Free to roam Reuben still thought it best practise to avoid the labraloony and grumpy boxer (they are actual real dogs and not my nickname for Chrissie and Geoff).

A day walk was sandwiched between a couple of nights being fed by Geoff and drinking whisky in their van which has mod cons like heating. I had to drag myself away each night to the small and rather cold Bongo which felt like slumming it after being in their palace on wheels.

The walk was planned and led by Chrissie, selected from a guidebook called ‘The most neglected and overgrown paths in the Peak District’. The initial climb up Chrome Hill as always was a cracker. There then followed a succession of ‘paths’ that have not been walked this century and perhaps the last. We emerged back at the vans stung and bleeding but somehow still talking to each other.

To round off the day nicely Reuben found a large and very wet pile of fox poo to roll in. He was actually dripping in the stuff. I got the last laugh though with a bucket of cold water and loads of washing up liquid.

It then rained. The end.

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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

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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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