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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Back of Bleaklow in the sunshine

Walking with; Nobody
A tough but beautiful day climbing up from the Woodhead Pass and with the sun beating down and tremendous views. As soon as I got out of the car and crossed the bridge over the River Etherow I saw a Dipper bobbing up and down on a small rock by the far bank and the wildlife was a constant over the whole walk. This is Grouse shooting country and the moorland in this area has been very much shaped by the demands of the shoot. The path up Far Black Clough is a cracker, it winds it's way up the very narrow clough, dipping in and out of the sunshine and ascending steadily, eventually it becomes a little too narrow and steep and a tiring scramble up the bank to the rough Landrover track used by the shooters is necessary. I followed a narrow path along the clough edge before following a large, sandy grough Eastward onto the path from Howden Edge. I followed this path for about half a mile putting up quite a few Red Grouse and a number of Mountain Hares in various shades of colour from pure white to dirty brown. Visibility was excellent so I could see my goal, Barrow Stones, and struck off across the moors to reach them, negotiating a few deep groughs and peat bogs before arriving at the stones for an early lunch and a bit of shade from the strong sun. I'd not seen another soul and the only sign of human activity thus far had been a helicopter which looked like it was distributing fertiliser or feed over the moors.
Refreshed by a chicken sandwich I headed across to the Grinah stones where I met a landscape photographer who was taking advantage of the fantastic weather and spectacular views over Ridgewalk Moor and over the River Westend. The rocks are eroded into fantastic shapes and the vista was amazing. I spotted a Common Lizard catching a few rays as well before leaving the stones and heading through some waist high heather South East towards Round Hill. In spite of the weather it was still pretty boggy underfoot and at one stage I found myself thigh deep in peat bog, this is not a walk I'd fancy in mid-January! After a while I met a deep landrover track linking the Ronksley Moor bothy with the Grouse butts. I wandered down to a viewpoint over the River Westend before returning along the path and down to the beautifully sighted bothy at the top of Lower Small Clough. It's pretty basic and is, I think, mainly used for shooters, but there is a poem tacked to the wall singing the praises of the shelter provided on a wild, snowy afternoon!
Lower Small Clough runs down across the heather (including a patch very recently burned) and past many well established Grouse butts to a beautiful spot where the clough meets the River Derwent, where I cooled down by sticking my head into the running waters! (Bliss!)
The path along the Derwent is beautiful and the landscape a little more lush than on the tops, but I soon had to leave the river and ascend the steep, brackeny slopes of Hoar Clough to the Shepherds Meeting Stones. Featherbed Moss is a pretty featureless expanse and it took me a while to locate the path that led back to the Howden Edge path, but locate it I eventually did and followed it due West until cutting off back to Far Black Clough where I followed the path all the way back to my car, sweaty, peaty but thoroughly satisfied by a great day.
One of the real highlights of today was the solitude. The number of other walkers I saw today can eb counted on the fingers of one hand, once I'd got away from the A628, there were no roads, houses, pylons etc and the tracks and butts were well hidden. It is remarkable to get a feeling of such wilderness and isolation so close to Manchester, Barnsley and Sheffield, and there is something magnificent about the utter bleakness of the expanses of moorland!
To see the full album for this walk please click on the link below;

Monday, March 26, 2012

Results of Poll Number 4

Poll number 4 dealt with the issue of Outdoors Heroes. Whilst I was surprised nobody voted for Martin Strel (any man who's training involves 2 bottles of red wine a day deserves some credit), the results proved that maybe the Come Walk with Me Facebook followers are more fans of the Amber nectar!
1. Crocodile Dundee-4 votes
2. Bruce Parry-3 votes
3. Sir Chris Bonnington-2 votes

and the rest of the best included Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Ellen MacArthur, Ernest Shackleton, Bear Grylls and Sir Edmond Hillary.

Heroes one and all!!!

Trentabank-Shutlingsloe-Cumberland Brook-Cat and Fiddle-Bottom of the Oven-Macclesfield Forest-Trentabank

Walking with; Dave Swetnam of the Peak District Rangers
Well my second day out with the Peak District Rangers showed the diversity of the role and the conditions that might be experienced. My first visit had included a blizzard on Kinder, today the temperature was 20 degrees and it was warmer than Southern Spain. We started out from Trentabank passing the heronry where up to 22 Grey Heron nests can be found and where there were a pair of Great Crested Grebes swimming in and out of the reeds. The path climbed up through Macclesfield Forest and then out across Piggford Moor towards the distinctive Shutlingsloe peak. Although it was early the peak was already busy with walkers and after we paused to enjoy the 360 degree views out towards The Roaches, Jodrell Bank, Macclesfield and up to the Cat and Fiddle, we headed on towards Cumberland Brook.
Cumberland Brook runs down through the Danethorn Hollow and is a gorgeous tree lined waterway at the bottom before. I kept an eye out for Dippers but no luck today. There were plenty of sun traps perfect for lunch and after some sustenance we continued the slow, steady climb to the Cat and Fiddle, disturbing a couple of grouse en route. Approaching the pub(, it was heaving with bikers and motorists and we continued on down the permissive path towards Torgate Farm, a popular campsite for the Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. In contrast to the tops, this path was quiet and as we followed the stream down towards the farm we didn't see another soul. Dave mentioned a few of the projects the Rangers had worked on in that area including drainage works and laying down duckboards.
We passed through the tiny hamlet of Bottom of the Oven (named for Oven Lane) home to the also busy Stanley Arms ( before climbing up the steep, stony, bilberry lined track to Forest Chapel where we stopped for a walk around the beautiful church and took advantage of the porch for some shade. Avoiding a group of off road bikers we continued back into the forest and followed the shady track back down to the Rangers Centre at Trentabank for another view of the Herons and a welcome cuppa.
To see the full album for the day, please click on the link below;

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ashton Clough and the Shelf Stones on Bleaklow

Walking with; Nobody
I fancied something a little more challenging today and a spot of navigation practice, so where better than Bleaklow and the peat bogs atop it? Bleaklow is a classic example of peat covered gritstone moorland riven with Groughs and in poor visibility very hard to find your way around. It has two peaks above 2000 feet and today I was aiming for the Trig Point at Higher Shelf Stones which sits at 2037 feet.
The initial route along Shelf Brook was a pleasant meander along the valley floor with Pheasant and Curlew plentiful and good views towards Bleaklow and James's Thorn. The path is known as Doctor's Gate and is reputed to be a Roman route linking the forts of Ardotalia in Glossop and Navio in the Hope Valley. The track is supposed to be named after Doctor John Talbot who had a family seat in Sheffield and needed to link it to his parish in Glossop, either way it is a pleasant introduction ahead of the tougher work required to ascend Bleaklow. Shortly after the Edwin Ambler memorial footbridge I left the path and followed the Brook along to the foot of Ashton Clough, a perfect spot for a coffee before tackling the climb. One of the great advantages of Open Access Land is how easy it makes it to find yourself some real solitude. Sat down by the water with Grouse scudding by and Curlews calling I felt as if I could have been the only person in the hills......
The climb up Ashton Clough involved a little scrambling and the stream bed made footing a little uncertain from time to time but it was exhilarating stuff and as I climbed the views back down towards the valley were worth the effort. I passed some wreckage from a June 1945 plane crash and when I sent a hail of stones tumbling behind me I disturbed a Mountain Hare, still in his Winter coat which now made him stand out starkly against the non-snowy background. By the time I'd reached the top the clouds had dropped pretty low and visibility was not fantastic so I skirted the edge and headed across to Lower Shelf Stones where I thought I might sit it out with a tuna sarnie and a book until the cloud lifted. It didn't take long and refreshed I headed over to the high point of the walk at Higher Shelf Stones Trig point. This whole area is crisscrossed with deep groughs and peat bogs and has a real rugged beauty to it, it also has the most spectacular plane wreck on the moors. In November 1948 , a Boeing RB-29A American Airforce reconaissance plane with 13 crew members on board crashed in heavy cloud killing all crew members and the wreckage is still strewn across a wide area (for more information on this visit The whole site still has a very eerie air to it which was exacerbated today by cloud blowing across it.
I headed East towards the Pennine Way but decided to take the path running parallel to the edge of the beautiful and spectacular Crooked Clough. Another Hare broke cover up here and I put up numerous Grouse en route as I followed the Clough back down to Doctor's Gate which led me gently back down to Shelf Brook and my starting point on the outskirts of Glossop.
To see the full photo album please click on the link below;

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hartington, Milldale and Alstonefield

Walking with; Nobody
I'd not planned on going out today but my considerably better half had to be on the Stockport to London train at 6.30am and as I was already half way to the Peak District I decided to head for Hartington and I am glad I did. After the disappointment of Wednesday, this was the kind of walk that lifted the spirits and properly showcased the beauty of the British countryside.
Hartington is a picturesque English village with the name thought to be a derivation of "Stag's Hill". It is mentioned in the Doomsday book and found fame as one of the three main producers of Stilton. The large scale commercial cheesemaking operation has ceased but the old cheese shop has recently re-opened and there are plans to make cheese again. I parked on the village green next to the duckpond and climbed out of the village past Hartington Hall, a 17th Century manor house built by Hugh Bateman in 1611. The building is now a Youth Hostel and the grounds housed a very vocal rookery as well as snowdrops and daffodils. The route continued across the fields to Dale End before turning down into Biggin Dale, a long, dry dale that leads down to the River Dove and Wolfscote Dale. As I meandered down Biggin, a Kestrel flew across my path and a few minutes later a circling Buzzard was mobbed by a flock of Jackdaws. A little further on a Green Woodpecker flew across my path before making a slow ascent of the steep bank to my left. The River Dove is beautiful and I followed the gentle path all the way down to the hamlet of Lode Mill where lead was once smelted and corn ground. The river here forms the boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire and the bank had some amazing snowdrops.
From Lode Mill the path climbs very steeply up to the outcrop of Shining Tor, an ideal spot for a coffee and fantastic views back down Wolfscote Dale. The high level path continues along the ridge before dropping sharply down to the gorgeously picturesque village of Mill Dale where it crosses the Dove by way of Viator's Bridge. The bridge was there in 1653 when Izaak Walton, author of legendary fishing tome "The Compleat Angler" (purported to be the third most reprinted book in the English language), first discovered the River Dove with his friend and fishing tutor Charles Cotton, and the name Viator comes from a character in Walton's book. Another short, steep slog took me to the outskirts of Alstonefield and the beautiful church of St Peter's. The graveyard is an interesting piece of social history showing the long established routes of many families in the area and with gravestones dating back to 1518. Continuing through the village and crossing the idyllic green I headed out towards Narrowdale before descending steeply all the way down to the gates of Beresford House. Half way down a streak of red flashed across the path and I followed a Weasel as he shot along the wall and up the hillside.
The route back to Hartington ran alongside the Dove through Beresford Dale (nuthatch, long tailed tits and more chaffinches) before climbing away from the river and circumventing Pennilow Hill. Looking back over my shoulder I got fleeting glimpses through the branches of Walton's 17th Century "Fishing Temple" built by Charles Cotton and where the two of them spent many hours fishing. I arrived back in Hartington with my faith in the countryside fully restored and an appetite for a pint at The George and a goody bag full of cheese to take away with me.....
To see the full album please click on the link below;

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mud, mud, not so glorious mud round Alderley Edge

Walking with; Nobody
Alderley Edge is famous for the "Cheshire Set" and being home to various multi-millionaires and Premiership football stars. It also has a magical reputation with myths and tales linked to wizadry and the Arthurian legends ( and nowadays is home to the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics whose enormous radiotelescope dominates the view for many miles. I'd hoped to see a more pastoral, rural side of the area and had borrowed a walk from a guide book written in 1985 by Graham Beech which promised a lot. In the end it proved to be a little bit challenging!
Having parked next to "The Wizard" pub I headed off straight into the rolling farmland of Cheshire and away from the Edge itself. The path led through fields full of wildlife and in the space of the first half an hour I'd seen a circling Buzzard, a flock of Chaffinch, a pair of Red-Legged Partridges and a number of pheasant. A little further on in the walk I came across a couple of woodland areas set up for breeding pheasant for shooting and it was a reminder of why the Cheshire Game Fayre is such a popular event!
After following a bridleway, I cut across a couple of fields between Jarman's and High Park Farm putting up a flock of Lapwing before being confronted by something that looked like a battlefield from the First World War. The fields that the footpath cut across had been used for over-wintering cattle and the whole area had been trashed. The fields were a quagmire and the pathways were reduced to rutted, muddy, partially flooded ditches. What remained of the paths were edged with barbed wire and electric fences and there was a distinct "Walkers not welcome feel" to the whole area. None-the-less with full confidence in my excellent boots and the delicate balancing skills of a tightrope artist I pressed on! The paths grew worse and worse and the only consolations for what was now becoming a slog was the flock of twenty odd Teal put up from a flood in a field and a few more Partridges. Insult was added to injury when I reached an electric fence across a marked pathway en route. Whilst I appreciate how tough farming can be and also how injudicious and inconsiderate walkers can cause damage to farmland the balance here appeared to me, to be all wrong. I eventually re-negotiated my route and made my way over to my original goal of St. Catherine's at Over Alderley where I had my lunch. The church, a Grade 2 listed building, was originally the private chapel of the Hibberts at Birtles Hall and has a distinctive octagonal tower and 16th and 17th Century stained glass. Unfortunately and in keeping with my luck today, the church was locked!!
I decided to head back at this stage, beaten by circumstance, however my spirits were further lifted on the way back through the woods when a young fox jogged across my path in front of me.
Today has left me frustrated. The paths today were essentially unusable due to agricultural activities and there seemed to be no effort made to lessen the impact on the footpaths. Elsewhere in the fields there were area demarcated that seemed less destroyed and I am left to wonder if there is an implicit hostility to the walker which has manifested itself in this way.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kinder with the Rangers

Walking with; Simon Huddlestone from The Peak District Rangers

I was back at Kinder this weekend for the first of my "pre-walks" as part of my bid to become a Peak District Ranger. I am starting to see why people love what I'd always considered a big, ugly lump quite so much. We set off from the Briefing Centre at Bowden Bridge after visiting the plaque that immortalises the Kinder trespassers. We headed back the way I'd come on Wednesday, along the Sett valley and up Coldwell Clough, even at this stage we could see the snow dusting the tops and Simon warned me that conditions might be pretty bad on Kinder. Walking with a Ranger of 30 years standing was informative and Simon told me a lot about the industrial history of the area and how Hayfield used to be famous for printworks due to the quality of the water in the local rivers. We climbed up to the Edale Cross with a bitter wind driving the snow into our faces and decided that we'd head for the relative shelter of Edale Rocks for some lunch.
On Wednesday I'd followed The Pennine Way but today we headed along the brilliantly named Swine's Back tramping through the virgin snow and following a tumbledown wall to the Rocks where we wedged ourselves into a sheltered-ish spot and considered our options. Although the visibility was poor, it was better than in the fog on Wednesday so we continued on to the Kinder Cairn and head down, battling into the wind, we carried on towards Red Brook. Red Brook was running fast and although the snow was still falling we'd come across a few other walkers and so decided to press on towards the Kinder Downfall and aim for a descent at William Clough. We spotted a couple of hardy Grouse by the Downfall and the views from the edge down towards Broad Clough and the Kinder Reservoir were fantastic. We decided to drop down into the valley just before William Clough and although the conditions underfoot were very slippery we made our way down towards the Reservoir and a welcome brew in the shelter of the valley. Simon told me a few more tales about the area, including the fact that before the Kinder reservoir Hayfield wasn't connected to the sewerage system and as a reward for the inconvenience that building the reservoir caused the village was finally connected to mains drainage. We headed back along the reservoir watching a flock of 14 Curlews before the Kinder Road took us back in the shade of Kinder Bank Wood to our starting point, cold, wet but exhilarated!
To view the full album please cut and paste the link below into the search bar;!/media/set/?set=oa.169098926542354&type=1

Friday, March 2, 2012

Results of Poll Number 3

Poll number 3 dealt with the important issue of sandwich fillings and the results prove what a diverse lot members of the Facebook group are. Cheese in its many varied and wondrous forms scored highly, we had some transatlantic input from Allen and Alex feeling perplexed by the question as she doesn't eat bread....Rob had an answer though, Eccles cakes, which, whilst not quite a sandwich,might have been my favourite answer after all!
1. Turkey,Stilton and Mayo on granary-5 votes
2. Corned Beef and Branston Pickle-3 votes
3. Chicken, Black Pepper and Mayo-2 votes
and the rest with one vote a piece
Cheese and pickle, Peanut Butter and jam on a bagel, Cheese and cucumber, Hummus,olives,sundried tomatoes and rocket in a wrap, Cheddar, spring onion and mayo on a baguette, Stilton, smoked salmon and celery and finally Brie, cranberry, grape and bacon!

Hopefully inspiration for sustenance on your next expedition. Happy eating!!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hayfield-Edale Cross-Kinder-The Snake Path

Walking with; Nobody

Hayfield is a picturesque Peak District village
which styles itself as the "Gateway to Kinder" although I suspect
Edale may have something to say about that! It was from Hayfield (Bowden
Bridge) that the Manchester contingent of the mass trespassers led by Benny
Rothwell set off towards Kinder on the "Right to Roam" protest, the
80th anniversary of which will be celebrated in April this year. It was also,
in 1745, the site of a mass "raising of the spirits" in Hayfield
church where eyewitnesses claim they saw hundreds of souls ascending from the
graveyard to heaven. I didn't see anything quite as spooky as that but by the
time I'd reached the Kinder plateau the thick fog gave the whole area an eerie
I set off from the village and was soon climbing up past Hazlehurst Farm where
the guard geese announced my progress to the farmer. The path continued along
what was once a Roman road but today resembled little more than a stream....I'd
thought Tideswell was muddy but it had nothing on today. I continued on across
farmland before descending alongside Elle Bank Wood into the Sett Valley and on
up Coldwell Clough past the magnificent Grade 2 listed farmhouse (see pic).The
track up to the Kinder Estate was rough and muddy and though the views behind
me were worth the effort the cloud was starting to drop and by the time I
reached the Edale Cross it was very poor indeed. The cross is believed to be a
Medieval parish boundary marker probably erected by Cistercian monks and had
lain buried in Peat bog until it was discovered in 1810 by two local farmers
who carved their initials and the year of discovery on the front of it. The
alcove the cross sits in is a perfect place to shelter from strong winds and
enjoy a coffee and (distinctly retro) orange Club biscuit.
I took the Pennine Way on to the Kinder plateau and headed for the Edale Rocks
looming mysteriously out of the thick fog. Every so often I could hear
dislocated voices coming out of the gloom and at one stage a party of
disoriented fell runners emerged a couple of feet away......I'm not sure who
was more disconcerted. The poor visibility meant a change of plan and I headed
back down the way I'd come before joining The Tunstead Clough footpath which
followed the contours round under Kinderlow End and The Three Knolls (still
shrouded in fog) before dipping down towards the reservoir. Whilst walking this
section I saw four Curlews flying overhead and I could hear Lapwing but they
managed to remain elusive today! It was a steep climb from the reservoir up to
Middle Moor and The Snake Path which would lead me back down to Hayfield. The
paths met up near a shooting cabin and judging from the number of Grouse in the
area it would be a pretty productive spot for a gun on the Glorious Twelfth.
The Snake Path was the first success, in 1897, for the Peak and Northern
Footpath society who had campaigned for greater public access to the Moors. The
five wrought iron kissing gates were the originals but had been restored in
2009 whilst retaining as much of the original material and composition as
possible. It seemed a fitting end in this area much associated with walking
history and led me gently down into the village and a cuppa at Rosie's tearoom.
To see the full photo album for the walk please click on the link below;