Monday, 28 September 2009

Edale Skyline Walk

The idea for this walk came to me as I sat on the bus home after the Marsden to Hope adventure.  Why not walk from Lose Hill to Win Hill round the head of Edale?  Notwithstanding the fact that I may have an eye for a good walk, I found it hard to believe nobody had done this in the last 2 million years since the valley was probably carved during the last ice age. After two days of googling for Edale Horseshoe, Edale Circuit and Edale Round  (not continuously you understand - I'm not that sad),  I finally happened on Edale Skyline Walk. That was the one.  It was a fell race.  Well blow that for a game of a soldiers.  I was going to take 2 days over it and camp in the middle.  Then I emailed Mike 'NorthernPies' Knipe to see if he was interested.  "20 miles sounds a bit far for 1 day".  Yes, yes but we're going to camp in the middle, says I, so it's only 10 miles a day plus a bit of climbing.  We'd set off in Hope (and no little expectation) and go in a clockwise direction from Lose Hill to Win Hill on the other side of the village (cos it sounded so much better to end on a winner than a loser).

Some History (sourced from the internet)
Win Hill and Lose Hill get their name from the Battle of Win Hill and Lose Hill in 626. Prince Cwichelm (or Cuicholm) and his father, King Cynegils of Wessex, possibly with the aid of King Penda of Mercia, gathered their forces on Lose Hill and marched on the the rival Northumbrian army led by King Edwin of Northumbria camped across the valley on Win Hill. Despite their superior numbers, Wessex was defeated by the Northumbrians building a wall and rolling boulders down upon them. The Northumbrians were heard to say in that pub that night that it was a 'reight good trundle' (they'd picked up a bit of a Derbyshire accent).

 And so it was that Mike got the train to Hope and I drove out from Sheffield to find him in a pub.  Following a really bad night's sleep on the Laneside campsite under a searchlight with the power of a small thermonuclear device and the noise of trains, quarry waggons and the 7am dustcart, I suggested that we should do breakfast at the Woodbine Cafe.  And we did.  And it was huge and it was good.  Thus it was 10:30 by the time we set off up Lose Hill.  Not exactly a crack of sparrow fart start but then we didn't want to reach our camp site too early anyway. 

From Lose Hill looking west towards Mam Tor

We plodded up Lose Hill, we scampered along the ridge, we got buffeted on Mam Tor and found a sheltered spot at Windy Gap for a snack. Then we plodded some more over Rushup Edge and met an attractive yound girl on Lord's Seat offering us chocolate biscuits.  She was later seen with her boyfriend sinking thigh deep into the only boggy spot on Brown Knoll.  We stopped for lunch at that place where the Brown Knoll to Kinder Low track crosses the Jacobs Ladder to Edale Cross path and all signs point to the Pennine Way.  This place must have a name but I don't know what it is, so in any future blogs I shall refer to it as Bert.  Then we passed a woman with angel wings and then some more, until by the time we reached the trig point on Kinder Low we might have been in heaven.  And in fact Mike was, as he'd just clocked up his thousand'th walking mile for the year and we celebrated with a small sip of whisky, which the Pieman is known to carry at all times, purely for medicinal purposes.

Mike in heaven on Kinder Low - 1000 miles, Angel in one hand, whisky in the other

Kinder Downfall was a 'no fall' and the stream had even less water in it than three weeks earlier when I'd camped up here.  We found my previous camping spot, I moved the same boulder, which I'd previously replaced and we'd set up Akto alley by 4pm.

Akto Alley

The aircraft noise I mentioned in the earlier blog was augmented this time by the sounds of the wind, of motorbikes going over the Snake Pass and of Mike humming to music on his mp3 player. Then suddenly, there was silence - until that is, my tinnitus started up.

Sunday morning was foggy.  Very foggy.  And the tents were covered in lots of dew on the outside and lots of condensation on the the inside.  We were away by 9:30, after putting the boulder back in it's hole, and wandered up the beck admiring the sand backs and canyon walls made of peat. 

Peat Canyoning on Kinder Scout

Aiming a bit west of south we navigated across the watershed without incident and before long arrived at the top of Crowden Clough.  Turning left we ambled some more through the fog passing groups of walkers, each one increasingly witless about where they were and where they wanted to be, until we reached Hope Cross (but only after being slightly witless ourselves and ignoring a perfectly respectable footpath sign in favour of a dubious compass bearing taken from the OS 1:50,000 along what appeared to be a more direct path). 

Mike on Kinder Edge

Me on Kinder Edge

Mam Tor from the southern edge of Kinder Scout
And that just left the easy graded ridge to the summit of Win Hill, some final pics, a laugh at a group of sixth formers setting up tents on a 30 degree slope and a knee-wrecking descent back to Hope where we were revived by a very large pot of tea and a life threatening piece of cake at the other cafe, whose name escapes me (Blue something I think).

Win Hill and a very large trig point (or was it a very small Mike?)

 A damned fine walk in excellent company.  Thanks Mike.

Saturday: 10.1 miles and 2664' ascent (Mike reckons 12 miles and less ascent)
Sunday: 10 .2 miles and 955' ascent
Total: 20.3 miles 3619' ascent

Mike's blog of this walk is here

Monday, 14 September 2009

Hayfield and Kinder Scout (again)

Kinder Scout seems to have become a magnet for me this year and, to overdo the use of metaphor, I find myself drawn to it like a moth to flame for the forth time in 2009 - with yet another trip planned in a couple of weeks time.

This was a short afternoon walk with a friend on, what in Sheffield, started out as cloudy day but was sunny and blustery on the western side of the Pennines.

We set off from the car park at Bowden Bridge Quarry, just up the hill from the village, which to my shame I didn't realise until we got back to the car, was the start of the Kinder Mass Tresspass. 

Plaque commemorating the Mass Trespass of 24 April 1932

It took a bit of bumbling to get out of the valley onto the right path, which at one point had us walking away from KInder Scout instead of towards it and wasn't helped by a chap on a bike who was also lost and stopped to ask us directions.  Isn't it always the case - you visit a new place and someone asks you the way.
 Looking towards Brown Knoll

As it was our target was a bit fluid and in the end we skirted the south west flank of Mount Famine and headed up to Brown Knoll.  From there we ambled along the ridge, shouting to be heard over the noise of wind and watching our speech bubbles blow away across the open moors.  Reaching the fence, we made a turned left at the wobbly stile that leads to the Brown Knoll trig point and headed for the path up from Jacobs Ladder.  Then on to Edale Cross, which we seemed to have walked past without noticing and, pausing for a light lunch, walked back down to the car park via Kinderlow End.  This side of Kinder is new to me and needs some further exploration.  Our route seems to be a popular Sunday afternoon walk.  There were certainly a lot of walkers and mountain bikers to be seen.

Descent back into Hayfield

I am curious about the origin of the name Mount Famine but searches on Google and Wikipedia have drawn a blank - what hope is there for the world when one can't find the answers there?!  There appears to be an annual fell race up it, which someone commented was quite hard.  I thought was the point about fell racing.  If it were easy, even I would do it.

Pleasant walk in good company and fine views of the eastern gritstone edges on the way home.

Some walks pose risks from giant local fauna

6.5 miles and 1450' ascent

Monday, 31 August 2009

Marsden to not quite Edale and not quite Sheffield

It was a simple plan. It was an audacious plan. It was a not terribly well thought out plan. It was to take the train from Sheffield to Marsden on Friday after work and use the bank holiday weekend to back Home along the Pennine Way to Edale and by some route as yet undecided back to Sheffield. Marsden - Edale is a classic South Pennine challenge walk, normally done in a day. Well that was never going to happen and in any case I wanted an excuse to do some wild camping.

I'd been following the five day forecast for tyhe previous few days and whilst it never said it would be 'cracking flags' for the bank holiday weekend (but then it rarely does), there was nothing worse than light rain. So I packed the bag Thursday night and booked the train ticket online. So it was settled. I had to go now - I wasn't wasting £8.50.

Leaving Marsden - the view from Binn Lane. I set out with my poo trowel to dig up a pot of gold.

The plan started well. I walked out of the office at 16:25pm on Friday afternoon down to the station and boarded the 16:38pm train moments before it pulled away from the platform. We stopped at every station in South Yorkshire and quite a few in West Yorkshire to reach Huddersfield, where a slight faff with platforms got me on the cattle truck to Marsden, seconds before it pulled away from the platform. So far so good, With the help of some details from a website, I navigated down the hill from Marsden station to the start of the Kirkless Trail, up the side of the Wessenden reservoirs.


For future reference, go down Station Road, right into Church Lane (past the church), bear right at Weir Side and cross the A62 into Fall Lane, then over another road into Binn Lane where after a short uphill section past some terraced houses, you peel off right onto the track up the side of the first reservoir. Useful road signs proved to be a bit sparse, so it's a good idea to check it on Multimap before you set out.

The gradient was nice and steady and I soon passed the first reservoir when it started to rain. I stopped under a tree to put on waterproofs and it stopped raining. I left them on and it didn't rain again. The plan was to camp somewhere around the top reservoir the first night and I got the tent up around 8:30am, in a reasonably out of the way spot. It was a blustery night and I woke up at 3am to what I thought was a voice saying, "I've just got to sort this out". Expecting a shotgun to appear through the tent, I slid further into my sleeping bag and tried to look inconspicuous and eventually convinced myself that it was my imagination. I woke again before 7am, not terribly refreshed and after an unappetising breakfast of noodles, packed up and set off just after 8am.

Friday night campsite

The Travel Tap

Mike Knipe had warned me that the water around the Wessenden reservoirs was very brown, more as a caution against camping there, I think. He wasn't wrong but I had a secret weapon - the Travel Tap I'd bought from Bobcast Pod's online shop ( I'd used it at Gaping Gill the previous weekend but this was going to be it's first real test.

The Travel Tap - water bottle with built-in filter - and the Wessenden water before filtering

The water after filtering. Notice how the Travel Tap conveniently morphs into a Pocket Rocket ready for a brew (it doesn't really).

The podcast does mention that if the water is really dirty you should let the crud settle in a pan before filtering with the Tap. I wasn't sure how dirty, really dirty had to be and I'd just put it straight through the filter. Later in the day, on Bleaklow, I started to have problems. It needed a lot of squeezing to get anything out and unfiltered water was leaking past the seal. I was worried I may have blocked it. After dismantling the filter and rinsing it with some cleaner water, it seemed to improve and for the rest of the trip I did some pre-filtering with a fabric filter bag. On the second day I was forced to get water from a fairly stagnant looking pond in a peat bog and the Tap performed brilliantly and it was my sole source of clean drinking water for 3 days.

It was a short walk up to the A635, with fine views back down the Wessenden valley and across to Black Hill. It's a lonely and desolate piece of road - it must be really grim in winter. Looking at the map, I realised for the first time how close I was to Saddleworth Moor, which had gained notoriety in the 60s as the scene of the moors murders. It reminded me that in ancient times people buried their dead in remote places, in the belief that it would be too far for the spirits to come back to haunt them. The Lyke Wake Walk on the N Y Moors was supposedly an old coffin route and there are many high places in Derbyshire such Ringinglow, Arbour Low, Bleaklow and Kinder Low, where the name, 'low', suggests an ancient burial site. These were chilling thoughts and it was time to make tracks.

Wessenden Head

Black Hill from Wessenden Head

Following the Pennine Way signs, I easily picked up the track to Black Hill, which being mostly paved to the edge of the plateau, meant I was at the trig point by 9am.

Summit of Black Hill

I'd been up here with Mike Knipe in June (see his blog) from the Crowden side, which is where I was heading now. Now the route for Marsden to Edale that I'd found on the web went via Soldiers Lump and Tooleyshaw Moss and this has a big advantage over the Pennine Way route I was about to take, which rises up from the valley floor by about 200' to get over Laddow Rocks. It looks much further as the valley cuts down at the same time. Anyway, by the time I'd appreciated the wisdom of the Tooleyshaw route, it was too late.

Laddow Rocks

Generally though, the plan was still holding up. A brief stop before Crowden was required to replenish falling blood sugar levels and then onward, to cross the second road of the day, the Woodhead Pass. The web description then proposed climbing to Bleaklow Head via Wildboar Clough but a) there is no footpath marked on the 1:50,000 and b) it looked stupidly steep. Anyway, the plan was to follow the Pennine Way so eschewing the wild boar, I headed up Torside Clough.

Torside Clough

This wasn't without its own lung wrenching, steep section and whilst looking back to note how far I'd climbed out of the valley, I also remembered I'd forgotten to pick up water. Whilst pondering this state of affairs and swishing the remaining dribble round in the water bottle, hoping in some way this would increase its volume, a student type person came breezing down the track towards me. He'd set off from Edale that morning and it was only one o'clock now. I couldn't see any sign of a jet pack but I can think of no other explanation for his rapid progress. How I despise the young and the fit! I pushed on up and it wasn't long before I found a small trickle of water running across a rock. It was Travel Tap time. Refreshed, I pressed on estimating I should reach Bleaklow Head by 2pm.

The Wain Stones

Bleaklow Head

At some point I should have crossed the main stream but missed it, which meant I arrived the Wain Stones before the pole at Bleaklow Head. It made no difference, the plan was still good. I checked the compass for a vaguely southerly direction and headed off towards the A57. After a brief stop for a pie, I felt energised like a Duracell bunny as I emerged onto the top of the Snake Pass to a throng of people and another student backpacker heading northwards with a voluminous backpack and his provisions in a Morrisons carrier bag. This was no place to hang around.

I've always liked the sound of Featherbed Moss, as a concept, but worried about its potential to swallow up unsuspecting walkers. It seems that the National Park must have had the same concern, as they have lain flagstones across it from just after leaving the A57 to the top of Ashop Head. That's just about 2 miles of path across the moor and an awful lot of patio stone. I couldn't help thinking that the Romans would have been proud of them.

Now this is where the plan was a bit fluid. I had two places in mind to camp for the night. One was by Mermaid's Pool, below Kinder Downfall and the other was on the plateau itself, at a place just upstream from the Downfall, which Joe and I had spotted earlier in the month. Mermaid's Pool didn't look easy to get to and would have involved thrashing through heather and who knows what else, so I climbed onto the plateau and walked round the edge to the top of Downfall, which for the second time this month, was virtually dry. I found a sheltered, flat spot off the side of the main stream. It was 8 o'clock and I was ready to call it a day - a twelve hour day, in fact.

Saturday night campsite

Kinder Scout is not a peaceful place to camp. Notwithstanding any wind and rain which might happen past, there are aircraft flying low overhead, in and out of Manchester airport, late into the night. Lying in a tent there are times when you can feel the peat vibrating from the engine noise. Before finally going to bed I thought I should fill up the water bottles.   I only went about 10 yards from the tent to the stream and then couldn't find my way back in the dark and mist.

From here the plan started to become even more wobbly. I needed to turn east for Sheffield at some point but to complete a Marsden - Edale crossing I should really drop down to Edale the next morning, which would have meant either a walk along the valley or a climb back onto one of the ridges on either side. Neither were appealing. If I didn't go to Edale I could stay high and head for either of Win Hill (via the southern edge of Kinder) or Lose Hill via Brown Knoll and Mam Tor. Also wild camping in the Hope Valley would be tricky at the best of times but on Bank Holiday Sunday was a bit of a non-starter. I didn't fancy a commercial campsite, other than North Lees and that was at least 15 miles away. As I was still 20 miles from home, the decision was easy - head for Lose Hill, then into Hope to catch the bus back to Sheffield. It was still a good plan, even if it wasn't the original plan. It was the brand new, 'stay high' plan. Break out the spliff.

Kinder Low

The morning started very misty and I started very slowly but I had all signs of my camp cleared away and was back on the trail by 8:30am. I had the Kinder Low trig point to myself and only started to see folk as I approached Edale Cross. After passing over Brown Knoll I started to consider the water situation again. I needed to fill up soon as there were no more streams for the rest of the route to Hope. It was just after that, that I found the evil looking, stagnant pool replete with wiggly things and scummy bits. Well, nothing ventured and I'm still alive to write this, so the Travel Tap must have worked.

The ridge of bumpy bits stretching to Lose Hill

Hanging a left onto the ridge above Rushup Edge I encountered the weekend hoards of mountain bikers and walking groups. I started out with a cheery hello for each but soon wearied of it and just kept my head down. Looking north (with my head up again) I could see where I'd come from and looking east was today's route, stretched out in front, a fine ridge with oh so many bumpy bits along it.

Back Tor

So on I bumped, over Lord's Seat, Mam Tor, Hollins Cross (where is the cross anyway?), Back Tor and finally Lose Hill.

And finally...Lose Hill

I dropped (well more like sagged) down into Hope around 2pm and hit the first tea shop I came across and in doing so missed the bus by 5 minutes. To while away the next 55 minutes I looked in a gear shop, which was madness as I came out with a book on Fort William to Cape Wrath (and a useful, small red beacon, so I can find the tent in the dark)

Then, home to get cleaned up, have dinner, have another dinner and watch Wuthering Heights (which, if I'm not mistaken, has Cathy and Heathcliffe on the top of Burbage Edge near the start of the first episode).

Friday night: 3.6 miles 1065' ascent

Saturday: 18 miles 3625' ascent

Sunday 10.4 miles 1360' acsent

Total: 32 miles 6060' ascent

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Gaping Gill Winch Meet

It's 31 years since I first went down Gaping Gill on the CPC winch. That was the first time I'd been underground and it rather changed my life. Up to that point I had imagined all potholers were mad and I was to learn that there was an element of truth in that and in doing so risk my own sanity.

Augusts come and go and there is always a mild buzz of excitement when winch meet arrives. Some folk stay up on the fell for two weeks and take large tents and all the comforts of home. I can seldom afford the time and in any case generally prefer to go light to add to the experience of wild camping along Fell Beck.

A couple of days before the start of this year's meet, I dropped Mike 'northernpies' Knipe an email invitation to come up for the weekend. His response was both postive and immediate and so it was that I met him in the New Inn in Clapham on Friday night, where we had a couple of beers before putting the tents up for the night in the field behind the car park, which has been a traditional spot to camp for as long as I've been caving. Jupiter shone brightly in the south east and the milky way was strung across a cloudless sky, a reminder of just how much light pollution there is in Derbyshire from the cities of Sheffield and Manchester.

The CPC Winch and Gantry

We were up and packed by 8:30 and my plan had been to grab a bacon buttie and coffee in one of the cafes before setting off up to GG. Mike also needed to buy a buld for the caving lamp he'd borrowed. We waited until a bit gone 9 by which time it became apparant that none of the shops opened in Clapham until later in the morning. So we set of, me short of breakfast but having fixed the lamp problem by screwing the existing bulb back into its holder!

The tent city along Fell Beck

The walk to Gaping Gill took about an hour. It usually takes a bit less but we took a small detour to allow Mike the opportunity to show me his technique for frightening cows - only they must have heard about his reputation because there were none to be seen. The track from Clapdale Farm up the plantation no has a no access sign on the gate, so we headed down to Ingleborough show cave and walked up Trow Gill to the stile at Bar Pot from where it is a short walk to the Gaping Gill shakehole, where Fell beck plunges 340 feet as a single unbroken waterfall into the largest natural underground chamber in the UK.

The sound of the winch and generator are evident some distance from the shakehole and walking up on a foggy night, as I have done on a number of occasions, it's always a welcome sound and you know that it wont be long before the lights from the camp come into view. Approaching in daylight, the observer is greeted by the sight of a sizable community of tents running up from the shakehole for a few hundred yards along the banks of Fell Beck, the bustle of Club members working their shifts or just having a brew and visitors waiting for or returning from their descent.

We checked in at the booking in tent and I got my name on the work sheet to do some guiding the Main Chamber later in the aftenoon. We then found a place to camp well up the beck, away from the crowds and out of the mud. Different areas of the camp were given names some years ago and we were in Harrogate, it being a long way from GG!

The Akto at Harrogate - Little Ingleborough in the background

After a quick lunch (or in my case breakfast) and a short siesta, I set off down the hole at 2pm, leaving Mike instructions to meet me down in Main Chamber arout 3:30. Guiding was slow to get going. When I arrived down there, there were two large parties not wanting a guide plus the guides from the earlier shift, so we were out-numbering 'guidable' visitors by about 3:1. Eventually I got to take a group round the Main Chamber and my tour script, honed over 15 years, came flooding back. Mike showed up half way round my second tour of the afternoon and tagged on while we went across to East Slope to learn of the dangers of East Pot (trust me, you don't want to go there) and the unfortunate demise of Herman the German. If you want more detail on that one, you'll have to pay the fee and do the trip.
Leaving my tour group at the bad end of a long queue to wait for their ride out, Mike and I left the Main Chamber along South Passage out to Sand Caverns and the scary black void which is Mud Pot. At this point I forgot the way on and so we retraced our steps back to T Junction and then stooped and crawled our way along South East passage to pop out through a hole in the wall onto a ledge half way down the 270' deep South East Pot. I've always found this a thoroughly gloomy and intimidating place and it was the scene of my first big ladder climb, where I was instructed as I set off down from the top to stop when the ladder runs out and get off onto the ledge. The ladder runs against the wall for the top half of the pitch before swinging into free space and blackness above a 200' drop. I had expected someone would wait for me on the ledge but as I got lower, the energy draining from my arms, no lights were evident and I realised I was on my own.

Following a short but somewhat polished climb up into a narrow passge, we went through to the bottom of bar pot and then on to the next aven which parallels Bar and goes to the surface via Wild Cat Rift. The only way out from here was New Henslers Crawl, which leads to the bottom of Disappointment Pot but neither of us felt like any more crawling and my memory of the directions went little further than it was flat out over cobbles with a right turn at some point. So we retraced our steps for the second time that day and slithered back down the greasy climb just in time to watch a party of cavers abseiling down the big pitch.
Back in Main Chamber, the queue was no shorter and it was 8pm before we got out of the hole but it was still light enough to get changed and eat in daylight before heading off to the beer tent for an evening of catching up with folk I hadn't seen all year and watching Mike fail with the trick pipe and get a white face (but he did smell nice).

The northernpie man in action eating a not so northern Ginsters pie (and there goes his reputation)

Despite a few drops of rai in the night, Sunday started out dry. Mike left for Clapham and thence to Bernies around 8:30 and I did another guiding session from 10, with once again too few visitors, though I did have the privilidge to show a disabled ex-caver (Janice?) round the Main Chamber. She had had an abseiling accident 9 years earlier, resulting in a titanium re-inforced spine. When she had asked her consultant if she would be ok to make the descent, he had apparantly wanted to come too.

Out of the hole by 12:30, and after simple lunch of white slime pie and chocolate, I had almost packed up when the heavens opened. However all was not lost, as the farmer arrived at GG with his quad bike and trailer to collect Janice just as I was leaving. he was happy enough to take my bag in the trailer and I was more than a little ecstatic for him to do so. The walk down to Clapham was quick, taking the high route above Trow Gill before dropping down to the show cave and then the path along the nature trail. After getting cleaned up a little, I visited the cafe which had been shut the previous morning and had a pot of tea and an enourmous plate of cake and cheese, which I was almost too tired to eat.

There goes my gear in that trailer

Things to remember for next year and top tip for any guide - do some voice training. After hours of shouting in the Main Chamber, I am a pony - well ok, a little hoarse. Neigh lad. Enough!

Another great GG. Thanks to Mike for joining me. For more information about Gaping Gill, the winch meet and the Craven Pothole Club, visit

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Burbage and Stanage

One of the benefits of living on the western edge of Sheffield is the ease of getting out to the countryside. Within a few minutes walk of the house is farmland and it doesn't take very long to be on open moorlands. My son had planned a 3 day backpacking trip round the Hope Valley with a couple of his mates, using most of my lightweight gear, but that fell through. So instead he and I decided on a walk over Burbage and Stanage, with an overnight camp at North Lees. Unfortunately, because he had laid claim to all my light gear, I ended up carrying all the heavy stuff.

Farmland above Lodge Moor

It was 2:30 in the afternoon before we finally set off from the house - dragging a teenage boy away from his PC can be fraught. I always feel slightly self-conscious walking through a suburban housing estate with full backpacking gear but that didn't last long and struggling over the first style, we followed the track past the Observatory and onto the back lanes which led us up onto the moors at Ringinglow. This is the road on which a well known, local boxer driving his very expensive car too quickly, wiped out another motorist. Suffice to say, it's a road to cross with caution.

Sheffield - you can just make out the big wheel in the city centre for the next few months

Houndkirk Moor lies behind (east) of Burbage Edge. It has two major tracks crossing it at right angles to each other, which give a satisfying figure of eight route for mountain bikes. Apparently, many of the roads around Burbage Moor were first built as turnpike roads. Houndkirk Road was built in 1758 but unlike the other roads, was never surfaced. As a result it is popular with by 4x4 off-roaders and unlike the track to Stanedge Pole, doesn’t suffer too badly from this kind of usage. What is more troubling is that these guys are leaving the official byway and driving up onto the moor, creating tracks where there weren’t any before. On this day, we only saw one vehicle, a rather cute beach buggy affair, which did look like it would be a lot of fun to drive. So engrossed was I at watching it bounce along, I forgot to get the camera out in time.

On a clear day from up here, you can see the cooling towers of a number of power stations sited along the rivers Ouse, around the A1 and Doncaster, and the Trent, south towards Nottingham.

Burbage Edge looking towards Higgar Tor

Our route wasn't going as far as Fox House, instead taking a right turn out to Burbage Edge where we'd planned to stop for a very late lunch - more like afternoon tea really. However, the midges had the same idea (with us on the menu) so we pressed on and strained our eyes to spot if the ice cream van was at Burbage Brook car park. It was and our pace quickened, though in my case, this was barely perceptible and I sent Joe off ahead with instructions to throw himself in front of the van, should he decide to pack up for the day! We needn't have worried. The guy was asleep with his feet up on the dashboard when we got there. The midges were far from asleep and it was but a brief stop for two very welcome ice creams and pop but with lunch still intact. While we were there, Range Rover man arrived in his f' off 4x4 and parked himself between the grass bank where we were sat and the ice cream van. Leaving his engine running, presumably because he hadn't the strength in his wrist to turn the key (which was surprising as he was clearly a complete to$$er), he walked all of two yards, bought a 99, walked another two yards back to his car and drove off. We left shortly after and walked over the road to the track up onto Stanage Edge.

Top of Stanage Edge - looking back to Burbage

As we gained some height, the breeze kept the midges down and we soon reached the trig point and pressed on along the edge. Up to this point there had been no need to look at the map and I continued with this misconception as we dropped off the edge just after Robin Hood's Cave onto what should have been a bridleway. I walked up this route in April and remember thinking then, that the track was a bit vague - I didn't look at the map then either. This time, the track was hidden below dense, chest high bracken. I don't know what's happened this year but the bracken has gone wild. It's positively Jurassic and I wouldn't have been surprised if we'd seen a herd of raptors running towards us. I'm relieved we didn't - we had enough to deal with as it was. We spent the next 15 minutes fighting our way down to the road. Bear Grylls would have been proud of us but then Bear Grylls would probably have had his feet up by some hotel pool. Eventually, the moor released us and we stumbled out onto the road with boots full of bracken and a somewhat less than moderate disposition. Of course this wasn't the bridleway. It wasn't any track marked on the map, it wasn't even a track - just like it hadn't been in April. I finally sorted out where we should have been on the way back the next day. It seemed time to call it day, so we walked the final quarter of a mile to the campsite along the road.

Something else which has gone bonkers this week is insects, in particular the St Mark's fly or Bibio Marci. I Googled for that, in case you have the impression I know something about insects, which I don't. In fact it was the campsite lady at North Lees who told us they were St Mark's flies. Up to that point we'd been calling them 'Evils' because with their large bodies and long dangly hind legs, that was how they looked. Anyway, we encountered them shortly after leaving the house and there just seemed to be more and more. As well as St Mark’s flies, this seems to have been a good week for butterflies and I spotted some white ones, a pretty blue one, some small brown ones and a Tortoiseshell.
The midges at the campsite were pretty dreadful, so it was a quick tea and then escape to the tents to read. Any plans to walk down to the pub were abandoned. I got around 1am to attend to a call of nature and the sky was almost completely clear. The previous night was supposed to have been the best for viewing the Perseids meteor shower, so I hung around outside for a short while and was rewarded quite soon with a sighting of a meteor heading from Cassiopeia towards Lyre, which tracing it’s trajectory back would have it emanating from around the constellation of Perseus. I stayed out for a while longer, until my neck started to get stiff but didn’t see any more. The midges were still bad in the morning, so we left the tents and walked into Hathersage for breakfast at Colemans Deli and a tour of the gear shops before returning to the camp site to pack up.

The plan was to head back over Stanage, past the pole and down by Redmires reservoirs back home. This time I was determined to find the bridleway we missed yesterday. To reach it we had to walk past North Lees which is said to be the inspiration for Thornfield in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, where the demented Mrs Rochester was locked away in the attic. Approaching from this direction, the start of the track is obvious but Joe decided to bail out at this point and call the cavalry, in the form of his Mum, to come and collect him in the car.

North Lees

This is a very pleasant route up onto Stanage Edge and comes out a short distance from the main Roman Causeway to Stanedge Pole. The Pole is for some reason spelt differently from the Edge and is an ancient guide for travellers. Although the current pole is unlikely to be the original, the rock plinth is reported to have the year 1550 carved in it (though when it was carved in another matter!). Suffice it to say, it’s old and to my mind lends a special feel to the place.

The 'lost' bridleway onto Stanage Edge

The old Roman Causeway east from the Pole to Redmires, is flagged up to and just beyond the gate at the edge of the plantation and I’ve just read that it is thought to have been laid in the late 18’th century when it was a packhorse route. In Roman times it was part of the road from the Roman fort at Navio (Brough near Bradwell) to Doncaster and a few years ago I found a sketch map in local history book showing the old road as running close to my house - but I’ve yet to find any Roman remains in the garden.

The Roman Causeway, looking east towards Redmires

From Stanedge Pole, it’s downhill all the way home. The top of the three reservoirs at Redmires has been drained for some months now and the middle one is only half full. There were even more St Mark’s fly than on the previous day - swarms of them, on a biblical scale but only up to the edge of the housing.

Redmires Upper reservoir

Sheffield to North Lees: 8 miles, 1200’ ascent
North Lees to Sheffield: 5 miles, 900’ ascent

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Why Pennine Ranger?

I find chooing names for website logins a real challenge, which is why I've ended up with this somewhat pretentious name of Pennine Ranger. It comes from an Oldham Tinkers song, which a mate introduced me to in the 70s. It is pretty much the only song I can remember all the words to and it goes thus (I think):

Three Pennine Rangers went up t' t'hut / The beans were on the Primus all cover'ed with soot / One Pennine Ranger went to shut the dooer / The beans fell of the Primus and cover'ed the flooer.

Three Pennine Rangers looking very sad / One said to t'oother, "Eee me lad, that's bad" / For there goes our supper, sustaining and supreme / For how can a Ranger exist wi'out his beans?

Then in the distance, coming very quick / Was a Pennine Ranger and in his hand a stick / And in t'other, what d'you think was seen? / You're right first time me lads, a dozen tins o' beans.

Now the Pennine Rangers were sat down to a feed / Each the other's capacity was trying to exceed / And when they'd finished, they couldn't get through the dooer / So they had to spend the night, with the beans upon the flooer.

So now you know :¬)

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

A tale of two tents and a walk up Kinder Scout

My shiny new Hilleberg Akto had arrived from Ray Mears online shop (lovingly packed by Ray, I assume) and I was looking for an excuse to try it out. My offspring were with me for some of the school hols, so I packed daughter back to her Mum's for the night and son and I headed for Upper Booth. The forecast was for sunshine but as we left the house, the weather looked umpromising. By Upper Booth it still looked unpromising but at least we could see the hills, so after quickly pitching tents, we set off.

A digression about tents:

Joe's tent is a Robens Stardust 1. It cost about £50 in a sale. They don't make it any more, which is a real pity as even at full price it's a superb one person tent. I used it on the TGO Challenge in May and my only real gripe with it was that the porch was a bit small to cook in. It's the same basic topography as the Akto: side opening, 'double wedge' with a single central hoop pole and 4 short poles at the corners. The pegging and guy arrangements are similar. It weighs 2kg, which is 0.5kg more than the Akto.

Before the TGOC, I knew nothing of Hilleberg tents. The Akto is almost the tent of choice amongst challengers and now I've got one I can see why. It's a Tardis tent -it's bigger on the inside than out! I think the living area could sleep two at a pinch and the porch is easily big enough to cook under with the door closed - even though, of course, one should never do such a thing! I 'm already luvvin my new Akto but I'd still give 4 stars to the Robens (and 5 stars for the Hilleberg).

Back to the plot:

Armed with sufficient food for an extended trip (2 chicken pies, 2 white slime pasties, cheese and Marmite sandwiches, apples, and copious amounts of chocolate), we headed south out of the campsite, in the opposite direction from Kinder Scout, which may seem perverse but I wanted to take in Brown Knoll (569m) en route. The track towards Rushup Edge is a bit confusing to begin with, passing through a few fields and skirting round a couple of farms. Once we got to the National Trust info centre (which was shut), the path becomes more obvious and we started to break out into open land proper and climb steeply, crossing the Sheffield to Manchester line, which goes through a tunnel around here. From the top of the climb, two right turns finally had us going in the right direction.

The weather was still gloomy and even threatened rain. Some (well, a lot of) splodging across the moor, crossing the same tunnel again) got us to the Brown Knoll trig point, which suffers from being sited in the middle of a peat bog, making it problematic to escape if one is foolish enough to sit on it.

Up to this point, we had seen only one other group of people but as we neared the top of Jacob's Ladder the hoards appeared, mostly day-trippers like ourselves rather than Pennine Wayers. A quick bite to eat and we set off for Kinder Low and the second trig point of the day, which is more conveniently placed on top of a lump of gritstone.

The rest of the plan was to head for the Downfall and then follow the beck upstream until it ran out, cross over the top to the head of Crowden Brook and then down the clough back to the campsite. Kinder Downfall was disappointingly low on water, so the dramatic scene of a waterfall going uphill, which I'd promised the lad, was not to be.

Low water levels did mean we could walk up stream in comfort. At the first branch we encountered a group of folk staring at a map. I'd previously done some staring and knew we needed to take the left fork, which we did in a confident and manly way, ignoring their fatuous enquiry as to weather we were on the Pennine Way. This is a splendid little stream, full of character, well quite a few characters really, starting out with sandy beaches and eventually becomimg a narrow canyon with peat walls which finally saw us traversing, one foot on either wall, in caving fashion.

Eventually we were forced to claw our way out to the surface and a scene of various people (including the aforementioned map starers) wandering in what appeared at first to be in the opposite direction to the way we wanted - until I checked the compass and found we had turned through 180 degrees during our peat canyoning.

So, setting the compass for a bit east of south, we then proceeded to walk along almost every other point on the dial in an attempt to avoid sinking into the morass. Taking navigation by 'aiming off' to extremes and after 20 minutes of floundering, back-tracking and generally faffing, we hit dry land (well rock actually) and shortly after that we happened upon the top end of Crowden Brook. I like to think this was skillfull map and compass work - and to some extent it was, mixed in with a teensy weensy bit of good fortune and the ability to see a useful horizon.

A short walk brought us to the head of the clough, which was more vertiginous than I remembered, calling for some scrambling followed by another lunch stop - to avoid the embarrassment of arriving back at camp with surplus pies! This is one of those stretchy tracks, which gets a bit longer the further along it you go. The maths are something like, for any point along it, there is half as far again to go as you think there should be. By now the sun was shining, only 6 hours after it was due and when we finnaly reached the campsite a short siesta was called for, followed by Sainsbury's insto meals with Tilda rice in a bag, another post-prandial siesta and drive to Edale for a glass of shandy.

A splendid day.

8.5 miles and 1700ft ascent.