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

1 comment:

mike knipe said...

"I had to go now - I wasn't wasting £8.50"

Ah! The true test of a Yorkshireman.....
Its a good job you didnt stay on a campsite as they frown on wandering about in your bollix and boots "looking for water"
Unless you're a student or a bit drunk, in which case it's fine...