A week in the Peak District

A tale of butchery, outer space and gritstone.

Friday 30 March – Sunday 1 April 2007

I woke to a sense of freedom and a burning lip. The sense of freedom arising from having left work for a three month sabattical, made all the more stark by a frantic last minute rush to get things done; and the burnt lip from an ill-advised experiment with flaming sambuccas at my “leaving do”. The morning was spent at a leisurely pace packing for the trip, and then there was a last minute rush when the kids came home from school, and we attempted to turn around changing and setting off as fast as possible.  We arrived to one of the oddest places we’ve yet stayed on our annual university friends reunion. A converted baptist chapel in Belper, with bedrooms spread over the ground and first floors, and the kitchen perched on a platform right below the roof.

Whatever the strange layout of the building, Belper proved to be a good base for the week, providing easy access to the White Peak in particular, and with the Dark Peak also manageable.

We rose late, as is customary on these get togethers, fried dead pigs and spent ages sitting around trying to decide what to do. In the end we went for a leg stretch on the Tissington Trail, a track formed from a disused railway line. But this was really just to provide justification for a cream tea. We returned to the “cottage” and I set about beginning negotiations to recruit a party for Kinder Scout. 9pm found me standing in the kitchen, attempting to dismember a whole raw duck in order that it could be vindalooed.

Sunday was another lazy day dominated by a 3½ hour lunch and the only real achievement was the decision to do Kinder the following day.

Monday 2 April 2007: Kinder Scout

We were greeted by blue skies and only a very light breeze which made for good walking weather. It took ages to get to Edale and I think we were all glad to get out of the car in the station car park and get boots on. We’d originally planned to start from Barber Booth, but a last minute change to requirements to include toilets at the start/end point altered this. But this proved to be fortuitous as I really enjoyed the route up that we took, although it did make for a long walk out at the end.

It was after 11 when we set off, walking through Edale to Grindsbrook Booth. Paving slabs took us across the grass to the trees fringing the bottom of the mountain.

Path to Grindsbrook Clough

The path to Grindsbrook Clough

We weren’t the only people about, but for some reason everyone seemed to be heading off right towards Ringing Roger. We continued, carrying thoughts that maybe we were missing something or that everyone else had mistaken Roger for the summit of Kinder. The clough twisted and turned its way, gradually gaining height and taking us towards the plateau.

Grindsbrook Clough

Grindsbrook Clough

The stony stream bed steepened and hands were needed as we half walked, half scrambled over the final rocky section to gain the plateau itself.

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Nearly at the top of Grindsbrook Clough

Our heads appeared over the lip of the Clough and then we were on the edge of the Kinder plateau. We paused to take our bearings and promptly headed off in completely the wrong direction, the path taking us down onto Grindslow Knoll, and which would have made for a much shorter walk if we hadn’t realised our mistake. We retraced our steps and followed the correct path west towards the top of Crowden Clough, which had been our original planned way up.

Funny Rock

The Shark Rock or Airplane Rock (or whatever you think it looks like)

We headed on through the Wool Packs and took in the odd rock formations, where we paused for lunch. We got going again, took a look at Pym Chair and started the debate about where the summit was. Over to the west we could see the trig point of Kinder Low, which you would naturally think is the summit, but further north on the map a higher spot height gave the game away.

We headed north through the peat hags in a not too confident attempt to find the actual summit. Several muddy slides later and we came upon a lonely cairn and all posed for pictures.

At Kinder Scout summit

At Kinder Scout summit

We continued north to pick up an actual path that would take us to Kinder Downfall, but never actually found it and instead ended up right at the Downfall itself. We watched a thin trickle of water tumbling down the rocks amidst icy shards. Due to our late start and with the day advancing rapidly, we cut short our look at the waterfall and headed south along the Pennine way path to bring us to the trig point we’d seen earlier – Kinder Low. Here a longer pause as we took in the bizarre sight of alien looking rocks scattered over a greyish dirt. A bit of outer space in the Peak District.

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Kinder Low

With our sights set on the return journey now, we continued along the path until it forked looking for the route down to Edale Cross. But the left fork bent sharply to the left and didn’t look correct, so we took the right. Two hours later we realised our mistake when we approached Edale Cross from the west, having descended over Kinderlow End.

With legs now feeling tired we descended Jacob’s Ladder and trudged along the Pennine Way back to Edale and a welcome sit down in the car.

The route: KInder Scout from Edale via Grindsbrook Clough and Kinderlow End

The route: KInder Scout from Edale via Grindsbrook Clough and Kinderlow End

Tuesday 3 April 2007

I woke with aching legs after my first proper walk for months. A gentler day was planned with a visit to Dovedale. So gentle in fact that we didn’t set off until lunchtime. As we approached the car park, a pointy hill guarding the entrance to the valley caught my eye. Thorpe Cloud was just asking to be climbed. Three of us set off to scale its steep flanks and perch precariously on it’s narrow summit rocks.

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Thorpe Cloud

Thorpe Cloud is a proper hill with steep sides, and at 942ft high, easily beats anything close to home, including countless Marilyns. Such a shame that Thorpe Cloud doesn’t make any of the hill lists.

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On Thorpe Cloud

Legs really singing now, we descended to Dovedale and enjoyed the delights of this wonderful valley – from the stepping stones to Lovers’ Leap. We walked as far up the valley as we felt like and then simply turned around.

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Dovedale from Thorpe Cloud

Wednesday 4 April 2007: Bleaklow

Yet again I woke up with legs protesting, despite the relative shortness and easiness of yesterday’s walk. After his “mountain” experience yesterday, David decided to join us on today’s walk up Bleaklow, especially as we were opting for the easiest route from Snake Pass which starts from 510m above sea level. With a journey from the other end of the Peak District, we weren’t putting boots on until 11:15, but once we started we set off at a decent pace heading for the peat along Devil’s Dike.

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Heading up onto Bleaklow from Snake Pass

A short while later, I realised my leg felt wet and on investigation found a failed hydration bladder to be the cause. However, the water resistance of my rucksack was more impressive and I actually had to tip out my drink from my sac. It then took the rest of the walk to even remotely begin to dry out.

After this drama, we continued along the Pennine Way, gently climbing as we wound through the peat hags, passing large sacks of stones for path repair at intervals. The Hern Stones appeared on our left as we neared the top of our climb, and soon we were at the summit.

We explored the top of the moor, visiting the various cairns and then came to its most distinctive natural feature, which some even mistakenly think is the summit itself – the Wain Stones. Andy and David duly clambered up to pose for pictures while I tried to find the right angle to get the stones “kissing”.

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The Wain Stones, Bleaklow

After a break for lunch, we headed south for the lesser visited Higher Shelf Stones, a peatier route altogether which slowed my pace but seemed to have no discernible effect on the two mountain goats of our party. A bit more posing on top of the trig point and then we set off back to the car, taking a diagonal line roughly south east to cut the corner off a bit. A simple walk out back along the Pennine Way got us back to the car.

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Higher Shelf Stones, Bleaklow

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The Pennine Way leading across the Bleaklow moor

The route: Bleaklow Head and Higher Shelf Stones from Snake Pass

The route: Bleaklow Head and Higher Shelf Stones from Snake Pass

Thursday 5 April 2007

On our last day we continued the theme of alternating days of mountains and valleys with a short excursion to the Manifold Valley, taking a short but leisurely walk from Wetton Mill along the valley, and climbing up to Thor’s Cave for a look inside.

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Exploring the Manifold Valley

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Looking out from inside Thor’s Cave

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