Saturday 19 December 2015

Bleaklow via the Higher Shelf Stones

Here's another walk that didn't quite go to plan, though this time in a good way. My original idea was to do this as a half-day outing up to the Higher Shelf Stones and back, all in all around eight and half miles, but I'd started out early and had made pretty good time when I got there so I decided to extend my route to take in Bleaklow Head as well.

Glossop Station was the start point and I had to make my way through the town centre to Old Glossop first and then past a small industrial area on Shepley Street, before I reached farmland. I'd begun a previous walk along the same initial route so I knew my way and I hoped this section would give my legs a bit of a warm up before I had to begin my ascent onto the moors. Shelf Moor and Coldharbour Moor were directly in front of me and together formed a forbidding landmass on the horizon that dwarfed the small area of pasture below their dark and sometimes craggy slopes.

Shelf Moor (l) and Coldharbour Moor (r) in the distance.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Chinley Churn, Brown Knoll, South Head and Mount Famine

Sitting here on the sofa, all wrapped up in a fleece and nursing my man-flu while the November wind and rain batters the house from what sounds like every angle, I've decided to cheer myself up by re-visiting one of the walks I did this past summer. The hills you can see from the A6 between Chapel-en-le-Frith and Manchester had always caught my eye as we drove to and from the Peak District on days out and I decided early in June that it was about time I explored the intriguingly-named Chinley Churn and Mount Famine. The latter's more prosaic sounding companion South Head was also on the list. I'd plotted a circular route from the village of Chinley but just taking in those three summits made for a relatively short walk so I decided to extend my day to take in Brown Knoll which lies just next to the Kinder Plateau.

Leaving the lane to head up to Cracken Edge.
I arrived at Chinley railway station just before 8:00 am and it was already shaping up to be a glorious summer's day. I seem to get lost in the most unlikely places - once when I couldn't find my way out of a large empty field, for instance, or when I could see my exit from Bamford Moor ahead of me but couldn't find a way through the bogs and bracken to get to it: here it was the streets of Chinley, the railway having deposited me in a residential area. 

Usually, I'll have a gander at Google's street view so I can confidently stride to whichever gate or stile is my entrance to the countryside. On this occasion I'd forgotten to do that so I had to resort to using the GPS file on my phone to guide me through the streets. I pretended I was just intently texting and hoped I didn't look like a complete numpty as I wandered past the locals leaving their homes for work and school. 

Thursday 26 November 2015

High Seat, Castlerigg and St. Bees

We've had house guests and other commitments for what seems like a month of Sundays, so we needed no prompting to sort out a little jaunt to the Lake District last weekend once we saw that there was a spell of fine, cold weather heading that way. We'd had a route mapped out for Skiddaw for a while and the plan was to stay over in the area and do that on the Sunday, taking advantage of the early start we'd be able to make. A shorter walk when we arrived on the Saturday was to act as a valuable warm-up exercise for legs that had been sadly under-used for several long weeks.

Phone pic of the Howgills from the M6

Sunday 15 November 2015

Cadair Berwyn

Having finally got the northern edge of Kinder under my belt, it was time to turn my attention back to Wales and another oft-postponed trip, the summits of which had been worrying away at me and demanding to be climbed since late spring. This was a ridge walk to Cadair Berwyn, described on Wikipedia as "the highest significant summit in Wales outside the National Parks". As a bonus this walk started and ended with a charming cafe that does a mighty fine mug of coffee and a spectacular waterfall, which is well worth a visit on its own terms even without heading into the hills that surround it.

Following the Afon Rhaeadr upstream

Saturday 10 October 2015

North Kinder

Earlier this year I walked from Glossop to Edale, heading up the Doctors Gate Path and joining the Pennine Way at Snake Pass to make my crossing of the Kinder Plateau. It was to lead me across ground I'd walked many times before on the southern side of Kinder but when I first reached the plateau from Mill Hill and looked eastwards down onto Black Ashop Moor, I realised that in all the times I had climbed this iconic peak I'd never explored its vast northern edge.

A few days after I finished that walk, I sat down to plot myself a route. Not being a driver, I try to keep the Dark Peak reserved for solo walks, as the public transport links from Manchester are pretty decent and I can access the area relatively quickly and easily. My plan was to join the north ridge at its most westerly point, where it juts out quite distinctly above Mill Hill, and head east, following it round until I was above Edale. At the time I assumed I would be tackling this walk in the near future so I decided to avoid repeating the Doctor's Gate Path so soon after I'd just done it and take a different approach to the summit. The Sett Valley Trail seemed to promise an easy warm-up walk from the railway line at New Mills to Hayfield and the Kinder Reservoir.

The Torrs Millennium Walkway at the start of my walk.
Well, "best laid plans" and all that... That was last spring - now here we are in autumn and I have finally managed to squeeze this walk in at the end of September. The weather has been unseasonably warm and even though we'd just had a week's leave to go walking and have days out, I decided to take a further last minute day off at the end of my first week back - "easing yourself back into the daily grind after a break", I call it. Or "I can't face a full week in that hellish office" is perhaps another way of phrasing it.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Yr Eifl

Garn Ganol, the highest of Yr Eifl's three summits
If you travel along the northern side of the Llyn Peninsula in Wales, the three peaks of Yr Eifl soon become a dominant feature ahead of you. In English it is known as The Rivals and the fact that one of the summits of this large hill contains a well-preserved Iron Age hill fort might lead one to think that its English moniker draws upon the history of the site; in fact, the truth is rather more prosaic - the translation of the Welsh name Yr Eifl is The Forks, for reasons that are clear when you view the hill's dramatic northern aspect, and the English merely an approximation of its pronunciation. The smaller of the three peaks, Garn For (1457 ft) is closest to the sea and has been heavily quarried over the years; its man-made and natural cliffs drop precipitously and we'd read that access to this section of Yr Eifl is prohibited for safety reasons. The remaining summits, however, are access land and provide invigorating walking and some spectacular views of Snowdonia, the coastline and even - on a good day - across to Ireland.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Dog Hill - a short walk in two parts

Part One:

Booth Wood Reservoir.
These two jaunts around Rishworth Moor, above Ripponden, started out as a short stroll on the moors for a summer's evening. That had been deliberately planned to come in at around the five mile mark for our elderly German Shepherd, who can't manage the full day walks or stiff climbs any longer. The idea was to head up to Blackwood Edge and follow the old Roman road to the west, with a yomp up to the trig point on Dog Hill, before circling back past Green Withens Reservoir to the car. 

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Cadair Idris

A stream in woodland with a path of stone steps leading uphill.
The start of the Minffordd Path
For some of the walks I have planned out I don't want to risk doing them unless the weather conditions are as near to perfect as possible; not necessarily for safety reasons - though that is a prime consideration in any trip, of course - but more because the location itself is special in some way or it involves a significant journey to get there. Cadair Idris is one of those places for me. It's a name that's lodged in my imagination since I read Susan Cooper's "The Dark Is Rising" series of novels as a teenager (and again, with equal pleasure, as an adult); and when looking at possible routes it became clear that not only is the mountain itself quite beautiful but that it affords some wonderful views, particularly down to the coast.

I was itching to get there and for several days had been keeping a close eye on weather forecasts. Various sites, both mountain specific and general, were pretty unequivocal that the outlook was due to be clear blue skies and sunshine towards the end of this week. I needed no second bidding to book a couple of last-minute leave days and we set off to Wales yesterday morning around 6:30am. It was a beautiful morning here in Manchester and in Cheshire too. Luminous mist lying low across the fields and the dazzling sunshine above that made sunglasses a necessity as we drove along the M6 and then the M56. When we hit Denbighshire, however, fog filled many of the valleys and the sunlight made little impact on its grey demeanour.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Moel Siabod

Living in Manchester means that Snowdonia is within just as easy reach for us as the Yorkshire Dales or the Peak District, particularly with the A55 coastal road offering a ready entry into north and central Wales from various points along its course. The Welsh national park is an area we've wanted to explore for a while and the advent of "The Glorious Twelfth" has prompted me to map out a few routes away from the moors during the shooting season. So it was that, with a day of unalloyed sunshine forecast, I settled on the relatively small peak of Moel Siabod as our first Welsh mountain of the season.

A lake and woodland, behind which stands the summit of Moel Siabod.
Moel Siabod from Llynau Mymbyr
We set off early and were lucky to find a space in a lay-by right at the start of our route. We parked next to Llynau Mymbyr. Originally one long lake this is now effectively a pair due to a build-up of sediment in the middle. Looking down from higher altitudes the effect is rather like observing a giant amoeba splitting in two. There remains a passable channel at the moment, it seems, as we later saw canoeists from the Plas y Brenin Mountain Centre at the south western end but no doubt in years to come they will have to carry their boats between the two expanses of water.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Burbage Rocks and Stanage Edge

Or, "How Poor Decision Making and Stubbornness Deprived Me of My Beer and Made Me Late for Dinner."

A station house, clad in white painted wooden boards with black painted edging.
The Dark Peak is famous for its huge grit stone edges, draws for walkers and climbers alike, but few are quite as impressive as Stanage Edge: viewed from its southern end near Upper Burbage Bridge, the six kilometre sweep of millstone grit undulates before you like a breaking wave, permanently suspended above the Hope Valley. From the 458 metre vantage point of High Neb, Win Hill and the peaks of the Great Ridge seem diminished, while the vista over towards Eyam Moor is a gently rolling, pastoral affair; only the dark bulk of the Kinder Plateau beyond them feels like it can match this iconic escarpment in might.

My walk was to take in Stanage Edge as its climax but I also wanted to explore Burbage Rocks first, another escarpment that runs south in the form of a broken crescent, from Upper Burbage Bridge to the Longshaw Estate

Saturday 18 July 2015

Corn Du and Pen y Fan

To do the classic horseshoe ridge walk in the Brecon Beacons has long been an ambition of mine so when we booked a few days holiday in Cornwall, a stopover in South Wales on the way seemed the ideal way to realise this.The long range weather forecast had seemed a positive one so we booked into a B&B (the wonderful Mount Pleasant Inn in Merthyr Vale, which thoroughly deserves its numerous five star reviews online) and packed our walking gear alongside our beach and bar wear.

A shallow river running through woodland and cascading over rocks.
The Taf Fechan
Thus it was we found ourselves parking the car one drizzly morning in the Taf Fechan forest. The fine weather promised had disappeared but the revised forecast of occasional light showers and sunny spells didn't bode too badly. With that in mind, I jammed on my sun hat as well as my waterproof jacket and we set off over the river into the woods. 

The walk at this point was a gentle incline but the air was quite close between the trees so it was a relief to come out of the cover of branches and leaves into an area that seemed to have been cleared for timber. 

As the woodland thinned we got our first glimpse of the mountain walk ahead of us - the Graig Fan Ddu ridge appeared above the foliage on the left and Craig Cwm Cynwyn became visible on the right. The northern end of the latter, where the summit of Cribyn stands was ominously covered in clag.

The terrain was surprisingly boggy here, and the slippery, thin logs placed hither and thither along the footpath made crossing the wettest sections a tricky balancing act. As we approached the dam of the Lower Neuadd Reservoir, the ground grew more reliable under our feet and it became safer to look around as you walked instead of constantly looking down to assess the solidity of the earth.

Saturday 11 July 2015

Thor's Cave and Ecton Hill

Thor's Cave above the Manifold Valley has long been on my list of places to visit and at the end of June we drove out late one Sunday afternoon to explore this area of the White Peak. Along the lower reaches of the valley itself runs the Manifold Way, from Hulme End to Waterhouses: this was once the route of the relatively short-lived Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway (L&MVLR), which maintained a economically-precarious existence from 1904 to 1934 before finally giving up the ghost. The Wiki entry on the Manifold Way mentions a wag among the railway workers on the line describing it as a "line that started in the middle of nowhere, and ended up in the same place", and his quip succinctly explains its demise.

Our walk started at the northern end of the trail at Hulme End. The station at the head of the railway line once stood here and  there is a pay-and-display car park, public toilets and a visitor centre. It was fairly late in the afternoon when we started out but the weather was glorious and the sunset wasn't due until after 9.30 so we relished the thought of a walk into the early evening. As we followed the tarmac path (the trail has good accessibility for pushchairs and wheelchairs though occasionally shares a route with motor traffic), Ecton Hill appeared to our left. I'd mentioned to Rich that there was a hill at the end of the route but when it suddenly loomed into view I prudently decided to keep quiet for now that this was it.

Across a meadow, a green hill with trees.
Ecton Hill

Friday 26 June 2015

Cressbrook Dale and the Monsal Trail

The Dark Peak is justly famous for its heather and peat-blanketed uplands and the dark gritstone edges, scoured by centuries of wind and rain, that gaze menacingly down on its vast reservoirs - this is many people's first image when someone says they're going walking in the Peak District and it's probably usually mine too. It's not the whole story though, as picturesque towns like Bakewell and Matlock bear witness, and the fertile farmland in which they lie contains some real hidden gems for the hiker.

Fast flowing river with foliage and trees on the banks.
We ventured back into this territory late last year, when we had a friend staying with us who was temporarily using a wheelchair. A search for accessible outdoor locations led us to Tideswell Dale and we made a note to return and explore the area further.

That short outing brought us, albeit much later than we planned, to Cressbrook Dale last month. We left the car at a free roadside parking spot by the River Wye on the lane between Monsal Head and Cressbrook village. 

Monday 15 June 2015

Catlow Hill

Like our excursion to Knott End-on-Sea recently, Catlow Hill was another short walk that was planned at the last minute. The choice of location actually came from that afternoon out, inspired by the views we had seen inland, as we wandered round the lanes and salt marshes of coastal Lancashire. It was the first time either of us had been to the Forest of Bowland AONB and I really was blown away by the scenery, with huge expanses of moorland (just my type of walking country) rising up all around us.

A country road with moorland on either side and high fells on the horizon.
The Forest of Bowland

Rich and our dog standing by a shallow stream.
Lotte and Rich by the River Hoddder
It was far more breathtaking than the photo above suggests and I could have stood by the roadside for ages, gazing at the fells. Once I'd got back into the car, we drove on, passing through the attractive village of Slaidburn, until we reached the Cross of Greet Bridge car park, by the River Hodder.

Friday 5 June 2015

Knott End-on-Sea

This was an impromptu short walk we did a couple of weekends ago when the weather one Sunday afternoon defied the forecasters and brightened up. Although I have a store of walks saved with OS Maps, none of them were short enough for the time we had left in the day nor did I have time to sit and work a new one out. So I turned to the AA for this route.

We parked up in a large car park by the golf club, which provided views across the mouth of the River Wyre towards Fleetwood, where old and new were juxtaposed.

Small lighthouse and radar installation next to parked cars.
The Beach Lighthouse and the radar station at Fleetwood.
Mind you, our carpark had an air of history about it that afternoon too.

Sunday 31 May 2015

Marsden to Hebden Bridge

A picture of a sign with information and illustrations for visitors to the town.
Solo walks are something I've only started doing recently. I don't drive but living in Manchester provides public transport links to a wide variety of great walking country, such as the Peak District, Calderdale and Saddleworth. 

Marsden in West Yorkshire is an attractive village not far from Huddersfield: it's quite large for a village - more of a small mill town really - and its architecture is testament to the area's industrial heritage. It's only half an hour from Manchester Victoria Station if you pick the right train. Some services involve a change in Huddersfield and take twice as long, so it's best to check the Rail Planner site if you're using this method of transport. For those that drive, there is a sizeable car park at the National Trust Marsden Moor Estate Office by the train station.

We'd been to Marsden a couple of times previously, once for a look around the village and on another occasion to walk around Butterley Reservoir. This time, however, I wanted to explore the moorland to the north of the town.

Saturday 9 May 2015

Pendle Hill

It seems fitting that Pendle Hill should be my first trip report here, since we've seen it so many times from various points of the compass when we've been out walking. It probably seems strange to have left it so long to bag this hill considering it's pretty much on our doorstep but I knew from repute that the vistas from the summit were impressive so I wanted to wait and make sure it was going to be a clear day before heading up there.
Our starting point was Downham, a charming Lancashire village that was the ideal spot to sample all spring has to offer.

Clumps of daffodils on grass verge. Dry stone walls and blue sky in background.