Wednesday 11 October 2017

Burbage Edge and the Upper Goyt Valley

Since we moved to the High Peak area, the hills to the west of Buxton have become a favourite area of mine for walking. Easily accessible from the town centre, the variety of terrain they provide is impressive - farmland, open moors, woodland and reservoir walking are all on offer, and these can be combined to make a full day's outing or simply a ramble of a couple of hours if time is short. The area is rich in history and I have written about some of that in a previous blog post - see here - so I'll try to avoid repeating myself in this trip report.

With all this in mind, these hills were a natural choice when I found myself with a spare afternoon to get outside last week. The forecast wasn't too inspiring but I was motivated to take a punt on the sunny spells it'd half-promised by the dreary weekend of drizzle and grey mist we'd just had.

Dark skies as I left Buxton behind.

I left Buxton, as I had before, via Burbage. The morning had been wet and drops of rain still swirled around in the air below the gun-metal grey sky, which led me to wonder whether I'd made the right decision in heading out. The weather might have been autumnal but there was little in the way of autumn colour in my surroundings and everything had a drab hue to it in the weak daylight.

It was all a bit dispiriting until, on the far side of a field, I spotted a group of rabbits. Alternately lolloping through the grass or crouching down to avoid being seen, they put a smile on my face with their antics and I leaned on a gate and watched them for a while.

It didn't take long to get to the public footpath that leads steeply up onto the moors and soon I was making my way up the grassy ridge that separates Buxton from the Goyt Valley. The threat of rain still hung in the air and every time I took a photo I had to wipe stray drops from the lens. Behind me, the skies were even more ominous than they had been when I first set out but sunlight was breaking through in the west, illuminating patches of Wild Moor and the hills on the other side of the valley.

Looking back up to the ridge.
Wild Moor.
The flowering gorse was a welcome splash of colour.

The path was wet and muddy, so I took it fairly slowly as I made my way down to a level that was once the course of the Cromford and High Peak railway (see above link to my previous blog post). On my previous walk, I'd crossed this and headed down a meandering path into Wild Moor but today I took a barely discernible trail on the right of the old tunnel entrance.

Looking back down to the gate; the narrow path
to it follows the hillside.
I only knew of this route because I'd met it on a descent of Burbage Edge and it seemed, five or six months later, that the path was a lot more badly eroded than it had been on that walk. Perhaps it was the footfall of the summer months that had done the damage or perhaps the recent wet weather made it seem worse than it actually was, but it was tricky keeping your balance on this narrow, slippery trod and I was glad to reach the small gate below Burbage Edge without going head-over-heels into the wet-looking ditch three or four feet below me.

The mud was replaced by peat as I began to climb sharply uphill from here. It was scarcely less difficult underfoot than the previous section of path but eventually the gradient became less pronounced which made falling flat on my face less of a concern. The higher I got the stronger the wind became, however, and it was blowing up a fair old hoolie by the time I was within sight of the trig column. Twice I was almost blown over when a gust caught me off guard mid-step and my eyes were streaming as I was walking almost directly into it.

On a brighter note, this gale seemed to be clearing the skies of the low-lying cloud and when I looked back now they were a picture book blue-and-white.

Looking back north across Wild Moor. 
Looking west from Burbage Edge trig to Shining Tor and Cat's Tor.

From the trig, I followed Burbage Edge south along the clear but saturated path. I had to make quite a few diversions to avoid sinking into the peat or filling my boots with water. The "edge" (it's not very edge-like, truth to tell, more of an elongated hill) has a wall running along it and I soon came to a small gate in the dry stone, with a path on either side of it.

Looking back up to the summit of Burbage Edge.

There were good views towards Axe Edge Moor from here. I stepped through the gate to get a better picture and was immediately eye-balled by one of the cattle, far below in the pasture, who'd heard the clatter of the metal latch. It stared at me intently all the while I stood on its side of the wall and I felt a little relieved I was heading the opposite way across Goyt's Moss.

Looking south east towards Axe Edge.
That feeling of being watched...

From here, it was pretty much straight down into Goyt's Clough, where the infant River Goyt begins its own long journey to meet the River Tame and form the River Mersey before flowing into the Irish Sea at Liverpool. Broad and rocky at first, the path narrows as it turns into Berry Clough. There were fine views across the valley from here. Bracken took the place of heather once in the clough, however, and in some places it was above head height, which didn't make for pleasant walking. I checked myself thoroughly for ticks when I got home, although I've never heard of any incidence of them on this particular stretch of moorland.

Axe Edge to the south.
The famous Cat and Fiddle Inn, to the south west.
Shining Tor and Cat's Tor to the west across the Upper Goyt Valley.
Making my way down Berry Clough.

At the bottom of the clough, I crossed the Goyt by the little wooden footbridge and climbed up to the reservoir access road. Here the break in the weather lent an autumnal glow to the scenery that had been distinctly lacking back on Bishop's Lane at the start of the walk.

Looking north along Goyt's Clough.

This section was new walking ground for me and I was keeping an eye out for an ancient packhorse bridge, which crossed the river a little further downstream. This had once stood in Goyt's Bridge, a small hamlet that now lies under Errwood Reservoir. The packhorse bridge was dismantled and reconstructed above the flooded part of the valley.

There is a mine of information at the The Goyt Valley Website, a real labour of love and a beautifully laid-out and fascinating resource for anyone interested in the history of this area. The site includes some rare footage filmed in the lost hamlet, which is a must-see: see here.

When I found the bridge, it proved to be a handsome, stone-built structure. Its location - well below the road - was very picturesque, particularly looking downstream along the rock-strewn and tree-lined clough. You'd hardly suspect that the access road and a car park were just above this idyllic scene.

Making my way down to the bridge.
Looking north along the Goyt from the bridge.
Looking south at the packhorse bridge.

I'd plotted a route northwards along the access road to reach the reservoir and wasn't especially looking forward to this part of the walk, so I was pleased to discover a sign for a "riverside walk" which I hadn't noticed on the map. A muddy path descended sharply into the trees here and I was able to follow the course of the Goyt below a canopy of autumnal leaves, which was much more pleasant.

Trees lined the lower reaches of Goyt's Clough.
On the riverside walk.

Eventually, I resurfaced not far from the opening of the river into the expanse of Errwood Reservoir, and from here the road led me north, across the inky waters in Shooter's Clough, towards the dam wall.

Errwood Reservoir.
Crossing Shooter's Clough.
Errwood Reservoir dam.
An angler on the reservoir.
Looking south from the dam wall.

Errwood Reservoir overflow.
A plaque by the reservoir informed me how late in the twentieth century the reservoir had been constructed - and solved a puzzle.

Lazily, I'd assumed it had been built before the Second World War, as so many had been in the north of England, so I was intrigued by the design of the overflow as I approached the northern end of the reservoir. Knowing Errwood had been completed in 1967, the modern architecture made more sense. Dates aside, it still remains a striking building, I think.

From the dam it was uphill again on Goyt's Lane, which follows the course of the Bunsall Incline, the steepest of the many inclines along the Cromford and High Peak Railway. A plaque commemorates the building of the unremarkable tarmac road and the incline that had once been there. It seems there was also an old bridge here, which was partially destroyed during the dismantling of the reservoir and access road. Its arch can still be seen by keen-eyed passers-by and I'll keep an eye out for it next time I'm there.

This minor lane was unexpectedly busy with cars, though perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised since I'd passed a number of anglers, dog walkers and ramblers after reaching the reservoir. I took another diversion from my planned route here and followed a public footpath around the hillside: it was on the face of it a rather pointless loop, which headed north-east and then south-east back to rejoin Goyt's Lane but I was able to avoid the traffic and the ground underfoot made for easy walking.

Leaving Goyt's Lane and the traffic behind.
Looking north west across the Upper Goyt Valley: Fernilee Reservoir concealed by the hillside and trees.
The view north east: Round-the-Bend on the western edge of Combs Moss.

Back at the lane I passed a small, hillside reservoir and set off along the course of the railway again. This traces a route around and above Wild Moor and has been levelled and surfaced for use by walkers. Winding along the slopes of the hills, the trail crosses a couple of broad cloughs below Watford Moor on huge embankments that almost look part-and-parcel of the natural landscape.

Back above Wild Moor, about to join the old railway trail.
Watford Moor and the course of the railway around the hillside below it.
Back at the blocked up tunnel; Burbage Edge above to the right.

It's a mile from Goyt's Lane to the blocked up tunnel entrance below Burbage Edge along this trail and before long I was climbing back up to the ridge above Buxton and heading back into town. Remarkably, I just managed to dodge the rain, which had begun rolling back in overhead as I neared the end of my walk, and it ended up being another great afternoon in the Upper Goyt Valley.

Date: October 2017

Walk length: 14 km

Total ascent: 535 metres


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