Thursday, 19 October 2017

Lantern Pike, Harry Hut and Mill Hill

Although I've visited Hayfield many times over the years and enjoyed its charming buildings and fine selection of ale houses, I have to admit that in terms of hill-walking I've always thought of it as a gateway to Kinder Scout and not really considered what else it has to offer. Thankfully, my eyes were opened this summer when I had a spare half-day to go for a hike, slap bang in the middle of what had been excitedly trending on Twitter as #heatwaveuk.

The Sett Valley Trail.
(For anyone reading this from outside the UK, a heatwave in Britain is usually a comically short length of time with fairly regular sunshine and what would be considered mild-to-normal summertime temperatures anywhere else in our planet's temperate zones.)

Wanting to find somewhere new to walk that was close by before the skies clouded over and the drizzle recommenced, I recalled the hills we'd so often seen from the road between Glossop and Hayfield. Opening up OS Maps, I rattled out a circular route up onto them from the Sett Valley Trail, which begins (or ends, depending on your perspective) by Hayfield's bus station, and set off to explore.

The first top of the day was Lantern Pike, a modest hill but one that promised some excellent views. As I made my way out of Hayfield along the well-managed trail, I could see the summit occasionally through breaks in the foliage at the side of the path. In real life, it looked a lot steeper and higher than the contour lines and numbers had suggested on the map. There was a pleasant breeze, though, and above my head branches heavy with leaves broke the sunlight that was beating down on Derbyshire, all of which made the prospect of scaling it during #heatwaveuk less forbidding than it might have been.

Lantern Pike from the Sett Valley Trail.

It was the height of wildflower season. Splashes of colour accompanied the leisurely first stage of my journey, a foretaste of the many flowers I was to see during the first half of the walk, before I exchanged farmland for the moors.

Foxgloves by the trail.

The Sett Valley Trail follows the course of the old railway line that used to link Hayfield and New Mills, and it's intended to be accessible to people of all ages and abilities, including those who use mobility scooters and wheelchairs. The smooth surface made for easy walking and I soon found myself alongside the small but picturesque Birch Vale reservoir and, shortly after that, at its head.

Passing alongside Birch Vale Reservoir.
Crossing the head of the reservoir.

In my haste, I'd originally plotted a route that took me further in the direction of New Mills, following the course of the Pennine Bridleway, but I noticed a sign for Lantern Pike at the top of the reservoir. Checking the map, I saw this would shave a tiny amount of the length of my walk and I seized this miniature victory with gusto. Crossing the River Sett, I headed uphill across a field to join a farm track and before long I was back on the Pennine Bridleway.

Crossing farmland to rejoin the Pennine Bridleway.

There were more wildflowers along the bridleway, one of which I struggled to identify. Google's image search facility, which I tried for the first time, helpfully brought up the suggestion: "Flower". I subsequently found out with the help of Twitter that the fanciful bloom immediately below is neither native nor "wild" but a member of the Spiraea family and probably an escapee from a cultivated garden.


Vetch.

Eventually I reached a proper road, arriving at the point where its name changes from Sitch Lane to Swallow House Lane. An isolated row of attractive terraced houses stood here and at the right hand side of them another access track led further uphill.

As I climbed I looked back down and was surprised at how far I'd come - in the lush, tree-filled valley below me the roofs of Hayfield peeped out through the greenery, the village dwarfed by the bulk of Chinley Churn and Mount Famine to the south. This was the steepest and most sustained ascent I'd done since leaving Hayfield but again the lane was shaded by trees in part and with the increased height came a stiffer breeze that was quite refreshing.

Eventually, the tarmac lane became a rough track. Ahead, a sheep-strewn field lay through a gate on my right and The Pennine Bridleway lay through a smaller one to the left.

A knobbly spine of rock just above the bridleway marked the summit ridge of Lantern Pike, just a short pull up the rough hillside. Immediately through the gate, a well-trodden path followed the line of a dry stone wall upwards, bringing me in short order to the southern end of the Pike.

Across the valley to the east, chequered patterns clashed - strips of burnt and healthy heather on The Knott and Middle Moor were juxtaposed with the neat greenery of farmland just above Hayfield. Beyond it all, the Kinder Scout plateau dominated the horizon. It was hazy and indistinct, confirming that the weather conditions, pleasant though they might be to walk in, weren't going to be ideal for long range views or photos.

Heading up onto the ridge of Lantern Pike's summit.
Middle Moor and Kinder beyond it.

Immediately below the summit, as I made my way along its ridge, was a field containing several horses and a single pony, who appeared to be facing the wall in disgrace. I've passed ponies in a similar position on several occasions, which leads me to conclude that either they like looking at flat surfaces quite close-up or they behave badly in social situations and are frequently sent to stand in the corner until they're sorry.



"Bad pony! BAD!"

The highest point of Lantern Pike is marked by a toposcope. It was erected as a memorial to Edwin Royce, sometime president of the Manchester Ramblers' Federation, an organisation which occasionally found itself at odds with the organisers and participants of the 1930s mass trespasses over the methods the latter used. I took a short video from the the toposcope, which you can view here - I'd advise muting the sound, though, as the microphone makes the breeze sound like a hurricane.

Looking north from the toposcope.
The toposcope memorial.

After a short break, I resumed my walk, descending to join the Pennine Bridleway once again. From the summit of Lantern Pike it traces a meandering course northwards, providing a pleasant and undemanding stroll through farmland. To the west, a fertile agricultural landscape unfurled below my gaze in a series of modest hills, fields and hedgerows. These pastures lie on the most north-western fringes of Derbyshire, a network of hamlets and homesteads on the historically shifting county and metropolitan borders of Cheshire and Stockport. To the east, by contrast, lay the inviting swell of the moors, their variegated patterns slightly hazy in the afternoon warmth.

Heading north on the Pennine Bridleway.
Rolling farmland to the west.
To the east, the moors of the Dark Peak.

I was walking downhill or pretty much on the level now for around a mile and quarter, until I reached Matley Moor. A couple of cyclists had passed me as I left Lantern Pike but I saw no-one else as I followed the track north through this idyllic landscape and my only companions were the buzzing summer insects, who were clearly enjoying the wildflowers as much as I was. At one point, I passed an impressive gateway, complete with griffins seated on the tall gateposts, but a "Private Road" sign warned off further investigation and whatever property they belonged to lay hidden in trees in a valley below the trail.

Flowers dappled the side of the path.
One of the impressive gates I passed.
One of the gatekeepers.

My plan was to walk down from Matley Moor via the farm at Knarrs and then up onto the moors via Burnt Hill but this wasn't to be.  When I reached the farm buildings the footpath ended several feet above the farm yard and any easier descents into the yard were fenced off. The stile I'd crossed when I left the Pennine Bridleway to get here had been half-collapsed too and was quite dangerous, its step swinging loosely from one rusty nail.

All of this made me feel a little unwelcome as a walker so I decided to beat a retreat and plot an alternative way down to the main road. There was another right of way heading north towards Knarrs Nook (which conveniently meant I didn't have to renegotiate the tricky stile) and I followed this downhill across a couple of beautiful hay meadows.

Looking back south as I crossed Matley Moor.
On my alternative route.
The hay meadows here were beautiful.

My revised route took me via Plainsteads Farm and around the southern end of Long Clough. It proved to be a serendipitous change of plan as the farmland I found myself walking through was quite lovely, so much so that I decided to stop here and break out my sandwiches.

My diversion proved to be a worthwhile one.
The backdrop to my lunch break.
Long Clough.
Glossop, with the southern Saddleworth Moors behind.

Lunch over, I headed up to the busy A624, and walked south along the grass verge. It wasn't pleasant going underfoot, on uneven ground with sometimes heavy vehicles roaring past just a foot or two from me. I decided to drop Burnt Hill from my plans and head directly up to Harry Hut from a lay-by just north of Chunal Plantation.

Curlew on Chunal Moor.
A wall stile at the parking area gives you access to Chunal Moor and the path up through the heather is clear and easy to follow. The skies were beautifully blue above my head but the haze in the distance seemed to be getting more pronounced. My attention wasn't on the distant views at this point though, as I'd spotted three curlew on the moor to the north of me. One flew off and another ducked into the heather but a third one posed long enough for me to get a very wobbly picture. It was quite a distance away and the full zoom on my camera was hard to hold steady in the breeze but it was the first time I'd got a snap of one - and, in fact, it was only the second time I'd seen these lovely birds at all on the moors.

The summit of Harry Hut.
This encounter put a spring in my step and I carried on across the moorland to the relatively minor summit known as Harry Hut, where you can find a trig point but nothing to suggest there was ever a hut. The origin of the name seems to be lost in the mists of time. It was a pleasant location and I stopped here for a cuppa before carrying on towards Mill Hill on a very gentle ascent south east along a peaty path.

Although I'd walked over Mill Hill several times, I'd never ventured west of it so I was quite pleased to discover a paved path that connects it with Burnt Hill. After slipping and sliding in the peat below Harry Hut these slabs were a pleasure to walk on and I was able to quicken my pace along this section.

As I made my way upwards something in one of the peat groughs ahead caught my eye and this turned out to be the wreckage of an air crash that occurred in 1944. Neither of the two men crew was seriously injured fortunately and they managed to find their way off the moor, where they were helped by the driver of a passing lorry.

Heading up Mill Hill.
Air crash wreckage.
Engine and fuselage.

When I reached the top of Mill Hill, I was surprised to find mist shrouding not just Kinder itself but also the Ashop Valley below its northern edge, which was completely lost to view.

Kinder comes into view - just!
I decided against climbing onto the plateau.
The northern edge of Kinder.

I'd considered heading up onto the plateau from Ashop Head for a short while but without any views there didn't seem much point in extending my walk so I made a beeline for William Clough. Down its winding course, accompanied by the bubbling stream that encouraged thoughts of thirst-quenching beer, I made my way to Kinder Reservoir and to the Sportsman Inn.

Heading into William Clough.
Looking back up the clough.

I thoroughly enjoyed this exploration of the countryside between Hayfield and Glossop, and it's been a real pleasure to revisit it in writing this blog post on a grey October day, when the wind and rain are beating against the windows. Most of it is easy walking and it's high on my list to return to when the winter snows arrive.


Date: June 2017

Walk length: c. 10.5 miles 

Duration: 5.5 hours, including breaks


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2 comments:

  1. I enjoyed that. Interesting to hear descriptions of many of our local dog walking routes from another perspective. We walk up and around Lantern Pike every week and Chrissie was brought up at Knarrs. Lovely account and pictures.

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    1. Thanks, Geoff - I really appreciate your kind words. It is interesting to see a familiar place through someone else's eyes, isn't it? I think I enjoy that aspect of reading hiking blogs or seeing other people's pictures just as much as I do the discovery of new places.

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