Saturday 29 September 2018

Kinder Scout: the River Kinder and Kinder Gates

Intrepid explorers walking the length of the world's great rivers has become something of a cultural phenomenon in recent years - think Ed Stafford trekking along the course of the Amazon for almost two-and-a-half years or Levison Wood hiking the Nile from its origin in the Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda to the Egyptian shores of the Mediterranean.

With adventures like these in mind it's little wonder that we became suddenly inspired to walk the River Kinder a couple of weeks ago, from its source deep in the Peak District plateau to... Well, only as far as the Downfall actually, because we wanted a nice circular route that didn't involve traipsing downhill and back up again. And we didn't quite walk it from its source, to be honest, because - rather like the Nile - there are several indistinct points at which its waters bubble up from the ground and start their journey to the sea. If we'd put more time and effort in to complete the River Kinder's entire three-mile course, no doubt I'd have a book deal and probably my own TV show by now but we didn't so you'll have to make do with another verbose blog post and some occasionally over-exposed photos.

Thursday 13 September 2018

High Wheeldon and Pilsbury Castle

Two significant Peak District rivers have their sources on the Axe Edge watershed - the Manifold and the Dove. Over millennia, their meandering journeys south-east carved out deep gorges in the bedrock, resulting in limestone tors and caves that have long drawn sightseers to the area (including William and Dorothy Wordsworth).

If you're in the White Peak, the breathtaking scenery of Dove Dale and the Manifold Valley should definitely be on your list of places to visit but you shouldn't underestimate the countryside north of these tourist hotspots. Here a generous network of footpaths weaves quieter routes through broad valleys or over rounded hills and provides plentiful options for short walks, be it a half-day excursion or a summer evening ramble of an hour or so.

Looking south-east from Axe Edge Moor, source of the River Dove and the River Manifold.

Tuesday 19 June 2018

The Western Carneddau

The day after we walked Pen Llithrig y Wrach on the eastern fringe of the Carneddau mountains I set off on my own to explore some of the peaks on the western side of the range. There was one major summit that I hadn't visited - Yr Elen - and I was hoping to do this via its north eastern ridge before having a more gentle wander back down over the hills to the north. I'd seen this ridge on a traverse of the Carneddau last year and it looked like a fantastic airy route onto the tops.

Yr Elen's north east ridge from a previous walk in the Carneddau.


Monday 11 June 2018

Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Pen yr Helgi Du

Although I've done several walks in the Carneddau mountains over the past couple of years, Pen Llithrig y Wrach has somehow always eluded me - either by not fitting conveniently into a route or by making the hike unfeasibly long for my short legs. Its profile is a striking one from various viewpoints, not least if you're looking at it from the south: from that angle it rises proudly between the extended ridge (Y Braich) that leads to Pen Yr Helgi Du in the west and the jumble of crags that make up Creigiau Gleision in the east. This makes for an inviting and striking prominence that is satisfyingly pointy. It's been suggested that the resemblance of Pen Llithrig y Wrach's profile to a witch's hat lies behind its colourful name, which translates into English as "Slippery Peak of the Witch", but no-one seems to know for sure if that's the case.

Pen Llithrig y Wrach (left), viewed from Moel Siabod in 2015.


Friday 11 May 2018

Wardlow Hay Cop and Cressbrook Dale

Cressbrook Dale is a beautiful limestone valley just north west of Bakewell. It's one of my favourite spots in the White Peak and there's no better time of year to visit it than spring, when its wildflowers put on a breathtaking display. If you walk the full length of the dale, you'll find yourself in ash woodland at the southern end and here in May the air is rich with the aroma of wild garlic. We've done a circuit that takes in those woods and the beautiful expanse of ramson flowers that spreads below their canopy, which you can read about here.

Wild garlic in Cressbrook Dale in May 2015.

Wednesday 2 May 2018

Causey Pike

Even before I first climbed it several years ago Causey Pike was one of my favourite Lake District fells, its distinctive profile a familiar sight from walks in the area and one that always prompted me to get the camera out.

Causey Pike from the Newlands Valley a couple of years ago.
We'd originally planned to walk the high ground hidden away behind Skiddaw and Blencathra last weekend but as we crossed Aughertree Fell on the way to our start point we could see that those rolling hills were hidden in low cloud.

It showed no signs of shifting and we began to question whether wandering around in limited visibility was the best use of our time - especially given how long the journey there and back is from Derbyshire. Driving from our hotel in Cockermouth we'd noted that the north-western fells were cloud-free so, after some discussion, we settled on heading back there instead  - a welcome return to Causey Pike for me and an entirely new experience for Rich.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

A Circular Walk from Peak Forest to Castleton

As I type this opening paragraph, the sun is streaming through the window, the skies are the most beautiful shade of blue and I'm being informed on a regular basis by Facebook and Twitter users alike that today is the vernal equinox. It certainly didn't feel like the first day of spring was only hours away when I ventured out on a walk above the Hope Valley yesterday. It's true that Mam Tor did stand resplendently green in the sunshine above Castleton - but that was because the unrelenting and bitter wind of the past few days had blown all the snow off its exposed slopes and not because of a seasonal thaw.

The wind's handiwork was apparent as I set off up a farm lane from Peak Forest, where huge drifts of powdery snow had formed along the wall. The pristine white whorls and curves and cornices in miniature were fascinating to look at, almost like works of art, and these were the first of many I was to encounter that day.

Thursday 1 March 2018

Crimpiau, Creigiau Gleision and Llyn Cowlyd

At the eastern end of the Ogwen Valley, above Capel Curig, the sweeping curves of the High Carneddau give way to an untidy jumble of peaks - Crimpiau, Craig Wen and Creigiau Gleision. Of these, only the latter surpasses the 2000 feet threshold to earn itself the status of mountain in Britain but - by way of compensation - you do get two summits above this height along its craggy (and often boggy) ridge.

Pen Llithrig y Wrach, Crimpiau, Craig Wen and Creigiau Gleision just showing in the background.
(Picture from a climb of Moel Siabod a couple of years ago.)

Friday 23 February 2018

Stanton Moor and Oaker Hill

We'd originally planned to go to Wales overnight last weekend, lured by the forecast of fine weather, but car trouble put a stop to that. Assured the repairs would be complete by Saturday lunchtime, we scouted around for a short walk locally and settled on Stanton Moor, which we'd never visited before. I plotted a circular route from Rowsley which would take us up and over the moor, with an easy flat return journey along the Derwent Valley - although I couldn't resist tagging on another little hill at the far end before we'd begin the walk back.

Crossing the Wye.
As you travel along the A6 from Bakewell to Rowsley, there's a side road on the right, just after the Grouse and Claret, which gives you access to a free car park. Seemingly managed by the council, it doesn't appear on the OS Map or Google Maps but it's very handy, a decent size and well-worth making a note of if you're planning a walk in the area. We parked here and set off back along the main road, before taking a left turn opposite The Peacock, a handsome old inn that was originally a seventeenth century manor house. Walking past the village school and Caudwell's Mill, we crossed the River Wye and finally found ourselves on a lane surrounded by farmland.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

The High Peak Trail

The High Peak Trail runs for around 17 miles, from Dowlow, just outside Buxton, to Cromford in the Derwent Valley. Like many such trails around the country, it follows the course of a defunct train line, in this case the Cromford and High Peak Railway, which connected the Peak Forest Canal in the north west of Derbyshire with the Cromford Canal in the middle of the county. You can see evidence of the line in the Goyt Valley as well as across the moorland above it, and the trail had been on my to-do list since I first visited that area last year.

Having walked on similar trails before, I was aware that long stretches can become somewhat routine, especially when they've been lined with bushes and trees or pass through extended railway cuttings. I decided to save this day out for winter, on the basis that a dusting of snow would lend some visual interest to even the most mundane of surroundings, and I also added on a few diversions from the trail - my feet certainly felt the effect of this by the end but each one was well worth the extra effort and mileage.

Wednesday 31 January 2018

Brean Down

Whenever I see blue skies overhead my thoughts always drift towards the seaside, even on a cold January day like today. I'm sure it must be more a cultural than a personal thing - a product of the Famous Five and other books I read as a youngster, perhaps, rather than the occasional holidays of my childhood, which I seem to remember being predominantly grey and somewhat damp.

Weston-super-Mare from Brean Down.


Thursday 4 January 2018

Combs Reservoir

There's something magical about waking to blue skies and a scintillating blanket of snow. You sense the transformation of the world outdoors even before you've drawn back the curtain or pulled up the blind. The light that steals below and around the edges has a quite different quality, brighter with a bluish tinge.

The snow we got at the start of December had been drifting down on-and-off for several days before Monday morning burst into cloudless, sun-shining life for us. It had fallen from wind-wracked, iron-skies over the weekend though, making house lights a necessity throughout the day and not just at its margins. It wasn't the sort of weather to tempt you outside, even if you weren't nursing a cold and sore throat, as I had been.