Thursday 21 November 2019

Kinder East and the Vale of Edale

We've been trying to vary some of our regular walking routes recently by exploring footpaths and trails that we haven't ventured along before. When I thought about our local "mountain", Kinder Scout,  I realised I've become quite the creature of habit, relying on the same routes up and down and paying scant attention to the other paths that flow on and around the plateau like streams. This walk was the first "varied" route we did and the novelties (for us) were the path that branches off from the Pennine Way up onto Broadlee-Bank Tor and the public rights of way that run along the Vale of Edale below the south eastern edge of the Kinder plateau.

The walk was planned at the last minute and we didn't arrive in Edale until after midday. It was the first dry Sunday for a while and unsurprisingly there was no parking to be found. After briefly joining the cars that were slowly circling the main car park like birds of prey, we gave up and decided to head east along the valley - we'd be walking along here later anyway so it didn't really make much difference where we started and ended our route. On the outskirts of the village every space by the side of the lane was crammed with vehicles but - just as we were wondering if we'd have to head somewhere else for the afternoon - we managed to find some space a mile or so away at Nether Booth.

Leaving the car, we took the entrance road to the youth hostel before heading west along a public footpath through farmland. This was a part of the route we hadn't walked before and there were some fine views to be had from here of Lose Hill and Back Tor, and Mam Tor and Rushup Edge.

As we progressed, we could see Broadlee-Bank Tor and Grindslow Knoll ahead, and the scenery on the northern side of the valley became more interesting too - The Nab dominated the view, with Upper Tor, Nether Tor and Rowland Cote Moor flanking it on either side.

After passing through Ollerbrook Farm we came to some woodland and a picturesque bridge, which took us over Grinds Brook and past The Nags Head into Edale. Considering the number of cars and people in the village, we were surprised to have only encountered three people on our walk so far but we figured that most visitors had probably made their way up onto the edges one way or another rather than remaining in the valley.

We crossed Edale and joined the Pennine Way. The path that leads from the official start of the trail onto open farmland has been resurfaced since I last walked it and the wet, muddy ruts were now gone - a great improvement.

[Unfortunately, since I typed that last paragraph, I've been back and the heavy, autumn rains and walkers' footfall have combined to take a heavy toll on the new surface, with deep ruts appearing again in its upper reaches.]

We emerged from the tree cover and set off across the hillside below Broadlee-Bank Tor. It's easy walking here, a gentle incline and flag stones. There were cattle grazing in this first pasture but I was pleased to see they were some distance away, clustered around a feeder. They paid us no attention as we passed by but I was still glad to cross into the next field, where I felt more comfortable stopping to soak in the scenery once there was a wall between us and the cows.

As we passed below the southern tip of Broadlee-Bank Tor, we left the Pennine Way and took a path that forked to the right. It climbed past the exposed and shattered rock that I assume is the tor in "Broadlee-Bank Tor". A narrow ribbon of earth winding around an increasingly steep hillside, this was the second of the routes that were new to us today and we were impressed with the views across to Horsehill Tor, Brown Knoll and the cloughs below them.

The footpath on the OS map curves around the southern end of this large spur and ultimately takes you to Crowden Brook but you encounter two paths prior to that, both of which lead onto the hilltop above. At the junction with the first one we considered our options. It followed a wall upwards in an almost perfect straight line and it was steep - but, according to the map, so was the less direct, alternative route. In the end we decided to get the exertion over quickly rather than drag it out. Taking the first of many deep breaths, we began the ascent.

Annoyingly, it looks almost flat in the first picture above. There's more sense of the hillside's gradient from a side-view half way up (second photo) but even that doesn't quite capture how strenuous this short climb was. There was a lot of huffing and puffing as we made our way up and plenty of rest stops too - these were cunningly disguised as photography stops just in case anyone was watching our progress from down below in the valley. It's surprising how much interest you can find in a bit of tumbled down wall and a stretch of grass when you need to.

There were, of course, other things to point the camera at too. Mam Tor, across the valley to the south, was as busy as you'd expect it to be on a sunny weekend afternoon.

It was an arduous climb but soon enough we were on the expansive top of Broadlee-Bank Tor.  First port of call was to be the pair of moorland pools that I'd seen so many times from Grindslow Knoll. From a distance they've always looked dark and brooding but today the spot seemed quite idyllic, the reeds framing reflections of the blue skies and fluffy clouds above.

Curiosity sated, I returned to the main path - well, really just a trod in the grass - and we carried on northwards towards the main plateau. Although we could have diverted around Grindslow Knoll, on this occasion we decided to walk across the top of this enormous lump of grass and gritstone. It wasn't exactly a new path for me but it was so long since I'd been up there, it might as well have been. Exhilarated by the fantastic vistas its rocky summit offers, I resolved that I would never take the easy option of skirting around it again, no matter how tired I might be or how much my legs ache. All that said, I probably will, to be honest - I mean it's not like those views are going anywhere and sometimes you just want to get to the pub.

Descending at the northern end of the knoll, we joined a path that headed north-west to the top of Grindsbrook Clough. We'd seen no-one after leaving the Pennine Way but it was busy here - earnest walkers in serious gear marching along with poles, sundry picnickers reminding us that we were hungry, and a young lad leaping into the air at the top of the clough with a celebratory whoop.

We ignored the rumbles of protest from our bellies, deciding we'd find somewhere quieter to eat our butties later, and set off along the path towards the eastern end of Kinder. We were on very familiar ground now and made good time as we bounced across the dry peat and satisfyingly grippy gritstone.

At one point a wheatear watched us closely from a dry stone wall, always keeping just ahead of us with little bursts of flight. Eventually, it decided it'd had enough of our presence and launched itself across the path with a call of alarm. After a low flight over the drab heather, it disappeared from view. I managed to get a few shots of it first though. They're one of my favourite birds and it's always a delight to encounter them.

This year hasn't been a great one for the heather, perhaps a result of the prolonged hot, dry weather we had in 2018, but there were some patches in flower and the mosses certainly seemed to be thriving after the wetter summer of 2019.

Hungry though we were, we decided to wait and scoff our sandwiches when we reached the eastern tip of the plateau. And what finer views could you have to accompany a cheese butty than those on offer there? It's long been one of my favourite spots on Kinder with far-reaching views, including Bleaklow and the Derwent watershed, the famous gritstone escarpments of the eastern moors and Win Hill.

We'd walked out to Crookstone Knoll to make the most of the scenery on offer but our route back down into the valley was via Crookstone Hill so we had to retrace our steps to join the path that heads down it. It's a gentle descent - and usually a quiet one too, probably because you're still a good distance from anywhere significant (pub, cafe, parking) once you get down to the base of the hill.

The path down brings you to an old bridleway, marked on the map as the course of a Roman road. How true that is, I don't know. We took this track in the direction of Win Hill for a while before we met a junction just prior to Hope Cross.

Here we turned right onto what was another "new" path for us, a bridleway that heads south west into the Vale of Edale. It was one of those tracks that are strewn with rocks that have been specially selected to display no flat or stable surface on which you can comfortably place a foot. They often seem to occur at the end of walks, when my feet and joints are weary and the effect of constantly turning ankles and knees feels most acute.

The path crossed Jaggers Clough by means of a ford. A jagger in northern English dialect was the name for a packhorse man, who would lead trains of horses or ponies laden with goods across the difficult terrain of moors and hills, ground on which wheeled carts were useless.

The water levels were low so we could stroll blithely across but I returned to this walk a couple of weeks ago with a hiking buddy, when heavy rains had been causing flooding around Yorkshire and Derbyshire. On that second visit, we had to head downstream to find a spot where the river banks were close enough to jump across - no mean feat when you have short legs like mine!

The ford in Jaggers Clough on this walk.
The same ford from the opposite side on a more recent visit.
The track doubled back on itself and began a surprisingly tough uphill climb out of the clough. It was probably because it was at the end of the walk but it felt a much harder ascent than even the steep route up onto Broadlee-bank Tor had been.

When we reached level ground, back in the Vale of Edale, we were amply rewarded for our efforts with stunning views of Lose Hill and the Great Ridge. In fact, I don't think there are any viewpoints that show off the Great Ridge quite as wonderfully as those you get from this end of the valley. Mind you, the views back in the direction of Win Hill and the Hope Valley were pretty fine too.

From hereon it was easy walking through fields of sheep back to Nether Booth. We both thoroughly enjoyed this walk  - which is why I picked it to do again not long afterwards with a pal from Manchester - not just because it made a change from our usual routes from Edale but because of the variety of scenery and terrain it contained.


Date: September 2019

Walk length: 16 km 

Total ascent: 703 metres


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