The Dark Peak ---- Edale to Standedge ---- 26 miles ---- 2 days
The Big Moment arrived! We had a cheerful, encouraging send-off from our B&B, the Old Parsonage, and then stopped to photograph ourselves in front of the Old Nags Head.
It was a warm and sunny day, and we cheerfully set out across the fields below the edges of Kinder Scout. We soon came to the National Trust farm and chatted with the woodworker (whom we had talked with several years ago). Shortly after that we came to the packhorse bridge at the bottom of Jacob's Ladder.
By the time we reached Edale Rocks, the wind was blowing hard, and it continued most of the day. There were good views from the edge over to South Head and then down to Kinder Reservoir. We met an older couple on a day walk who were encouraging; they had walked most of the Pennine Way and particularly liked the Cheviots. On Featherbed Moss we had our first encounter with a long stretch of flag path. The flags have been laid to stop erosion, there and many other places along the Pennine Way. Thousands of tons of stone flags have been brought in by helicopter. The stones come from the floors of demolished cotton mills, and have a rough surface with interesting colors. They often have a small remnant of mill machinery, like a bolt, or a place gouged where equipment had been.
The flagstones can be tiring and some walkers are bothered by them. But there's good precedent for them, with the many stone causeways built for packhorse routes in the 17th and 18th centuries.
After crossing the A57, we started the Bleaklow section. The weather was still good, so there were no fears. At one point we wandered for a bit, unsure of the route.
And in the peat groughs, too deep to see over, there was sometimes uncertainty about which way to go.
But we got to the top easily enough. We then took a north-north-west bearing, as our book directed, to find the path we wanted. We started down, and after a few minutes we were beside Wildboar Grain.
After we dropped down to cross it, at a ford, we met two young men who had come down on the "wrong" side, having spent hours (they said) hunting around on the top of Bleaklow for the path. We walked together for a bit, and then they went on ahead. As we walked on the path above Torside Clough, the wind became fierce, stronger than we've ever been walking in. Fortunately, it was blowing up from the valley on our right, so that we felt safe. But many times it blew both of us into the bank on our left. Here Thann is trying to keep upright in a gust, holding a boulder.
When we reached Torside Reservoir (in the photo), we found the two young men. I think they had been worried about us, and they kindly waited to be sure we survived the wind. We spent the night at a B&B beside Rhodeswood Reservoir, the next one to the west, happy that the first day had been such a good one.
From our breakfast table the next morning we had a view over the reservoir. We could see the low cloud covering the hills in the direction we were about to go. Our host, though, said encouragingly that the mist would probably start rising soon, and we set off. We rejoined the PW, crossing the dam between the two reservoirs, and soon were walking north, with Crowden Great Brook down to our right. After about a mile, we saw Oakenclough Brook with its waterfall, and a few minutes later we forded the brook just above the falls.
That brought us to Laddow Rocks. Our guidebook says "The Way continues along the top of the crags, close to the edge." It was indeed close to the edge, and we watched our feet carefully. Tripping would have had bad consequences.
After roughly a mile we met up again with Crowden Great Brook. We went upstream with it, many times fording it and its tributaries, heading for Black Hill. A fellow caught up with us and we walked together for a while. He was doing a practice outing, intending to do the whole Pennine Way, starting a week later. We were much buoyed by his statement that he had heard that Black Hill had flagstones all the way to the top. The boggy morass on Black Hill is notorious, and we had dreaded the crossing. His news turned out to be correct, and with great relief we found ourselves beside the O.S. column at the top.
By then we were in a cloud, and a light rain had started. Again we set off following a compass bearing, as the flags had stopped shortly after the top. A few minutes later we saw the first of a set of cairns, and we knew we were going the right direction. We began dropping down, now on a good path, and not much later we were out of the cloud, once again enjoying the views. In addition to the good views, we could see, a mile ahead, a small white spot. We had read about "Snoopy's Mobile Cafe", which is often parked at the point where the PW crosses the A635, and we hoped that that was the white spot. We walked and watched, and it did indeed become a van on a road. But before we got there, we were surprised by several places where suddenly, unseen from above, the path dropped down to cross a stream.
After our snack at Snoopy's (mugs of tea and butties (sandwiches), which we ate sitting on a rock in the rain), we walked for a mile or so beside the Wessenden reservoirs. We forded a stream at a waterfall and weir and then climbed up out of the valley. By then the cloud had come down again, and we couldn't see the various other reservoirs that we knew we were passing. By the time we arrived at the A62, a busy road with fast cars, it was dangerous even crossing the road. We were going to stay at Globe Farm, half a mile down the road. We tried walking beside the road, but cars couldn't see us, and we couldn't see them until they were a few yards from us. It was eerie and unsafe, so we turned back. We crossed the road and found a back route. Moments before we arrived at Globe Farm, the cloud lifted, and it was suddenly a beautiful bright late afternoon with clear blue sky. Amazing transformation! After showers and a rest, we had no problems walking beside the road to a pub a mile away for our dinner.
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