A White Peak wander

Another Friday in the company of guidebook writer Paul Besley and his (SARDA search) dog Scout. White Peak wandering was the order of the day (after a huge breakfast at the Yondermann Cafe in Wardlow.

Millers Dale to Long Lane (Limestone Way), and then a series of lanes and tracks across ‘classic’ White Peak country (aka dry stone walls and green fields as far as they eye can see … broken up by enormous quarrying sites). We made the Church Inn in Chelmorton for a refresher. A look see in to Bullhay Dale was followed by Horseshoe Dale, Deep Dale, back over the top via Caxter Lane to the Churn Hole, and then Wye Dale and Chee Dale, and back to Millers Dale. A lot of Dales.

The weather was very kind, and the winding pathway through all the Dales, especially alongside the Wye was very very scenic. Scout enjoyed the many opportunities to dive in. Another good day ‘modelling’ for Trail magazine, 20km in the legs, and the work put to rights under a rucksack and under a blue sky.

Chippy tea in Tideswell to round the day off, and then the drive home across the White and Dark Peak in bright evening sunshine. Good be outside.

Bleaklow and Beyond by Bus

I’ve been meaning to take the Hulleys of Baslow X57 bus service for some time. The company is 100 yrs old this year and provides a brilliant service enabling public transport (in an era where bus travel is a rapidly dying species) in to the heart of the Peak District National Park.

There is a stop for the X57 about a mile from my flat. The X57 journeys from Sheffield to Manchester via the A57 ‘Snake Pass’ road. On Sundays it also makes a 10 minute diversion to facilitate access to Fairholmes in the Upper Derwent Valley – a brilliant facility. On I hopped. The driver calculated the cheapest ticket for me. £5.

The Pennine Way crosses the A57 on the summit of Snake Pass at a height of about 500m / 1640ft. That uplift alone was worth the £5. My intention was to wind back downhill across the moors of the Dark Peak. It started by following thirty people towards Bleaklow. I have no idea where the wooden Pennine Way finger post has gone, or why the first kilometre or so towards Bleaklow seems to be compressed sandstone. I got a shifty on and passed the crowd and followed the PW on its twists and turns to the Wain Stones on Bleaklow Head. East next. A line of stakes to follow off across Bleaklow. A hare darts past. There is a backdrop of birdsong. Bleaklow Hill and then Bleaklow Stones. Lunch here. And a weather check. It was due to pour at some point. I decided against the Watershed route, and instead set the compass for The Ridge and the saddle above (North of) Alport Moor. By the time I was on the high ground above Alport Plantations the snow was falling and the temperature was demanding another layer. I put a mid layer on under my Paramo windproof opting to be warm but wet rather than encumbered by waterproofs. Then the snow turned to rain and really started to fall. I decided to stop at Birchin Hat above Alport Castles to don full Gore-tex. And as I arrived there the sun came out in an instant. I laid my wet things out over a wall and took some photographs of the Castles. On to Rowlee Pasture and Lockerbrook.

And on to Crook Hill. This area is a place I use frequently when teaching ‘intro to navigation’ courses. I’m quite well acquainted with every bend in the wall and the ring contours of the twin tops of the hill. What I had no prior knowledge of was the honesty box for cakes in the farmyard of Crookhill Farm. Two pounds got me a slice of sugar kick for the tarmac slapping across the aqueduct and alongside the A57 to the bus stop outside the Ladybower Inn. The buses on a Sunday are 2 hours apart in both directions so I was trying not to arrive with a long wait. I had about ten minutes. Job done. Bus back (almost) home. Thanks Hulleys.

The route is 21.5km, mostly of decent paths or tracks on moorland.
You can view it, download it, or even fly-through it on your sofa (via the Ordnance Survey website) here – https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/8351207/Bleaklow-and-Beyond-by-Bus

The Peak District National Park has very good access by public transport (bus and train) from the major cities that lie to its East (Sheffield) and West (Manchester), which allows you to forget about the car parking costs and the risk to your car in a remote lay-by. You can even enjoy a beverage before heading home !!

The X57 bus service is provided by http://www.hulleys-of-baslow.co.uk

Winnats Pass 1758 – 2021

I had intended to go to Castleton and research the ‘often told’ story of the murder of ‘Henry’and ‘Clara’ in Winnats Pass (near Castleton in the Peak District) in 1758. Essentially I couldn’t find their gravestones in St Edmunds Church (although further research this evening has pinpointed them), and I couldn’t gain clarity on where the barn might have been that they were murdered in (by 5 lead miners), or the cave where their bodies were disposed of. So not a great start. It’s an interesting story if only for the huge number of variations of the story as often happens.

St Edmunds in Castleton

I’ll tell that story another time.

As I was in Castleton anyway, I though that rather than waste the evening I would try and follow the ‘Guides Trod’. I had read somewhere several years ago that Guides used to take paying clients on a walk for dawn and sunset along a somewhat precarious trod under the Southern lip of Winnats Pass. I had seen the trod last weekend whilst scrambling Elbow and Matterhorn Ridges on the other side. My understanding was that the trod was guided from the uphill (West) end of the Pass, but I decided to try it from the East.

Elbow Ridge nearest the camera, with Matterhorn Ridge visible beyond
looking down

So began an hour of standing on 70 degree damp grass slopes over a 600ft drop trying to pick out a tiny trod that traversed. I started too high, back tracked, and found the line. It provides an amazing perspective on the pass and the surrounding features – the Hope Valley, Mam Tor, the Great Ridge.

Hope Valley with Win Hill in the distance

I made it along to the ‘big cave’ which turns out to be more of an overhang than a cave. I boiled some water and had my supper here. There wasn’t much of the traverse left after the cave.

‘big cave’

I made mental note that my insurers probably wouldn’t insure me to take clients across there, and I probably wouldn’t want to anyway. A lot of it is both very steep and very loose. The risk of kicking a stone off a 600ft drop on to a car in the Pass demands careful footwork.

I did spy some good places for photography and possibly a bivvy – so it was a useful recce, but the traverse was committing rather than fun !!

High Cup Nick

A day walk in the North Pennines. Lucky (again) to be invited to accompany Paul Besley (guidebook author and mountain rescue search dog handler), and his canine sidekick Scout. Paul was researching a walk for Trail magazine and i was to be his ‘model’ ! An early o’ clock departure saw the 3 of us heading further away from home than we had in a very long time.

As a kid growing up in the North East i had, from the age of 17, managed to sneak westwards to the Lake District whenever we could afford the fuel for my mates Mini Metro. We would always stop at the greasy spoon cafe at Scotch Corner for a big breakfast roll and a tea. It was like passport control’ leaving the smog of Teesside behind and seeing the expanse of the Yorkshire Dales, North Pennines and Lake District open up before us. It was a trip down memory lane to queue at the cafe and get the breakfast rations in.

‘passport control’

Onwards then to the beautiful little village of Dufton. Immaculately tidy, great facilities, and a wealth of information for the visitor. We parked in the village centre (the villagers have taken over ownership of the toilets and car park (Eden Borough Council were going to close them) so please do give generously in the honest box.

And then we were off windong through the woodland and farmland en route to the ‘open end’ of High Cup Nick. The landscape was rich with flora and fauna, and barns that we’d quite happily convert and live in.

free range
‘has potential’

I can’t have been in High Cup Gill for at least 20 possibly 30 years. I know i went there whilst doing A level geography. The Gill is rightly regarded as an excellent example of a ‘U’ shaped glacial valley. A path winds its way slowly up the valley and the steep head wall gets closer.

High Cup Gill
the home team
the away team

It was getting colder now. Flurries of snow fell, and the 10 minutes of hard effort up the headwall passed. The view from the Nick, especially with snow and rain falling in the distance ranks as one of the best landscape views in England. In warmer weather it really would be one to sit and savour.

High Cup Gill

Onwards then to Maizebeck Scar, another (albeit much smaller) interesting feature.

Maizebeck Scar
guess the flower ?

…. and onwards along the beck and then a 4×4 track to Great Rundale Tarn where Scout showed off his ability to run on water …


We then passed the (sadly locked) Shooting Cabin, and began the descent down Threlkeld Side and Pus Gill towards Dufton. Notwithstanding the history of lime kilning and mining in the upper reaches of the Gill, the 4×4 track to service the shooting community is an absolute eyesore.

lime kiln
Lake District horizon

And so back to the village. We only saw six people all day, and four of them were in the distance. Having been warmish and moving all day the next 1 hour waiting for the kitchen to open (whilst drinking pints of hot tea) whilst wearing warm jacket + hat + gloves, and then 1 hr and 10 minutes spent waiting for the food to arrive (sat in a marquee in a field in the North Pennines on a windy damp day at about 3 centigrade) was, shall we say, ‘character building’.

Paul and his two hour stare …

Grateful for the banter with good company on a grand day on the hill.

Something for the Summer… ?

I am excited to announce that i will be available to guide walks on the highest mountains in Wales, England, and Scotland this Summer. I am in each of the locations for about a week which allows you to pick and choose dates. You could ‘do the 3 peaks’ over a few short breaks. If you have already done the 3 summits but would like to do more guided mountain walking in those areas please drop me a line. As always my groups will be small, I can guide at 1:1 or a small family group or a group of friends. I am able to advise on equipment, travel, and accommodation. I look forward to helping you make the most of your 2021 in the mountains. Please send any questions via the form on the ‘contact’ page.