A long walk home – Saturday…

With a relatively short walk planned that afternoon, I caught a train that arrived in New Mills at noon.

As the suburbs of Manchester and Stockport slid by, I could hear music. Not the tinny annoyance of i-pod, this was real full-bodied sound with rich tones, bass and… voices.

It was a folk band, letting rip in the next carriage. I craned my nick to see the ensemble but an appreciative, gleefully clapping crowd blocked my view.

A chap sitting next to me filled in the blanks. Seemingly coming for the ride, he bellowed into a mobile phone that he was on the ‘folk train’ heading towards Whaley Bridge to, and I quote, to ‘get pissed’. It would be ‘a top day out’, he added. Providing the soundtrack were members of the Chorlton Folk Club. My unwitting informant was getting into the spirit of things, too, by working his way though half a bottle of Scotch neatly concealed in the inside pocket of his leather jacket.

New Mills Newtown came too early and I watched as the band departed, in the full throes of another number. Saturday afternoon in the rain and wind suddenly lost its appeal.

My route out of New Mills followed the Sett Valley Trail. There are one or two reasons to linger in this former mill town, not least because it is the starting point of the trespass trail onto Kinder Scout, which marks the 1932 Mass Tresspass . This event is largely acknowledged as a major catalyst of our right to roam over moor and mountain and the creation of the UK’s national parks.

Not in rebellious mood today, though, I eschewed this commemorative route and followed Sett Valley Trail on a former rail bed past industrial units to the attractive village of Hayfield. I continued beyond the campsite following the Pennine Bridal Way up Elm Bank and onto South Head.

Now fully encased in waterproofs and teeth gritted again a hairy south westerly that was stripping the landscape of any appeal, at the path junction I headed east, then northeast, to Brown Knoll.

The going here got tough, and bogs sodden with rain sucked at my trail shoes. Tired of the gloop, I made for the bed of a streambed, or ‘grough’ as they are known in these parts. These channels tend to be a firmer underfoot as much of the peat has been washed away. They can also provide much needed respite from the wind.

I followed as far as I could, until the ditch became too narrow. My path met the route from Edale Cross and I turned left headed towards the summit of Brown Knoll at 569m.

Despite the clag, I could just make out the ‘steam’ rising for the squat turret of the ventilation shaft serving the Gowburn Tunnel, still providing fresh air for rail line between Sheffield and Manchester some 300m below.

Not a time to linger, and I pressed on to Chapel Gate, the broken course of which led me safely to Barber Booth and ultimately the Fieldhead Campsite in Edale.

The folk at Fieldhead always seem cheery and I struggled to hand the warden the money for the night as my fingers were rigid with the cold.

‘Pitch anywhere that’s dry’, she said, with a smile.

I found a spot on the lower field where my feet didn’t sink too alarmingly and threw up my one-man tent in the rain. Peeling off the waterproofs, I beat a hasty retreat to the Nags Head for a pint and the fire.

As I reached the pub, members of the Edale and Buxton mountain rescue were bringing an unfortunate soul off Kinder in a stretcher. A nasty fracture, apparently, and reminder, if needed, that care is needed in the hills of the Dark Peak despite their modest elevations…

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