Rain starts play

Saturday should have been a day spent in front of the telly enjoying the Lords Test Match and, hopefully, witnessing messrs Strauss and Cook solidify their positions at the top of the England batting order.

Tea at Crowden campsiteThe weather conspired against them and me, though, and as the covers were fixed over that world famous square in St John’s Wood, Manchester, by contrast, was kind’a dry.

With no cricket, and the other half working all weekend, I decided to go out and camp local.

The remote moors above the valley where I live always seem tempting wild camping spots. The terrain is tough and there are loads of nooks and crannies in which to escape. The only problem is that these boggy wastes lie on peat and, dried by an unseasonable fortnight of sunshine, they’d burn.

Wild camping can be a risky business, then, and it’s understandable that countryside managers should be queasy about folk like I striding off into the moors, tent in pack.

Consequently, I opted for a site… the CCC campground at Crowden.

The site is only five or six miles from my house over the tops and I arrived in brightening weather at 7pm.I asked the rather gruff warden if there were any places to avoid, and he motioned to a youth group camped near the office. ‘Over by the wall, you should get some peace there,’ he added.

View from the Pennine Way as it follows Crowden BrookThe site was busy, as befits a campground in May, and I had an audience as I pitched the Akto. A young boy vacantly stared as I grappled with the guy ropes, and asked whether the zippered vent at the end of the tent was the door.

His dad gave my shelter a scornful look, describing it as a ‘bivvy tent’. I wished I’d risked a high camp.

After a gloopy Expedition Meals chilli (not as good as the Tikka, I assure you), some tea and a couple of large measures of Talisker, I slept like a stone.

A fine morning dawned and after coffee and malt loaf I set off along the Pennine Way up the westerly flank of the valley carved by Crowden Brook.

The route was busy with walkers, runners and mountain bikers and I followed the path to the higher moor.
The moorland here is in better shape than that of Kinder Scout and Bleaklow. I reached the summit of Black Hill, the engineered path providing passage over a tar-black slick of bare peat.

I sat by the trig marker and considered my options. I could press on to the road and then plot a course across to Diggle and back down the valley to home.

However, the better weather promised the continuation of the test match so I hit a left and headed roughly west across the moors. The route followed a vague path initially, marked by small heaps of stones that barely made the grade as cairns.

The track turned right and I took a bearing to Holme Clough and struck out across the pathless expanse. With the moor dry, the going was tough over ankle threatening grass tussocks. I small plane buzzed overhead and I wondered how I must have looked, alone in this sea of yellow-brown. Lost, perhaps.

I wasn’t. The upper reaches of the clough were soon found and I followed the stream and then the left side of the valley as the declivity deepened.

The ground was tricky but The approach to Black HillI soon reached the junction with Birchen Clough and scouted for a safe route down to a small pool, tunnel and Greenfield Brook, which feeds the chain of reservoirs to Dovestone with its sailing dinghies and snack vans.

Clambering down Birchen Clough I followed the path down the valley and became lost in the crowds of dog walkers and strollers.

I had an ice cream and overheard a couple of guys performing elaborate stretching exercises boasting about their from Edale. Their ‘long walk home’.

My route back home followed the Oldham Way, the Tameside Trail and Pennine Bridleway.

At Lords, skipper Vaughan was well set on his way to a century.


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