Never bog standard

Nearly 20 years have passed since I took my first tentative steps on the plateau of Kinder Scout.

Alone and in a heavy mist and armed with a map and compass, my plan was to get lost, and then find a way out. I was successful in the former, partially successful in the latter (read: lucky).

What I didn’t bargain for was the bog. Sure, I’d read about the perils of the groughs but it took first-hand experience to kick-start the love hate relationship with the black stuff.

Living on the fringes of the Dark Peak, the bog is ever present. If I crane my neck from the living room window, I can see some, although it’s in pretty poor condition on these bruised foothills. It’s the frayed skirt of much bleaker expanses of moorland extending to the appropriately named summits of Black Hill and Bleaklow.

Bog trotting is not everyone’s bag and it still fills me with a sense of trepidation every time I step off a paved path into the mire.

Peat paths exists, of course, but are ephemeral. These arteries of boot prints are punctuated with slide marks and impressions of limbs, posteriors and hands from walkers toppling over on the terrain. They vanish in a heavy downpour only for the fun to start again as pioneering pedestrians find a new, less perilous route, through the morass.

During that early assault on Kinder I sunk up to my lower thighs. Frigid water seeped over top of my gaiters making me gasp. I then spent an entertaining quarter of an hour dragging myself from the mire. The whole experience made me curse wildly at the grouse and question my sanity, but time’s a great healer.

Peat’s not always an obstacle course, though. When it’s dry, it’s agreeably soft underfoot, giving cushioning for tired limbs with just enough purchase for progress.

Bivy bag aficionado Ronald Turnbull insists that peat makes a nice mattress for the night but I’m yet to muck up my bag in such a way.

The moor is great fun in the depths of winter, too, when a really stable high pressure solidifies this hummocky wilderness, even better after snow when you can practice your step kicking technique without fear of plummeting down a 200 ft face.

Watch out for the partially frozen pools of water, though.

It’s been a while since I’ve been ‘trotting, focusing on ‘proper mountains’ instead.But the bog is waiting, soaking up the autumnal rain and ready to relieve me of my boots, my socks, and my sanity once again.

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2 thoughts on “Never bog standard

  1. I adore bogs. As you say, they are constantly changing with the seasons and are some of our last truly ‘wild places’However, because they are often ‘unloved’ they are prone to disappear – recently the A’ Chraidhleag has succumbed to a massive new hydro-scheme and energy companies are frequently trying to pillage the Scottish landscapes for ‘green’ energy.We should be vigilant and stand up for our bogs! (as we slowly sink up to our thighs in them…)

  2. I’ve just come across your blog, and the mention of Kinder reminded me of a wet autumn morning over 15 years ago. I’d set out with a couple of mates from school on the Pennine Way, one last trip before we went our separate ways to university. Six hours later we were up to our knees in it. My boots didn’t properly dry out for the next three weeks but I loved every moment.Japan doesn’t have many bogs. Where it does, they lay plank paths over them and forbid you to step off and into the black stuff. It’s a poorer country for it.

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