Manchester’s moors: planes, police sirens and pylons… but grand all the same

Saturday night should have been another in the bivvy bag. It seems silly to travel to the Lakes every time I wild camp as there are some perfectly good hills on my doorstep.

So, inspired by the idea of a mini-adventure, I stepped out at 5pm with the sun still shining. I walked a familiar route through housing and to open ground. The bruised foothills near my home soon gave way to a lovely secluded valley which led onto the moor.

Here I encountered a marked change in conditions. The wind was blustery on the tops and the cloud came down. I had about 20 yards visibility and it started to rain. I stopped to dig out the phone. Being so close to an urban area, I still had a fantastic signal and checked the mountain forecast.

‘Light winds, clear skies and largely settled in the Peak. Some localised showers late on and localised blustery conditions.’ It seems I’d hit on the minority. As I trudged on conditions worsened and I had second thoughts about the room for the night.

Rather than wasting the effort of getting up here, though, I struck out across the moors… not in the access land and walking where I shouldn’t, I suppose.

Manchester moorsNow early evening, and the heather emitted a loud static hiss in the wind while the mournful call of a pair of curlews rang out above. I strode across the peat following a bearing and, in sheltered spots, disturbed numerous small birds which could have been Whinchats. I kept on spotting a variety of butterfly I didn’t recognise, too, and shaking the Internet for an answer hasn‘t yielded a satisfactory answer.

One unmistakable spot, though, were mountain hares, which seemed emboldened by the late hour. I hunkered down in a grough and watched them for a while, sporting a dun-coloured coat at this time of year.

I pressed on into the moor, and was surrounded by mist again. Dropping down into a deep grough, I was out of the wind once more and was immediately reminded of the proximity of the Longdendale Valley as the gentle burbling of a stream was interrupted by a police siren.

To the south, emerging out of the gloom were a string of pylons while up high a passenger jet thundered its way to Manchester airport. On a clear day, its possible to watch the plans touch down on the run way as the lights are visible from up here… not tonight though.

I started to lose the light and readied my headtorch. I still had a way to go until I reached the trail cross the moor. Conditions were dry underfoot, which made going much easier, but occasionally I got a Terroc-full, as my foot plunged through some lush greenery… The frigid water mater me catch my breath as it soaked my socks.

Despite the aborted plan, it felt great to be up here alone. There were no signs of folk passing this way before and it was great to follow a compass bearing without the distraction of established paths.

It stuck me that I should come up here more. The moors to the north of where I stood have a troubled history and the challenging terrain mean they are unloved by many. Indeed, when I was a student in Manchester, a lecturer felt the moors should planted them with conifers and ‘at least generate some value from the wastes’.

Stranding up here looking towards the city’s skyline in a break in the cloud, I can’t agree. I left the moors and headed toward the sodium glare of the streets below.

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10 thoughts on “Manchester’s moors: planes, police sirens and pylons… but grand all the same

  1. Yeah, it was a bit frustrating but I guess I’m too old for the machismo of camping out in all weathers these days… particularly when there’s a perfectly comfortable bed less than 8 miles away!

  2. The small birds you disturbed are probably more likely to be Meadow Pipits than Whinchats, although you could get the latter too. Whinchats are quite a bit less common though. If they were making ‘sip sip sip’ calls as they flew up they were probably ‘Mipits’. I saw a nice Whinchat in the Pentlands south of Edinburgh the other week – great birds and worth looking out for. They like areas with some bracken.

    Was that Phil ‘TC’ Wheater who wanted all the moors planted with forest?

  3. I was thinking about that guy who showed us around Hebden Bridge… he was a kind of guest lecturer and a staunch advocate of ‘planting the moors’.

    Sounds like your bird suggestion is a good one (as ever!) The call was pretty distinctive…

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