Dove Stones – keeping the festive tradition alive

In recent years the festive season has been marked thus: a ‘stolen day’ on Christmas Day when the other half and I get the chance to spend some time together, juggling various family commitments, making a festive pie and other ‘delights’ from leftovers, riding my bike as much as possible and getting into the hills (all the rest permitting).

The latter usually comprises some grand plan in the Peak or Lakes with an overnight camp. However, the weather and other commitments invariably get in the way and I settle for a trip around Dove Stones reservoir. Every year I grumble to myself that this is second best, every year it seems to offer something new. Continue reading

The importance of being early

The alarm clock warbled and I stealthily left the bedroom, trying to avoid disturbing the other half.

My clothes were laid out in the office, camera packed and ready. I carefully closed the front door, avoided slamming the car door and made good my escape.

I was only dropping down to my usual haunt… Dove Stones. The light had been fantastic yesterday and I didn’t want to miss out. I’d hopefully have the hills to myself for a precious couple of hours before the cry of the curlew was drowned out by quarrelling kids. Continue reading

A dirty day getting high

…not literally getting high, of course, although some of you may feel I’m in need of a little lift after last week’s litter rant.

View above Ashway Gap, Dove Stones Reservoir

Saturday was gloomy and the conditions were affecting my mood. I couldn’t face another day pottering around the house, doing odd jobs and punctuating my day with the grunts and groans of yet more physio exercise.

Bugger it: I needed to get out and stretch my creaking limbs. Continue reading

Something to make your blood boil: trash trails

One can get into troublesome territory when contemplating a rant… there’s a danger that you’ll plummet into a pit of sanctimony or open a can of worms that crawl around your conscious and compromise other attempts at blogging debate in future.

Dove Stones Reservoir complex

I’m on relatively safe ground here, though.

I live in the densely populated urban fringe, bordering the spartan northern Peak District and South Pennines. I’m lucky to have such great hillwalking, mountain biking and road cycling on my doorstep.

However, maybe it’s my age or just a general lack of tolerance these days, but I find myself increasingly angered by the level of rubbish that can be found in the upland areas near my home.

Continue reading

Back on top

High above Dovestones Reservoir in the sunshine Here’s somewhere I haven’t been for a while… high on the moors.

OK, so it wasn’t Edale. I had a bit of a problem with my old (not so) faithful motor so I kept things local over the weekend and went back to Dovestones Reservoir.

Nevertheless, it was good to give the legs and lungs a proper workout again, not to mention the back.

I’m pleased to say that all was well. I’ve lost quite a bit of fitness, no doubt, but my strength has returned. It was all rather wonderful and almost prompted one of those zipadee-dooh-dah moments.

I managed to hold back.Lone birch tree, Dovestones

Next time I will take the walking poles and might even risk the pack.

And today I had some more good news. I’ve been ‘discharged’ from regular weekly sessions with my physio and now will be having the occasional check up (assuming there are no other problems).

This is a significant milestone and I am delighted.

Although I’ve held back on detail here, it has been a pretty ropey three months or so and my back condition has been one of many woes.

Let’s hope my luck is on the turn… good health, after all, is the most important thing.

Thanks to those who have sent good wishes in the comments section while I’ve been working through all this… they have been much appreciated.



Walking tall… nearly

Dove Stones Reservoir, Oldham I went for a walk today… not far, just around Dovestones.

The significance of this lunchtime stroll was two-fold: the weather was superb and I could put one foot in front of the other without searing pain shooting down my right leg.

It felt fantastic and I walked (almost limp free) with the fanfare from Rocky trumpeting in my ears!

What to do…

The weather may have caused plenty of disruption last week, but the duricrust of windblown snow gave the hills of Saddleworth mountain-like qualities on Saturday.

The slopes glistened in the winter sun and folk were out… sledging, skiing, horse riding and, of course, walking. Indeed, I saw one chap trudging through the streets to Dove Stones reservoir decked out in winter gear and armed with two, yes two, ice axes.

Despite these wonderful conditions, I needed to test my back on the bike and got 40 miles in on thankfully clear roads.

High up on the pass to Holmfirth, the hummocky peat had been covered with a meringue of fluted snow ridges – like mini, white barchan dunes.

It was beautiful, and although I didn’t have a camera with me to do the vista justice (just a poxy phone), the experience was sufficiently vivid.

Festive reflections

I’m conscious that I can moan about the weather just a bit too much… grey days, no views, drizzle etc etc

High above Greenfield Reservoir on Christmas Eve, 2008So, to redress the balance, my festive break has been blessed by superb weather and some memorable days on two feet and two wheels.

Christmas Eve was simply stunning. In clear blue skies and spring-like temperatures, I climbed high on to the moors around Dove Stone Reservoir. At last I had the day to merit my edges walk, which I abandoned in November.

This is a fine excursion that I can heartily recommend. The scramble up Birchen Clough poses sufficient scrambling challenges to quicken the pulse while the rocky eastern rim of the valley has much to offer. What a difference a day made compared to my Kinder trip.

With the commitments of Christmas out of the way, it was up to Langdale for the New Year. The Eve was spent the bar of the Old Dungeon Ghyl as a heavy frost gripped the valley. If ever there was a place to people-watch, then the ODG is it.

Among the climbers, revelers and drifters was the ‘toker’ community who regularly disappeared outside to colour the crystalline air with ‘Purple Haze’ or White Widow’ (or whatever the latest sativa craze is to find its way from the ‘green houses’ of Amsterdam to the Cumbrian valleys).

Blea Tarn, frozen, New Years Day, 2008After a surprisingly comfortable night in the tent, the other half and I spent the afternoon skidding on icy paths over to Little Langdale and beyond, enjoying the peace of frozen landscape.

A superb start to the year.

A view from the edge…

Oldham Way marker on Alderman Hill/Dick Hill… or should that be a lack of a view from the edge.

The plan was to walk local and skirt the edges around the Dovestones Reservoir complex on the edges of the Peak District.

The weather had other ideas as a base of murk hung at 200 metres or so over the villages of Saddleworth. On leave from work, I had two choices: decorating or a stumble around in the mist for a few hours… no contest.

I parked the car at Dovestones and the murk had descended further. A thick mist concealed the far shore and the ground oozed moisture, with droplets of water bulging tremulously from the barbs of wire fences and the wizened tips of grasses.

I flicked on the Satmap and got a fix. I had no idea where I was going for the first part of the walk over Alderman’s Hill and I’d be warned about its puzzling maze of footpaths, farm tracks and sheep trails.

I crossed the Holmfirth Road, watching for the tell tale haze of headlights in the murk, and found the track leading to Hawk Yard. I strolled along the centre turf, elevated above the muddy vehicle ruts and soon was enveloped in silence… the moisture drowning out the soundtrack of nearby Greenfield.

In the mist and route finding was tough without the GPS
Passing the hushed houses I pressed on to open hillside and the confusing network of trails began. Checking the navigator I skirted around to the Oldham Way and passed a desolate farm building, the blackest of timbers and stone exposed stark against grey.

The silence was disturbed by cheery local voices – unseen walkers trudging across this lonely hill, somewhere.

I stayed on the Way and skirted the hill, imagining the view of rooftops below. Soon the Obelisk appeared in the gloom and I lingered.

Erected to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice of local residents, the monument still bore wreaths of Remembrance Day. The blood red poppies were a stark contrast against the dark stone. I stood quietly for a moment, watching the strengthening wind ruffling the red petals. I took some solace in the Buddhist belief of prayer flags strung across the Himalaya. Like them, I hoped the power of the messages on these wreaths would be carried on the wind for a greater good.

I continued along the Way, past Kinder Stones and Sugar Loaf, and found a track not marked on the map and ultimately found the road again. I cut back to the reservoirs, eventually finding the switchback track through the plantation.

At the reservoir shore I strode along the engineered track, crossing gushing culverts. I heard the rattling call of grouse disturbed on the hillside and saw busy grey squirrels scurrying across the forest floor. I caught the faintest smell of pine needle even in this frigid air.

The valley was a sink of cold air trapped by the mist. I shivered and hunkered down in my walking jacket.

Yeoman Hey Reservoir, cold and wet
Today would be no fun on the peat edges. The joy of these walks was the long ranging views across towns and brown hillsides. I would have none of this, even the barrenness of the bog would be smudged by the thick clag.

My ‘edge’ today would be the shoreline of these reservoirs. Back at the car, the cosy bar of a local hostelry beckoned. This walk needed to be saved for a better day.