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.