Paying attention to Lantern Pike

Many a time I have driven from home into the Dark Peak and ignored Lantern Pike. The focus has always been Hayfield and the rocky fringes of the Kinder plateau, rather than the softer landscape to the west. My only reminder that the Pike exists is the pub that shares its name.

I resolved to change this today. I was after an easy ramble with the camera… a walk to work up an appetite for Sunday lunch. The weather was very kind, a period of calm before promised snow was due to ruin the Monday morning commute.

I strolled along the Sett Valley trail and gained ground via the Pennine Bridleway from Birch Vale. At the National Trust sign marking the Pike, I following a rocky path climbed steeply to the left and to the small ridge to the Pike’s summit and marker.

The views to higher ground were impressive, and I traced the route of a classic Kinder Scout Walk. No doubt there were plenty of walkers trampling its slopes today, yet I enjoyed solitude on this no-longer ignored hill.

Rolling out the bivvy bag above Edale

I’ve written a fair amount about Kinder Scout on this blog, but I’ve never ‘overnighted’ on its boggy plateau or, perhaps, more agreeable shoulders.

I remedied this at the weekend. I had some free time, although not as much as I’d hoped, so jumped on a train with a light pack. The forecast had been dreadful all week, but the prognosis had improved late on, with periods of extensive sunshine and rain later. I took the bivvy bag.

I had no plan… this was going to be a slow pootle over familiar ground. A trip to Edale and Kinder is like seeing old friends, and it’s a friendship that requires little maintenance. Like the enduring circle of soul mates gained during childhood, I reconnect three or four times a year, but I have the ever-present reassurance that it’s there if needed.

My route took me east along the valley and up on the plateau. Occasional showers gave the evening light a keener edge, throwing sometimes-stark contrast across lush fields bloated by a week of downpours.

I found some clean water and boiled it for my dinner. Kicking back above Nether Tor, I watched the evening progress.

Rolling out the bivvy beyond Grindsbrook Knoll, I had a fine view down the vale. My satisfaction was short lived, however, as a stiff northerly wind snaked around the surrounding hills and rattled the bag. I found a small, dry-ish depression and turned away from the view.

The wind remained all night, and rain drummed on the bag at dawn. I was warm and dry though, and felt a strange sense of comfort in my exposed bedroom.

Slide rules

Gravity: a physical body’s ability to attract with a force proportional to its mass. But classroom definitions pale when these forces are making themselves felt in actuality.

I ruminated on this as I slowly slid over ice en route to the Kinder Plateau on Saturday. My hefty winter boots had no answer on this surface and the faintest gradient ensured gravity was in gear and working with my mass, or on my ass.

Up to this point, I’d avoided the ice on the Snake Path. Plenty of firm snow fringed the frozen footway, which provided much needed purchase. My four-season Raichles felt over specified for the journey in hand. In retrospect, footwear choice proved to be sensible later.

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A classic Kinder Scout walk

Kinder Scout from Hayfield – 9.5 miles. 3 –5 hours

Climbing Kinder Scout from Hayfield is one of the classic routes of the Dark Peak.

It gives walkers relatively easy access to the wild expanses of the Kinder plateau and includes the wild declivity of Kinder Downfall. Add to that at least one agreeable pub for post-walk refreshment and a decent – if busy – campsite, and it’s easy to understand why this route attracts so many boots year in, year out.

View from above William Clough

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I’m afraid I am succumbing to my Summer distractions.

Cricket is now occupying a hefty chunk of my leisure time.

I was at Lords on Friday for the opening rubber of the T20 World Cup. It may have the traditionalists grumbling, but there’s clearly a role for this wham-bam, thank-you-mam form of the game.

The result may not have gone our way (what were you thinking, Stuart Broad?) but the Champagne and pies were most welcome.

I’ve also coughed up for Ashes tickets (and it was quite a cough) so weekends will be spent travelling to Wales and Edgbaston in the hope that England can dig deep and be true competitors in the long form of the game.

So that’s cricket, but the summer is also synonymous with long vigils by lakeside not catching any fish.

The season on the Cheshire lakes I fish is only a week or so away and the gear is nearly ready.

All this does not leave much time for the hills, so I was dismayed to find all my local camp sites booked to the gills this weekend. This is not confined to the weekends, either, as friends report that their favourite quite campgrounds are now being swamped, even on a mid week overnighter.

Is this a product of the recession and people shifting from cheap charters to the great (British) outdoors? Great for our domestic tourism, no doubt… not so great for those seeking a quiet corner.

I could risk a wild camp in the Peak District, I guess, but I know that landowners and rangers are proactive when it comes to policing the peat.

Who’d have thought nights under canvas would become quite so popular.

You can have any colour… as long as it’s grey

I’ve tied up some loose ends at work and everything else can wait until I get back to my desk on the 5th.

I’ve bought all the gifts I am going to buy and even went to the modern-day horror that is the Trafford Centre and witnessed a fist fight between a Liverpudlian mother and daughter (‘Goodwill to all men’?).

The Snake Path out of HayfieldSo, now all this crap is out of the way for another year, I got the chance to get out onto the hills today. Given that I’m now on leave, the weather was dreary (hence the title of this post), but I was determined today… I wouldn’t waste another day of precious holiday.

Just the other side of the winter solstice, daylight is a bit a luxury in these parts at this time of year – a sacrifice worth paying for long summer evenings. The short window of opportunity got me looking closer to home and a well know route I’d never tackled before – Kinder from Hayfield via the Snake Path.

The mountain weather forecast was optimistic with the promise of clear tops, light winds and good visibility in High Peak. The weather blew a raspberry, though… a cold clammy, cloud-ridden one that accompanied me over the tops all day.

The pretty cottages of Hayfield looked inviting as I trudged up the Kinder road to find the start of this famous ‘trespass path’. A fell runner skipped by me and disappeared into the mist as I climbed and I tried to visualise the view.

Crossing the National Trust boundary, the path turned to a sandy track over moorland and suddenly the weather completed the scene. Up high, alone, I waited for the Hound of the Baskervilles to tear my head off, or for Richard Hannay (always Robert Powell, for me) to skip across the heather en route to London to foil some dastardly plot. As geographically awry as both these examples may be, you get my drift.

I skirted the edge of Kinder Reservoir, its sinuous arms barely Up high on the moor above Kinder Reservoir and not a view in sightvisible in the mist, and I reached a junction of paths, all headed to the high ground obscured by a smudge of grey above.

I opted for the ‘official’ route of William Clough and the gushing stream provided a visual focus for the trip upwards. The climb is rough in parts, and depending on which path you take, there are chances to get your hands dirty and you clamber over clumps of gritstone.

The work was over too soon and I found the marker post for Pennine Way-farers and those seeking the protection of the Snake Inn. I turned right and headed southeast along the Pennine Way to Kinder. A steep path climbed the western snout of the plateau and I began a familiar trip along the edge towards Kinder Downfall.

But with visibility at 10 yards or so, this section felt very different today.

The lack of view forced me to appreciate my immediate surroundings and the tongue in cheek title of this post is inaccurate as I counted shades of green, sandy yellow, brown and pink in the peaty moonscape.

Other senses were more acute today, too. I climbed above two large anvil shaped stones and I heard the rush of the wind as it forced passage between the concave faces. Aeolian process at work, perhaps.

I passed the Downfall, lacking its usual drama in the gloom, and pressed onto the trig point at Kinder Low. I found it easily with the aid of the ever-accurate Satmap.

At Edale Cross, I picked up the Oaken Clough path and veered right onto the footpath to Hayfield. I reached the village again in three and half hours.

I hope to be out again soon to work off the excesses of Christmas. Until then, may I wish you and yours a restful Christmas and all the best for the New Year.


Muddy boots in the peat near Kinder Low

Cruel to be Kinder

There are numerous ways to test the resilience of your limbs in Edale.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting outside the Ramblers Inn enjoying the sun’s last rays, you’ll have witnessed folk with pained expressions seeking the solace of their cars after battling with the tops for a day.

Some will have slightly incredulous looks on their faces that the last descent had been so tough, some will be tip-toeing on ruined feet, as if creeping around the house after a night on the beer so not to wake the better half.

Two ‘classics’ have to be the complete circuit of the Vale of Edale – taking on the Mam Tor Ridge and the southern Edge of Kinder Scout – and the complete circuit of the Kinder plateau itself. I had unfinished business with the latter, and had a crack during the first weekend of April, when spring should have sprung.

Which way now? Snow in April on Kinder ScoutWhenever possible, I try to use public transport on walking trips, and Edale has the advantage of lying on the Sheffield to Manchester cross Pennine route. This turns it into a fleshpot in the summer months, putting it within easy reach of two major conurbations.

Off-season, things are quieter and it means that people who like to leave the car at home have relatively easy access.The train deposited me at Edale station in sunshine. The cliffs of the plateau looked enticing and I walked north through the village admiring well-tended gardens filled with daffodils. A reminder that work needed doing on my own meagre patch at home.

Passing the Nags Head and several walking parties about to embark, I headed for Grindsbrook Clough but veered right as I fancied a bit of low key scrambling on the rocky spine of Ringing Roger. Following the path as it contoured up the side of The Nab, low cloud suddenly spilled over Grindslow Knoll and hail peppered my jacket. Hood up, the hail turned into an exhilarating snowstorm.

April showers to the power ten? Perhaps… but I shouldn’t have really been a surprise. The weather systems were due to come from the north all day, promising an interesting cocktail of conditions.Visibility was now 25 yards and the clumps of heather that I could see were sugar frosted with snow.

With gritted teeth, I pressed onto the foot of Ringing Roger and started to climb. This lumpy outcrop of gritstone provides easy scrambling although the swirling clouds of snow injected a frisson of excitement.

Passing cairns north of the I realised that the weather could ruin my plans for the day. After all, I could see nothing, save for the white noise of a badly tuned television framed by my jacket hood and the vague outline of a path.

I poked around in the snow for a while until I found the edge path heading east. I would carry on but remained focussed on the map waiting for stream beds indicated by the Ordnance Survey to appear under my feet. I continued this way until reaching Madwoman’s Stones, slightly off the edge to be fair.

The ominous name of this outcrop was qualified by a bizarre becalming of the conditions. Suddenly, an eerie stillness fell on the plateau and I had the quite sublime sensation of being completely alone.

The View to Woodlands Valley opened upA golden pool of light then revealed the northern slopes of the Woodlands Valley as the hole opened in the heavy, dirty cloud. It expanded and migrated toward me, causing frosty heather tips to sparkle. The unpredictable weather, however troublesome, was not going to spoil this outing, only enrich it.

The wind retuned and served as a weather vane as I headed east, the compass and map now holstered in my pack side pocket.

Kinder’s northerly rim feels that bit wilder than its southern counterpart, despite the A57 suggesting the proximity of civilisation and safety. The edge is dotted with grit outcrops that preside over the Woodlands Valley, grim faced against the wind. Progress along this side is also complicated by the deep ravines of numerous cloughs and brooks which drain some of the water from the peat.
Deep ravines cut into Kinder Scout's northern edge
Once the view along the edge became clearer as the cloud continued to dissolve, what appeared to be moderate distances were doubled by the need to switch back up these clefts. And although relatively flat, this section of the route should not be underestimated as it requires walkers to wade though peat paths and jump from tussock to tussock. Views to the north are worth the protracted toil, though.

I found a comfortable outcrop on Seal Edge, refuelled and watched a team of fell runners making good progress from the Snake Road, their spindly limbs making easy work of brown hillside. They were to be only people I would see on the northern edge of Kinder on this changeable day.

Perfectly on cue, hail stung the side of me face again and then turned to snow. Time to press on.

The rockiness of the landscape increased as I passed Fairbrook Naze and worked my way long The Edge. I opted for stone over peat wherever possible – an admittedly small gesture to contain the footpath erosion along this stretch.

All too soon, people became a feature of the landscape again as I reached the junction with the Pennine Way, a route travelled in the other direction on my Long Walk Home.

A procession of pedestrians plodded to Kinder Down Fall and found sheltered spots amid the rocks to munch on sandwiches and gaze out towards Hayfield. Determined to follow the true edge of Kinder Scout, I resisted the temptation to stride across the plateau on a boggy path to Crowden Tower, instead taking the long way via Kinder Low and Edale Rocks.

Here, I headed due east again and entered the rock gardens of Woolpacks, a natural adventure playground for kids (and adults, maybe) who enjoy clambering over and conquering these outcrops.

Grindsbrook Clough - an exciting downward scramble in the sunshineCrowden Tower and the mouth of Crowden Brook soon passed and after another half a mile or so I cheated a bit. Rather than taking the track off the hill at Grindslow Knoll, I fancied completing my circumnavigation with a bit more excitement by way of a scramble down Grindsbrook Clough.

The rim of this ravine looked suitably intimidating, the ground rubbed to bare earth as thousands of walkers pause to weigh up the route’s steepness.

I made my way tentatively down and, not wishing to trouble the ever- patient folk of Edale Mountain Rescue, placed feet and hands very carefully. Once past the initial drop, things become much easier and you can appreciate the fine views to the Vale of Edale, framed dramatically by a solitary tree.

At the base, I followed the path through woodland and back to the starting point. With the sun high and warm again, I made for the grassy front lawn of the Ramblers Inn and sat alone as diners and drinkers cheered at noisy televisions showing the Grand National.

Then it started to snow…