Between trains at Manchester I went to check my map for the route from Hope Station up onto Loosehill. Before I’d completed the thought I saw it back home on the kitchen table. So our walk began a stop earlier at Edale where my memory of a bridleway up onto Hollins Cross felt trustworthy.
The sweep of clough cut moorland escarpment which rises North of Edale is as fine a hill view as any. The place to gaze over to its heathery textures, crumbling in- by walls and grit stone stacks is the beautiful grassy ridge between Loosehill and Mam Tor where we walked.
The Met Offices best guess was wrong but in the right kind of way. No heavy rain or low cloud as suggested. Instead a summer’s day of warm breeze and broken blue sky. Out on the open hillside of Mam Tor the scale of Kinder Scout could be felt. Its presence dwarfed Edale and the ridge we walked on.
Swallows skimmed walls on Rushup Edge where the ground fell away to Edales uncut meadows. South of us an unkown landscape of white limestone walls and green pasture stretched to the horizon. The black stuff of peat and grit stone was met proper crossing Brown Knoll. Here the moorland sponge dripped with water from many wet grey days and made for slow thoughtful walking.
Mostly on Kinder my timing with Atlantic weather fronts has been out so to reach the plateau in such good conditions was welcome. A ewe stood by Edale Rocks. Uncut fleece blowing in the breeze watching us. A pair of Ravens, claws often entwined, cawed and tumbled along the Western edge of the escarpment where we picked a bouldery way towards Kinder Downfall. As ever the waterfall blew back on itself towards its peaty beginnings and a fine drizzle drifted across our path.
Here the trangia slowly boiled a pot of peaty water brown as stewed tea whilst I stood barefoot on gritty river bed hands in pockets. Brewing up is the best part of walking. Like looking back on a work in progress. Savouring a detail unseen. Reconsidering. Or just laying back floating on sweet solitude. The rarest thing.
Rain interrupted play!
And we moved on into the evening light and passing shower. Later low sun and gathering cloud combined to make a half hour of sublime light which lifted the landscape above its moorland prose to a poetry of fleeting texture and contour, colour and saturation, shadow and contrast A depth and experience you might only imagine. You may live a life and never come across it. A cameras clicks can only hint at the intensity. Better to stand there and feel it.
Our bed for the falling night was undecided but depended on finding water. Given the sponge we walked upon this was surprisingly hard to find. Most becks seemed low and unusable and we wandered far to find the sound of moving water. Somewhere around The Edge tumbling water and a green grough provided a home for the night. The view from our 2’000ft bed opened out over the patchwork of Ashop Clough to the subtle contours of Bleaklow. It began to rain.
A fitful night of wind and rattling rain. A dark grey dawn and lie in until the metrological tantrum calmed. From sleeping bag to fully clad in boots, waterproofs and hat before rolling out of soggy tent to a soaking morning. From the sublime to the grim.
It was lifting slowly as we headed off to pick up the Pennine Way for Bleaklow. Getting better days are better than the other kind.
Looking down on Featherbed Moss I recalled past crossings of its endless sodden expanse. A frustrating place of detours and boot fulls of water. Now a thin pencil line of flagstones curves a way across this great bog and the black scar of old path has healed. Credit must go to the National Park for the miles of restoration works which were not popular with everyone at the time. Work continues up here with re vegetating vast expanses of acidic moorland. Even if you never visit this work will benefit you as the peat here is a great store of carbon.
Bleaklow is a subtle place of shallow cloughs and stone. Mostly you are held in its gentle contours unable to see beyond the next few metres of peat. In low cloud it can be hard to stay relaxed. My first visit was 30 years ago on an attempt to walk 40 miles around the River Derwent’s watershed in winter. Dark, wet and sliding from grough to grough the idea was abandoned on here and a desperate escape made by torchlight into the Derwent Valley. I did not return for a long time. Yet like someone who you misunderstand on first meeting this place has been worth a second chance but remains a dog you can never trust completely.
Today’s crossing was a delight. Following green cloughs and becks in brown spate deeper into the hill. Until a pair of dish cloth coloured sheep were met at Bleaklow Head. Beyond a midgey brew was taken and the long descent to Crowden begun. I wondered about returning here and spending a full night and day camped amongst some boulders and bilberry. To spend time watching weather and wandering this big peaty wildernesses little corners.