Oct 15 2011

Walk 37: More Than We Can Chew

Looking South East from Laddow Moss

route: Black Chew Head & Featherbed Moss from Crowden
15th October 2011
distance: 6.4 miles
ascent: 1,244 feet
time: 4 hrs 05 mins
walkers: Dave, Leanne, Sandra & Simon

The Yorkshire Dales and Lake District were familiar to us and now the Peak District would become the third National Park we would visit as we began our Peak District tops tick list. The reason for creating this list was to enable us to have more options and mainly not to exhaust our Dales options. We had already completed the 40 Yorkshire tops on our list last year and we were now 35 trigs into a list of 54 and unless we branched out, our days in the Dales would be done. Sure we could re-tread old steps or re-visit peaks or trigs for a second time, and no doubt we will, but there is nothing quite like the adventure of visiting somewhere new. As we drove to Crowden there was an extra air of anticipation in the car, possibly due to the new surroundings or maybe the fact our journey didn’t involve the A65, either way we were all looking forward to it, even though I managed to send our driver in the wrong direction and we had a ten minute detour. We parked up and followed the usual pre walk routine, laugh, boots on, laugh a little more, fleece on, laugh even more, rucksack ready, more laughing, map check… bugger! I have only bought oversized A5 pocket maps for the Dales and Lakes but unfortunately there is no such thing for the peak District. Beaky is the one who has purchased the OS maps and I assumed that he had done the same but he hadn’t. What we should have done was discussed it in advance but we both left it to the other expecting them to be the professional one when in fact neither of us bothered to give it much thought. I did have Gordon Peter Smythe with me and spare batteries so we felt we would be fine, especially as the day was rapidly turning into a lovely one and with a clear forecast we didn’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be ok. A guy parked opposite us was the lucky person we asked to take the team shot and he did so with minimum of fuss, before we thanked him and headed off into the unknown.

I say headed off into the unknown because almost immediately after leaving the car park and passing through a small wooded area we were lost. We reached the edge of a campsite and had to ask the way to the Pennine Way, which it turns out, was just the other side of the site as we were pointed in the right direction by a very helpful woman who obviously knew the area. We skirted the camp site boundary wall and turned left passing a small farm as the route became clear.

We reached a small weir which we passed before following a track as it climbed gradually towards a Pennine Way fingerpost, or so we hoped. By this stage I was already warm and it wouldn’t be too much longer before my fleece came off and I was just in a t-shirt. It was perfect walking weather as the sun wasn’t too hot but gave off enough heat to remove the chill from the air and with clear skies we couldn’t have wished for more.

A short while further on we found the fingerpost and Beaky showed us the way, but I have to say he also had a picture pointing at the sign going in the other direction just in case, although that was more in jest as the route we were taking now became clear. We made our way over a couple of wooden stiles and slowly we moved away from lush green farmed fields and more towards the rough natural terrain we were more accustomed to.

Ahead of us we could see the front edge of the ridge containing Black Chew Head so we had something to focus on and aim for.

The initial part of the walk had been very steady and as such we had made good time, not that we ever clock watch. Our total time for each walk could certainly be reduced considerably if we didn’t spend as much time at each peak/top/trig and also along the route. Personally I prefer to enjoy and take in the surroundings so we stop fairly often to spend a minute or two looking at the countryside. I would certainly never criticize anyone for wanting to push on as part of it is to challenge yourself and to increase fitness but I feel we strike a good balance.

After a mile or so of fairly flat going we crossed a little stream before there was a little kick up and I tried my best to keep up with Beaky as he did his usual trick of disappearing into the distance. I managed to stay within ten yards or so and as is the norm he waited once at a convenient spot. Had he gone on much further I would have dropped behind but I hung on and we discussed the Leeds Utd victory over Doncaster the previous night as L’Autobus slowly came over the hill before we all took 5 minutes for a drink and some even powdered their noses behind a large rock.

After a short rest we began once again and encountered our first slightly boggy section. I was expecting it to be boggy as for some reason I have it in my head that the Peak District is just one massive bog with a couple of reasonable areas scattered throughout. Only time will tell if I am proved right or I have just made everything up but whatever it won’t stop us going and achieving the 39 tops we have set out to reach so in a way the ground is irrelevant, good ground just means I don’t get verbally abused. The path began to climb once again as we crossed Oakenclough Brook and continued along the Pennine Way for a short distance further.

As the path levelled out we encountered a couple of walkers coming the other way and we greeted them as they did us as we passed by. I made sure everyone was looking for a path off to our left as I was walking at the back and I wasn’t sure how well defined the path was. The last thing I wanted was for me to be the only one knowing about it and not spotting it but it turned out to be clear and we forked left towards our first target. At the same time a plane flew above our heads as it made its way into land at Manchester and that was certainly different from the Dales. From time to time you may get the odd Cessna or light aircraft but nothing like a passenger jet. They continued to fly over at regular intervals but it didn’t detract from the general feel of the walk, instead I found myself gazing skywards each time I heard some engines. The path we were now on wasn’t exactly smooth underfoot as we made our way between the peat hags and things were now beginning to look a little more like I expected.

After a little more than 5 minutes we reached a fence and a stile over it but we turned right to follow the fence for a quarter of a mile before we used another stile to cross towards the cairn.

Within a few strides we had reached Black Chew Head and the first of our three intended tops for the day. To be honest there wasn’t the great sense of achievement I felt when we reached Great Whernside on our very first walk but it is always nice to reach the place you set out for. We spent a few minutes looking around then took the usual pics (these can be found in the tick list section) before we re-traced our steps over the stile and back along the fence crossing some wet boggy sections as we went. In the distance we could see the white trig point at Featherbed Moss which would be our second target for the day.

It was at this point that we decided to crack out the sarnies and spend twenty minutes having some lunch. I tried to work out where Hoarstone Edge was as that was to be our next destination but I couldn’t work it out. The plan was to tick off the third top then pass Chew Reservoir, which we had caught a glance of earlier, before re-joining the Pennine Way returning the same way came. After a bit of discussion we decided that Hoarstone Edge could wait for another day as it would give us another chance to come back to this area.

Sometimes a long walk that ticks of a large number of goals is the best thing, but sometimes we have found that breaking things down into smaller routes means we get to experience a similar location from a different angle, and with that decided we set off on the return journey. Before long I was flat on my back after selecting the wrong area to place my foot and it sliding away from me, fortunately there was no harm done and I was soon up and joining in with the others laughter.

It was hard to make out the faint path we had followed on the way here and we wandered off it slightly meaning we occasionally had patches of peat bog to cross, though fortunately they weren’t too wet. We could also avoid some of the larger patches which also meant Wu Tang was happy as she isn’t a fan of anything boggy.

We reached the fence once again and the stile that crossed it. It wasn’t the one we had used earlier but I crossed it anyway as the others waited. Once over the other side I began to walk towards them and they turned so we all went in the same direction but different sides of the fence. There was no master plan on my part I simply chose the other side because I could. Soon enough we had reached the crossing point from earlier and we were once again on the same side.

Making our way along the short path back to the Pennine Way we turned right to head back to Crowden. In front of us the valley was bathed in sunlight and the little stream that snaked through it was glistening as it headed towards Torside Reservoir.

We made the descent into the valley and the terrain began to level out for the final mile or so. Up ahead we could see the remains of an old disused quarry and we chatted away as our thoughts turned from the fells to the pub.

In no time whatsoever we were approaching the sign post we found at the start of our journey and we paused as Ramblo tried to take a picture of a sheep with wonky horns. After a few minutes of us trying to coax it to turn and face us head on we gave up and made our way back to the car. As we did myself and Wu Tang looked back to find the sheep had now turned as if it knew what we wanted but wasn’t willing to join in.

We walked around the camp site and back to the car to end what had been a fabulous introduction to the Peak District. Part of me regretted the decision to not go on but part of me knew there was always another day. The one thing we have always tried to do is to make sure everyone is happy. We always go at the slowest persons pace and would never go further than everyone was capable of. If that means that from time to time we cut walks shorter than planned then so be it, it gives us a reason to do another walk. The one thing I knew we would have no problem agreeing on would be what to do now, and we got changed and jumped in the car and decided to stop at the first pub on the way home. We sat outside and enjoyed a drink as we each gave our first impressions of our new surroundings and how we had enjoyed the whole experience. We were certainly looking forward to coming back, although that probably wouldn’t be this year due to us having other walks planned and the build up to Christmas being busy socially. I think the first walk of 2012 will have to be in the Peak District, the question is where to visit next?

Sir Edmund


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