Expeditions, Navigation, Guided Walks and Trekking

Dark Peak – Off the Beaten Path

Middle Black Clough

One of my favourite books on walking in the the Peak District is Doug Brown’s Dark Peak Hikes. It does as it says in its sub-title – taking one “Off the Beaten Track”,  and it points out all the places of interest that might be missed in such remote places. One place I wanted to find was the bothy above the River Derwent and below Round Hill to the east of Bleaklow.

So this Sunday, I set off up Middle Brook Clough from Woodhead Station. I found this clough by accident some years ago, chatting with a couple of rock climbers who were going up there to clean up some routes on a small crag. This clough is absolutely delightful, waterfalls, gentle streams, high boulders across the stream, all of which make for a fun scramble, good anytime of the year.

As it was the hottest weekend of the year so far, the lower stages of the clough was full of picnickers, and a few children had made it up to the first tall waterfall. This was spraying a wide shower from the top, catching the sun, but difficult to capture on camera.

The clough takes the scrambler into a wide open space, full of bog and mosses. This area goes under the name of Bleaklow Meadows, not a meadow as most people would imagine it; bleak, lonely and quiet. Up above, on the skyline, are the tops of the Bleaklow Stones, these are not the stones seen at the Head, which is further west across a difficult mile of deep grykes.

Bleaklow Stones

These rocks are fun to wander around, making shapes in the mind. Its a bit like deciding what shapes clouds are forming, but on the ground. It was here that I met the only other people I met all day after leaving the busy picnic area. A group of three women sheltering from the wind behind the “Anvil” and a lone walker, laden down with a big tripod and sun hat! After lunch, it was time to head to Grinah Stones, with a currently dry path leading the way around head of the River Westend valley. Around the stones, it was time to find the bothy mentioned by Doug Brown, which I had in my memory was the small building marked on the map at the stream junction down Upper Small Clough. Dropping down the clough, there was no building in sight, it was rather beautiful with the odd tree giving shelter to the sheep and their lambs. I found the stream junction, but the building was long gone, just the low walls remaining of what was probably a shepherds hut.

Grinah Stones

It was only on checking the book back home, I find the bothy is not marked on the map, and is down the next clough along. Looks like another walk has to be planned, next time perhaps from the top of the Derwent Reservoir.

The top of the River Derwent is truly delightful, with a few wild camping spots close to the river as well just above the junction with Upper Small Clough.  Crossing a little stream I noticed a patch of little white flowers that looked new to me and my crib sheet.

Highland Saxifrage

On checking they appear to be Highland Saxifrage, a rare mountain flower.  They were well established in the boggy areas there.

The other objective of the day was to cross Featherbed Moss as recommended by my Holiday Fellowship assessor.  So it was up Hoar Clough, easy to miss in the mist as the path is indistinct and mainly sticks to the valley. Last time I was up there in the mist I had to do some tricky relocation. Even on the brightest and sunniest day the Moss looked grim and bleak, so I headed north over Round Hill to the Lady Cross and picked up the old road back to Woodhead. Longside Moss above the main road was a true spring delight, with Curlews, Plovers, Lapwings, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and even the odd Mallard all out there, signing and joining me along the way. Although it is close to the road, this track is such a pleasant walk with extensive views south of the cloughs up to the Bleaklow tops. The path is also part of the long distance Transpennine cycle Trail, the actual stretch where is reaches the highest point. A steep section drops down back to road and car park, by then full with people enjoying the great weather.

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This entry was posted on June 2, 2012 by in Blog, Peak District and tagged , , .
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