Tundra in Derbyshire. Bleaklow in Winter.
Last weekend was originally planned to be a crack at a wintry Striding Edge, following our great day out on Crib Goch just before Christmas. But Mike’s social calendar was packed and so it had to be a solo walk. I played safe, the weather was forecast to be gales and the high accident rate on Helvellyn pushed it into the high risk box. No teetering along Striding Edge in crampons this week.
It’s been a while since I made a trip up Bleaklow and it’s handy, so on Saturday I set off from Old Glossop towards Cock Hill alongside the unusual shaped Blakemoor Plantation. Why is this plantation shaped like IT? That thought kept me wondering for a few moments as I took the good track up to the shooting lodge on Glossop Low. This roofless building has had a large solar panels fitted to its side. Not sure what it would be powering, perhaps somewhere to recharge the gamekeepers mobile.
Break in the shower over Crowden. Not a great photo, but best I could do in the circumstances. ©Tony Greenwood
Looking to Bleaklow and Kinder across the featureless and desolate moor one feels it must resemble Arctic tundra. No trees; very little variation in vegetation; Arctic plants; wildlife limited to Mountain Hares and Grouse; with wading birds nesting in the spring; frequent strong winds. It does tick many of the features, it even felt a bit like permafrost today.
Heading of into the tundra towards Torside Castle felt like a brave move as the weather closed in. On the ground the snow lay on the mud and into the gaps between the heather making distinctive crackle patterns. The temperature was rising, the snow was getting slushy and the clouds closing in. Snow started to whip across the moors stinging my face as I looked up to check direction. Crossing this terrain is not a lot of fun at the best days, today was no fun whatsoever. Stumbling across snow overlaying mud or tripping into hidden holes in the peat was tough going.
Head down, plodding along didn’t take long to hit the Pennine Way path above the clough. Out of the mist appeared people, the first company that day. We exchanged grumbles about about the mud. A couple were heading towards Greenfield, apparently there are some good pubs there.
Wainstones, kissing for some warmth. ©Tony Greenwood
The clouds started to break and patches of blue sky briefly opened up over Crowden, but I was going away from that, along the Pennine Way to Bleaklow. This path takes a sharp left beside the John Track Well, but I expected that to be considerably more soggy so took the direct route to Wainstones, a way less traveled.
The wind was not letting up and on reaching the stones I just kept going towards Hern Stone, climbing in and out of the peat hags and grykes. All the ground looked the same and the horizon was featureless. My trusty compass helped me find the trig point on Higher Shelf Stones. As I arrived the snow shower cleared and the sun broke through dramatic clouds over Kinder.
Snow showers easing on Kinder ©Tony Greenwood
It was still too cold to sit down and break into lunch, so I headed for cliffs on the lower stones finding a sheltered spot overlooking Doctors Gate path.
A stretch of the moor across to Yellowstones Brook is not crossed by any paths and is where Mountain Hares are usually spotted. I have always spotted them there. So after lunch I adopted my hare spotting attitude hoping for a good sighting. Today was no exception, I saw a large grey winter coated hare but it quickly ran down a hag and disappeared from view.
Lower Shelf Stones toward Glossop. ©Tony Greenwood
Dropping down into Downstone Clough, I came across a young couple struggling to cross the stream. The clough sides were slippy with mud and slush and the stream just too wide to jump. They didn’t want my help so I left them to it, they could well still be there. It was a easy walk above Yellow Slacks back down to Old Glossop and a swift pint at the Queens Arms. A large screen was up in the pub showing the City v Boro cup match, which kept me there a while. Great result for my old home team.
Even the sun couldn’t stop all the colour being drained from the view. ©Tony Greenwood