The Pennine Way

Walked in August - September 2007

Day 2 – Sunday 26th August

Hayfields – Crowden
Pennine Way Distance: 8.5 miles. Cumulative: 15 miles


Lives have been lost on Bleaklow… But cheer up, there is worse to follow.
- Alfred Wainwright

Hayfields campsite
Hayfields campsite

Woke at around six-thirty to my first morning in a tent. Predictably all I wanted to do was go back to sleep, but soon enough the sound of zips being undone or done up from the direction of Darryl’s tent made it clear that a lie-in wasn’t going to happen. For breakfast we made up some of my MSC mixture in my mess tin with water from the campsite water tap, and I ate a nice big flapjack I’d bought from the shop in Edale the day before. By the time we’d packed everything up and used the site facilities, it was around eight o’clock, a little later than we’d intended to start out, but we didn’t have a huge day’s walk ahead of us.

We turned right out of the campsite, walked back up the long country lane by the quarry and a rather attractive country house and garden that looked like an absolute haven, and headed back up to Kinder Reservoir. The vast stretch of water was shimmering in the morning sun, and it would have been nice to linger and appreciate it, but we had to retrace our steps back up the perilous William Clough to Mill Hill.

Kinder Reservoir
Kinder Reservoir

It was warming up nicely though, and despite a difficult hour or so of climbing the rocky watercourse, we felt good and in high spirits. At one point we came to an unexpected fork where we had a choice of two routes. We didn’t remember this part of the route from the day before, but luckily I recognized my boot-print in the mud of the right-hand track, so we headed up it. On reflection, this wasn’t such an obvious clue, as my boots (Brashers) are quite a common and popular make of boot, and the print could have been made by someone else. Better luck next time Watson. Nevertheless, we did choose the right path and soon returned to the crossroads near Mill Hill where we stopped for a coffee break.

A couple of walkers passed us while we rested, as well as a couple of runners, coming from the direction of Mill Hill, and heading on up Kinder Scout, presumably toward Edale. People in this part of the country must have great legs if they spend their weekends walking or running up and down peaks like Kinder Scout.

Looking over Featherbed Moss from near Mill Hill
Looking over Featherbed Moss from near Mill Hill

When we’d finished our break, we walked on up to Mill Hill and turned right, heading north-east toward Glead Hill and further on, Featherbed Moss. We were now on a flagstone path which in fact carried us for several miles over the unstable bogs, moorland and pink cotton-grass. This was also grouse country, and we would wander through many a grouse moor on our journey, most of which had signs warning of ‘nesting birds.’ During the trip I came to understand what a ridiculous creature the grouse is. They really do deserve to be shot, for a number of reasons. Firstly, they nest in the ground, an act of complete and baffling stupidity since they are capable of flight and should be nesting in trees like other birds. And before you say ‘yes, but they live on the moors where there aren’t that many trees,’ consider how easy it would be for them to just fly down into the valleys or forests where there are plenty of trees and nest there. Secondly, even though they can actually fly, they do it such a noisy, clumsy way that, again, they deserve to be shot or preyed on by more graceful intelligent creatures of the air. In form a grouse resembles a large wine bottle with a beak, and moves across the ground in a manner you would expect from… well… a large wine bottle with a beak. When they fly, they flap their wings with no apparent control, making a noise like a small helicopter taking off, then manage by some miracle to get airborne whereby they move through the air with the ease of... a wine bottle with a beak. And thirdly they make a sound like some cross between a bleat and a quack, making them sound as ridiculous as they look. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate grouse, I just don’t understand why they haven’t become extinct by now. They don’t appear to have any effective means of survival, and I think the only reason they’re here is because they are pitied by other species, including man.

Bleaklow
Bleaklow

Three miles on from Mill Hill we came to the A57, otherwise known as the Snake Road, where we crossed to find the path leading up to and over Bleaklow. We stopped for another quick break before carrying on, watching the few vehicles pass. There were a number of parked vehicles nearby, indicating that Bleaklow, and beyond it Devil’s Dike could, like Kinder Scout be popular walking spots. According to the guide there was a Roman road that our path crossed, called Doctor’s Gate which formed a natural cleft. We missed it completely though, as well as the ghosts of Romans and robbers that the guide promised, though as we marched into Devil’s Dike, a long, narrow ditch we did come across many dunes and tussocks that could easily have concealed robbers waiting to leap out on travellers in the dead of night. There is a legend associated with Devil’s Dike which tells of an alchemist who once sold his soul to the Devil, then tried to win it back in a horse race along Doctor’s Gate. The alchemist leaped over the dike ahead of the Devil, and because there was water between them, the Devil’s spell was broken and the alchemist’s soul was returned. A load of rubbish obviously, but it kept us going for a while. After making our way along Hern Clough, we started following a rocky and indistinct water-course up over a small hill. This was the first, but not the last time that I considered how easy it would be for the average walker to twist their ankle or worse. Darryl and I were carrying heavy 15kg packs on our backs, and sometimes the ground was so uneven that every step moved our feet in different directions, pulling them, pushing them, twisting them, so that injury was often ‘painfully’ close. If I hadn’t been wearing my sturdy Brashers, I’m sure I’d have injured myself horribly within a few days and had to have pulled out of the walk. In fact, out of all the kit I took with me, my boots were my most valued possession, they really did look after me.

Devil’s Dike
Devil’s Dike

Once we were up on Bleaklow we took another rest. I was glad to get the pack off my back after a good hour’s climbing over rocks and up stream beds, and while a family, no doubt out for a day’s walk were looking at the large cairn nearby, Darryl and I collapsed into the long grass and stared through our feet at Manchester in the distance. I genuinely felt at that point that we were really doing something special, but more than that, that we were doing something that so few other people had attempted. Thousands of people have started the Pennine Way only to give up after the first day. Although we had split our first day in two, we would go on to do far more than a sixteen mile day (the approximate distance from Edale to Crowden), and prove that we were capable of serious endurance, something that in my case at least, had never been assessed before. Fitness and endurance really are two very separate conditions, and making the mistake of treating them as one and the same thing could be foolish, especially when trying something like the Pennine Way.

It was nearly lunchtime now and once we’d finished our little break on Bleaklow, we got up and pushed on, negotiating more fords and rock-strewn paths, until I was starting to loathe the sight of rocks and wonder just what horrible injury would ruin the trip for me. Soon, thankfully, Torside Clough came into view, and after a very steep downward, then upward climb, we were on the mountain path that would take us along then down to Torside Reservoir, which was practically Crowden, and the end of the day’s walk. At the top of the climb was a middle-aged couple who were sitting, admiring the view down into the clough and eating some cheese and bread.

“Sorry,” the man said, smiling as we hauled ourselves past, panting. “Haven’t got enough for you.” And with that my mind started focussing on food and drink (my water bottle was empty) and what we could hopefully buy once we got to the campsite at Crowden, provided the path didn’t claim us as victims first. It really is hard to accurately convey how bad a path can be. When I say it’s rocky, uneven and ankle-threatening, it must sound like I’m just moaning, but believe me, when you’re walking along something that would make a cobble-stone pavement feel like a shag-pile carpet, with the weight of a large child on your back, things can start to get frustrating as well as uncomfortable. Our tents obviously added a lot to the weight we were carrying, as well as the sleeping mats, so our choice of accommodation (so to speak) was largely to blame. We stopped again a way down the track, to rest and admire the view of Torside Reservoir, which was currently drained for maintenance. There were a lot of flies buzzing about, but generally this was a great place to just stop and admire the scenery. It was hot too, and I was beginning to worry that the weather might be a problem on this trip if we were unable to carry enough water and have enough time to rest. Luckily it wasn’t high summer, if it had been, we’d have had a real struggle.

Looking down to Torside Reservoir
Looking down to Torside Reservoir

Slinging our heavy packs back over our shoulders, we trudged on down the awkward, uneven, twisting trail down the side of the clough, toward the road at the bottom. It took us a fair while, and passing through one gate we met a grey-haired gent who told us a friend of his had walked the Pennine Way some time ago. It was hard to tell if the look in his eyes was one of admiration or incredulity. Most, if not all the people we would meet along the way, knew about the walk and knew someone who had done it, if they hadn’t in fact done it themselves. It really did seem an important part of the landscape, an entity that drew people from all over the world, and brought people together.

We eventually reached the road and followed it for a short while before taking a path that led to the dam. We saw a road sign indicating that the town of Hadfield was only three miles away. Darryl and I knew Hadfield well from the small screen, as it was the location for the TV series, The League of Gentlemen. If we hadn’t used up our spare day, we may well have used it to pay Hadfield a visit, and we even thought of getting a bus there once we’d settled into the campsite at Crowden as it was only one thirty in the afternoon, but as it turned out there were no buses, at least none that we could find. We crossed the dam with Rhodeswood Reservoir on our left, and the drained Torside Reservoir on our right, then right along a path that went through a small pine forest before heading uphill on the A628, past the turning on the left where the Pennine Way continued up toward Oaken Clough, and down a winding country lane toward the campsite at Crowden. As we marched on, looking forward to finishing for the day, a small group of children and adults who must have been staying at the hostel, passed us and set about hiding themselves in the hedge at the side of the road. Ignoring this, we walked on until an older couple passed us, walked on up the lane behind us, and possibly suffered near-coronaries as the concealed group leaped out and surprised them. From what we could hear, the couple weren’t entirely impressed.

As we walked over a small bridge and into what appeared to be a farmyard, we met the Geordie couple we’d bumped into the day before, and who had put us back onto the right track after being lost in the mist for two hours. They told us they had wild-camped the night before, then had continued on to Crowden in the morning and stopped at the campsite to buy provisions before moving on after lunch. They said the ground at the campsite was pretty bumpy, but that didn’t bother us. We were surprised to have caught them up, since they had apparently not left the Pennine Way at all. Maybe they hadn’t been starting out as early as us in the mornings. Very sensible. We wished them good luck and said we’d more than likely bump into them again at some point, which we did. We walked into a very green and pleasant-looking campsite which seemed almost full, but after finding a member of staff who had been sitting in a deckchair, chatting and drinking with a friend (again, very sensible), we were assured that, like Hayfields, campsites always found room for backpackers. We actually felt quite honoured, like we were part of some brotherhood of adventurers, and it was encouraging to learn that most campsites offered a similar courtesy to walkers. We were given a nice pitch near a wire fence (which I tied some of my tent lines to for extra stability, though this was only the second time I had ever pitched the tent, and was still going through a bit of a learning process), and set about making camp. Once we’d done this we went back to the camp shop and spent a small fortune buying more or less everything the shop had to offer. The man looked bemused, constantly going to the register to tally everything up before being thwarted by either Darryl or myself spotting something else we fancied. Once we’d finally decided enough was enough, we paid for our groceries and lugged the heavy bags back to our tents where we devoured a couple of packets of biscuits, crisps, cola and heaven knows what else before deciding to stop and let our bodies digest at least a fraction of it before dinner.

Because we’d finished the day early (certainly a lot earlier than we would on subsequent days), we just lay in the sun, listening to music, reading or writing up notes on the day’s walk. It was a very pleasant afternoon, and a chance to reflect on what we’d done so far, and on what lay ahead. We discussed the fact that we’d already used up our spare day and wondered if this was going to cause problems later. The good thing was that although we were tired from the day’s walk and Darryl had some blisters forming at this point, neither of us had any real problems and felt confident that we could continue and complete the walk. Most people who undertake the Pennine Way, quit long before reaching Crowden, so we were doing well.

Another walker arrived while we were preparing dinner, and he set up his tent on the other side of the fenced off area. I was interested to see that he had the same Hilleberg tent as me, and watched him set it up so that I might get a few pointers. He seemed to be struggling with it for a while, but eventually got it pitched, and I could now see where I’d been going wrong. After a dinner of beans and sausages which we cooked in my mess tin over the portable stove (which, incidentally was a godsend), I went to take a shower and brush my teeth. On the way I noticed that someone had put two walking boots on a small wall near the drinking water tap, and filled them with potted plants. They actually looked quite attractive, and I made a mental note to perhaps do the same thing one day. Back at the tent I read the single novel I’d taken with me (due to weight restrictions this book was a luxury in itself, and in retrospect, I wouldn’t have had time to read more anyway), before settling down at about eight o’clock to go to sleep, something which was made difficult by the bizarre decision of other campers to begin a game of late night cricket. Buggers. Nevertheless, I drifted off sometime later and slept like a log.

 

Next Day >>>