20100425_MHW_Peak District West East Traverse 3 – Peak Forest to Ladybower Reservoir Linear Walk – A-Walk.
When : 25th April 2010
Who : Midland Hill Walkers – Walking Club
Where : White Peak and Dark Peak from Village of Peak Forest to Ladybower Reservoir
Maps Used : Ordnance Survey OS Explorer Map OL24 The Peak District White Peak area, and Ordnance Survey OS Explorer Map OL1 The Peak District Dark Peak area.
Start Point : SK 114,794 …. End Point : SK 169,872
Approx Distance : 12.7 miles, (20.4 km)
Heights : 3x significant ups and downs totalling 2900 ft of ascent (about 883m) and 3200 ft of descent (about 978m)
Summary : The Midland Hill Walkers A-Walk, April 2010 starting at Peak Forest and taking in Old Moor ; Cave Dale ; Castleton ; Mam Tor ; The Great Ridge ; Hollins Cross ; Vale of Edale ; Ringing Roger ; Southern Edge of the Kinder Scout Plateau ; Crookstone Hill ; finishing alongside the western arm of Laybower Reservoir in The Woodland Valley on The Snake Road.
If you don’t want to read my words, then you could go to my flickr site and just see the pic’s as a slide show
It’s now over a year since I did this walk, with The Midland Hill Walkers (MHW) – and this was the third of four walks crossing the Peak District rom West to East. My pic’s have been on my flickr site now for quite some time, but now it’s time to put some words together, to go with my photo’s and if you read straight on at the end of this diary, it’ll lead into the fourth leg (Ladybower to Sheffield including Stanage Edge etc.).
The coach left the car park in Kenilworth and travelled up the country to regurgitate us onto the side of the road in the village of Peak Forest exactly where we’d finished the 2nd leg of The West East Traverse and so keeping the continuity going perfectly. I’d ummed and arrrred on the coach as to whether to do the A or B walk, and as I felt reasonably fit and because I just love Cave Dale, I chose to do the A-walk (the B-team weren’t going to do the limestone mini-gorge down into Castleton).
Anyway, back to the start; the coach stopped in Peak Forest (on the A623 Baslow to Chapel-en-le-Frith road) and we all disembarked to recover our rucksacks from the hold and the A-party moved off first and at quite a reasonable pace. At first this was road walking heading north on Church Lane and then turning right into Old Dam Lane rising very steadily with views opening up, back over Peak Forest and much wider vistas over The White Peak. At Brecktor, the made up road became a dry stone walled rough track, still rising and later easing as it crested onto a high plateau-like area of limestone pasture and moorland, pot marked by the remains of ancient mining (for lead I think).
Super wide views opened up ahead of us and the walking became much easier as the gradient softened and then started a gentle descent onto Old Moor, passing one of the characteristic dew ponds of the area as we went. The tip of Mam Tor was just visible in the distance poking it’s head into view and it was here, as I tried to take a photo of the scene ahead, that I realised my camera’s battery compartment had inadvertently opened and all my batteries had fallen out – Oh bother! I exclaimed [only in slightly stronger terms] and explained what had happened to the gent’ beside me. He replied, Oh I saw some batteries on the ground just a short way back, and low and behold after back tracking 20-30 feet there they were and were soon loaded back into my camera – Yippee! …. I could now take the aforementioned pic’ and in a way it was even better than before, because the rest of the A-party had disappeared into a hollow and the resulting image I think has a wide, open and remote feeling that I think would have been lessened with maybe 20+ people in centre-view.
It’s really interesting just how big a gap can be opened up in just a few short minutes and it now meant stepping out a little to catch up with the rest of the A-team. Not that I was overly concerned as I’ve walked this area numerous times before and knew the route the group was taking (and I had a map with me, which helps) …. it only took maybe a hundred yards (if that) before everyone came back into view and we were soon reunited within the main body of the group.
We were following part of The Limestone Way and we soon picked up a shallow depression which deepened to become a gentle dry valley, which in turn started to become quite craggy and rocky on both sides.The path in the bottom however was wide and easy to walk on and there was lots of chat going on: it would seem everyone was full of the joys of spring as the pace fairly bounced along.
This dry valley is the top of Cave Dale and it soon begins to deepen with the sides becoming steeper and more rugged and then all of a sudden the path plunges steeply as the valley becomes a full blown gorge – very dramatic – the drama is perfectly enhanced by the tower of Perveril Castle perched atop a sheer cliff. I believe the gorge is the remains of a collapsed river cave system and in times of rain the rocky path becomes a small running stream, meaning care must be taken on the slippery wet limestone rocks. There are small side caves suspended above the valley floor, on the flanks of the gorge, indicating how the cave system may have been quite complex in millennia gone by.
After a while (after the path has dropped in height quite considerably) the sides narrow significantly and then, all of a sudden, it emerges right out onto the streets of Castleton. The contrast is remarkable, going from drop dead gorgeous scenery, to drop dead gorgeous Peak District Village with its understated stone buildings, village greens, small shops, youth hostel and pubs all crowded around the centrally placed church. I love it. I don’t think I could ever tire of visiting here, even given the understandably high number of tourists that throng the place at times. It’s a real honey pot of a place for visitors. Castleton also has a sizeable car-park and tourist info’ centre and public loos which is where we set off for and nearby was a shop selling ice creams so our short rest stop was extended a small amount whilst we enjoyed the treat in the sunshine. Whilst walking on the edge of the village, we passed a sign advertising the show caves of Peak cavern. In the past I’m sure it was sufficient to just advertise “Peak Cavern” but now it seems this is not enough and they’ve now tagged it “The Devil’s Arse!” … to my mind this is decidedly crass; The cave is a geological wonder and to me it’s a shame to reduce it to such a base description; But, what do I know?, I’m just a hydraulic manifold block designer; what do I know about advertising?! Sorry, still don’t like it though!
From Castleton we then headed out on a path climbing past the other show caves of “Speedwell”, “Treak Cliff” and “Blue John” caverns, crossing the Winnats Pass road in the process and rising quite considerably out of The Hope Valley in the process. The route was heading up towards the uniquely shaped hill of Mam Tor. The eastern flank of Mam Tor has over the years slipped away in a series of landslides destroying the old road (now replaced by the one through Winnats Pass) and also in the process forming the distinctive profile that’s so easily recognised. Once fully out of the valley, our route turned up through rough grassy moorland steepening rapidly to climb alongside the sheer face of Mam Tor, the striations of the loose carboniferous shale and sandstone layers in plain view, indicating why the hill is so unstable. The climb certainly raised the heart rate (and the lactic acid in the old legs), but although steep it didn’t last long and we’d soon crossed through the earthworks of the ancient hill fort near the top to reach the summit trig-point. The views from here are superb in all directions and definitely and always worth the exertions to get here. (By the way, there is a very much easier route up from a car park less than ½ a mile away – if you want the easy option). Mam Tor, The Ridge of Rushup Edge, and The Great Ridge along to Lose Hill mark a change from The White Peak to the south and The Dark Peak to the north. It was The Great Ridge that we were to follow, downhill on a flagged path, heading north to start with and then swinging round to the east in a wide arc affording fantastic views over The Hope Valley (with Castleton nestled in the bottom) and across The Vale of Edale to the mass of Kinder Scout on the other side. I absolutely love walking this ridge and would do it again tomorrow, at the drop of a hat if I could!
The extremely well used path (hence the flag pathing) drops to a saddle called Hollins Cross which sits midway between Castleton and Edale Villages. At least seven paths converge here, at the lowest point along the crest, and as such it nearly always has a good number of people milling about – it’s a natural picnic spot given the right timings on a walk. Today however, there didn’t seem to be many fellow walkers about and the view along the ridge was superb, with Hollins Cross being backed by Barker Bank, Back Tor and in the far distance Lose Hill. I can’t say it enough, the views are just fantastic here and the scene was enhanced by contrasting sunshine and dark clouds, the resulting shadows picking up the contours of the surrounding hills and dales brilliantly. I just love it!
All too soon, we reached Hollins Cross and promptly turned left to descend away from the ridge on a path dropping quickly to Hollins Farm.
The farm is in a superb setting but had a rather scruffy feel about its immediate surroundings, not helped by the ram shackled and rather ineffective looking fence that had been cobbled together using corrugated iron sheeting and old wooden pallets, loosely held together with some rusty barbed wire :-
Not an attractive look!
From here, we picked up a farm track, still dropping steadily; to cross The River Noe in the valley bottom and soon after, reached the only road running the length of The Vale of Edale. We had to turn right along the road for a few hundred yards before turning left again up another track to soon cross over a railway and then continue northwards to Ollerbrook Booth; and then continuing in the same direction (now a permissive path) climbing alongside the Oller Brook, the path steepening as we went. The views back over the valley to Mam Tor and The Great Ridge were again absolutely brilliant.
After a short while, rather than carry straight on up the hillside, we turned left on a narrow path (just above a wall) to contour around the hillside. On my map this is a faint black dotted line, indicating the path is on the ground but not actually a right of way. Not that that mattered because we were now above the intake wall and now had open access to the huge southern flank of the Kinder Scout massive. The easy gradient wasn’t to last long though as we reached The Nab and turned north once again to immediately start climbing quite steeply rapidly rising above the valley below.
As we climbed, a super view over Grindsbrook Clough emerged to the west, encapsulating the feel of Kinder Scout perfectly and brought back memories of my very first proper hill walk (I was a very green 18-year old and the climb in the mist and rain was … errmm … an experience).
Still, something must have gotten under my skin, coz I’m still walking up hills nearly 30 years later).
This was to be our last significant climb of the day and although only about half a mile long I found the top (and steepest) bit really quite taxing. It was as if someone had suddenly tied a set of lead weights on my legs, not nice and not helped by a few drops of rain in the air either. However the scenery was worth the climb upon reaching the top at Ringing Roger; the gritstone rocks here are sculpted by the weather into fantastical shapes. With a little bit of imagination and maybe a squint of your eyes you can make out all sorts of shapes, like dinosaurs and bee-hives or just intricate patterns, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
The top of Kinder is a bleak wild place and it’s said people are divided into two camps: you either love it or loathe it. Generally I’ve favoured the softer White Peak area over The Dark Peak but I do love the Derbyshire Gritstone Edges, so it seems I have a foot in both camps. Our route from the rocks of Ringing Roger was to follow the southern edge of The Kinder Plateau (in a generally eastern direction) on a narrow but plainly visible path through the heather moorland. I really liked the subtle colours all around juxtaposed with the bright man-made colours of our water-proofs, all of which seemed to be intensified by the rain that had now properly rolled in whilst still having bursts of bright sunshine, all at the same time.
The going was now easy, and my legs soon kicked off the lead weights of the recent climb and the pace fairly bowled along, so much so that we caught up with and passed through the B-party who had been walking ahead of us (they’d taken a shorter route from Peak Forest to Mam Tor, missing out Cave Dale, Castleton and the climb out of The Hope Valley).
As a bit of fun the B-team members divided either side of the path almost like a guard of honour and then regaled us with jokey comments as we passed by … including my sister and bro-in-law that I hadn’t seen since leaving Peak Forest all those miles before.
Anyway, we continued on, the path pretty much on the level, with the occasional ups and downs where streams crossed our path, the big lump of Kinder Moorland to our left counterpointed by the drop down into The Edale Valley on our right.
After crossing over Crookstone Out Moor we kind of branched right to descend steadily to Crookstone Hill our surroundings softening as we went.
It’s worth noting that at one point, we were walking directly towards the twin peaks of Crook Hill in the distance. Unbeknown at the time, the right hand peak would be the first climb of the next and final leg of this west-east traverse of the Peak District in March 2011, almost a year later [I’ve already published that walks diary, so you may have read it already].
Getting back to this walk, we were losing height quite quickly and had by now left the wild moors behind. The scenery was then to change completely, when, at Hope Cross, we took a left turn onto a footpath entering coniferous woodland. The path steepened through the trees to emerge into the open at a bridge over a river. The river is probably either The River Alport or more likely The River Ashop [my map is inconclusive at this point] but one thing is for sure, it was a pretty little spot; the water here flows into the top of the western arm of Ladybower Reservoir. The walk was very nearly over and all that remained was to walk up a track to join the A57 Snake Road and then just a tiny bit of very careful road walking past the head of the man-made lake to find the coach.
We in the A-party had managed to get back before the next shower of rain rolled in, unfortunately the B-party got caught and finished the walk a little damp. Despite this we’d all had yet another superb MHW walk.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….