20111016_MHW_Edale Cross, Great Ridge, Lose Hill, Hope, Linear Walk
When : 16th October 2011
Who : The Midland Hill Walkers (B-Team)
Where : Peak District, Derbyshire, England
Maps used : Ordnance Survey 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure Map No.1 – Dark Peak Area
End Point : SK 173,834
Distance : Approx 16.6 km (10.3 miles)
Approx significant heights : Ascent 665m (2180 ft) + Descent 832 (2730 ft)
Summary : The Midland Hill Walkers (Walking Club) October 2011 walk – The B-team …. An east to west linear walk starting near Chinley Head just south of Hayfield and finishing in the Village of Hope in The Hope Valley a few miles west of Hathersage. First Climb of the day via Oaken Clough to Edale Cross, then descent into and across the upper reaches of The Vale of Edale with the second Climb of the day up to Hollin’s Cross and along the undulating Great Ridge to the summit of Lose Hill; The final leg of the day being a descent to the village of Hope.
As with all MHW [Midland Hill Walkers] walks, the coach left almost dead on 7:00 a.m. which had meant getting up very early to be out of the house by about 6:25 for the drive down the A45/A46 to Kenilworth. Rather than go through all the blurb about car parks, timings, etc. please use this link to see my earlier posts about the MHW and the MHW own web-site
Some months have now passed since I did this walk with The Midland Hill Walkers, in fact, it’s the last time I was out with them and the last time I did a “proper” strenuous hill walk. Their November walk I didn’t book on, as I was due to have surgery on both of my knees … as it happens, that November appointment got cancelled and I actually had the surgery at the beginning of December and I’ve been kind of recuperating since. I’ve now done a few 6-8 milers in gentle Warwickshire countryside near to home, but I’ve not yet been brave enough to head out with the MHW club again yet.
Anyway, the walk :- The coach made its way up the country to drop us off in a lay-by on the A624 between Chapel-en-le-Frith and Hayfield near to Chinley Head and Peep-O-Day. The A and B teams were today starting at the same point, so the B-Team held back a little whilst the A-Team set off on their slightly longer walk with a little more climbing involved and therefore faster pace. I can’t remember why particularly, but today I chose to walk with the B-team and so fore-go the charms of the Kinder Scout Plateau – Perhaps it was down to the grotty weather, or maybe I just fancied walking with my sister and brother-in-law.
We started the walk, heading north on a grassy verge by the side of the main road for a few hundred yards to find a bridle track near Peep-O-Day heading roughly north east and climbing away from the road quite quickly. After crossing another bridle track, this led us up into The Peak National Park where we briefly headed north, still climbing steadily, for about half-a-mile. The weather really wasn’t very good, cold, grey, misty, rain in the air – yucky – and this only got worse as we picked up a path doubling back on ourselves (south) climbing slightly less steeply, up to a farm at Coldwell Clough now just outside The National Park. We were now following a rough track approximately eastwards and still steadily climbing. We’d probably walked the best part of a mile and as an indication of the grotty weather, I hadn’t taken a single photo – very unusual for me – and as we gained more height, the mists drew in even more, slowly enveloping us and hiding the rugged farmland and moors around us. The A-team who were not too many minutes ahead of us had just simply disappeared.
Our route took us into Oaken Clough, a valley coming off the flanks of the Kinder Scout plateau, crossing back into the National Park once again as we did so, and then we returned to our steady climb, still on the rough track, to reach Edale Cross. Quoting the metal plaque by its side, this mediaeval stone cross is “PROTECTED AS A MONUMENT OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE UNDER THE ANCIENT MONUMENTS ACTS 1913-53”. The cross itself is remarkably well preserved but I couldn’t help thinking its setting is rather under-whelming, being set back from the track and bounded by stone walls on three sides and surrounded by rough moorland grasses. In fact the wall behind is only inches away and to my mind detracts from the impact it could and probably did have in the past.
Edale Cross is positioned at the top of the pass between Hayfield and Edale, and sits between the higher moors of Brown Knoll and Kinder Low/Kinder Scout. There will have been very many souls pass by here over the years and many of those would have seen mists and rain just like we were experiencing. Some of the most recent visitors would have been our A-Team, who I believe turned left here to head up to Kinder Low and then along the southern edges of the Kinder Scout massive.
We on the other hand took a bit of a rest stop and a rather damp bite to eat, before heading off en-masse eastwards staying on the main path dropping towards Edale. Somehow, I felt the rain had become brighter and I thought it could be the start of an improvement in the weather. It still wasn’t great though, and as I was towards the back of the group it didn’t take long for the front markers to fade away into the gloomy mist. As we descended further however, we dropped out of the mist and visibility improved dramatically. I use the word dramatically with good reason; the deep cloughs and rough moors all around here are indeed dramatic and perhaps had more impact because of, rather than despite the inclement conditions.
As we descended further, to reach the top of a steeper section known as Jacobs Ladder (the name of the path here), the weather improved even more; the rain had stopped, the mists had become the base of clouds above us, and there were even patches of brightness, dare I say it, sunlight breaking through to light up parts of the hills. This spot afforded some super views down the sweeping curve of the upper reaches of the Vale of Edale. We regrouped here for a short while taking the time to appreciate the view even though the hill tops were still shrouded in the clouds.
Once again we moved off, heading left at first and then a swing to the right in a curve taking care on the steep descent of the Jacobs Ladder path. I quite liked the multiplicity of bright colours of cag’s and ruck sack covers of our party ahead of me, contrasting against the more subdued hues of the moorland around us.
Overall the colours in the moors and hills were looking quite muted, but in detail it was very pretty, especially as we reached down towards the valley bottom and the tree line, soon followed by a small pack-horse bridge crossing a burbling stream with mini-cascades lit up by the soft sunlight. In fact the clouds started to break up even more and patches of blue sky appeared; after the start to the day, this really lifted the spirits.
Once we’d regrouped again (some of us took a risk and removed waterproofs) and crossed the bridge, the way ahead became very much easier on a broad track still dropping in height but almost on the level now, running parallel with the stream (River Noe) just crossed. The walk became very much more relaxed and we became rather spread out on the mile down to the hamlet of Upper booth. Hamlet might be too large a description for the small group of buildings, including a bunk/camping barn, sitting perfectly at the head of Edale at the bottom of Crowden Clough.
Instead of continuing on the minor road down to Barber Booth, we turned left through the buildings and then a right to pick up one of two footpaths. The more northerly of these paths is The Pennine Way heading over to Edale Village, but this wasn’t our route, no, we took the other path heading roughly south-east through a series of dry-stone walled fields across the valley bottom towards Barber Booth. This part of the walk was very green and lush in comparison to the high moors and cloughs, a patchwork of pastures bounded by dark dry stone walls, stands of trees and the odd stone built barn dotted around the landscape – beautiful, especially with the backdrop of the more rugged hills rising above. From a distance the stone walls look like dark solid lines, but up close they consist of an interesting jumble of different sized rocks belying the careful construction that goes into their construction, a real countryside skill, it’s surprising just how may gaps there are and they must be a superb habitat for all kinds of mini-beasts and certainly home to various mosses and lichens.
Talking about skills, to me an essential part of the fun (not to mention safety) of a countryside walk (however wild or gentle) is knowing how to read a map – I just love this part of the experience, even when not leading – If I’ve got a map of an area I’ll take it along and keep track of where we are. Well, in this case, the Dark Peak OS map is printed on two sides and at some point I was going to have to swap sides (somewhere between the outskirts of Upper Booth and around about Back Tor before reaching Lose Hill). Well, as it had stopped raining and it was reasonably calm, I took the opportunity to switch sides – sounds easy, but it can be tricky unfolding and refolding a large sheet paper map in the rain and/or wind, so the settled conditions helped make my mind up to change over earlier rather than later. This was to prove useful later in the day, but you’ll have to wait for that part of the story till later.
Edale is bisected by a major railway line, which we had to cross via a footbridge just before reaching the hamlet of Barber Booth. The bridge afforded a super view down the lines to where it disappears into the dark mouth of the two mile long Cowburn Tunnel on its way to Chapel-en-le-Frith and beyond. A couple of minutes after crossing to the southern side of the railway we walked into and then straight through Barber Booth to pick up a minor road heading south and quite steeply uphill. The road walking was short lived though, as we turned left to take a footpath heading more or less eastwards again crossing a series of small fields, climbing now, but quite gently to reach and then cross Harden Clough. The view ahead was most enticing, showing the Great Ridge we were heading for – Back Tor and Lose Hill in the sunshine looked extremely inviting, one of my favourite places to walk and often revisited of the years, helped by being accessible from so many directions.
As we crossed Harden Clough we picked up a bridle track also climbing out of the valley, and after a bit of a joggle up towards Greenlands, we turned left again, the track now rising more steeply, cutting up diagonally across the hill side. The height gained was steady but upon looking back into Edale, it was surprising just how high we’d reached, with fantastic views across the vale to the huge massive of Kinder Scout now bathed in sunshine. The railway was all but a thin line merged into the landscape, but highlighted every now and again by a sprinter train, a reminder of how close the Peak District is to many urban towns and cities. I’m sure I’ve read that The Peak District (Dark and White Peak Areas combined) claims to be THE most visited National Park in the world ! How true?; I’m sure someone knows, but I’m certainly not going to cast aspersions on the claim.
Anyway I’ve digressed [again], we were climbing up to Hollin’s Cross, a saddle on The Great Ridge (or Mam Tor/Lose Hill Ridge if you like), and the walk leader was happy for me to stretch my legs a little and press on ahead to stop as the path crested onto the ridge. The views here are superb all around:-
And finally, east, rising up a broad path along the ridge (known here as Barker Bank), heading towards Back Tor and beyond to Lose Hill as seen so enticingly on the climb up from Barber Booth.
After regrouping, and a bit of a breather, it was the path over Barker Bank that we took. I just love the walk along here; I’ve done it many times now and never tire of it, especially when the sun is shining … The initial rise is easy and allows a nice pace and the leader again gave the nod for people to make their own pace and a few of us opened our stride and fairly bowled along, especially on the gentle descent down to Backtor Nook.
Backtor Nook marked a sharp change in gradient – The path here now climbs steeply rising up the flank of Back Tor itself. The northern side of the hill facing Edale is the most rugged with a series of rocky striations interspersed with low vegetation. The southern side of the shapely hill is less sheer, but still very steep, and is clothed by a small conifer wood (Brockett Booth Plantation). A lone tree [known as Craig’s Tree] stands slightly apart from the plantation just below the summit.
Why is it called Craig’s Tree?
Well it’s our family name for the tree, which we named when my son [Craig] raced me up the steep slope to be the first one to reach it during a family walk. Nothing unusual in that you might think, but he was maybe not even 4-years old and he’d already walked over two miles including the climb out of Edale to get here – so his run up the hill was worth remarking about – To this end, the tree will always be known to us as Craig’s Tree … and if I tell the story often enough maybe it’ll become known as this by ALL walkers heading along the ridge ???? but there again, maybe not! In fact I’ve just come across an old photo print of him near here and he was tiny.
Anyway, the view into Edale is brilliant here, maybe one of my favourite view-points ever; There’s just so much detail in the landscape; so much to take in and admire but still close enough for you to feel you’re a part of it, a scale intimate enough to feel you belong but extensive enough to be impressive. I’m by no means a poet, but I hope this gives a hint of the magic that is The Vale of Edale and The Great Ridge and especially here at the top of Back Tor.
Well, we regrouped and then set off again, still generally eastwards, easily downhill to start with and then rising the final 60 metres in height on a good path to reach the summit of Lose Hill [otherwise known as Ward’s Piece; search out the brass plaque to find out why it’s got two names]. It’s only about a half a mile from Back Tor, so didn’t take long at-all and route finding is so easy, that our leader dropped to the rear of the party for a chat with the back-marker. In fact, the two of them were the last of our party to walk up the now flag-stoned path to join us at the top, where we all re-grouped once again.
On route, looking down to our right we could see our fellow A-party walkers, moving at quite a lick; they’d elected to take a lower level route from Backtor Nook and were effectively cutting the corner off, (NOT rising over Back Tor and Lose Hill). It turns out one of their group had fallen and hurt themselves on some gritstone up on Kinder, and they were now trying to make up lost time. At the pace they were going, they were going to be in the pub a good while before us in the B-party. However, in my very humble opinion they missed some of the best views available from the ridge by taking the lower, less strenuous route.
Well, back to us in the B-party. As we’d reached the top of Lose Hill, I decided a group photo was in order and everyone was happy to congregate and punch the air in a cheesy and rather clichéd pose, at which point a rather fearless sheep muscled in on the scene [obviously looking to be fed!] which produced plenty of smiles and mirthful comments — See what you were missing A-team in favour of a pint ?
We still had something like 2-miles to go, and the leader in his wisdom passed the route finding over to errrmmm little ol’ ME! …. He just didn’t want to switch his map over and as mentioned earlier, I’d already done that back at Upper Booth. Also, they’d missed the exact path they wanted when pioneering and he knew I’d walked this part of the route before and so he temporarily passed the task of leading to me.
From lose Hill the obvious path heads easily downhill more or less south and then begins to swing left in a broad sweep, the path is very obvious. Well it’s that very obviousness that can be misleading, as we needed to take a slightly more southerly route, crossing a stile and then to follow the boundary line, almost running parallel with the original path but actually slowly diverging to drop down past a small stand of trees to reach Losehill Farm. There are several path options here, and our route took us left (just above the farm) and then almost immediately right to continue the steady descent over farmland, crossing a series of pasture fields, the slope easing as we went, to eventually pick up a narrow track. The option was left or right. Right would have taken us towards the superb village of Castleton. But we were heading for the smaller and less touristy village of Hope, so, the left hand option was taken (looks like straight on, on the map) to soon reach a small group of buildings before crossing above a disused railway line. There followed a set of small narrow fields before entering the outskirts of Hope and then down to the main road through the village (A6187) to emerge near the spired church.
The final task, was to find the coach …. which it turned out was positioned on a side road very near The Old Hall (pub + tea rooms) where we met up with the A-team. It turned out that the lady that had fallen up on Kinder had made it to Hope under her own steam, accompanied by their original walks leader via Edale, Up to Hollin’s Cross on the ridge and then down into The Hope Valley for a relatively flat and easy finish to her walk. I think the damage was heavy grazes, cuts and bruises (and probably dented pride) but we were assured she was OK (Gritstone really is such an unforgiving material) – So that was good news. Although we in the B-team were a little later than the A-team, there was still time enough for a cup of tea and slice of cake, whilst others partook of more alcoholic beverages …. and then the final drive back down the country to Kenilworth for something like 8pm. It’s a long day, but well worth it !
Well, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel very welcome.