Life (or at least the Pennine Way) begins at LEJoG Day 40
Day 40 pre-amble
Welcome to 2019, year 3 of my LEJoG. The target for this year is simple: the Pennine Way, running from Edale in the Derbyshire Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders for… well, let’s check the sign, shall we?
Accommodation and holidays already booked, and I expect it to take 18 days. For more, including the recommended guidebook, see ‘Practicalities’ below.
The first of those 18 days has been described as one of the toughest openings to a National Trail there is. It’s often said that those who make it through should feel able to complete the whole route.
This encouraging warning is not directly relevant to me for two reasons. First of all I’m not trying to complete the Pennine Way in one go. And secondly Kinder Scout is my absolute favourite place for walking. I’ve done loads of routes and the only one I didn’t love was heading SE from Kinder Downfall to Crowden Tower. This is the old route of the Pennine Way. The path is not clear these days. I found I had to keep bobbing in and out of peat groughs like the Young Ones at 1:00 in this video just to check my course and bearings. Due to my other walking priorities, 2018 was the first calendar year in which I hadn’t visited Kinder since my debut in 2014. I was really looking forward to this all winter.
So, although the words “kinder” and “gentler” often go together, the general advice for Pennine Wayfarers is that there’s nothing gentle about Kinder. Hence today’s title.
LEJoG Day 40 (Tuesday 23 April 2019)
Edale to Torside (15 miles)
Cumulative: 558½ miles
Facts: Time on walk: 5 hours 30 minutes. Average speed: 2.73 mph. Weather: Dry all day, overcast, cool (occasionally warm, never cold), windy on hills.
Practicalities: First of all, my recommended guidebook for the Pennine Way is this one, from Trailblazer. It has already been linked to in the Pre-Amble. But as I had only reached Edale when that was published, it came with a provisional recommendation. I can now upgrade that to a full and enthusiastic endorsement.
I did not need my OS maps at any time on the Pennine Way, because I was equipped with these:
Pennine Way (South) A to Z Adventure Map – covers Edale to Cotherstone Moor, north of the A66, my Days 1 to 10 or (full LEJoG) Days 40 to 49. For those using the Bowes Loop it covers Edale to Bowes.
Pennine Way (North) A to Z Adventure Map – covers Trough Scars, just south of the A66, to Kirk Yetholm, my planned Days 10 to 18 or (full LEJoG) 49 to 57. For those using the Bowes Loop it covers Bowes to Kirk Yetholm.
These give you a large scale OS map of the entire route and come with a convenient rain cover. They make an ideal complement to the Trailblazer guide and in combination are a hell of a lot cheaper than ordering all of the corresponding OS Explorer maps.
I took the first four days after Easter as holiday, aiming to walk from Edale to Haworth between Tuesday and Friday. Haworth is not on the main route but is a common stopping point for walkers on the Pennine Way, for one obvious reason. For the start of the Way I took a train to Edale and walked the half mile from the station to the Old Nags Head and signpost.
NB on route-finding: Throughout the next 18 days I will not be going into detail about my route as I will assume anyone is using Trailblazer or a similar guidebook when walking the Pennine Way.
Start: Start of the Pennine Way, Edale, 12:05pm. End: B6105 road crossing, Torside, 6:05pm.
The first gate you walk through has a nice outline map of the Pennine Way route:
The first couple of miles are deceptive, taking you across relatively low-lying farmland, through Upper Booth and along a level farm track before reaching the foot of Jacob’s Ladder. Here the real work, and indeed the real walk, starts.
My advice is always to take it slowly up Jacob’s Ladder. If taking it easy up the first steep climb sounds like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, I would go back to my second ascent, when a walking gentleman about five years older than me shot past me within the first 20 steps. By the end of the next spiral he was virtually on his knees and I went past without ever changing pace, never to see him again. As he’d been nice enough not to make a chivvying remark when overtaking, I returned the favour by being gracious enough to avoid a sanctimonious one when we met again a few minutes later. The spiral staircase section is hard. There is a gentler but much longer climb to Edale Rocks afterwards. Conserve energy, and while you’re at it take in the views.
Looking back down at Jacob’s Ladder
(the young women near the bottom left have just reached the top of the spiral staircase; the height gain is illustrated by the path at centre right, which you have walked along from Lee Farm to the foot of the ladder)
Edale Rocks (it does though)
Once past Edale Rocks, my next target is always the same: the Kinder Low trig point. The Trailblazer guide suggests this is one of the most difficult sections to navigate. This may be the case for one-time visitors but I’ve never had a problem here.
Kinder Low trig point (633m)
As far as my Kinder Scout day walks go, this is usually the summit. The actual summit of 636m is NE of Kinder Low, amongst the peat and not on the PW route. As far as today’s walk goes, Kinder Low shares top billing with Bleaklow Head (see below).
Once I see the trig point, I always head west and find a spot for lunch overlooking Kinder Reservoir. As it was 1:30 when I arrived, today was no exception. From here, on a clear day, you can watch the flight path of planes landing at Manchester Airport. First they’ll fly almost directly overhead, then head NW towards the city (visible in the middle distance) before turning southwards and descending. You can see the plane until it’s just feet from the runway, when it becomes obscured by the backdrop. Sadly this was not one of the clearest days to visit, as illustrated by this photo of the reservoir:
Kinder Reservoir, from lunch spot below Kinder Low
You can’t even see Manchester’s office buildings from this picture, never mind the airport.
My usual day walk takes me from Kinder Low towards Crowden Tower and Noe Stool, heading back to Edale via Grindslow Knoll or Ringing Roger. Today I set off again at 1:55, heading north along the escarpment towards Kinder Downfall. Still plenty of people around, mainly going the opposite way.
I adore this gritstone edge and always seem to make swift progress on it. I guess all this clambering over rocks and boulders with a clearly-defined path in between isn’t for everyone, but I can’t think of anything better short of a Lake District fell. It keeps me alert and focused, constantly assessing where the optimum route is or anticipating how best to allow an oncoming walker to proceed unhindered without slowing myself down. The rocks around Kinder Downfall itself are a little trickier, as the steep gorge is closer and you know there’s only one place to cross the River Kinder. Unfortunately there was no real downfall today: spectacular natural water features were 10 days away…
At the river, you change direction to head NW for Mill Hill. There’s a little bit more climbing, which slowed me down slightly. But the weather remained perfect for walking. The first really slow section since climbing Jacob’s Ladder comes with the descent from the ridge to the major crossroads just before Mill Hill. This requires careful steps, particularly when carrying a pack. It’s straight on at the crossroads:
LEFT takes you down William Clough to Hayfield. Been there, done that the other way. Fine walk, but in humid weather I’d recommend covering as much of your body as possible. When walking near the reservoir, you’re liable to be bitten by one of the many insects.
RIGHT takes you down the Snake Path across Black Ashop Moor to the Snake Path Inn. Again, been there done that the other way, climbing to the ridge and returning via Fairbrook Naze. Probably the best Kinder route I have (as yet) done only once.
STRAIGHT ON takes you up to Mill Hill and a sharp right hand turn towards the A57 Snake Pass road. Now I’ve walked this section through Featherbed Moss several times, but probably not since 2016. My word, it seemed way longer than memory had it. Checking my Fitbit, it was 2½ miles between Mill Hill and the Snake Pass crossing. You can see the A57 for a long time before you actually reach it. I can’t knock the walk itself: the route across barren peat has been paved superbly. But it is definitely the most likely section of Kinder to try the patience. Not surprisingly it was also the least populated section today.
Upon reaching the Snake Pass at 3:50 I had some cold pizza from my day pack. Set about the next stretch with diminished enthusiasm. The walk from Snake Pass to Bleaklow Head is one I’d only done twice before. It wasn’t one I enjoyed on either occasion. To be fair one of those was due to poor weather. The other was due to poor homeward route choice on the way back down from Bleaklow. As for today, it went like a dream: the route was so obvious at all times I couldn’t explain why I’d ever struggled before. Scenically I don’t think it’s up to much and there’s certainly no comparison with Kinder. But I was at Bleaklow Head by 4:50 and almost arrogantly happy with how the day was going.
The summit of Bleaklow Head
That thing I said about its scenic inferiority to Kinder…
The Trailblazer guide highlights Bleaklow as another difficult place to navigate away from. As it goes I found the crucial westward turn without issue. Now I was in uncharted territory. The remaining three miles or so to Torside was the only section of the day’s walk I hadn’t completed at least once before. Again I had no navigational problems though, with the path out of Wildboar Grain (also described by Trailblazer as a “troublespot”) being quite straightforward to find. I would question their description of the subsequent path above Torside Clough as “mostly slabbed” as there were some long stretches of mud and grass. Clough Edge was very windy and exposed, but the natural amphitheatre to the east made for a grandstand finish to the day’s walking.
Torside Reservoir, viewed from the start of the descent off Clough Edge
The steep descent from Clough Edge is quite nasty. The hotelier who picked me up said that if PW walkers are going to have an accident on Day 1 it will usually be there, due to tiredness, complacency and their eagerness to reach the road. Having negotiated it without jeopardising the rest of my walk, I stopped at the crossing on the B6105 and called my hotel to ask about their pick-up service.
After the walk
I was staying at the Windy Harbour Farm Hotel, two miles west of the Way near Glossop. Had already emailed them about their pick-up service without receiving confirmation, so I was a mite nervous about being left to find my way there on foot. Needn’t have worried: the hotelier was very friendly and came to pick me up straight away. All part and parcel of the room cost. As he said, they would never dream of asking a walker to make their own way to the hotel, largely because the B6105 road is winding, dangerous, heavily used by motorbikes and has extremely narrow verges (where it has them at all).
Everything about the Windy Harbour was spot on. The expected finish for Day 1 of the Pennine Way is Crowden, but since its youth hostel was closed there is only one other option for accommodation there. Torside offers the Windy Harbour and (much closer to the crossing) Old House B&B, and the next closest possibilities are even further away in Padfield and
Royston Vasey Hadfield.
Postscript – My Listening Pleasure
No music or podcasts today – just wanted to enjoy Kinder without such distractions.
Picture (23 April 2019) shows my closest pass of Kinder Reservoir, from Sandy Heys (between Kinder Downfall and Mill Hill).
Next: Day 41 (24 April 2019)… in which I forget to catch the bus.