Welcome to LEJoG Day 41… let’s go to work

Day 41 pre-amble

Today I passed or crossed no fewer than six reservoirs, including Torside right at the start. It was also a foggy day, particularly on the highest point of the stage, Black Hill (582m). Now, the really obvious thing to do here would be to call the blog post ‘Reservoir Fogs’, chuckle to yourself and have done with it. But, like Joe Cabot himself, I just wasn’t 100% sure on this one. Nothing to do with undercover cops, but because my instinct was telling me that someone, somewhere has already used that title on a walking blog sometime. And (as so often) my instinct was right: here’s the proof.

In discovering this, I also learned that ‘Reservoir Fogs’ is the name given to a series of coloured and flavoured liquids for vapers. Of course it is. Who could miss a marketing opportunity like that? Were I a vaper however, I’d harrumph and look elsewhere, purely because their Mr. Green looks far more like Steve Buscemi than their Mr. Pink does. It’s made even stranger by Mr. Orange clearly and correctly resembling Tim Roth).

Given that reservoirs and fog dominated today’s walk, but never together, it seemed more accurate simply to switch the ‘S’.

LEJoG Day 41 (Wednesday 24 April 2019)

Torside to Standedge (12 miles)

Cumulative: 570½ miles

Facts: Time on walk: 4 hours 35 minutes (linear, excluding walk to Marsden). Average speed: 2.62 mph. Weather: Overcast all day, bordering on misty in places, especially Black Hill. Cold on Black Hill otherwise cool; much warmer on approach to Marsden. Brief shower between Standedge and Marsden otherwise dry.

Practicalities: The Windy Harbour Hotel insists that, if you need dropping off back at the B6105 crossing, you are ready to go before 9am. Early breakfast and dropped off for 8:50am.

My next accommodation was the New Inn, Marsden, about 2¼ miles from the end of this stage at Standedge. Here comes my biggest slice of idiot cake since the Goathurst Circular on Day 19. There is a footpath junction near Redbrook Reservoir, where you can head right (east) for Marsden, located no more than half a mile from the A62. The Trailblazer guidebook makes it clear that you can catch the no. 184 bus from the A62 to Marsden. Somehow (perhaps so engrossed in my listening pleasure) I completely forgot I’d read this, and set off along the footpath. This added an extra 45 minutes to the day’s walk. And then I did it again the following morning, which makes 4½ miles and 1½ hours of unnecessary self-flagellation.

It wasn’t the hardest walking in the world. But after taking such care with bus timetables in Cornwall, it was a galling error. I didn’t even remember the bus until I was a couple of hundred metres from the footpath junction on Thursday morning and saw one go by. Oh yeah, I knew there was something….

The walk

Start: B6105 crossing, Torside, 8:55am. End (linear, for LEJoG): Footpath junction, Standedge, 2:10pm. Actual end: New Inn, Marsden, 2:55pm.

The first two miles of today’s walk were very easy: across Torside Reservoir, right and up steps to the A628, then along a track to a signpost just short of Crowden, where you head north above Crowden Great Brook. But, according to Fitbit, my third mile took 32 minutes! This is due to the ascent of Laddow Rocks, which was in my view undersold by the Trailblazer guidebook. Well ok, it does tell you that half the day’s ascent comes in the first three miles and there are two double (steeper) gradient signs. However I think I needed some strong adjectives to go with that, because it’s a bloody horrible climb.

Once you’ve gained the ridge though, it becomes a great walk, with what would have been fantastic views to the east but for the prevailing fog. For instance, Holme Moss transmitter was always shrouded in mist and I only ever saw the top. Worse still, Emley Moor transmitting station (the tallest free-standing structure in the UK, no less) was supposed to be visible for much of the day but I never even caught a glimpse. You have to take the rough with the smooth on a walk like this; there are no guarantees and I had no real complaints.

After descending to cross a stream you continue to follow Crowden Great Brook much closer to the waterline, before starting the gradual ascent of Black Hill. It must be said that the given height of the summit (582m) is deceptive, as this is a much shallower climb than Laddow Rocks and not at all taxing. You may feel like it drags, but to that I’d say just you wait until Fountain Fell (Day 43) or Great Shunner Fell (Day 48). The hill also marks the border between Derbyshire and West Yorkshire. Made my first stop of the day at the summit, for a 10-minute snack.

Black Hill trig - The fog, LEJoG Day 41

Close-up of the trig point at Black Hill

The next major landmark is the A635 road near Wessenden Head. To reach it you follow a standard slabbed path down from Black Hill, interrupted by a bridge over a small stream and then a steep drop into and correspondingly sheer climb out of Dean Clough. This felt harsh and unwelcome at the time – there’s another much easier drop and rise to a stream before you reach the road. Stopped for a few minutes at the road, just to rejuvenate.

Immediately after leaving the A635 to the left, at approximately 8 miles, the reservoirs start to dominate the view. The first, at the foot of a wide, descending track, is Wessenden Head. From there you follow a clear, man-made path to Wessenden Reservoir: you can see both the path and the reservoir itself in the photo below:

Wessenden Reservoir - one of the reservoirs, LEJoG Day 41

After passing Wessenden Lodge, there are two more reservoirs straight ahead on the Kirklees Way path (Blakeley and Butterley). However the Pennine Way now heads west, by way of a steep descent to the brook between Wessenden and Blakeley Reservoirs, and an ascent to Blakeley Clough which is every bit as tough as Laddow Rocks, but mercifully shorter. Stopped for lunch at the top of this climb (1:05 – 1:30). During lunch a couple asked if they could use the PW for a round trip walk and get back to Butterley Reservoir and the lower Kirklees Way without retracing their steps. Showed them my maps – it really didn’t look promising.

The last proper climb of the day came shortly after lunch, up steps by the sluice gates on Blakeley Clough. The next section is promoted by Trailblazer as a “nice stretch across tawny grasslands away from interminable reservoirs”. I agree with the sentiment on the reservoirs, but didn’t enjoy the slabs and grassland as much as the writers. For me it resembled a shorter Featherbed Moss, without the encouraging if distant motivation of the Snake Pass. Then the reservoirs came back anyway: first Swellands Reservoir to the right, then Black Moss Reservoir on the left.

A quick digression on Black Moss Reservoir. You pass this on the NE, via a small footbridge. Some distance from the bridge, I could see three female walkers approaching from the opposite direction. Now, not only had I barely seen anyone on the Pennine Way all day, I’m fairly sure these were the only walkers I’d seen heading north to south.

I don’t know if any readers have ever suffered from what I call “aisle fever”, this being the uncannily frequent experience of entering a supermarket aisle wanting one thing, and finding the aisle completely empty… apart from one or two people who are literally blocking your path to the exact thing you’re in that aisle for. Well here at Black Moss I found the walkers’ equivalent. Having seen no-one coming in the opposite direction all day, when I finally do, those people reach the north end of a narrow, isolated footbridge at exactly the same time as I reach the south end. And as there’s three of them, I stop and wait for them to cross. I mean, I do this with smiles and no-one would guess the fevered astonishment churning away underneath, but it really is bizarre how often this happens.

From the other end of the bridge it was a short and easy walk to the marked footpath junction where I should have carried on for the bus but instead turned for Marsden.

After the walk

Checked in at 3pm, showered, half-watched World Championship snooker, had soup and a burger for evening meal and just the one drink. Nice and friendly enough place, but very much a pub with rooms and food rather than a hotel with restaurant. Don’t remember much about the rest of the evening at all.

Postscript – My Listening Pleasure

First, this edition of the West Wing Weekly, taking me to just before Laddow Rocks.

Then, taking me all the way to Marsden, Chart Music #39. Absolutely outstanding, probably my second favourite after CM #30. (Belated 2020 edit: now my favourite) All the contributors love or like every record bar two, all agree it’s the best single TOTP they’ve yet covered, the digressions are magnificent even for this show, Taylor delivers two of the greatest one-liners in the podcast’s history (one re the lyrics to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and one about secret police), and best of all, a triple coating down that beats even the one dished out to ‘Convoy GB’ in CM #18. Here’s one deserving subject handing over to another.

Picture (24 April 2019) shows the approach to the trig point on the summit of Black Hill. Chosen because it was the photo which best captured today’s mist. Well, a reservoir was used for the header on Day 40, so it was only fair that Day 41 showed the fog.

Next: Day 42 (25 April 2019)… in which there’s a cock-up, but I don’t panic.

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