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Black Hill &
The Crowden Horseshoe

29th SEPTEMBER 2018

I seem to start every post these days with "Its been a long time since I last went for a walk". I promise this will be the last as I'm determined to get back out in the hills. I've recovered from illnesses and injuries and I'm desperate to get back out to the places I love the most. I'm a bit broke at the moment so I decided not to go too far. I wanted to go somewhere accessible, challenging and quiet. I chose the Black Hill and The Crowden Horseshoe walk which I have done once before.

Loftend Quarry

Loftend Quarry

It took me just under half an hour to get to the Crowden car park from my front door, via McDonalds for carb loading of course. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the car park is still free. The weather was perfect with blue skies and sunshine, though a cold breeze was there to remind me we are now in autumn. After walking through the picnic are in the woods to the campsite I rounded the camp site and tried a different route to the last time I was there. Last time I walked past the youth hostel and ascended the hill to reach the Pennine Way. This time I turned left behind the camp site on a tarmac road, passing the farm on the right, crossing the river and eventually meeting up with the Pennine Way.

Myself above Crowden

Myself above Crowden

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I followed the Pennine Way across a field of sheep and cattle to a stile. After crossing the stile the path continued heading north passing some stunning pines where there is a fitting memorial to a popular local walker. I crossed a few streams and the noise brought a smile to my face. You just can not beat the sound of a small mountain stream. The paths coming up from the youth hostel appeared on my right and the huge rocks of Black Tor looked stunning in sunshine on my left.

Pennine Way near Black Tor

Pennine Way near Black Tor

The bracken on either side of the path as it passed under Black Tor and Rakes Rocks looked incredible in its autumnal red. The heather was also looking healthy and the moorland in general looked in great condition which was a relief to see after one of the hottest and driest summers on record and some of the most devastating moorland fires not far from here.

Pennine Way near Rakes Rocks

Pennine Way near Rakes Rocks

When I reached Rakes Rocks the moon suddenly appeared over the top of the rocks. Heading towards Oaken Clough I was busy peering down the impressive Crowden Great Brook valley when I heard the unmistakable sound of a huge flock of geese above heading south for the winter.

Crowden Great Brook

Crowden Great Brook

Oaken Clough

Oaken Clough

The path ascends a small knoll before reaching the tumbling Oakenclough Brook. Here I crossed the brook and stuck with the higher Pennine Way route which edges its way over the top of Laddow Rocks. The view from Laddow Rocks is a favourite of mine. You can see the length of the Crowden Great Brook valley all the way back to Crowden and the Torside Reservoir.

Laddow Rocks

Laddow Rocks

Looking back down the valley towards Crowden from Laddow Rocks you couldn't make out much due to the hazy low sunshine. The one thing that did stand out though was the glistening Crowden Brook snaking its way through the valley. I sat for a while on the rocks, which despite the increasingly cold breeze were surprisingly warm.

Laddow Rocks

Laddow Rocks

Although the gritstone edges in the valley are impressive the thing that impresses me the most on this walk and always makes me want to come back is Great Crowden Brook, especially in its upper sections. The upper sections of the Crowden Great Brook are incredibly sheltered and secluded and make you feel like you are a million miles away. One thing I love about this walk is that in such a small distance you see the brook's entire journey from its source in the Grains Moss on Black Hill, and eventually falling over waterfalls through the stunning valley and down into Crowden and the Torside Reservoir.

Crowden Great Brook

Crowden Great Brook

Crowden Great Brook

Crowden Great Brook

Ironically after looking forward to the tranquil and secluded upper section of Crowden Great Brook as I descended Laddow Rocks I saw in the distance a group of around a dozen fellow walkers. The only people I had seen so far today. They were a friendly enough bunch. I crossed Great Crowden Brook at Red Ratcher where there are some of those dark shale banks you see sometimes on the moors. Two blokes coming the other way had a tiny dog with them that looked like it was having the time of its life.

Crowden Great Brook

Crowden Great Brook

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At Grains Moss the path is well laid with those huge Pennine Way slabs. I crossed the stile at Dun Hill and started the ascent of Black Hill. After the shelter of the valley the wide open moorland was completely exposed to the bitter north-westerly wind. Clouds had come in too preventing any warmth from the sun. For the first time today I had to wear my hat and gloves.

Grains Moss Stile

Grains Moss Stile

It always amazes me how quiet this walk is as to me it is one of the best in the Peak District and accessible to millions. I think a lot of people are put off by older guide books which talk of the deadly peat bog quagmire on Black Hill. Alfred Wainwright among others correctly pointed out that walking on Black Hill was an unpleasant experience. In the past fifteen years however there have been huge conservation efforts on Black Hill and its neighbours Bleaklow and Kinder. The seeding and other techniques such as improvements to natural drainage have led to a complete transformation. Walking on Black Hill's summit is now a pleasant experience after many years of hard work.

Black Hill Summit

Black Hill Summit

Black Hill Summit

Black Hill Summit

At the summit of Black Hill the summit trig point pillar stands on top of the mound known as the Soldier's Lump. I didn't stick around for long as it was cold and windy. The summit plateau is wide and flat. The views are nothing to write home about. To the north and west I could make out a few hills in the Yorkshire Dales and Pendle Hill.

Myself on Black Hill

Myself on Black Hill

From the summit of Black Hill I headed south-east towards the two guiding posts by the small pond on Tooleyshaw Moss. The path was very boggy at first so as I was wearing low footwear I came back and looked for a drier route, which luckily I found slightly to the left. This part of the walk has not really changed and can be extremely unpleasant during wet weather.

Tooleyshaw Moss

Tooleyshaw Moss

Tooleyshaw Moss

Tooleyshaw Moss

After the bogs on Tooleyshaw Moss came the lunar like dark peat hags and troughs. When up on Kinder, Bleaklow and Black Hill I do actually miss this landscape which since the conservation work is steadily returning to a more stable grass moorland environment. I always had a fondness for the unique scarred landscape. I was disappointed not to see any Mountain Hares. It is a long time since I have seen one and I would imagine now the grasses are growing again we will see less of them, but that may also be a good thing, as long as they are still there.

Holme Moss Transmitter

Holme Moss Transmitter

Tooleyshaw Moor Stile

Tooleyshaw Moor Stile

After navigating the peat hags and troughs, some of which were deep and seemed impassable, I descended Tooleyshaw Moor and crossed the stile in the fence to White Low. After a slight ascent to the shoulder of Westend Moss I descended to Hey Moss and picked up the track towards Loftend Quarry. Having not walked this distance for over a year I was getting somewhat weary at this point and could feel my energy levels lowering and muscles aching.

Westend Moss

Westend Moss

Hey Moss

Hey Moss

At the quarry I sat on the rocks and looked out over Crowden towards Torside Reservoir. I was very happy with my choice of walk for my first in such a long time. The first half of this horseshoe walk via Laddow Rocks and Crowden Great Brook is certainly a lot more satisfying than the boggy descent over Tooleyshaw Moss and White Low. I'm already planning the next walk.

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