Stanton Moor, my old favourite, I've missed you

My return to Stanton Moor has been long overdue!

The last time I was there, was November 2013!

That was a night hike with a small group of people from a walking forum, you can read about that in: Stanton Moor Night Hike, and a drink in the Druid Inn.

"....Approaching Cat Stone...."

"....Kerry, Dom and Steve at the Trig Point on Stanton Moor...."

"....A post walk drink, and chips, in the Druid Inn, Birchover...."

The previous times there were:

"On the walk to these quarries, we pass close to the Trig Point...."

Yes, that's me.

For extra reading, see: Wikipedia Stanton Moor.

I did manage a short wander up to another old favourite, my first post accident outing, to Arbor Low Stone Henge, which was to test the ground, walking poles and me. Apart from the pain, I persevered, to enjoy a fabulous day, it was sunny, and the views as ever, were spectacular.

Even returning back there, I still see many things not seen on previous visits, but more so on that occasion. I can only guess, because there was no time constraints, I wasn’t out to complete a planned route, it was only a wander along with requiring recuperation periods, it meant I had the time to sit and ponder.

Looking over Monyash from Arbor Low Henge

Arbor Low Henge, with Upper Oldhams Farm in the background

To avoid duplicating the history of my accident, the blog also highlights some background detail of my injuries and recovery and also some details around Pacerpoles.

I’m not giving up on my Pacerpoles, the important thing to remember, my situation is due to surgery and not a fault of those poles. Hopefully one day I will be able to use them, but for now, the crutches have taken a back seat, and I’m using a walking stick to help me move around.

I now have one hand free!

I’ve said before, it will be slow, something I’m very bad at, is doing slow, but my situation is governing my progress, the tantrums still continue with the knockbacks.

After a week in North Wales, which was a torment looking down the Conwy Valley at the Carneddau, especially as pre-accident I was starting to spend more time up there, however, being realistic, it’s unlikely I’ll ever get back up there. I try to look at those magnificent views from the perspective: “I’ve been there”, but it hasn’t yet softened the pain.

The view down the Conwy Valley from RSPB Conwy.
The two peaks are [L] Moel Eilio   [R] Pen Llithrig y Wrach

To get outdoors and away from urban life, I’ve spent a lot of time visiting nature reserves, and my second hobby, photography has been a great help getting out and building up walking on level ground. Many of those photos can be viewed on Peak Rambler Photostream.

The plan was to try and capture Stanton Moor whilst the heather was a nice purple colour, the weekend planned to make that wander was thwarted by dubious weather forecasts, of showers that never materialised, because waterproof trousers will not fit my reconstructed leg!

The heather was in full bloom, a nice purple colour

So, the bank holiday weekend seemed to be looking favourable, something very unusual for an August Bank Holiday, but I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity.

Plans were being made on the week leading up to the day, the camera batteries charged, and car fuelled up.

I know the moor better than the back of my hand, it’s been a first choice to chill out, also a first choice for testing kit in extremes (it’s high and exposed enough to get some very inclement weather conditions), with a caveat, there has been a lot of quarrying going on over the centuries, so plenty of steep drops to catch the unwary out.

This was going to be a wander on ground less level than Arbor Low, which had some undulations but not as much as Stanton Moor, the paths will be uneven in many places, and I know many of the places to try, and many to avoid, (I’ve been visiting the moor since I was knee high to a grasshopper), access is good should anything go wrong, good mobile phone coverage.

Stanton Moor, like many places, has a long history going back to prehistoric man. Some of the sights to see there are:
One of the many tumuli on the moor

So there is plenty to see, along with a good old fashioned trig point.

Incidentally, the Nine Ladies Stone Circle for a very long period of time, only ever shown nine stones, hence the name.

However, during the drought of 1976, due to the ground becoming dry and effectively shrinking, a further stone was revealed in a horizontal position, so now there are ten stones visible.

Look just inward of the far left upright stone, you will see the tenth stone lying on the ground.

I’ve waffled….

So, the wander, how did it go?

Well, very good actually, the only nasty bits were post walk.

Sunday 25 August 2019, the weather was hot, dry and sunny, unusual for an August Bank Holiday weekend, but like many people, I was going to make the best of it.

I made an early start, with an interesting drive up, I spotted what might have been a buzzard on a fence post! An unusual scenario, but it was too big for a kestrel or merlin.

Unfortunately there were no stopping places on the narrow twisty road to stop and grab a piccie.

As planned, I arrived nice and early, just as the sun was heating up to the scorching hot temperatures that day, probably well in excess of the low 30’s, I recorded 30.7ºC on my Kestrel K2000 weather meter, around lunchtime.

Once parked up, kit sorted, well, small pack, lunch, a couple of flasks of cold water and a sealed thermal mug with coffee. I’m not able to support a full proper pack on my back, which would have been nice.

My current small pack doesn’t have a pouch for a hydration pack, so I may invest in a new small pack to remedy that one, if there are any available, but I’m not in any rush, especially as the current pack was extremely comfortable and did meet my needs easily on the day.

While a pouch isn’t necessary, it does help to keep a hydration pack in situ and also  some protection from other items puncturing the hydration pack.

Off I went, no crutches this time, but a walking stick, no pacer poles yet, I’m not ready for them.

The route was from parking on Birchover Road, on the west side of the moor, heading easterly walking up through the virtually overgrown path, through a kissing gate and onto the moor.

Soon after you access the moor, you encounter a rather tall sandstone structure, the Cork Stone. You can climb this monolith, but it’s not easy and the worn foot holes make it one heck of a challenge.

Cork Stone

Once you get  up, remember, you’ve got to get down, and that isn’t much easier, because its called the Cork Stone for a reason, it looks almost like a cork with a narrow base!

Many times in the past I've climbed the Cork Stone.

Stopping to take a couple of piccies, I then continued along my way, heading in a northerly direction (NNE to be more precise), the next call was the trig point, which gives some commanding views across the moor and surrounding countryside.

the next call was the trig point

From the Cork Stone, heading in a northeasterly direction, the path soon reaches a forked junction, and knowing the moor like I do, I take the right fork which takes me straight to the trig point, where I stop for a needed leg rest and a planned ‘take in the view’, with the purple heather, which looked so beautiful in the sun.

Normally an easy going ascent, it was becoming quite painful and could feel my leg seemed to be swelling slowly. I was debating whether to carry on or cut my losses, enjoy the view and head back.

I’m not a defeatist, you don’t conquer mountains by giving in, with good planning you identify risks and work out how to be sensible and safely manage them.

It's called a risk assessment, you identify the risks, you look at the impact and then work out how to manage the risk, preferably eliminating the risk, but that’s not always possible. It’s something we do every day, more often than not, automatically, like crossing roads….

Just a quick mention, with risk assessment/management, you’ll never always remove some risks. Some risks will involve the risk of fatality. In that instance, you manage the risk, which could include a route change, reviewing your kit options, your walking solo or in a group, or, something not to be overlooked, training or refresher courses to improve skills and knowledge.

The risks already identified, route, I tend to follow the same route each time, so that’s set in stone, all plans in place and the estimated time, based on using Naismiths (which I use in conjunction with Tranters Correction) and the average speed taken from many of the walks I’ve already done post accident, I placed an extra 15% on,(pre-accident was 10% added) to allow for more stops than anticipated.

To make it easier, I actually have an Excel Spreadsheet set up, all the formulas are there and the calculation is automatic, all I need to input is:
  • Sunrise
  • Sunset
  • Distance
  • Height Gained
  • Ave Speed
  • Additional Time (percentage)

Incidentally, I mentioned assessing the risks and managing them, Stanton Moor has a lot of disused quarries, all have steep drops and many you can look down onto.

So beware if you have a young family, or are not sure of where you’re walking, or there’s a risk of reduced visibility, also, the moor is located quite high up, and on the east and south sides, again there are some very steep drops.

So with all that planned in, it was carry on, my next destination, the Nine Ladies Stone Circle. Continuing northeasterly on the not so clear path, which is downhill, and with very undulated ground, as planned and expected, it was the sort of terrain I needed to try and conquer, where eventually I joined up with one of the main paths between Lees Road to the south and north of the moor.

Nine Ladies Stone Circle

Lees Road circumnavigates the moor on three sides, while on the west side is Birchover Road, and they both join up at each end of Birchover Road.

Following that path in a northerly direction, the Nine Ladies Stone Circle comes in to view.

I’d timed it right. It can become quite a popular area for folk to gather, and I wanted to get some photos just of the stones, and looking up towards the King Stone, without people trying to enjoy the area.

I know, it’s a bit mean.

The King Stone is located to the south west of the centre of the stone circle, and would most likely line up with sunset midwinter's day. Very often prehistoric man would incorporate a stone either to align with the sun at a significant part of the day, usually sunrise or sunset and either midsummer’s or midwinter’s day.

Looking up towards the King Stone from the Nine Ladies Stone Circle

The King Stone

Stonehenge has the Heel Stone, located northeast which is why many would congregate to watch the sun rise on midsummer’s day.

I haven’t found any data to confirm the existence or purpose of the King Stone, but I have tried to get there for a midwinter’s sunset, it is close, close enough to consider that to be the case, but I haven’t been there at that precise moment, yet.

One day, perhaps….

This may all seem totally irrelevant, but prehistoric man worshipped the moon, stars, sun and many other natural phenomena, which is what pagan religions were based around and why many of these places become so popular at key points in the solar calendar.

Even today, gardening or farming by the moon is still a recognised practice. You can purchase books where they can advise how to tend the land or your garden using the phases of the moon!

The book at my last check was called: “Gardening and Planting the Moon” followed by the year, because the dates of the moon phases vary from year to year. So if you do try to tend your garden by the phases of the moon, make sure you buy the book for the current year, don’t rely on an old book.

Back to the day’s amble.

My next stop is Earl Grey Tower, also known as the Reform Tower, because it was built during 1832, the year of political reform, built in honour of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, by William Pole Thornhill.

Earl Grey Tower, also known as the Reform Tower
Another short walk, this time in a southeasterly direction, through the Stanton Moor  Plantation, and very soon you come across a tall stone tower structure.

A word of warning, there is a steep drop on the east slope down, so be careful.

You can cross the style here to get closer to the tower, or stay on the side you have arrived at, and follow the path round, which will bring you back to the start point.

However, for me, it was climb the style, after chatting away to a group of three families enjoying a wander.

Now this was going to be interesting, you may recall my difficulty crossing the style when I visited Arbor Low Stone Circle?

Today wasn’t going to be any easier, except, I had only one stick, not two.

It was difficult, not being able to bend the right knee sufficiently, but in a fashion, and not very elegantly, I managed to get over the style, remembering I’ve to cross back later on further round…..

After a stop for a rest and take some photos, recomposing myself, I followed the outer circular path from Earl Grey Tower starting off in a southerly direction, and eventually heading southeast to head for the Cat Stone.

Here I’ll issue another warning, very close to the Cat Stone there is a very steep drop. As with all these stones, especially when there are foot holds in the stone, the temptation can be to climb.

The Cat Stone
It was a good spot to stop for a while, sheltered from the heat of the sun and another opportunity to give the leg a rest, because there was a longish haul by my current standards to the next stop, Stanton Moor Edge and Gorse Stone.

After a nice shaded rest, it was back along the path and pick up the path following the south east edge of the moor, heading for Stanton Moor Edge and Gorse Stone.

I did think about having lunch here, it was shaded, but it was a little early to eat.

Remember, there are some very steep drops on the south side along this path.

Walking along, well, more like hobbling, among the bracken either side of the path, it was nice to meet up with people enjoying the day out, but many were unaware of the steep drops, particularly those with young families who were grateful for the info.

It wasn’t too long before I reached Stanton Moor Edge and Gorse Stone. Stanton Moor Edge is owned by the National Trust, while Stanton Moor is private ownership.

Now the fun part, a short ascent up to Gorse Stone, a narrow path with large stones in places, path erosion and all the usual things that paths have, which are not difficult for able bodied people, but challenging for me.

Gorse Stone

By now it was lunchtime, and in hindsight, it probably would have been wiser to have lunch in the shade back at the Cat Stone , but I wanted the view, which I knew I was going to get, not just Stanton Moor, but over to the Eastern Moors as well, which compromises of Froggat Edge, Curbar Edge, White Edge Moor and Big Moor, on a very clear day, Kinder and the Great Ridge can  be seen, along with many other places from around all points of the compass.

I had to be done.

Looking over the eastern side of Stanton Moor

So, it was pack off, get the food and drink out, and pre-accident I would have sat down on the sandstone rock surfaces, but this time, getting up and down would not be easy, so I enjoyed my lunch standing up, taking in the view.

Perhaps next time, I may take one of those lightweight fold up seats, I do have one, and it would attach to my small pack.
[Note for next outing; take seat attached to pack]

There was no rush to finish lunch, I was actually ahead of time, not by a lot, but enough to enjoy a lengthened stop.

By now, the moor had become quite busy, with lots of people out enjoying the sun and the moor.

"....the moor had become quite busy...."

Time was slowly moving on, I had to get back, but not without a little planned detour, back on to the moor and over to one of the quarries to get another view of the trig point and then capture a different view of the Cork Stone to make for a nice circuit of photos.

This was probably the hardest part for me, the leg was well and truly hurting, as I make the walk down the narrow path, and almost instantly, a style to cross, then a gradual ascent back on to the moor.

At this point, the stops had become more frequent and longer, which was planned in and being monitored should I need to break the day and return.

But I did it, I arrived by one of the quarries to take more photos, a last look across the moor, and my favourite tree, a rather bent lonesome oak tree, before heading back to the Cork Stone and the car.

"....a rather bent lonesome oak tree...."

One of the many quarries on Stanton Moor

The path from here, though still undulated, was a more steady path and downhill with not too far to go, and able bodied, easily done within 10 minutes, but for me, estimated 20-30 minutes, so I was still within sensible times scale and if help was required, then clear easy access was possible, but I wasn’t going to give in and rely on assistance, that is only as a very last resort, by which time, the next place I’d be visiting, would be hospital, and I wasn’t ready for that.

As I was hobbling back toward the Cork Stone,I was taking in the views, knowing it could be a while before I see them again, and I had to ask the question, “Do I really have to go home?

Journey's end, heading for the Cork Stone, then back to the car

Once back at the car, I noticed how swollen (caused by the secondary lymphedema) and tightly packed my leg was in the trousers, a pair of Craghoppers Kiwi trousers, which as many will know, they are generous with legroom.

Then it was time to go home, and after the drive home, my leg had swelled so much, it was extremely difficult getting the trousers off, well, off that leg.

It was still swollen the following morning, I had a big struggle getting my work trousers on!

Had I done too much?
Probably. But, there is a lot of finding new limits to be done, and often that can only be achieved by trial and error, after taking all things into consideration with sensible planning.

Was it worth the pain?
I know my answer.

I hadn’t forgotten a turn, direction or anything, the only thing that was probably a little awkward to find, was a non-descript path through the heather, which I found, or was extremely close to, because I managed to take a route, the trig point was more or less where I expected it to be, and came out at the point I wanted to.

It was a fabulous day, painful and for a few days afterwards, but they’re memories I’ll treasure, added to the existing memories of Stanton Moor, which go right back to my childhood days, through the days when my son first experienced moorland, with very early stage map reading lessons, and then pinched the map from me wanting to pretend to be an explorer.

Incidentally, my son still remembers those days with great fondness, because I made the learning fun.

Maps are two dimensional drawings of an area you’re interested in. Taking some of those easy to find and easy to relate symbols using easy to see landmarks, makes the beginnings of map reading.

After all, isn’t that what map reading is?

The map reading was incorporated in his desire to pretend to be an explorer, using the easy to identify features on the map to enhance the game. It worked, he had fun and it given him fond memories, and me. 

What more can you ask for.

Did I have fun?
As a parent (if I was a teacher, I would as well), definitely, and yes, I would do it all again without hesitation or change.

Peak Rambler
Twitter             @PeakRambler
YouTube          Peak Rambler on YouTube

Links to some of the items I’ve mentioned and written about here:
Nine Ladies Stone Circle; also known as the Nine Maidens Stone Circle
Earl Grey Tower; also known as the Reform Tower