Bleaklow and the Defiant, on a hot day in May!

Well, after a good trip up the M69 and M1 to Junction 31 where I picked up the A630 through Rotherham, picking up the A57 heading for Sheffield, to head out along the Snake Pass to our start point, I suddenly was accosted by the route I’d got to know through Sheffield was closed, due to road works and also the Sheffield Half Marathon.

Now I’m more than happy when road closures for events like this are implemented, I’ve been party to it myself in the past, both as event support and a participant. So I appreciate all the hard work involved, planning and setting up.

Luckily, for me, I’m pretty good navigating, so long as I can get somewhere to stop safely and check my map, I'm more than happy. Thankfully, one marshal allowed me to pull in to a race reserved area, so I could relocate and safely plan my route.

As it happened, the alternative route proved easier to navigate than the one I’d become accustomed to using. So a big thank you to the race marshal who allowed me to pull over safely and not cause an obstruction so I could reassess my route.

Wow, what a scorcher that was, Sunday 27th May 2012. Generally the temperature was around the low 20 – 25ºC, with the wind averaging 8mph (F3 on the Beau forte Scale), gusting to 13 mph (F4 on the Beau Forte Scale), but down in the groughs, it was more like 30ºC +!

After going out for a meal the night before, not keeping hydration in mind while drinking, I made sure that my three litre hydration bladder was full to the brim along with an extra 500ml water bottle as reserve.

Why the extra bottle?

Well, unlike using bottles, where you can see how fast you are consuming water or whatever you’re drinking, a hydration bladder is hidden from view in your pack, so the first you know its empty, is when you try to suck water through, and nothing happens, because you’ve drank it all and are now fighting a vacuum!

So that’s why I have the spare bottle.

Anyway, I arrived at our meeting place, where once again, I was meeting up with Chris for yet another enjoyable stroll on Bleaklow, this time, to try and get to the Blackburn Botha and the Boulton Paul Defiant crash sites, knowing that they were going to prove very interesting from a manual navigation perspective.

Bleaklow in the sun

With that in mind, depending on how things worked out, then we may have done the Wellington Bomber crash site instead of one of the other two. But that would be unlikely, being the furthest away from our start point.

It’s important to remember at this point, crossing Bleaklow, or even the Kinder Scout Plateau, while the map may make it look a straightforward hike, it isn’t.

You’re distance will increase somewhat because you will be doing a lot of minor ascents and descents, which may seem trivial, but in view of the great number of groughs to traverse, that will increase the overall distance, sometimes very considerably.

These groughs can be as little as a couple of feet, or as great as twelve, or even more feet in height!

A deep grough. I'm six foot tall to try and give you some perspective of depth!

Anyone who’s been taught pacing may have been taught to add in the region of seven steps (or possibly ten) for every ten metres in height gained will appreciate what I mean.

So this was going to be an interesting navigational exercise from Bleaklow Head. Getting to Bleaklow Head for me is very straightforward; this will be my third trek along that section of the Pennine Way.

Bleaklow Head

On our last trip to the Blenheim crash site, we had a look at the start of the route from Bleaklow Head out to the Botha, via one of two routes, Black Clough or the Stakes, just to get a feel of how the route would pan out.

That encouraged me to study the map in greater detail, reviewing the final plans actually out on site, adjusting as required. This meant looming at various navigational strategies accounting for the fact that there are no real features marked on the map to plan the route with and the fact that one grough could easily look and run in the same direction as the next, adding to that, they will not be all marked on the map!

So the route will be an on-going assessment/reassessment all the way until the final destination.

Those of you who know there area well, may be wondering why I haven’t attempted to approach from Woodhead Reservoir?

The reason is I have an almost obsessive desire to beat this navigational challenge from Bleaklow Head. Hopefully, I will be attempting that option at a later date.

With the added observations from the previous visit to Bleaklow, I now understood why there was route called ‘Stakes’. If you look at the Bleaklow and Kinder areas on most maps, there are a few routes called ‘Stakes’.

OS Explorer series 1:25000, showing the Stakes and normal footpaths

Now the important thing to take on board here, is these stakes marking a route, are wooden stakes. They can and will weather, so may not all be there, or sufficiently close enough to each other to provide a safe navigational aid.

So it’s still important to have and use good navigational skills.

We set off following the Pennine Way heading for Bleaklow Head, chatting as you do about things in generally, other possible walks, one of which was the Tissington Trail. I think this came about, talking about my previous blog, Tissington Well Dressings, an ancient custom, today, where we had both independently, visited.

Our route start, the Pennine Way, heading for Bleaklow Head

Once we had arrived at Bleaklow Head, it was planned to stop, assess the area looking at various departure points and how we would aim-off to pick up either Black Clough or the Stakes. Ideally, either way, I wanted to use both, initially the outbound route would be Black Clough, theoretically the easiest to pick up and follow, failing that, carry on to pick up the stakes.

Well, not surprisingly we overshot Black Clough. Bear in mind, it would be the start of any tributary at the point we intended to pick it up, therefore, it was going to be the same as any one of the many groughs that we would traverse.

The Stakes gave us a backstop, coupled with a ridge, defined by a contour, so we would know when to change direction.

The Stakes, marking out a route across Bleaklow.
Remember, these stakes marking a route, are wooden stakes.
They can and will weather

Once we had hit the Stakes, we were able to reassess the route, head for Bleaklow Hill, then Near Bleaklow Stones to access the Boulton Paul Defiant crash site.

Before we set off, taking in to consideration the weather for the day, hot, a virtually cloudless sunny sky, then depending on how we faired with respect to heat exhaustion and available hydration, topped with on-going navigation stops and assessments, then only one crash site may be reached, no matter how far away either of the other two would be.

I mentioned earlier, the intended outbound route was Black Clough; this would hopefully put us nicely for the Blackburn Botha crash site, then head south westerly to visit the Boulton Paul Defiant before returning via the stakes to Bleaklow Head.

However, that plan changed as we reached the Stakes, overshooting Black Clough.

We continued to Bleaklow Hill via the Stakes. From Bleaklow Hill we headed due north for ‘Near Bleaklow Stones’, which is where the Boulton Paul Defiant crash site was. To be more precise, the crash site is about twenty metres NNE of Near Bleaklow Stones.

Bleaklow Hill is really a peat mound on the Bleaklow Plateau, with a stake in a small cairn.

Fortunately, we were able to use various features to attempt a reasonably steady bearing, with the bonus of a back bearing check at the first two features. By that point, we had sighted what appeared to be Near Bleaklow Stones.

Walking a straight line, or keeping to a bearing, is extremely hard, without a feature of some form, a reasonable distance away, to aim for. With that in mind, it is easy to veer off the intended route, so where possible, back bearings, that is checking the bearing of where you departed from, which will be 180º difference to the outgoing bearing, to confirm you have not veered too far off course.

A weather gritstone provided a useful feature to navigate to.

A close up of a weathered gritstone

Also, naturally, we all veer off to one side or the other on even terrain, added to that, minor obstacles, stones, tufts of grass or other foliage, can also send you off course.

While crossing this patch of Bleaklow, we saw a couple of curlews, keeping their distance from us.

A golden plover on Bleaklow

Once we had reached Near Bleaklow Stones, we then started to head for the north eastern point, looking for the wreckage. I was getting a little concerned nothing had been spied.

Near Bleaklow Stones in the  distance

Approacing "Near Bleaklow Stones"

Weathered grtistone at Near Bleaklow Stones

How many of you thought the same as me, that looks just like a seal from a distance?

Then, just as I turned to look back up to Near Bleaklow Stones, only a few metres away, a small pile of aircraft wreckage.

Just as I turned around, there it was, a small,
but neat pile of the Boulton Paul Defiant wreckage.
Another one of the many tragedies on Bleaklow and other areas.

Do not despair, or be disappointed, the Boulton Paul Defiant is a small aircraft, probably similar in size to the Spitfire and Hurricane, coupled with the fact that many parts had been recovered for preservation in Wolverhampton, according to Peak District Air Accident Research.

The Boulton Paul Defiant wreckage

With the view being so good, so quiet, with Holmfirth and Emley Moor TV transmitters in full view, we took lunch.

A view across the northern edge of Bleaklow

Emely Moor TV Mast, viewed from Bleaklow

Contrails crossing each other

With a wind speed gusting up to a welcome 13.4 mph
(F3, a Gentle Breeze on the Beau Forte Scale)

It was hot on Bleaklow; 21.1ºC was an average temperature
Did I mention it was hot?

Well, the temperature reached 13.4ºC while out on the plateau with the wind gusting up to 21.1 mph taking the sting out of the heat. But beleive me, it wasn't quite so comfortable while down among those groughs, sheltered from that nice breeze!

While taking lunch, we discussed the return via Back Clough, which wasn’t too far away from where we were. Assuming we would be able to follow Black Clough close to Bleaklow Head, that would give us a good idea as to how we overshot it and where it would be.

Lunch finished, we set a westerly course, where very soon, Black Clough appeared. A study of the  terrain to see  where the best point to join Black Clough would be, to save a steep descent followed by a steep ascent out of the clough, so we hand railed Black Clough, but on the eastern side of the stream until a suitable point appeared where we could pick up the proper path.

Walkers heading towards Woodside along Black Clough

This came soon enough, so we dropped down in to the Clough, and then climbed out without too much effort.

The point at where we joined Black Clough

A clearly defined path along Black Clough

Generally, Black Clough was a clearly defined route, until getting close to Bleaklow Head, where as expected, the tributary veered off in a south easterly direction. Not expected, was a fence crossing our path!

This looked very interesting; we would have to either turn left or right, not continue straight on as required!

After discussion and a careful study of the direction the fence routing, we decided the best option was to veer off to the right.

My fears at this point, looking how far the fence travelled, we could end up out at Far Moss, way off the route we needed to be taking.

Just above the 'k' of Black Clough, was where the fence blocking our path was.
We crossed at the point level with the 'a' of Black Clough

We had noticed that part of the fence had been flattened, at a suitable crossing point, pretty much on the pathway we required.

No styles or suitable crossing point to be observed, so had someone come to the same conclusion as I had, this fence should not be where it is without a suitable crossing point?

A quick reccie (a walk off path to look at what lay after this fence). The fence really did obstruct that pathway, crossing the Clough and for quite a distance. I also spied what looked like Bleaklow Head and it certainly was in the right direction. This was later confirmed by checking with the GPS.

So we crossed the flattened fence, checked the desired bearing for Bleaklow Head and set off.

Almost as soon as we started walking, the familiar sight of Bleaklow Head appeared.

Also, interestingly enough, monitoring the GPS out of curiosity, we stated to back track the initial outbound route.

I will say at this point, I have no problem with technology; I use my GPS to log the route I’ve walked to download once I get back home. However, I wanted to use manual skills as much as possible for today’s walk.

A view of the route we took.
We followed the circuit in an anticlockwise direction from Bleaklow Head,
picking up the Stakes before heading northwards.

A couple of walkers we spotted on Black Clough heading towards Bleaklow Head, long before we joined it, were heading back towards Woodhead.

We stopped to watch the route these guys took, just to grasp an idea of alternative routes. Thinking about it, they seemed too definite in direction, so I’m wondering if they were using GPS to plot the return route.

Hindsight is always a good thing. I found the whole navigational exercise very interesting, not once did I feel I was out of my depth, too many contingency plans in place to cover for various outcomes.

However, to do the same again, I would use the Stakes to go outbound and consider return via the Stakes or Black Clough, knowing what I know now.

The reserve of an escape route, Black Clough would certainly provide that for quite some way, north of Bleaklow Head.

The Pennine Way, heading back to the start point

While returning back to the start point, Chris and I were discussing our next jolly. We agreed from a blog perspective, this will be the last crash site for a short while, keeping a nice level of variety to write about.

So a couple of ideas in mind;
1    Derwent Edge
2   Lantern Pike
3   The southern part of the Pennine Way from the Snake Pass

With a couple in mind, The Roaches and Tissington Trail as like to do sometime.

Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,
Peak Rambler


  1. Great read, I've had good and bad times up there on Bleaklow. Glorious day in sunchine and the only time I ever got lost in the hills when the clouds came in and took away all visibility and I got lost in the dark.

    Btw your birdy is a Golden Plover.

    1. Thank you for your comment Jamie.

      Bleaklow fun enough on a good day, to navigate. Though I did get up there one cold, windy day in April, with some snow. See my B29 Superfortress blog.

      Thank you also for the birdie correction. Its a good job I'm not on commission. I'd be paying my employer. LOL.

      Have a good weekend.

  2. Another crash site I haven't managed to visit yet! It's great seeing your photos of them all and might just inspire me to get there myself at last! I was also going to say your bird didn't look very curlew like but I wasn't sure what it was - now we both know!

  3. There are quite a few crash sites around Bleaklow and Kinder. I will get to some more later.

    As for the Curlew come Golden Plover, I need to spend more time learning these different birds.

    There are plenty more photos to view in my Flickr account, if you want to have a browse.

    Thank you again for leaving a comment.