The planning for this event started sometime during the summer, when a few tweets on Twitter were exchanged between myself and a very good friend, Alvin (@darkhiker on Twitter).
Alvin wanted to venture on to Bleaklow and see the B29 Superfortress, but was a little apprehensive in view of the nature of the terrain and weather, coupled with the fact that Alvin lived in London, which really meant a day trip was stretching things a little.
So I offered to organise a weekend where we would pitch tents on the Friday night, walk Bleaklow on the Saturday, chat about it in the pub Saturday night, then break camp on the Sunday and head home, weather permitting.
|Walking on Bleaklow|
The problem I had was getting a free weekend around work and providing my services as Dad’s taxi to my fifteen year old son, who is kayaking competitively.
I’m a keen and very amateur weather follower, so timing the weekend to get the best weather was crucial. But as we all know, the good old British weather often throws the last word in and messes up the best laid plans.
I was looking to utilise the last weekend in September. But my son had other plans. He was returning from a school trip to Rome that weekend and I had to provide the taxi service from the airport back home.
Hmmm, a rethink was needed. Current work plans demanded me to be available the following weekend.
But then a light started to shine, things at work moved up a gear and things seemed to be a little advanced.
That then meant the first weekend in October was a good chance. Not only that, studying the weather data I could find on the wonderful internet, showed that there was often a good weather window leading in to early October.
I would like to add, this all purely guess work based on the information I was able to access and not set in stone.
As I said earlier, the British weather will always have the last word, as you will find out later.
So the date was set, I emailed Alvin and he checked to see if he could get that weekend. In the meantime, I checked that a campsite we both knew and have used before was available, which it was.
Alvin confirmed that he was able to get that weekend off, so all was looking good.
While sorting out the arrangements, another good friend, Andy H (@mixedupmessed) said he was interested in joining with us, along with my Dark Peak walking buddy Chris, followed by a friend of Alvin’s, Mehdi.
|Approaching Wain Stones, otherwise known as Kissing Stones|
Chris wasn’t camping with us. Living not too far from Bleaklow, he was meeting us there, walking with us, and then returning home.
We were all set; the campsite; Park House near to Monsal Head in the Peak District, was booked and it was just a matter of time.
I can fully recommend Park House campsite, near Monsal Head. It’s a small, but very tidy site and the couple who run and maintain it are extremely friendly.
We were warned that there would a Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) training group there as well. But that didn’t pose us a problem.
I was weather watching very carefully, hoping that the weather would be kind and at least give us a dry weekend and preferably, a dryish week leading up to the weekend, so that we didn’t face too much of a bog fest.
Yes, Bleaklow is open peat moorland which can very easily become peat bog and very deep bogs at that if you’re not careful!
Not only that, part of the Pennine Way, which we would be walking, is part of a stream, which could become very deep and fast flowing if there was a lot of rain leading up to the weekend.
Bleaklow can present lots of challenges if the weather isn’t kind…..
The weekend was drawing nearer, the weather was becoming a little predictable, rain and more rain.
With that in mind, I dropped an email to the team, suggesting gaiters and trekking poles would be ideal pieces of kit to pack. Gaiters, while not fully water tight, will offer some protection against water ingress and trekking poles can be used, not just as a part of your first aid kit, but as bog and river depth testers.
I also suggested, it might be wise to consider an alternative walk if the weather didn’t play ball with us.
The week leading up to our planned weekend was looking wet, lots of rain forecast, but there were hints of an anticyclone for Saturday and Sunday.
Yippee, we could be pitching tents in the rain, but having a dry Saturday. I could handle that, we would just have to tread cautiously and avoid becoming bogfast, or as Chris has termed it; “Bleaklowed”.
We were all getting excited, like children getting nearer to Christmas (sorry, I know it’s near, but it is just figuratively speaking, honest).
The Friday came, we arrived at our campsite, Park House near Monsal Head, pitched our tents, then moved on to the nearest pub, The Stables Bar at Monsal Head.
|The view across to Little Longstone from Park House Campsite, Monsal Head|
The apple juice (a pet name for cider, adopted back in August while on the Peak Meet at Crowdecote) was flowing, well, for Alvin and Andy. I stuck to lager, apple juice doesn’t agree with me, while Mehdi, who doesn’t drink alcohol, enjoyed lemonade.
This was an opportunity to share with the team, the planned route for the Saturday and to recap on what conditions we could face while out walking.
Then, we relaxed the chat and just had fun, chatting about previous walks, camps and anything else that we could chat about.
I will say that the evening did take a very interesting turn. We were joined by someone who wasn’t a hill walker like we are. But I’ll leave it at that, other than I think he had consumed a lot more alcohol than the four of us put together.
We returned to our tents, all was quiet, the DofE group was all asleep, and so we kept quiet and settled down for the night.
The forecasted rain never arrived to hamper our tent pitching, but it did make its presence known in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
Saturday morning arrived; we were treated to a nice sunrise.
|Saturday morning we were treated to a nice sunrise|
We had breakfast, got our kit together and loaded up Andy’s car. Or as Andy kept reminding us, set about to trash his car! As if…..
Seriously, we treated his car with the utmost respect.
We departed the camp site, heading for Glossop then to pick up the A57 Snake Pass for Bleaklow where we would meet up with Chris.
I was getting a little concerned with the low cloud hanging around at 300 mtrs and Bleaklow starts at around 500 mtrs with the summit, Bleaklow Head, at 630 mtrs!
The training I’ve had is to get you out of a situation, not to get in to one and then try and bale out. As we were often told, if the weather bites and you need to get out of a bad situation, then you planning was crap.
Though the training was around group management of Scouts while I was a Scout Leader, to be honest, in many cases, there is a lot of truth in that, not just in Scouting, but in all other walks of life.
We arrived at our start point and it was blowing cold, the cloud was low, but not as low as it had been and it was lifting. Things were looking better; we were going for it and as necessary, would review our route as we progressed if the cloud decided to close in on us.
|Bleaklow and the Pennine Way|
The Pennine Way was its usual self, clear, a little wetter than normal, but not seriously so that we would need to reconsider our day. Even the stretches where we walked through the stream weren’t that bad.
|Walking up the Pennine Way|
We walked up to Bleaklow Head, following the Pennine Way, passing Hern Clough. I don’t know why, but Hern Clough fascinates me. I can only guess it’s down to the combination of deep grough and relatively fast but narrow water flow.
|Alvin taking photos|
|Arriving at Bleaklow Head|
We arrived at Bleaklow Head, where Andy, Mehdi and Alvin had their photo taken.
|The three amigo's on Bleaklow Head Cairn|
|Andy, Hehdi and Alvin, bagging Bleaklow Head|
From Bleaklow Head, the next stage was to visit the Wain Stones, otherwise known as the kissing stones.
So I set my compass and we headed off for the Wain Stones.
These stones are often refereed to as the Kissing Stones, so called because if you view them from the right angle, it looks like two of the weathered gritstones are kissing each other!
Here we had another photo stop for Alvin and Mehdi.
We were joined by a couple of ladies of a respectable at this point, who were enjoying a day out on Bleaklow. They decided to join us on our hike to the B29 Superfortress crash site.
This was the easy part of the days walking; a reasonably clear route to follow for those who are confident walkers and navigators, now the fun was to start. No clear path and open moor land that could well be a bog fest.
|The cairn marking the way to the Wain (Kissing) Stones|
|Wain Stones, otherwise known as the Kissing Stones|
We then continued on our way to the B29 Superfortress. The weather was being very kind, the cloud stayed high enough not to be threatening and the sun did try to burn its way through the cloud.
We had peat bog land to traverse, which could be treacherous and make our walk difficult.
There were a couple of bogs in our way, but nothing too hampering, allowing us to keep a reasonably straight course for the crash site.
|Medhi trekking across Bleaklow|
|Now be careful lads, that could end up giving you a boot full!|
|Hmmm, is that likely to lead to a boot full?|
Then the access point to the crash site appeared. We had made it relatively easily, but it could have been a difficult trek and the risk of becoming bogfast was never too far away.
The two ladies stayed a while, and then went on their way towards Glossop, while we stayed around the crash site, taking in the awe of such devastation.
|The B29 Superfortress "Overexposed" crash site|
|The B29 Superfortress "Overexposed" crash site|
|The B29 Superfortress "Overexposed" crash site|
|Mehdi and Alvin taking in The B29 Superfortress "Overexposed" crash site|
|Andy, Alvin and Mehdi|
Even though this was my second visit, I still found it humbling, thirteen men’s lives drastically shortened while doing their bit for our freedom.
After a while, we then headed for Higher Shelf Stones and Trig point.
|Andy checking the wind speed on Higher Shelf Trig Point|
|Alvin and Mehdi looking around Higher Shelf|
|The wind chill was 3.0ºC|
|Not too windy today, just topping 21.1 mph|
|Looking over to the A57 Snake Pass|
|The layby on the A57 Snake Pass, viewed through the zoom lens from Higher Shelf Stones|
Time was pressing on, though we were making very good time, but it was after lunchtime, so we set off back to the crash site, to pick up our route back to Hern Clough and the Pennine Way, but, once we find a sheltered spot, we would stop for lunch.
A suitable spot was found, nicely within a grough where we stopped for lunch.
|One of the many groughs provided a sheltered spot for lunch|
|Heading for Hern Clough|
While walking to Hern Clough, we saw quite a few fellow walkers heading northwards along the Pennine Way. I have to say, we saw more walkers today than I think I’ve seen on all my visits to Bleaklow this year!
With more peat moorland coupled bog hopping. Though again, we were very lucky and the ground was relatively dry. But the risk was still ever present, considering the rain we had endured leading up to the weekend.
We finally arrived at Hern Clough and from here; it was relatively straightforward, backtracking our route back along the Pennine Way to our cars.
After changing our footwear, from muddy boots to something a lot cleaner, we drove back to the campsite at Monsal Head.
A quick bite and freshen up at the campsite before setting off for the pub.
We decided to give the Packhorse Inn, at Little Longstone, a try, after having savoured the food and beer in the Stables at Monsal Head.
|The Packhorse Inn, Little Longstone|
Little Longstone is quite a pretty little village, well, more a hamlet I would say. But just as pretty nonetheless. However, it has a church, which firmly makes it a village.
The Packhorse Inn was nice and welcoming, with an open coal fire and a thriving local community making for a busy pub.
The menu was appetising, with Andy and myself, eyeing up the Gloucester Old Spot sausages with mash and red cabbage. I had to have a side order of vegetables to compliment the meal.
The menu was a little unusual. Locally sourced buffalo burgers and wild boar sausages were on the menu.
After we had eaten, and of course, enjoyed some alcohol, we then headed for the Stables Bar at Monsal Head and enjoyed a beer in there before heading back to the campsite.
Once again, it was totally quiet, with the DofE group fast asleep, so again, we had another early night.
Well, apart from me. I wanted to play around with delayed shutter speed settings to try and capture the stars in the night sky. Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but never had the opportunity.
|The night sky over Monsal Head|
|Moonlit sky over Monsal Head|
Sadly, Sunday morning arrived and the end of a fantastic weekend, walking and drinking with good friends was coming to an end.
But the weather and landscape gave me yet more photographic opportunities, temperature inversions, or low cloud for a more common term.
|Temperature Inversion, otherwise known as morning mist, over Little Longstone|
Then, packing away of kit and breaking of camp.
But before I departed, I just had to walk up to Monsal Head and take a few more photographs of Monsal Dale and the viaduct.
|Monsal Head Viaduct, part of the Tissington Trail|
|Monsal Head Viaduct, from a different view point|
One day, I’ll walk, or even cycle, the Tissington Trail, which follows the disused railway that passes through Monsal Dale.
It was a fantastic weekend, my thanks to Andy, Alvin, Mehdi and Chris for being such great company and making yet another enjoyable visit to the Peaks.
Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,
The Stables, Monsal Head; http://www.monsalhead.com/
The Packhorse Inn, Little Longstone http://www.packhorselongstone.co.uk/
|Our route for the day|