A windy wander on Mam Tor and along Castleton’s Great Ridge

Well, I've promised myself a return trip to this fantastic ridge, Castleton’s Great Ridge, for a little while, and, Sunday 13th April 2014 I finally made the return visit..

After a little discussion earlier in the week, Andy H mentioned he was in desperate need of a wander; I am always game for a wander, so long as work and family commitments permit, then Shaun said he was more than happy to join us.

However, Andy had to be at another venue for 18:00 later that day, so the wander had to the distance had to be kept reasonably short, but not desperately short. Long enough to blow the work and other related cobwebs away and make it feel that we had been out for a proper walk.

Did I mention blowing cobwebs away?

Ah, yes, well, as the title suggests, it was a touch breezy. I’ll tell more as the story unfolds.

So the time and place was arranged, just to the west of Castleton, near to Treak Cliff Cavern. The route, was to follow the old Buxton Road, the A625, Sheffield to Chapel-en-le-Frith Road, (not the Buxton Road as I like to call it, even though it did go in to Buxton), past the Blue John Cavern, heading north west to pass the top of the Mam Nic (National Trust) car park, then north east on to Mam Tor summit.

Mam Tor looking as splendid as ever,
against a perfect blue and sunny sky
Looking along the ridge, the peaks from left - right,
Hollins Cross, Back Tor and Lose Hill
The route start, the old A625
Sheffield to Chapel en-le-Frith Road

From there, follow the path down along the ridge, taking in Hollins Cross, Back Tor and Lose Hill before descending down towards the main road in to Castleton..

The path is clearly defined on the ascent to Mam Tor and along the ridge. However, attention to detail on the map and footpaths as you descend Lose Hill, for there are many and if would be too easy to take a wrong turn and probably go further out than you intended.

If ever you have time spare and you’re around Castleton on a vacation, I can fully recommend visiting Blue John and Treak Cliff Caverns, along with Speedwell Cavern.

Blue John and Treak Cliff Caverns were old mines where the rare the mineral Blue John was mined.

Blue John Stone, also known as Derbyshire Blue John Stone and Derbyshire Spar, (or just plain Blue John), is a semi-precious mineral, a form of fluorite with bands of a purple-blue or yellowish colour. In the UK Blue John Stone is found only at Blue John Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern at Castleton in Derbyshire.

The entrance to the Blue John Caverns,
which we walked past

Blue John was mined during the 19th century for its ornamental value. A small amount of mining continues today, but on a small scale. There are many shops in Castleton where you can buy various gifts and ornaments made from Blue John.

Just digressing a little further, another semi-precious stone only found in a single part of the UK, is serpentine, only found on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall!

A bit more info before we continue, Mam Tor means Mother Hill. It is so called Mother Hill because of its long history of landslides, creating many smaller hills!

Mam Tor also has another name, Shivering Hill, again, earned due to the continuing landslips.

There are other hills around the country where they are formed through landslips of varying magnitudes. Probably one of the most well-known ones is Roseberry Topping just on the north western edge of the North York Moors

So there it was, we met at the arranged time and place, greeted by lovely blue skies, sun and quite a strong wind, even though the area we met was relatively sheltered!

So we got suited and booted, and set off along the old Buxton Road, which due to landslides over time, had to be closed back in 1979 because it was just impossible to keep any sensible maintenance of the road.

I can remember as a child, being driven along that road and seeing the many fruitless road workings being undertaken at the time, to prevent the road slipping away.

This and the next photo,
the A625 today, after many years of landslides

Many of those attempted works include sinking large concrete pillars to try and pin the ground in place, long steel bars and many other different measures, all of which failed.

A lot of these are still visible today, but please, if you walk along this road, take care not to slip down the hill side trying to find any. In fact, you can actually see them on the remnants of the road as you walk along it, without veering off path.

One of many cat eyes still inlaid in the tarmac

I mentioned earlier, how Mam Tor acquired its name, and if you look at the east side of Mam Tor you can see clear evidence of landslides.

I can remember that face being pure scree as a child, not grass covered as it is today!

Anyway, I’m digressing again….

Evidence of landslides over time

Walking along the old road, past a fence with a small pool to the left, you are awarded some impressive views of the complete ridge that we will be walking along.

The road is twisty and on this particular day, wind swept in every sense of the word, with the wind reaching speeds of 40 mph (F8, Fresh Gale on the Beauforte Scale), which at times took my breath away, and I don’t mean in the awe-inspiring sense either!

Those of you who know and have walked with me, will know I often wear a baseball cap, well, it was about a quarter way up the road that the wind decided to take the hat off my head!

Apart from not wanting to leave any litter around, I’m quite partial to wearing a hat on a sunny (or even rainy) day, so I had to chase back down the road, almost to the start point, to recover my hat!

I recovered my hat, which I did manage to wear again once the wind became less fierce.

The gate along side the road,
where the path took us up towards Mam Nic Car Park

Mam Nic Car Park is to the left of the sign

The stone stair case to Mam Tor's summit

We approached the point above Mam Nic car park, then continued to head for Mam Tor’s summit, where people were sensibly coming down, after finding conditions on the summit a little too fierce for them.

It was while ascending the stone stair case, when the wind tried to take my sun glasses from me!

Looking over to Winnats Pass while ascending Mam Tor

As we progressed, the wind was starting to change from being in our faces, to being behind us, and offering a little assistance during the final stages of the ascent.

That was, until I reached the summit where WOW!

That wind really blew!

I had to brace myself on the summit trig point to try and take a wind speed reading, where the Kestrel recorded a max speed of 57.5 mph F10, Whole Gale on the Beauforte Scale!

The view from  Mam Tor's summit

...."it was a touch breezy"....

.... "the Kestrel recorded a max speed of 57.5 mph
F10, Whole Gale on the Beauforte Scale

I wouldn’t have been surprised if the speed reached or even beat 60 mph!

After spending some time at the summit, trying to take in the views, which would have been impressive with the weather being almost perfect for photography, we then started to follow the path down, heading along the ridge for Hollins Cross.

From here on, the views all round are just spectacular, with the Kinder Plateau and Vale of Edale to your left and Castleton, Hope and the Hope Valley to your right, and views further westerly to Eyam Moor, (Eyam; a plague village and a walk on Eyam Moor) where I had an enjoyable walk October 2013.

The path from Mam Tor towards Hollins Cross

Looking over to Castleton and Hope
on your right

Kinder Plateau and the Vale of Edale
to your left

Incidentally, the radio mast off to the south east is the one on Eyam Moor, close to Sir William Hill Road, which overlooks Eyam.

I wonder if Kinder Downfall was as spectacular as it was when I was there at the end of February 2014. You can read about that walk in Mill Hill, Kinder and Kinder Downfall, where Kinder Downfall was a waterfall where the water went UP not down the waterfall!

You can see a video on YouTube I recorded Kinder Downfall Uplifting.

Continuing our walk, the wind was now backing off considerably, though at times, it did send a strong gust just to let us know, it’s still there.

But the temperature did start to get warmer, along with the fact we were probably becoming more shielded from the wind, allow the sun to warm the air around us up.

We reached Hollins Cross, but there is no cross there, or anything closely resembling a cross. However, there is a small circular cairn to mark the point, before you start to make a gradual ascent while heading for Back Tor.

Win Hill viewed from the Ridge

Back Tor, the next peak in view along the ridge, has quite a steep, but short climb to its summit, still giving you some impressive views whichever way you look.

Incidentally, I’ve been a little remiss, for over to the east is another famous summit, Win Hill, which I’ve had the pleasure of walking up twice. The first time was December 2012 where I started out from Ladybower Reservoir (you can read about that in Win Hill and its winning views!) and January 2014 where I ascended Win Hill from the west, giving a fine view of the lesser photographed side (you can read about this later one in Bamford, Hope and Win Hill)

There is some history surrounding Win Hill and Lose Hill. The two hills were tied up in a battle back in 626AD between Prince Cwichelm and his father, King Cynegils of Wessex, possibly with the aid of King Penda of Mercia.

However, there is no evidence from Anglo Saxon history to confirm such a battle took place, so it seems to be written off as a legend.

Wandering along the path, we have to cross the fence. If you carry straight on, you can continue to Lose Hill, but miss out Back Tor, I think would be a great shame to miss this fantastic little peak.

Hollins Cross Cairn

...."Back Tor, I think would be a great shame to
miss this fantastic little peak
Back Tor beckons.

For those of you who plan escape routes when route planning, you can also make an exit off the ridge back in to Castleton, either back via Mam Farm and re-join the old road, or come in to Castleton from the north.

As you start the short and steep ascent of Back Tor, you will approach what everyone calls 'the Lone Tree'. This lonely tree is probably one of the most photographed trees around. However, it is the wrong side of a barbed wire topped fence to get close to it.

...."'the Lone Tree'. This lonely tree is probably
one of the most photographed trees around

But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a photograph of the tree. It might be offended if you don’t!

From here, is the longest stretch of path before the next peak, Lose Hill. You are still given some fantastic views while walking this section.

Lose Hill incidentally, gives its name to quite a few buildings and establishments in this particular area. If you look at your map, you will Losehill Farm, Losehill Plantation and Losehill Hall to name a few.

Not something I’ve noticed with Win Hill. So if there was a battle, then Win Hill, as pleasant a walk and its views are, has lost out to Lose Hill!

As you start your ascent properly, there is a drystone wall on your right. If you are looking for a lunch spot with some respite from the weather, then here might provide that cover, before you reach the unsurprisingly exposed summit of Lose Hill.

The path from Back Tor to Lose Hill

Lose Hill summit

Here we found a relatively wind shielded spot, where we sat and had lunch, while taking in the views around us.

Whist enjoying our quiet lunch stop on Lose Hill summit, a skylark flew overhead, serenading us in full song.

Fed and watered, we started our descent from Lose Hill. Continuing our descent, the grass starts to become greener and a fence with a style appears on our right. Here you are given some more good views of the ridge and that lone tree still stands out.

Incidentally, that lone tree is still visible from our start point!

From here, we crossed the style to continue our descent down towards Castleton.

The style on your right as you descend from Lose Hill

Looking back up Lose Hill

A word of caution if you’re not very familiar with the area, while virtually any path down will get you to Hope or Castleton, to avoid any confusion, getting lost or innocently taking the wrong path thus delaying your arrival time, I fully recommend paying careful attention to your map, compass and surroundings.

Our descent route basically followed Losehill Farm, Spring House Farm, Losehill Hall to Spital Bridge, where we picked up the main road in to Castleton.

Approaching Castleton

The main street through Castleton

Three Roofs Cafe,
opposite the Peak District National Park Information Centre
Following the road in to Castleton, past the shops, then the road dog legs to the right, but we carried straight on, to do a bit of sightseeing around the memorial before heading towards the Three Roofs Café, opposite the Peak Park Information Centre, for a quick bite and cuppa.

Once nicely refreshed, we then followed the road west out of Castleton, back to Treak Cliff Cavern and then our cars.

Following the road west out of Castleton
take the right fork 

Even with the wind, it was as superb day with some great photo opportunities and walking with friends.

A map showing the route

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

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Links to some of the areas I’ve mentioned and written about here but not covered in the blogs mentioned;