The Pennine Way Revisited - 1994

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 9 - Mankinholes to Crowden

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Day 15 - Sunday 26th June - Mankinholes to Standedge - 11.5 miles on PW + 1.5 miles from/to accommodation - 950 ft ascent + 430 ft from YHA

Accommodation: Globe Farm Bunk House - 17 full meals

I got a good night's sleep with breakfast at 8.15 a.m. I was in no rush to get away as I had only a short day's walk and the weather was not very inviting, having turned overcast and windy. The warden actually remembered me from three years ago, which was quite surprising considering all the people who stay at the hostel, although he did say that he had been away from wardenning for much of that time. I eventually set off at 9.45 a.m. and headed back up the steep hillside to rejoin the Pennine Way.

There were a few spots of rain, but the cloud level was quite high so there were still fair views. The moors around here were covered in cotton grass which was in full flower making it look almost as if there had been a scattering of snow with some quite dense patches of white in places. The big difference between here and the Northern Pennine moors is that there are far fewer birds about. There were hardly any birds to be seen in the sky, although some could be heard in the grass, whereas further north the sky is alive with curlews and lapwings. The predominant feature on the landscape starts to become the pylons, rows of which can be seen over many of the hillsides. Down in the valley can be seen the urban sprawl of Rochdale, although the view along the valley to the north is quite attractive. The walk by the Warland and Light Hazzels reservoirs was not very inspiring, as they are built on the rather flat moor top and looked very black and uninviting in the overcast conditions, making the 'no swimming' notices rather superfluous.

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Blackstones Edge
Blackstones Edge
Looking North West from Blackstones Edge
NW from Blackstones Edge

I stopped for a break at 11.15 a.m. by the end of Light Hazzels Reservoir where I found some shelter from the cold wind by a large boulder. Even so I was still feeling quite cold, so I put on the next level of protection, which was my waterproof jacket on top of my pullover. Passing the White House pub at noon, the smell of Sunday lunches being cooked was far more tempting than my Y.H.A. packed lunch, but I resisted the temptation and walked by towards Blackstone Edge, where the weather started to take a turn for the better with a bit of sunshine and less of a bite to the wind. I had lunch at the summit from which Stoodley Pike was still quite clearly visible. Looking through the binoculars I could see a wind farm to the north with about 24 wind driven generators. Down in the valley, yet another big mill was in the process of being demolished.

There were quite a few walkers about, mostly just out for the day, but just as I was setting off again I met two chaps who had walked over sixteen miles from Crowden by 1.30 p.m. They were bemoaning the evils of Kinder Scout and Black Hill, which perturbed me somewhat as I do a lot of my weekend walks around there and find it very enjoyable. However, they had taken the original route over the desolate area of peat in the middle of the plateau, rather than the currently recommended route round the edge which gives much better views and offers a firm, easy to follow path. The original route, although a mile shorter, is difficult enough even in good weather, and in bad weather can be a nightmare.

Further on, after crossing the M62 motorway, I stopped on White Hill for a last look at Stoodley Pike, which takes a bit of finding amidst all the pylons, but is still quite clear through binoculars. The upturn in the weather was short-lived with the cloud thickening, the wind gathering in strength and spotting with rain. Another chap came by on his way from Crowden to the White House.

At Standedge there was a pleasant change of scenery from bare moorland to green valleys, albeit that they were spoiled in places by pylons and other developments. After lingering for as long as I cared to do in the strong wind I made my way down to Globe Farm at 4.30 p.m. The bunk house is open from 4 p.m. so I was able to take shelter inside, and found that I had the place to myself for the night. That surprised me, as anyone setting off from Edale on Saturday would be likely to get here today, although the ones I saw earlier on were pressing on beyond here, not wanting to stop after only 12 miles. Dinner was at 6 p.m. and I had soup, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, and blackcurrant pie with ice cream. The roast dinner was not quite up to the standards of home but was still pretty good and plentiful - they have to be forgiven as they are at the wrong side of the Pennines for making Yorkshire puddings. Two young chaps came in a bit later for a meal. They were camping here, and were finding it a bit hard going getting used to carrying 45 lb packs.

I called at the Floating Light later on and met the two campers who were just leaving as I arrived. The pub was quite busy despite being a roadside inn quite a way from the nearest town. Obviously a lot of people still drive out in the country for a drink still, despite the tightening up on drinking and driving these days.

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Day 16 - Monday 27th June - Standedge to Crowden - 11 miles on PW + 1.3 miles from/to accommodation - 1500 ft ascent + 110 ft from B&B

Accommodation: Crowden Y.H.A. - 15.10 full meals

After a good night's sleep I had the Globe Farm breakfast, which is of great renown amongst Pennine Wayfarers. It consisted of fruit juice, either grapefruit or cereals, then egg, bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms, black pudding, beans and fried bread, followed by toast and marmalade. Chatting with the landlady, it ensued that the lady from Sheffield had stayed there on the Friday night, arriving quite late in the evening, and was wondering whether to walk the whole 27 miles to Edale the next day. There was no news of her boots, so it is still a mystery as to whether the old ones managed to last out or whether she had been forced into buying some new ones on the way.

I got off to another leisurely start at about 9.30 a.m. with mist just hanging to the top of Standedge (about 1300 ft), but looking as if it might clear later. There was not much sign of activity from the two campers, although I could hear their voices from within their tent, so they were probably trying to summon up enthusiasm to get started. I made my way by the reservoirs over the moors, which do not give rise to any particularly good views as they lie near the moor tops. The cloud started lifting, so it made for quite good walking conditions. As I dropped down into the Wessenden Valley, however, there was a change to much more dramatic scenery with steep sided valleys and streams with waterfalls all brightened up by patches of sunshine. Walking along the path I came face to face with a cow, which was not unusual except for the fact that it did not move but held its ground making me have to skirt around it. Only then did I realise that it was a small bull and not a cow. However, it didn't take any more notice of me, but it did make me a little bit more wary about what animals were around.

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Blakeley Reservoir
Blakeley Reservoir
Waterfall near Wessenden Reservoirs
Waterfall at Wessenden
Wessenden Reservoir
Wessenden Reservoir

At 11 a.m I stopped for a break by the side of a small waterfall. There was no point in arriving at Crowden in the middle of the afternoon, so I may as well stop at any pleasant spot that took my fancy. The weather kept on improving, and by the time I went past the Wessenden Reservoirs and headed towards Black Hill it was beautifully sunny and warm, so I stopped in a sheltered spot and had lunch and sunbathed for an hour and a half. The route to the summit was quite easy, as the peat was dry enough to walk across in most places; even the trig point was easy to reach. Although this is a peaty wilderness and hated by most Pennine Wayfarers, it does still have a certain charm, especially when the weather is fine, even though Wainwright said that he loved all hills, except for Black Hill, but there again, he didn't like much of the Pennine Way either.

On the way towards the summit I met a group of about five Pennine Way walkers, and at the summit there was a fairly elderly lady with two young ladies, presumably her daughters. One of them was carrying a large pack with camping gear and was walking the Pennine Way as far as Horton-in-Ribblesdale before heading for the Lake District. She intended to stay the night at Globe Farm and was going via the old Pennine Way route over the featureless peat bogs of Saddleworth Moor, even though I tried to persuade her that the Wessenden route was far more scenic and less boggy. The extra mile and the extra bit of climbing involved by dropping further down the valley put her off. It turned out that the other two had come up to help her celebrate her birthday and, having walked with her to Black Hill, returned to Crowden and back home.

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Peaty Summit of Black Hill
Summit of Black Hill
Longdendale and Crowden from Laddow Rocks
Laddow Rocks

The route down from Black Hill was quite boggy in places, but didn't provide any real problems. I had another stop at Laddow Rocks to admire the view of Longdendale although the sky had by then clouded over. I was passed by a chap who was walking from John O'Groats to Land's End taking in as many of the National Trails as convenient on the way, and who was also heading for Crowden Youth Hostel. I arrived at the hostel at 5.30 p.m. and found it again to be very quiet, with only a handful of people staying there. Dinner at 7.30 p.m. consisted of soup, steak and kidney pie and apple crumble and was very nicely cooked.

The nearest pub to Crowden is about 4 miles away, so I had a stroll around outside but didn't stay long as there were swarms of midges about. I went back inside and had a chat with some of the others who were staying there. One chap had walked up from Reading and intended to walk the Pennine Way, then hitch further up Scotland before walking back down again. The chap I had met at Laddow Rocks was very interesting and I spent quite a while talking to him.

He was retired from his job of checking maps for the Ordnance Survey, which gave him the advantage of having a complete set of maps (even if they had a few mistakes in them) and must have saved him quite a bit of money. He came from Portsmouth and had attempted the walk the other way previously but gave up after a while. This time he had cut down quite a bit on the weight he was carrying and had also planned a couple of short breaks in the walk to meet up with members of his family, to act as a morale booster. In Scotland he had been averaging 25 or more miles a day, although that was mostly on roads, but he was not doing much less on the Pennine Way. He started at John O'Groats on 2nd June having got up there quite quickly on only two or three coaches as opposed to my five to travel a third of the distance. On the way down the Pennine Way he diverted to Preston to spend a day's rest with his daughter, walked with her and her husband the next day and then continued on his own again.

He was a member of the Long Distance Walkers' Club and had met many of the famous walkers such as John Hillaby and John Merrill, who has walked the 6000 mile coastline of Britain amongst his 100,000 miles of walking. He also met another chap who had done the same, but had also walked around all the islands as well. The accommodation and food costs can be quite considerable on long walks, so he was trying to keep to about 10 a day by using a mixture of hostels and camping, and also by mainly making his own meals, so that the total cost for the walk would be about 500. One chap whose advice he asked said he lived on 2 a day, but he lived a very frugal existence. He would walk until dusk after stopping along the way to make his meal, then throw up his tent in the nearest field. In the morning he would be up again at dawn and would pack up his tent and walk for a way before having breakfast. That way he could camp for nothing without being noticed.

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