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 10 - Crowden to Finish|
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The last day of my walk was beautifully sunny and warm, just as the start had been. After breakfast I said goodbye to a couple of other chaps I had met in the hostel who were walking north to Globe Farm. I made a slight detour to take a photograph, so met them again coming towards me when I rejoined the way again. In order to add as much variety as possible in an area where I have done a lot of walking, I took the old route of the Pennine Way from Crowden to the end of Torside Reservoir. This goes part way up the hillside instead of by the side of the reservoir and gave a better view of Longdendale. The steep ascent up by Torside Clough was hot work, but improved higher up as there was more of a breeze. I pressed on at quite a good pace as I didn't want to be too late getting to Edale and I was feeling refreshed after two days of easy walking. After a few miles my feet felt as if they were burning so I stopped by a stream and dipped them in for a while, and this refreshed me nicely.
I made my way over Bleaklow without any problems - the way the
route is now marked it almost completely avoids any peat by
following the firm bottoms of groughs and stream beds. It is now
possible to cross the once notorious Bleaklow and hardly get your
boots dirty - if you tread in any peat you know you have gone the
wrong way, and this has mainly been achieved by searching out the
best natural route rather than by extensive path work, although
there is some of this on the ascent and descent. This easy route
over Bleaklow is, however, at the expense of scenery. There are
small paths round the edge of Bleaklow that give much better
views, but these are seldom seen by Pennine Way walkers who stay
on the marked route and consequently this part is generally
viewed with little affection. I didn't make any detours myself as
I have plenty of chances to do these on day walks, so I headed
down Devil's Dike towards the crossing of the A57 Snake Road,
where I was accosted by a young woman doing a survey.
She asked various questions about travel to and from the Pennine Way, what accommodation I was using and how much of the walk I was doing. She was very pleased to find that I had come all the way as I was the first one she had interviewed to have done so. The main part of the survey was to find out what people thought of various types of path improvements that had been made and I was asked to give marks out of 10 to a series of colour photographs which had been so badly faded in the sunlight that they were difficult to tell apart. The young woman was quite keen to walk the Pennine Way herself, but was a bit dismayed when I told her how much some of the bed and breakfasts cost. She had helped in laying a couple of miles of stone slabs from where we were towards Mill Hill. I tactfully suggested that it might have been better just to lay them over the bad bits where they were really needed rather than in a continuous line. She said that when this had been suggested previously, whoever was organising the work said that if they did that they would only have to come back later to fill in the bits in between.
She also found it quite incredible that many people were still walking the original routes over Kinder and Saddleworth Moor despite the fact that these ceased to be the official routes several years ago. What she didn't take into account is that many walkers favour the Wainwright Guide which shows these as the normal routes and the others as alternatives. What also deters people is that each of the new routes adds about a mile of walking, which many people are loath to do, even if the routes are easier to follow and have better scenery.
I made my way along the path she had helped to build and was quite glad when the stones came to an end and I was walking on peaty ground again, although I did appreciate the help they gave over the boggy sections. There were several walkers around Mill Hill and on the northern edge of Kinder, where I stopped for lunch. It was still very warm, but the wind was so strong near the edge that when I started to drink from a cup, half of the water blew away out of my mouth. I was pestered by some sheep as soon as I got my food out. Some of them have become a real nuisance because of people giving them food and have to be chased away quite vigorously before they will leave you alone.
After Kinder Downfall, which was dry, I decided to take the original route straight across the plateau for a change. The basic idea behind this route is to follow the Kinder River up to its source and then pick up the source of Grinds Brook over the other side. The only problem with this is there are hundreds of groughs draining into either of these and also into watercourses going in other directions, so it requires a bit of skill and also a bit of luck to find the right ones. As for the mass of peat in the middle, that was not a problem in dry weather like now, but after heavy rain it can become a complete quagmire. I was relying, rather over-confidently, on my own knowledge of this area as this was not shown in my guide book, no longer being the recommended route. I found my way easily beside the Kinder River, but then was unsure which route to take when it came to a fork, so I followed a set of footprints straight on rather than turning to the left as I should have done. When all signs of a path ran out I just kept heading roughly south which I thought was the right direction, instead of west which was the proper direction, and eventually followed a stream down to a point which was about a mile or two west of where I should have been. Having retraced this route later, the fork to the left in the Kinder River, which I should have taken, leads to a much more clearly defined path for a while, but then it degenerates into a free-for-all across the peat, with boot prints going in every direction from all the people who have been going round in circles, lost. However, on this later occasion I did manage to find my way roughly, but not exactly to the right place.
Having reached the southern edge of the Kinder Plateau I thought I would still walk round to Grinds Brook and descend to Edale that way. On the way I detoured along a ridge to take some photographs, thinking it was Grindslow Knoll and thinking that I could then drop down from there to Edale. Unfortunately it was a ridge too soon and I ended up scrambling down Crowden Clough and making my way round the hillside to join the recommended route for the last mile into Edale, which I reached at 4.10 p.m. It is quite ironical that the place where I got most lost was the area I should know the best, but then this came about because I was too blasť in assuming that I knew it well enough not to need a map. Still nothing really was lost; all it meant was that I came on a route half way between the two routes and I even saw a few views I had not seen before such as the Wool Packs rocks.
Wool Packs on Kinder Scout
Unfortunately the Nag's Head, which is the official start of
the Pennine Way (or finish) was closed, so I couldn't even have a
celebratory pint, which I could have done with in the hot weather.
I took a photograph of myself outside of the pub and then headed
down to the station to see about a train. The 4.25 p.m. was just
going as I arrived and the next one (I thought) was at 5.25 p.m.
I seemed to have lost my T-shirt, which had been tucked under the
straps of my rucksack, so I went back up to the Nag's Head
thinking I might have dropped it there. I couldn't see any sign
of it there, so I returned to the station to wait for the train,
calling in the Gents on the way to change into other clothes for
travelling back. When no train arrived at 5.25 p.m. I consulted
the timetable again to find that the 5.25 p.m. was on Saturdays
only and that the next one was at 5.57 p.m., and even that
arrived 25 minutes late. The connection to Doncaster and the bus
home both involved some waiting so it was 9.15 p.m. before I got
home to a big welcome and a dinner that Jean had been keeping
warm for hours thinking that I would get home much sooner.
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All in all the walk went much as I had expected; the schedule worked out quite well with the longest day or two being fairly taxing and the shorter days being easy, which meant that it was quite well balanced and enjoyable. As I had expected, the most enjoyable parts were when the weather was fine and the scenery was good, although I was still able to enjoy the lesser scenery and the walking in all but the worst conditions I met. The weather was not quite as kind to me as on some of my previous walks, with somewhat more rain and some very strong winds, but on the whole I had more fair or good weather than bad.
The thing that surprised me most of all about the walk was how few other people I met who were doing it. Some days I saw two or less, and I considered it a busy day if I saw six or more. When one thinks of all the fuss there is about erosion because of the thousands who walk the Pennine Way, it doesn't seem to ring true. However, a friend of mine was walking on Mill Hill a few weeks later and saw a group of about 50 people who were obviously on their first day of the walk. The difference comes when the colleges and schools start their holidays and students set off in their masses. This also explains the age profile of people that I have met on all of my walks which had led me to believe that the average age was about 50. During late July and August this probably drops to about 20 or less.
The advantage of walking in June is that the weather is generally drier and fresher than in July or August, although the English weather patterns are so unpredictable that there is always an element of chance involved. The fact that so few other people are walking then adds to the enjoyment of the walk itself but means that there is less chance of having company in the evenings. The fact that so many school parties choose June to have outings and educational trips in the more popular areas puts a strain on Y.H.A. accommodation and also at this time of year many hostels close for one day a week. This puts up the cost of the walk because of the need to stay in more B&B accommodation, which is also not usually as sociable for the lone walker, although they are generally more comfortable and provide better meals. As it was, the total cost of the walk including accommodation, food, travel to the start and from the finish, and incidental costs along the way such as telephone calls and drinks, worked out at about £350.
By doing the walk in the opposite direction from normal I achieved what I had set out to do, which was to make it as different as possible from the first time. The negative side to this was that I mainly met other walkers very briefly, either in passing along the way, or for one evening in the hostels, so never had chance to build up the camaraderie which can be so nice on these walks, although I did meet up briefly with a much larger number of them. For anyone doing the walk for the first time I think the normal way is preferable from the point of view that the scenery gets better in general to the north, with none of the industrial influence that creeps in to areas of the Southern Pennines. As it is generally better to have the scenery improve as the walk goes on, the south-north direction is preferable, not to mention the fact that route finding from the guide books is then much easier (although someone has published a guide book for the north to south direction).
As far as doing the walk for the second time is concerned, there are some advantages and some disadvantages. I definitely think that the Pennine Way is a good enough walk to deserve a second visit, as it offers such a variety of scenery, taking in some of the best walking county in England, outside of the Lake District. There is also the possibility that places which suffered bad weather first time round may have better weather second time around, and this was true for me in a number of places. Equally well, the opposite is true as I found on Great Shunner Fell, where I had a beautiful, clear, sunny day on the first walk, but mist and rain on this one. The differences in weather all help to add a touch of variety, so that the second walk does not seem too much of a repeat of the first one. One of the disadvantages is, of course, that there are no real surprises second time around but, as I have said before, this tends to make one take more interest in all aspects of the way and also to look out for things which may have been missed previously.
Having walked the Pennine Way twice now, I think it will be some time before I get the urge to do it again, although it is a bit too early yet to be sure. There is something about the Pennine Way which appeals to me; possibly the remoteness of much of the walk, and the minimal amount of road walking. The one point where I must disagree with Wainwright is when he says of the Pennine Way "This is not a great walk", because I think it is, even if the scenery doesn't always match up to that in the Lake District. However, the lure of somewhere new is likely to influence the choice of my next walk, although I have not come across another one yet which has all the characteristics which appeal to me. Many walks stay too much on lower ground for my liking, whilst some others are a bit too remote, with the need to carry camping equipment. Some of the coastal walks seem very attractive, but I have reservations about whether they might become monotonous after the first few days. Another alternative is to invent a walk to one's own liking using public footpaths on Ordnance Survey maps, but somehow this doesn't quite seem the same as doing a recognised walk, even if it takes in better scenery. Still, it gives me something to think about over the winter!
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