Black Hill and back – a sunny, boggy, grouse filled hike
Yesterday I finally did a route I’d looked at a while back but for various reasons not fully completed. And I had the best of the weekend weather as it turned out .. witness my slightly red forehead now
The route starts and ends in Marsden, taking in the Wessenden Valley and part of the Pennine Way into the Peak District and up to Black Hill. Then turning back to White Moss above Marsden and heading back down the Wessenden Valley. Although I changed the last part as I was getting pretty weary after a longer than expected bog-trot where the path disappeared for quite a while. More of that in a bit.
This map was created with the excellent Viewranger web / app service and gives you the details. I’m not great with the mapping tool yet and could probably lose some of the green way points I created. What’s great though is that the map is then synced to my phone to act as a GPS device – and it’s really accurate. As I found out when we did Scafell Pike and I found a path that was just a couple of feet away but not visible above us.
I modified the route slightly (to start on a higher path than they suggested) from one I picked up from another site: http://www.peakdistrictinformation.com/outdoors/walk1.php .
Also, here are some more details on Black Hill if you’re interested:
http://www.peakdistrictinformation.com/features/blackhill.php . Actually I’ve posted about a trip to Black Hll before : http://halfwayhike.com/2012/01/22/on-top-of-3-counties-a-schlep-up-black-hill/.
So, the walk itself:
It’s a fairly long schlep at about 12.5 miles (but felt like more on the bog section!) and I deliberately added a steepish (as much as you can get around here anyway) incline at the start to get myself out of breath early on. I wanted to be a bit more in the zone for an imminent trip to Rum, which will be with guys who are way fitter than me.
I had really good weather, much better than I expected and that probably made the walk (perversely) slower than it would have been – I’m a sucker for a photo opportunity! So if it had been raining I would have just ploughed on. Below are photos from the walk in chronological order, giving you a feel for the whole route I hope.
I’m lucky to have a footpath that runs next to our garden gate and straight up to the hills. It branches just ahead of the shot.. right to head straight to the Heritage Trail above the Wessenden valley.. or straight on up to some farm houses and for a steeper climb up to ‘the tops’. Which means, in effect, going in the opposite direction to the planned route.. But to then turn right higher up and start heading in the correct direction.
After about 40 minutes of walking and now on the high path, I stopped to swig some water and spotted a lovely red/rusty coloured hawk (maybe a Red Kite , not sure if they are prevalent in this part of the country?) hovering above the field to my side. I don’t have a good enough lens on my DSLR (I used that and the camera phone for these photos).. so I just grabbed an image of the area anyway.
Lots of the walls and culvert bridges have collapsed up there, a real shame but times change and sheep farming probably doesn’t justify the expense of rebuilding all that stone nowadays.
We saw surprisingly few sheep this time round..I think most are down in the lower fields with the lambs?
It meant the dog was less giddy than usual. What was funny is that when she saw this lamb (and she’s always on a lead, don’t worry).. she mewled like she does when she sees cats. She loves cats .. to play with (when she’s been close enough to any in the past). Cats and Lambs seem to be in a different (more maternal maybe?) category for her than rabbits!
After coming down off the Heritage Trail and joining the Pennine way we walked up to Wessenden Head then across the A635 to start the section up to Black Hill. And that meant passing the mobile food truck that is often parked there. We didn’t have a bacon sandwich this time as I’d brought food with me. And we (yep, the dog included) had had bacon for breakfast to set us up. I’m more than capable of having bacon sarnies twice in one morning but I wanted to crack on.. so straight past the temptations (and lovely smell, even from a few yards away) of the van and back onto the path heading south to Black Hill..
We had a quick lunch in a river valley before heading on (and up) to Black Hill. The sun was out and it got pretty warm out of the wind. In fact the wind was feature for much of the day but luckily the rain wasn’t
I shot a quick film..more to test out a couple of things on youtube (the embed video feature seems to sometimes work and sometimes not.. so I’m just adding straight links for the moment) so feel free to skip it.. but it gives you an idea of the countryside on this part of the walk.
We inadvertently flushed out a lot of grouse on the way up to the top, we stayed on the stone path but they were resting / hiding (or nesting) pretty close to it and we must have caused about a dozen explosions of flapping wings and shrill shouts of protest as we walked by. They made me jump every time, so much for using hiking as a way to keep my hereditary high BP low :-/
And squawking and flapping is not the cleverest tactic in my view, no wonder so many are bagged each year by hunters. If they stayed still we could have been within inches and I don’t think the dog would have noticed them.
The grouse zone was soon behind us though and the path to the summit of Black Hill was marked by a few cairns, probably useful in snow but the path was really clearly defined (being mostly paving slabs) as we ascended.
The trig point itself was a lot more hospitable than the last time we were up at it, although it was pretty windy! And the clouds looked like they were ready to drop a load of rain on us at that point.
Another quick swig of water and then I tried to locate the correct path off the point and down / north-west towards the A635 again. But that path unlike the paved one near it, was really hard to locate. Mostly under water as it turned out. Note : the section coming off Black Hill back down to White Moss is very boggy. Even on a sunny day (as it was) the rain from a few days before made it very difficult to traverse in places. There are occasional posts sticking out of the peat on grass knolls as approximate path guides but caution is required. If it had rained heavily I would have stopped after the first few minutes as the area would have been a quagmire for sure.
Another quick film .. of this section of the walk before we hit bog-central.
Actually before we got to the really boggy part we came across some areas that still had accumulated snow from a few days ago.. showing how cold it can be up there.
And onto the bog section. No photos from here as I was too focussed on keeping Brodie out of deep mud/peat and me not up to my gaiters in the same. Which meant a lot of long leg stretches from grassy knoll to grassy knoll and a lot of traversing of saturated gullies. The posts mark out the general line to follow but you kind of have to zig zag a lot to follow them.. otherwise you area straight into a sludge pool. As I said (and is mentioned on another site I saw) this really is a route for sunnier / drier days (or hard frost/ice days) only. NOT to be tried in really wet weather or poor visibility imho.
Actually there was one photo I took on this section, I spotted a tray pinned under a stone, close to the path. It looked to all intents and purposes like cat litter?! I’m sure it’s part of a survey thing possibly used by Natural England the Peak District National Trust guys? Any ideas anyone?
After the bog jumping section and pretty slow progress we made it down to the A635 again and a short walk along that always-busy road then onto the path that crosses White Moss. It looks to me like the path has been diverted slightly. It used to have wood planking to bridge the boggiest sections, if I’m right, but is now pretty much all paving slabs like elsewhere on the Pennine Way. I’m not sure how the slabs are brought up this high on the (often boggy) moors.. possibly helicopter-ed in or on tracked vehicles I guess. One of the things that often strikes me as I write these posts is that I really don’t know much about the fauna, flora or man-made artefacts of these managed estates!
The map of the route shows that we wojld have turned right off White Moss and tracked (on a clear path) back down to the Wessenden valley and then walked along the reservoirs back into the village,. But I’ve done that section a couple of times recently so instead we walked past Black Moss reservoir on the Pennine Way towards Redbrook reservoir, turning right / north east there and heading down hill on Mount Road into the village. A slightly quicker final leg back actually as my feet were aching and a cup of tea was in order!