I’ve had a couple of trips away of late, so this weekend I was determined to get out and get moving in prep for the upcoming Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge I’m doing (raising money for homeless charity Simon On The Streets). Saturday looked like the best day so that was the plan. A ‘proper’ walk, come what may. What I hadn’t planned for though, was just how long the (excellent) Olympics opening ceremony would go on for.. and how heavy the red wine I was drinking would be. Oops.
Saturday was therefore a bit of a slow start. And my reluctance to get up the hills wasn’t helped by the rain that started just as I was getting Brodie’s harness on. Anyway – rain,schmain – off we went, though neither of us in particularly high spirits!
I had planned (in my head) a route that would start out from the back of the garden (always a good place to start) and go straight up the hill to the catch-water near Shooters Nab above Marsden. The climb felt a bit hard this time (first time for a long time actually). I was a bit dehydrated and I was cursing myself for not drinking more water before I set off. There was approximately 10 miles ahead of us so I stopped to swig some water rather than start with a headache.
The route described a southerly, then west to north-westerly loop up above the Wessenden valley on the heritage trail and then joining the Pennine Way near the Deer Farm and heading over the moors between Swellands and Black Moss reservoirs towards the Oldham Way / Pennine Way.
The part between the Deer Farm and Swellands Res is one of my favourite parts of the moors whether rain, snow or (occasional!) blue sky. Walking down the little steep sided valley to the river (Wessenden Brook) and the wooden bridge, past the waterfall and then up the steepish hill to the phone mast (and Heritage Stone number X (can’t remember which one that is.. 11?)) is a nice little section and gets your heart going.. more so with a dog pulling you downhill sniffing out sheep and rabbits (every time).
We stopped for a quick lunch of cheese sandwich just after Black Moss res (Brodie being a bit partial to cheddar) before heading over the A62 and on to the impressive cliffs looking over Castleshaw reservoirs. I could have spent ages here poking around the interesting shapes of the rocks but would have had a bored dog to contend with.
I shot a short video near the Oldham Way / Pennine Way Cairn – Warning : terrible sound quality due to the incessant winds ..
We then headed a bit further north before turning east / south east, down Willykay Clough and down to Eastergate and the final tramp back into Marsden.
So about 10 or 11 miles in all and I had reckoned about 4.5 / 5 hours to complete. Which it turned out to be.
And after that first shower we had patchy blue skies but (very) strong winds to contend with over the first 3 or 4 hours or so (it got a bit wearing actually).
I’m glad I got out despite the initial reluctance and a few more 5+ hour walks to get fit for the 3 peaks are on the cards
If you enjoyed this post and admire my grit in fighting a mild hangover,
why not sponsor me for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks:
Our second day on Rum was going to less about height and more about distance. We were heading over to Guirdil, the other Bothy on Rum. And what a beautiful start to the day – it was blue skies from the start. The occasionally heard cuckoo from the day before had made a couple of appearances during the night, I was blaming that, rather my snoring for keeping tent partner Nigel awake.
I’m not sure of the exact distance but I think it is about 6 or 7 miles as the crow (or cuckoo) flies between Dibidil and Guirdil bothies. But we weren’t cuckoos* so the real distance covered along parts of the coastal path and via the Harris Mausoleum was about 12 miles I would guess. And the best part of a day’s walk.
(* The cuckoo became a bit of a standing joke, in moments of quiet and rest during the day, the cuckoo (we were sure it was just one, stalking us) would pipe up. And some of us live in Marsden.. a village with its own ‘cuckoo legend’. So to come up to Scotland and be stalked by a cuckoo was pretty funny. We were hoping for Eagles, we got Cuckoos.)
The route took us essentially south-east to north-west of the island and across a few rivers (burns). There was quite a bit of rough moorland (which I felt at home on) and some steep cliffs that the path shadowed in places. Not any real climbing but it was still a fair trek. All of the sea views out to the further Hebrides were fantastic. Now we were on flatter ground (although some scrambling was still needed in a couple of places) I wished I had carted my DSLR with me. Ah well.
The first place we came across from Dibidil was the abandoned hunting lodge at papadil. Which I now know (see the link on the last post) is a name associated with early celtic ecclesiastical settlements. The little lake here was really pretty and ‘exploring’ the disused lodge was interesting.. we even had a curious deer appear as we headed away from the lodge and back up hill.
The lodge itself was overgrown with Rhododendron bushes.. very much like some occasional parts of the moors where I live (Marsden, Yorkshire). Victorian land owners had a penchant for planting these shrubs near estate houses. Left to their own devices they get really big of course. When the lodge was in its heyday the hunting parties would come around the island by boat whilst the staff would head inland from Kinloch. (Quick Ad: I was told that by author of a book on walking the small isles, Pete). Now it has reverted to a wild wood as it were, with shrubs / trees growing through the lodge windows and doors.
We then flanked around Ruinsival and its fairly steep slopes and headed to Harris bay, which was about a 3 hour tramp across some occasional rocky parts but mostly moor / bog (although not at all boggy when we were there). In wet and rainy weather I’m sure this would have been a lot, lot slower to cross with some very claggy sections.
Harris itself annoyed me. I think that’s the best word for it. The mausoleum is an oversized brash thing, a testament to one family’s vanity. John Bullough had the money (made from the cotton mill industry) to aggrandise his own passing. To be fair, he wasn’t the instigator of the enforced land clearance of the original island crofters (that came before him) but the building set amongst such a lovely ‘wild’ landscape is historically both interesting and annoying at the same time.
Without the distraction of the previous day’s vertigo, I had time to think about the islands. I was actually conceived on Skye (mum and dad lived there for a year when they were first married) and my mum was Scottish. Her family were from (more latterly) southern Scotland, working class folk from around Paisley. But (having started to trace my family tree) elements of the family originated further north. I’ve been to Scotland lots of course (and lived in Paisley for a year or so aged about 10), yet I’ve never been to any of the Islands before. So being on Rum and also seeing some of the more distant isles from various advantage points over the weekend was kind of cool. I think that was why the brash Harris mausoleum annoyed me, it cut through my romanticised revelries of celtic ancestry
Anyway – one great thing about Harris was the beach, it was great to be able to take our boots off for a while and sit under a blue, warm sky! What a great place to eat and have a break.
Some of the guys even had a paddle, to soothe those aching feet
I should mention that getting photos on the last 2 days (we had a 4 day trip in all) was thanks to a solar charger thing I bought recently. I’ve done kit review as it really worked out well. (see separate post).
From Harris we then had about 4 hours of hike across a mix of moors and also some rock / scree fields. And part of the route brought us pretty close to some very steep cliffs .. we kept back for the most part but there were a couple of places (around ominously named Wreck Bay) where you got some excellent views. Mr Vertigo kept a couple of feet back from the very very edge of course.
There had been some evidence of deer (and also some goats that I think live on Rum?) wherever we went – but that was mostly in the form of droppings and ticks. The ticks themselves were not so obvious on this particular day – more on the following, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Real deer evidence came around the Wreck Bay headland area where Steve picked up a really nice antler. Which was proudly strapped to his rucksack for the rest of the trip.
Speaking of evidence of wildlife.. I meant to mention on the previous post that sections of the Cuillins were riddled with burrows for what I think were Manx Shearwaters. The evidence being the holes themselves and lots of bird droppings. But of the birds, no sign. I’m guessing they were out at sea before coming back for the nesting season?
There was then a longish schlep across rough moors before we crossed Bealach an dubh-bhraigh and found our way towards Glen Guirdil.
The glen itself is really impressive, with Orval (at about 570 metres) imposing itself at the head of the glen over to our right as we walked down the steep glen flanks, in what was the beginning of late afternoon sun. The glen is steep-sided and the river at the bottom (Guirdil River) gets really full in wet / winter weather I believe. Thankfully it wasn’t in spate when we picked our way eventually across it after a long descent into the valley. It must get bad though as there are crossing suggestions posted on the notice board in the bothy. Up and behind us (and with the soundtrack of yet another Cuckoo) was a fenced off plantation and behind that, Bloodstone Hill. The hill dominated the view from the Bothy once we got to it.
Giuirdil Bothy was, for me, the more interesting of the two Bothies. I think the location, right on the edge of a bay, and the collection of derelict / collapsed building next to it make it really interesting. The guest book tells of the regular visits of deer down to the seashore. We did have a couple appear at twilight but they stayed behind the bothy , not straying onto the beach itself. But I think there is (or was) a stag called Brutus (if I remember the name rightly) who is a beach comber on occasion.
We decided to bivvy again rather than use the empty bothy but it was the base for the evening meal prep and also the place to stay warm in the rapidly cooling late evening air. We gathered up a lot of dried seaweed with one of the flotsam fishing crates, which we replenished again in the morning for the next visitors. The dried seaweed burned really well in the old fireplace and after a long day’s hike it was great to sit and chat with some candles lit and a fire on the go.
I would happily spend a week or two based at the bothy to get into the place and it’s quietness. And having a deer mooch about as you eat your breakfast outside can’t be bad.
Ah, update on Brutus. I just googled to check I’d got the name from the guest book right.. and turns out he’s a TV celeb. As seen on Autumn Watch on the BBC apparently:
So, that was the second day on Rum. Really enjoyable.
I’ll write up day 3 separately, it was essentially a hike across to Kinloch, dodging ticks (some of us) and eventually eating cake (all of us) without any climb or much elevation but for the sake of completeness I’ll do a quick post when I can.
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!
As I out was on a walk on Sunday, taking some photos (below) and musing over why Pule Hill is the shape it is, I felt a bit like the guy from Close Encounters – focusing on his mashed potato mountain. The ‘mountain’ in this case was said hill, I’m not sure what classification of hill it is (I’d need to check the exact height) but mountain it certainly isn’t. I’m not obsessed by it as such but I kept it pretty much in sight for the whole of the walk and used it as pivot to base an improvised route around.
Anyway, back to the walk. After a couple of (really nice) busy weekends / trips away, I’ve missed the hills and giving the dog a long trip out. I’ve also been really conscious that I’m heading up to Rum in a few weeks time and I need to be a LOT fitter for that.. so I headed out on sunday for a leg stretch. I vaguely planned to end up Pule Hill and see Simon Armitage’s sculpture / poem , which I only found out about recently.
That said : I only had about 3 hours spare – the afternoon held a pre-arranged trip over to my dad’s (but I’m going to do the 5 – 6 walk along parts of the Pennine Way to his place again soon) so doing a decent walk and getting up to the top was a bit ambitious, particularly as I started by heading in the opposite direction.
I started out heading out of the house, up the footpath behind us and as mentioned, in the opposite direction to Pule, as that’s the easiest way to gain height for me.. up toward (but not as far as) Deer Hill reservoir to meet the catchwater path there:
The path was strewn in places with loads of spawn : not sure if it was Frog, Toad, Newt , Moors Dragon – any eagle eyed blog readers know?
We followed the path as it turned into the Heritage Trail, round to waymarker stone ‘number 9′. I still don’t have a definitive list or map to explain why these stones are in the specific positions they are. They seem to denote particular views (or historic events?) but I can’t find any info online or in leaflets that explains the spacing or location of them. Number 9 gives a great view over Butterley res across to Pule Hill though:
From here we headed south along the heritage Trail before we took the short and steep path down hill on our right to the Deer farm at Wessenden Lodge. The deer looked lovely in the sunshine, albeit in a fenced off space.
There was a short section walking back towards Marsden down the valley before we cut down a steep path on the left, which is the Pennine Way and then onto the paved section across the moors toward Swellands and Black Moss Reservoirs. This was pretty much the only part of the walk where we couldn’t see Pule Hill (had the mothership landed?! Quick! I had to get it back in view!! .. enough of the Close Encounters nonsense, sorry).
It was really tranquil on this section, the sun was out and thoughts of work/money worries (for another time) disappeared.. open spaces, wide skies and spring warmth kind of quieten the mind. Even the dog wasn’t pulling , less rabbit or hare scents maybe and certainly no sheep to feel compelled to chase (which is why she’s always on a harness and lead up there).
I grabbed some short ‘footage ‘ of the space up near Swellands.. gives you a feel for the area if you’ve never been there (the audio was poor so I added some music with Youtube’s new instant soundtrack thingy .. ever the geek):
We cut around Swellands res and past another reservoir – Redbrook. Keeping that to my left I picked up a really faint track away from the well-worn path that seemed to aim straight to the bottom (south-facing) side of Pule. It got a little bit boggy in parts but we got to the base of Pule (and Mount Road) at which point I decided not to head up it but to complete the trip downhill and home.
I was running out of time, so the poetry stone and a general mooch around the top up there will have to wait.
Turns out I wasn’t the only hiking blogger using Pule as a waymarker or pivot this weekend – have a read of Paul’s Walking blog.
We seemed to have circumnavigated oposote sides of Pule in circular walks .. doing a figure of eight and possibly at the same time.
- Keep Our Rights of Way Open (stravaigerjohn.wordpress.com)
“Let’s go off road today” .. silent stare … Yep I talk to my dog but sometimes forget she isn’t Scooby Doo. Though she can sound like Chewbacca when she is begging for food.
Much of my walking is done in my own back yard, the moors and hills that form a horseshoe around my home town of Marsden. And pretty much all of that is done following well-trodden paths.
Some of them are paved (which can actually be.a.bad.thing as attested by my mate Steve http://steventuck.wordpress.com/2012/02/18/ouch/), some gravel and some occasionally water-logged and river-like. But all are well trodden and published. One or two stretches go way back past clog wearing times to Roman days. Fact.
But it’s good ring the changes sometimes and go off path, which is what I felt like doing last Sunday.
So Chewy and I headed up (on pretty much a road) to the quarries above Marsden near Dear Hill Moss. But rather than wind my way around one of the hills up high, I walked straight up it.. just to see what was there. I was corralled to some extent by the fence that marks out where the local shooting range is. I’ve seen people on the wrong side of the fence in the past, climbing some of the impressive quarry rocks. But you’ve got to be mad to (a) climb (imho) and (b) do that inside a designated rifle range space. Double adrenaline rush.
Anyway, keeping to the right side of the range fence, I made my own way up high. What was up there on the tops, above some of the published paths (like the Colne Valley circular, the Wessenden path and the Pennine Way) was another path, of sorts, in places.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. These moors have been worked and walked for a really long time. Lots of people before me had obviously fancied a mooch around on high, away from where the (sometimes pretty busy with mountain bikers and hikers) ‘proper paths’ are.
I’m assuming that a lack of paths up high would probably have been for historical reasons – other than sheep there would have been no reason for people to wander about on the remoter moors stretches. The quarries all have paths leading to and fro but obviously they point downhill.
But lack of paths means a relatively undisturbed environment for the fauna and flora .. and I was conscious that I shouldn’t disturb that. So seeing the outline of a couple of paths was probably a good thing .. I stayed within the constraints of their grass flattened routes whist still feeling I was in a wilder space. I didn’t tramp across spaces where birds may well have been nesting in preparation for all that spring brings.
All I could hear was the sound of wind in some of the winter-dried grasses. Actually – I did stray at one point when even the faint path I’d picked up disappeared.. and stepped into a boggy area , one leg went knee-deep in to brackish / peaty water. A reminder that things can get tricky up on high.
Finally, a couple of curiosities I noticed on the walk :
There was a stone marker (see photo) pointing back across the moors .. I’m not sure what it denotes though. “CA”? Catchment Area (for water)? “Curious Aliens” (another Yorkshire moors hot spot maybe?)
Also .. I noticed someone had neatly cut through the rifle range fencing .. a clean-cut, with the fence rolled backwards. Strange. Stranger still in that the fence itself actually stopped about 200 yards further along the moors! A short-sighted naturalist protester?
So, I didn’t truly walk wild – but it was a path less trodden. I navigated my way eventually back down to the ‘heritage trail’ path that shadows the lower Wessenden valley path.
- The Pennine Way: Edale to Marsden (jonmaiden.wordpress.com)