We were staying with Debbie’s parents for the weekend so I decided to spend the Sunday walking as many of the peaks as possible from The Derbyshire Top Ten by Brian Smailes. The route starts from Edale and that caused me a couple of problems before I had even got going. First of all the very steep road down into Edale was icy and there were a few times when I feared my brakes were not going to stop me in time; and then I got to the car park and found that despite the information from various online sources, it does charge on a Sunday, and it only takes coins. So I ended up walking for a mile and a half and spending some valuable daylight time finding somewhere that could give me change, although I will not include that mile and a half in the route distances I use in the rest of this blog. The parking cost me £5 for the day, because although the station car park would only have cost £2.50, it did look more secluded and less busy, so I decided the village car park would be a safer bet for leaving a car for the day.
I wrapped up against the cold, even putting on my gloves, and eventually got going at 0925, some time later than I had hoped to be setting off. I was initially repeating my route to obtain change for the parking meter, which was a little annoying, coming out of the car park and turning up the hill under the railway towards Edale village, passing the lovely church on my left before I came to the Old Nag’s Head pub, the official start of the Pennine Way. I turned left and followed the sign for the Pennine Way, going through a gate between the cottages and a stream, and taking the path until I reached another signpost. It would be the last signpost I would see that day. This one directed me to Grindslow Knoll, though the path to it was very obvious anyway. And very steep, as it would be taking me from 235m up to 619m in a relatively short distance. I was walking across fields until I passed some sheep and went through a gate which took me on to Access Land and a track which then cut across the hillside above a small wood, while behind me I was leaving some excellent views of Edale and the surrounding hills.
I was walking under the sun but the wind was blowing and it was getting colder as I made my ascent, and I did notice some ice and frost on the ground. I passed the ruins of a wall as I wound round the side of the hill and came to another gate which just beyond it had two cairns of stones either side of the path. I went through the gate and began the final assault on the peak along the rocky path, eventually coming round to my left to find the cairn marking the summit of Grindslow Knoll (619m).
The sunny day allowed me a full view of the surrounding valleys and the various peaks in the distance, but the wind was also blowing a gale up top so I took some shelter to prepare for the next leg of my route. It had taken me about an hour to walk just over 2 miles to this point, but there would not be any more big ascents today.
I could see Crowden Tower very clearly from here, so I knew where I was heading without taking a bearing and headed off down a path which led left off the summit. I did take the bearing just in case, to make sure I was heading towards to correct peak, and I was left to wonder if in doing that I had missed a mushroom shaped stone which the guidebook said was at the side of the path. I certainly did not see it. I continued along the slabbed path which crosses the moorland, seeing Crowden Tower getting closer and closer as I walked, and the route to it was obvious. Crowden Tower is a small rock face which resembles a tower and overlooks a valley, and I was enjoying some excellent views of that valley as I walked towards it. I was also noticing snow on the ground. I came to a stream and crossed it, climbing up the other side to get to the summit of Crowden Tower (619m) and some more stunning views, including one back to Grindslow Knoll, and I also encountered some patches of ground which were completely iced over.
It had taken me half an hour to get here from the summit of Grindslow Knoll and I had now covered 3.45 miles.
I retraced my steps to the stream, misread the instructions in the guidebook and walked up the stream rather than following its course. I soon stopped that madness when it got a bit deeper and returned to the path. I was now walking towards Crowden Head, continuing by the stream until I got to a point where a number of very large stones block the stream. Unfortunately, I am not sure if I even reached that point or passed it when I followed the next direction to head off on a bearing because there seemed to be a few times when a number of very large stones were blocking the stream. Whatever had happened, I was now walking over the undulating peat bogs, going up and down through the troughs when it was not possible to walk around them. Thankfully I was wearing my Scarpa ZG-10 GTX boots, which pretty much asked the peat bogs if that was the best they could do. Having said that, I had been going for what seemed like a longer time than I should have been and had still not caught sight of the pile of stones marking the highest point in this area. I started to walk back to the stream to try again and as I did so I caught a glimpse of Edale Head, a pile of stones on the highest point of the land over to my half-right. Thank goodness this was a clear day and not the type of weather I encountered the last time I was up on Kinder Scout, when I could not see a step ahead of me (which you can read about here). I knew the bearing I would have to follow from Crowden Head to Edale Head, so I reversed that and began to walk away from the direction of Edale Head, back out over the frozen peat bogs. And then out of the corner of my eye I saw the pile of stones over to my left.
There was not a straight line to them, and I lost them one more time before completing the final few steps to Crowden Head (632m). It had taken me 45 minutes to get here and I had now covered 4 and a half miles.
I knew where to go from here and could still see Edale Head. However, while the guidebook said “walk in a straight line towards Edale Head” I knew that was simply not going to be possible. I was walking over the frozen peat bogs, sometimes going in deep where the surface was soft, often having to clamber down one bank and climb up the other side, mostly not being able to walk in a straight line because that would have been the hardest route to follow, and appreciating that I would not be leaving the peat mounds and groughs behind me until I was practically at Edale Head. It was a long, hard, tiring, relentless slog, and I was glad for all the training I have been doing with Regiment Fitness because this is why I do it. I enjoy the obstacle races and the runs, but my real passion is for hiking, and crossing the peat bogs today was made that much easier because of the level of fitness I have reached. It felt longer, but I reached Edale Head (636m) in half an hour and my route so far had covered just over five and a half miles.
I found the stones at Edale Head to be fascinating, and they are massive, very impressive. It was good to be out of the peat bogs and in a landscape with recognisable landmarks, and I was looking forward to my next stop because I was still not sure if I had been there before.
I should have been heading off on a bearing to Kinder Low but I could see a track which would take me past a couple of interesting rock formations, so I decided to follow that. It was heading in roughly the same direction as the bearing and I knew I could move away from the track when I got closer. The walk down the paved track and past the first almost anvil-shaped rock formation was simple, and as I came closer to the second, bigger, more expansive rock formation I could see a number of people sat around it. That was not my destination, though, and nor were the first and second cairns I encountered as I turned right and moved inland away from the track. I was walking up the moor towards a summit, and nothing I was walking over could prepare me for what I would find at the top.
The guidebook describes it as resembling a moonscape, and it is not wrong. It was a completely different surface to anything which I had walked over during the day so far, and looked as though it was a mixture of sand and gravel, and there in the middle was the conspicuous cairn and white trig point number S4113 perched upon a boulder marking Kinder Low (633m).
I had not knowingly been here before, although the mist was so thick the previous time I may have walked very close by and still not seen this. I took some time to look around in all directions with the views so clear today. It had taken me 20 minutes to get here and now my distance covered was just over 6 and a half miles.
I knew the next part of my route from my previous time up here, even if I might not have actually made it to Kinder Low that time. Now I was off to Kinder Downfall, the waterfall. I followed a stony and uneven footpath and was on the Pennine Way again, almost immediately recognising the track once I had turned right on to it after coming down from Kinder Low. I realised just how close I actually had got to the trig point last time. I had spectacular views to my left of the valley below and the walking was easy along the track which followed the edge, and which took me over the Red Brook stream. It began to bear inwards as I approached Kinder Downfall, taking me up to a point where I could cross.
Sadly there did not appear to be a huge amount of water in the fall today so I did not get much of a sight of that. I crossed the fall over the stones, clambered up the other side and continued along the track. It had taken me just under half an hour to get here and I had covered just over another mile. Now the path would take me to Sandy Heys, and in doing so continued to take me along the edge and gave me more splendid views of the Kinder Valley and the Kinder Reservoir. The thing is, to the right of me was the rise of the bog with dark hags and deep groughs, and to the left of me along the edge were a number of bouldery aspects, and I was not sure which one was Sandy Heys. The guidebook almost presumed that I would know, and I was far too lazy to take out the OS map I had with me to check. So I kept walking. I reached a gate on the track which had a fenceline leading up from it, and decided that I should go no further, just in case I had reached or passed Sandy Heys. I saw two other walkers who had stopped behind me on the track and they had the look of people who knew what they were doing, so I went back and asked them if this was Sandy Heys. They did not know, but we did enjoy an excellent conversation about Peru and quinoa. The guidebook said that to reach the trig point I needed to turn off the path and walk a further 200m, so I decided the best course of action on a clear day like this was to turn off the path now, walk for 200m, and then see what I could see. 200m would be somewhere over 200 strides, so I walked that far and then a little further, at which stage I could see the trig point.
I do love it when a plan comes together, and now you know that if you are coming from Kinder Downfall you can reach the gate and follow the fenceline to get to the Sandy Heys trig point. So now I was at Sandy Heys (624m), trig point number 3443, and it had taken me 25 minutes to get here from Kinder Downfall. My journey distance so far was just about 9 miles.
I took a bearing from Sandy Heys to take me on a slight descent to a ridge south of Black Ashop Moor. I was able to use the peaks of the hills on the far side of the moor to follow the bearing as I wound my way around peat mounds and down channels once more, occasionally having to clamber over rock dams which had been built in the channels. I could not miss reaching the ridge because there was a very steep fall which would have gone a long way down if I had taken another step.
The view was magnificent and covered such a wide expanse. I did note that Endomondo was telling me I had now walked 9.31 miles before I turned right and met another walker coming the other way who told me that the ground ahead was wet but not too wet. I now had to make my way to The Edge, which apparently was 1.1km away from where I turned. I must admit I had a slight air of apprehension about this because the guidebook seemed to be presuming I would recognise The Edge when I got to it. Or the author probably thought no-one would be either too stupid or too lazy to get out their map and check. I just carried on walking along the edge, following the narrow undulating path and once again enjoying the views into the valley below.
I crossed a waterfall, which is just before The Edge, so I believe that I did reach The Edge (625m) but that I then took the wrong route away from it. It had taken me around 40 minutes to get here from Sandy Heys but the Endomondo app had wiped the battery on my phone so that while the last time I looked at it I had passed 10 miles, I now had no immediate way of working out how far I had travelled.
I was to take a bearing from the highest point of The Edge to cut the corner, walking in a straight line across the moor to another ridge 400m further on. I then had to turn right on meeting a narrow path along this ridge. The light was starting to go as I cut across the moor so when I got to the next ridge and found a narrow path I took it. I am not convinced this was the correct path because it took me away from the ridge rather than following it. I was looking for a path over a ford down to my left but I could not see one and kept walking, following the path of the stream. I did cross eventually and by this time had decided I was not going to continue on to Hartshorn, but instead was going to head south to find a way to come off at Grindslow Knoll. The light was fading fast and I did not want to be trying to follow a new route in the darkness, prefering to get back to a route I had already followed earlier and which would be familiar to me.
I was back wandering through and around peat bogs and I could see a distinctive cairn in the near distance which was on higher ground, so I decided to head towards it to see if it would give me a better view over the moor to see Grindslow Knoll. As I neared it three fell runners came towards me and we chatted for a while. They were clearly concerned to make sure that I was all right and knew what I was doing, and I believe I assured them of that. I am thankful for their concern. They did check that I had a torch as the daylight was fading fast – and I had made sure to come out with two headtorches, a map, compass, first aid kit and bivi bag. They also confirmed that my idea of heading south was a good one, and that it would bring me to Grindslow Knoll.
I carried on and about 15 minutes later they circled around ahead of me following their own course. I was walking under the moon now and decided it was still light enough for me to not need to stop to get out my headtorch. I was better off continuing with my walk to get off the moor as soon as possible. After some time walking down gulleys and up and over troughs, I could see Grindslow Knoll and turned left towards it, very soon coming to a paved path, which I followed, and which turned out to be the path with the mushroom shaped stone.
So, for future reference, if you want to find the mushroom shaped stone come down off Grindslow Knoll by a right hand path. I now went up and over Grindslow Knoll, which was much easier from this side, and retraced my earlier route to take me back to Edale and the car park. I had been walking for 6 hours and 49 minutes in total, and I reckon I had walked between 15 and 20 miles. It had been a lot of fun in very good weather conditions and I will go back again to finish off the remaining peaks of the Derbyshire Top Ten, and to make sure I did find The Edge. I have been up on Kinder Scout twice now and am getting to know and enjoy it.
You can see more of my photos from the walk here.