Pennine Way Day 01. 12 Nov. Edale to Torside. 27km. 7,5 hours, 980m up. 980m down. The forecast offered me some hope as I looked out of the window at a foul day with near gales, heavy rain cascading down in opaque curtains and from what I could see through the mist some snow lying on the higher slopes. I did not have the luxury of waiting as there was 8 hours walking ahead of me and it would get dark in 8 hours time so I put on my rain gear and gaiters and set off just after 8.
The village of Edale was awash with water. It was cascading down the road some 4 inches deep and welling up through drains. In 10 minutes I reached the Old Nags Head Hotel and a cluster of houses at the top of the small, quaint, Idyllic-looking village. Here was the start of the Pennine Way and it went up past the flooded beck and into fields. Thankfully the route across the field was paved with flagstones as the soil was sodden, so sodden an abundance of earthworms had come up to the surface.
Despite the driving rain and wind I was warm, dry and comfortable in my rain gear and it was easy to luxuriate in the cultural landscape of stone build farms under slate roofs. About 2 or 3 green fields abreast lined each side of the valley before the stone wall divided these lush sodden pastures from the brown of the hillsides which were largely covered in autumnal braken. The path went across fields and through small gates for nearly 4 km passing trees whose golden leaves were being stripped and scattered by the wind. Only the alders leaves had not turned but their trees were nearly bare save some green remnants.
After a good hour I reached the bottom of Jacobs Ladder, where the path left the comfort of the rural valley and started to climb onto the exposed moorland. Beside the path the dark brown torrent of the stream in spate cascaded down. Froth and scum collected in eddies and sat on the dark peaty water like a pint of porter. The rain soon turned to sleet and everything was obscured save the flooded path in front of me. I climbed steadily for another hour until the climb eased off at a large cairn which I assumed was Kinder Low, 633m.
Continuing north I noticed that the sleet had abated and the rushing mist was starting to have clearer patches. Suddenly the mist cleared and a view burst forth to the west down to Kinder Reservoir and the green fields surrounding it, some of which were vibrant with patches of sun. These sudden revelations are like an epiphany after the oppression of the sleet, mist and wind. I now followed the western escarpment of the large plateau which was Kinder Scout, grey with a scant covering of lying sleet and snow. There were many grouse up here which flew off at the last minute when I approached, circling down to below the crags of the escarpment.
There was a large stream to cross, The River Kinder, which was in spate. I hopped across a few submerged boulders amazed no water found it way into my boots. Just below the torrent went over a waterfall and there was huge spray which was being blown back up by the wind to recycle into the torrent and over the falls again. The path continued across the lip of the escarpment until it reached a promontory in the plateau and descended steeply to the vast Ashop Moor.
The moor was dull. A vast open windswept expanse of peat and heather which was completely saturated. Thankfully the path across the 4 km of this moor was covered in flagstones. The flagstones looked like they had been recycled as most had chisel marks or holes where wooden dowels once were embedded. The flagstones were a complete godsend as the moor was deep and hungry. Often the flagstones themselves were under 1-2 inches of pooled water. Ashop Moor finished at the Transpennine A57 road which crossed the spine along which I was walking.
After the A57 I found a peat bank to sit on and have a quick lunch before continuing north across another equally dull moor, Hope Woodlands Moor. Both this and Ashop Moor were managed by the National Trust. Initially the path was good but it soon vanished under a swollen beck which I had to walk up and cross frequently, only falling in it once. I felt I was in a Tough Mudder competition. Eventually as the beck neared the top of Bleaklow Head it scattered into a plethora of rivulets emerging from the black peat hags. Again there were lots of grouse here which were the only thing to keep me company.
From the top of Bleaklow Head there was an easy but often boggy path down the NW side of it. The rivulets emerging from the sodden hags soon joined forces and a torrent was born. The path kept to the north of it on the lip of the ravine until it dropped down to cross it. By now the stream was big and powerful and I had to muster all my limited athleticism to jump it. Once over I spent nearly an hour on a rocky path which kept to the lip of the deep valley containing the swollen stream, The Torside Clough, which cascaded down it. I was high above the stream now flushing grouse frequently as the Torside Reservoir came into view a few km ahead. it was my destination for the day.
The path dropped down steeply towards it until it got to Reaps farmhouse. It was nearly 4 o’ clock now and the skies were beginning to darken as dusk neared. I was back in the bosom of the valley again and the hostile windswept moorland was over for the day. It was just a quick saunter down the track to a B road and then a rush down half a km of that to The Old House, a farm which did B&B, where i was booked. I got there at 4 and they were waiting for me with a cuppa. It was a delight and the room and bathroom was superb and much cheaper than the shoddy Ramblers Inn I had stayed in last night at Edale. My hosts were sheep farmers and unusually for this area kept Cheviot sheep, rather than the ubiquitous Swale sheep of the Dales.
Pennine Way Day 02. Nov 13. Torside to Diggle.