Walking with; Nobody
Bleaklow can be an intimidating hill, a vast expanse of peat, groughs, bogs and moorland often enveloped in low cloud, it’s the kind of place where an overactive imagination could conjure up all manner of ghostly encounters. There are rumoured to be spirits of Roman legionnaires haunting the Pennine Way and the very real wreckage of many planes in the area can give a walk on this Peak District classic a sombre air. There are also, however, Mountain Hares, Grouse, a selection of intriguing stone formations and a sense of wilderness that can be hard to find in Britain’s most visited National Park. Navigation can be a challenge especially in bad weather, but this just adds to the sense of remoteness which can be found on this bog trotters paradise!
I set off from Old Glossop along Doctor’s Gate, a bridleway that follows the route of an old Roman road (possibly the one taken by the ghostly legionnaires….?) before cutting off above Shelf Benches and following the rough route of Wigan Clough up onto the tops. At this stage visibility was pretty good and as I wandered along the edge towards the Shelf Stones there were great views over the Dark Peak, plenty of Mountain Hares and very little in the way of human company. I made the Trig point and then bog trotted my way, compass in hand, in and out of groughs, across boot sucking patches of moor and into increasingly thick and low cloud until I located the weirdly sculpted formations of the Hern Stones where I stopped for a well deserved Chicken and coleslaw roll! The cloud was very low now and I moved onto the Wain Stones where another figure loomed out of the mist, proving to be a flesh and blood type of walker rather than a ghostly Roman. It was satisfying to gain the flagstones of The Pennine Way which led me along the beautiful Wildboar Grain and around Torside Castle. There is considerable conjecture about this site, for many years it was thought to be a Bronze Age hill fort or Prehistoric earthworks, although more recently the consensus has been towards it being a natural formation. I must confess that to my eye it looked as if it might be man made, but it’s a striking feature none-the-less. There are tales of mysterious, ghostly lights dancing on the summit at certain times of the year, but I passed it in the clag with no supernatural experiences.
I left the Way somewhere above Torside Clough and cut in land, heather bashing and startling the odd Grouse. I eventually located the deep grough of Small Clough and handrailed it all the way down to the scatologically named Shittern Clough which was full of stunning Autumnal woodland and dense stands of Rhododendron. Popping back onto Doctor’s Gate the path menadered back to Old Glossop and my car. Bleaklow will never be my favourite hill, it is rough and scruffy and not the prettiest, but it has a genuine feeling of wilderness and is certainly not a hill to be underestimated.
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