My newspaper column on Bleaklow


9 miles
4.5 hours
Bleaklow, in the Dark Peak, the very name is redolent of menace and wildness and, indeed, it is one of the more challenging environments in the Peak District, a huge expanse of peat hags, groughs, bogs and rough moorland. When the cloud comes down, as it so often does, it’s easy to see why the rumours of ghostly Roman legionnaires still circulate. There are a number of very real plane wrecks scattered across the area which can give the area a sombre feel, and yet I love it! It is a haven of life, the heather hides Grouse, Mountain Hares are abundant, Curlew and Golden Plover can be seen, as can the occasional Stoat wily enough to elude the gamekeepers. It’s also a fantastic place to practice navigation skills, the seemingly featureless terrain dotted with strangely sculpted stones and tiny ponds providing clues to locate yourself by.
Today I set off from Old Glossop along the rough track that leads towards the beautifully named Mossy Lea Farm. I pass the farm and head up over rough ground towards the edge of Shelf Moor and the peaty, boggy plateau. By sticking to the edge I avoid the worst of the ground underfoot and make my way to Higher Shelf Stones where I stop to admire the views across the Snake Pass to the Kinder Plateau. Just to the North of the Trig point I come across the remains of the RB-29 Super fortress US airforce plane which crashed in 1948 killing all crew members. The wreckage is still widely scattered in the area and there is a memorial to the lost airmen, it’s a poignant spot and an eerie one on a day when the cloud is low or the mist is sweeping across the moor. I am blessed with fine weather however and continue my route North to the weirdly eroded natural sculpture of the Hern Stones, my favourite spot on the hill. I sit there for a while watching a couple of Mountain Hares before dropping down onto The Pennine Way, one of Britain’s best known National Trails. It’s easier underfoot and I am able to better enjoy my surroundings. I watch a Buzzard soar overhead and numerous Grouse playing hide and seek in the heather.
I drop off the main path below Crooked Clough and down onto Doctor’s Gate which follows the route of an ancient Roman road that linked Melandra Castle near Glossop with the Roman fort at Brough. Local legends suggest that the current name comes from a Doctor who had to race the Devil along the road to win his freedom. Today, it feels distinctly un-Satanic as I follow the line of Shelf Brook back to Old Glossop passing under the edge of Shire Hill en route.
For all it’s undoubted ruggedness, roughness underfoot and treacherous navigation, Bleaklow is a jewel in the Peak District’s crown. Sandwiched between Glossop and Sheffield, bypassed by the Snake Pass and within half an hour of Manchester, it still maintains a feeling of wildness and is well worth an exploration.
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