Pennine Way: Day One

5th May 2010 – Edale to Crowden – 15.2 miles

“I’ve got a plan…”
“Does it involve girls?”
“…it’s cheap…”
“Yeah, but does it involve girls?”
“…let’s go hiking!”
“That is one of the most depressingly shitty ideas for a holiday I’ve ever heard, in my life, ever!”
Jimmy & Fletch – Lesbian Vampire Killers

We met the Brigantes driver in Edale car park at the dot of 08:30. Well that’s when he arrived, we’d been there for a few minutes already. I was surprised to see that they’ve replaced the pay and display meter in Edale car park with a man in a kiosk! How does that work I wonder – when you turn up at 06:00 for an early walk and can’t pay for your parking? Is that really progress?

Anyway I digress. Luggage safely handed to Dave the Bag. I got Chris to drive me the first 3/4 of a mile into the village and I kissed her goodbye in the shadow of the Nags Head. The drive into Edale had revealed low cloud and the drizzle had started as we climbed higher into the Peaks. All the tops were covered in mist and even the village wasn’t spared the dricht.

As I set off, out of the village, I was immediately hailed by an old woman from her doorstep, dressed in a flannelette nightie, she asked me if her gate was open. I decided this wasn’t some bizarre innuendo and followed her pointing finger to her side gate. It was closed, which is the position she was hoping it was in. She asked me if I was off to Scotland and when I said I was she told me I was not to use the route past her house as that was the alternative route and I should head up Grindsbrook instead. She was very serious and informed me that she’d met Wainwright you know. I told her I wanted the easier start to the day and headed off into the mist. She left me with a parting volley of “you shouldn’t bring your car up here you know”.

The path wanders through fields, passing a couple of farms before it arrives at the foot of Jacobs Ladder. I always forget how long this climb actually is, with several cut backs as it climbs steeply up onto Kinder. New path work at the first shortcut suggests a future change in route, everyone cuts the corner anyway (although I did not) so the erosion is pretty bad and is now mostly paved with just a few bags of slabs beside the path, waiting to complete the job.

The packhorse bridge at the foot of Jacob's Ladder
The packhorse bridge at the foot of Jacob’s Ladder

I’ve walked this route several times before and it sort of felt like a day walk to me, not the start of a 17 day epic walk. But the familiarity certainly helped out today because the visibility was awful and it would have been tricky navigating across the top if I didn’t have a good idea of where to go.

Crossing Kinder Low isn't easy in the best of weather
Crossing Kinder Low isn’t easy in the best of weather

Mist swirled everywhere and the incessant drizzle forced me to put my coat on although it wasn’t really cold enough. I’d seen no-one since leaving Edale but as I approached the Downfall a figure appeared out of the mist from along the Kinder River. A lone backpacker with a white Tilley hat on. (Funnily enough the first person we saw last year as we walked the coast to coast was a lone walker with a white Tilley on).

I guessed he was doing the Way judging by the size of his pack. He’d obviously met the old woman in Edale and had heeded her advice to take the traditional start route as he’d approached the Downfall from Kinder Gates. Good lad. We exchanged Good Mornings but he stopped to rest at that point and I pushed on into the pea soup.

Large cairn marks the junction at Mill Hill
Large cairn marks the junction at Mill Hill

I met another guy walking up from Mill Hill but then no others for a while. Kinder had certainly been quiet, maybe because it’s midweek and the weather wasn’t great, but it’s unusual not to see people on the edges. I picked up the pace over Featherbed Moss, the slabs are great for putting you head down and just knocking out the distance, especially when there’s no view at all other than the heather 10 yards either side of the path.

As I approached the Snake Pass I saw two walkers standing by the path leaning on very nice matching antler topped walking poles. They had huge packs on. I assumed they were walking towards me as I’d not seen them ahead. But they said they were walking the Way and we chatted for a minute or two. Well one of them talked and the other just stood there breathing heavily. I was shocked enough to exclaim “bloody hell” when they said they’d left Edale at 06:15. In less than 8 miles I’d gained over 2 hours on them!! He explained that they’d got horribly lost on Kinder, losing the path in the mist.

I left them to catch their breath and moved on to find the road ahead, where I found a nice large rock to sit on while i ate my lunch. It was ridiculously foggy here and cars were crawling past at a snails pace.

Devils Dike is a much better path than I’d been expecting and I was soon at Hern Clough which is really picturesque, especially after the bleakness of Featherbed. I took a small diversion at Hern Clough to bag the trig point at Higher Shelf Stones and then to visit the war memorial to the B29 Superfortress that crashed there in the second war. The misty moor and the utter quiet made the crash site an incredibly poignant place to visit. Wreckage is strewn everywhere, from huge engines to wing sections and other tiny pieces of unidentifiable metal. The approach from the trig point, through the mist had the hairs on the back of my neck rising. All of a sudden you cross a peat rise and find a propeller mounting, a bit further on is another and soon you’re surrounded by debris and hundreds of tiny crosses left by people placing rocks in the peat beds. It was a sobering experience to think of the poor men who died here. They aren’t forgotten though and the number of personal memorials is an incredible sight.

Trig point on Higher Shelf Stones
Trig point on Higher Shelf Stones
B29 Superfortress wreckage on Higher Shelf Stones
B29 Superfortress wreckage on Higher Shelf Stones
B29 Superfortress wreckage on Higher Shelf Stones
B29 Superfortress wreckage on Higher Shelf Stones

I used the GPS to navigate across to the Wain Stones, a little way from Bleaklow summit, getting the first Pennine Way mud on my boots as I did so. I chatted with a day walker for a few minutes on the merits of long distance walking and left him considering the Pennine Way for 2011.

At Bleaklow summit I met the two walkers from Featherbed again and managed to stop them heading off east from the top. The talker showed me his map and pointed at a spot just shy of Torside reservoir (5 kms away) and said “we’re here aren’t we? We need to head east”. I pointed out the huge summit cairn and the legendary stake sticking out of it and pointed to Bleaklow Head on their map. Which also says “cairn and stake” on it. They were gutted. They thought they were almost finished for the day. A map and compass is all well and good but if you don’t know where you are when you take your bearing it’s not a lot of use.

The huge cairn on the summit of Bleaklow head
The huge cairn on the summit of Bleaklow head

The guy who had been catching his breath on Featherbed had caught a cramp in his calf and was in some discomfort – he’d still not said a word to me so far – all conversation had been with the other guy. I asked if they needed any other help and told them to follow the path I took off the summit. GPS is great for that.

Finally as I descended from Bleaklow I left the mist and drizzle (mizzle?) behind and the views started to open up. I dawdled now. I was worried about arriving at the B&B too early and the weather so far hadn’t really lent itself to long stops, so I was well ahead of schedule. I loved Wildboar Clough. It’s absolutely beautiful and so is Torside Clough. With no rain and mist and a warming wan sunlight it was great to pick my way slowly along the edge soaking in the views.

The path above Torside Clough
The path above Torside Clough

I could see the solo walker with the Tilley ahead of me – he must have got ahead as I was lollygagging at the B29 site – he was also dawdling, probably for the same reason. I didn’t manage to catch him though so still not really met the guy. The descent down Torside Clough is jarring in places and tough on the knees, but I was taking it easy so although I slipped and almost fell at one point I came to no harm.

Looking down onto Torside Reservoir, almost done for the day
Looking down onto Torside Reservoir, almost done for the day

After a short walk along the road I arrived at Old House B&B at about 3:30. I have a small room with an adjacent shower and kitchen. The hostess seems very nice and assured me the arrival time wasn’t a problem.

I’m typing this up in their very light and airy common room and looming forward to an evening with Tex Gore and my brother who are driving over to see me in a bit. With a bit of luck we’ll find somewhere to go and watch the Man City game and get some food. I’m bloody starving!!

1 thought on “Pennine Way: Day One”

  1. Hello! I stumbled over the Walking Places Website recently and thus found your microsite/blog – I walked most of the Pennine Way last September (I intended to do it all but my friend hurt herself, so we ended up in Huddersfield instead of Mankinhole YH on the second day. I picked up the path in Malham again and walked the rest on my own).
    Reading your diary makes me want to go back and walk it again – we had miserable weather after snake pass (rain rain rain) so I never saw it in good conditions…. anyway, hope it is okay if I follow along from afar.

    Greetings from the Tyrol/Austria!

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