As of 17 March 2020 all club events are cancelled/postponed, see the Home page for updates
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To gradually accustom the Warts to the coming torch light winter adventures, a six pm start was called for. This was also to remind us of next week’s time trial around the Hunter Wreck course which was expected to be run mainly in the dark. This time we were promised a shorter outing than last week’s rather epic Westend adventure so we gathered at the Blackden car park in the as-expected light rain. Being a Wednesday, the rain did get heavier, of course, as the evening progressed.
The Peak District is fortunate in having many features, some suitably obscure, for stringing together to create some sort of a route, however challenging and sometimes eccentric. Rocks, ruined sheepfolds, bridges, cabins ruined or not, stream junctions and trig points are well used for this purpose and tonight was no exception as we visited three such locations plus a rare one not on the list. It appeared that we were initially going to climb the daunting Dean Hill, last visited on the Olympics time trial in the summer. However, we were spared this strenuous climb and instead skirted around it and up to the ruined sheepfold near Jubilee cabin. We then happened to add Madwoman’s Stones (or were they, we’re never quite sure) on the way to Druid’s Stone. There were the hard-core Warts who took the direct line from Madwoman’s to enjoy the mostly path free terrain (knarly) to meet the other Warts who took the path and were happily lounging around waiting for the hard brigade. But who had the moral high ground?
(Editor's note: on reflection, i.e. checking the gps track, we stopped at a track junction some distance NE of Druid's Stone, at an unmapped lump. It made the leg to the trig rougher and longer than expected so all good. Better news is that we had indeed been to Madwoman's Stones).
Paths were also mostly avoided on the way to Blackden trig, the next check point. Here, we could enjoy the extensive paving carried out around the trig to prevent peat erosion which had left the trig high, dry and in danger of toppling over. All very laudable and worthy, (thankyou scout groups) and it provided an opportunity for me to examine this surface more closely. In my excitement at arriving at this unusual feature, I managed to trip over a tussock at the edge of this plaza. Falling down on the moors in the Dark Peak usually means a soft and often boggy landing resulting in a bit of peat therapy and a slight loss of dignity. It was the first time that I had the pleasure of swearing at flagstones as I kissed them hardily. A bit of blood on hands and lip meant a slight delay before leaving for Bob’s Rock, using only a bit of path, standards had to be maintained after all.
The rain had of course become a bit heavier and skiing became the descent mode down through the swamp, heather, bilberry and bracken to Blackden Brook and then up to the car park. The Anglers was the next shout but post run analysis and any further discussion on the proposed Club Championships was thwarted as the pub had closed, at 8.00pm.
Would this be a reasonable excuse to start the Warts’ outings even earlier, so we could arrive before closing time? Or would it be simpler to go to another pub? So much to discuss……………………..!
The autumn solstice brings solace to the darkness loving Warts. Whilst we did bring forward the start time (5.00pm) for the evening’s adventure, it was agreed that it was an aberration and there would be only one more slight concession to the daylight next week as preparation for the first night time trial in two weeks’ time, the Hunter Wreck.
Thus, the 5.00 pm solstice Warts had the pleasure of welcoming Bob back after a long absence before leaving the Westend layby via another of the Warts’ knarly starts, not quite up to the Priddock Wood standard but still requiring, thankfully, a walking start, thereby setting the pace for most of the rest of the outing. There was a slight disappointment in that the Met Office mountain weather forecast was for heavy rain which was not forthcoming as we climbed to Banktop Hey. I suppose you can’t have everything though! We did have the heather, the tussocks and the drainage ditch (a bit of running here) to entertain us to the two rather luxurious cabins in Lower Small Clough. I don’t know whether a grimness rating has been developed for unattractive places in the Dark Peak but I imagine the exit up the Clough must be a suitable candidate with its deep dark sides with no view and its draining water. It was a pleasure to arrive on open ground.
But, not for long as we embarked upon a quadruple crossing of rocky and vegetated steep sided valleys. Firstly, across Grinah Grain (when Steve M and partner joined us) where various contouring lines were taken through the bracken to the Westend ruined sheepfold. More slimy scrambling through bracken, rocks and thorns some of which are still embedded in my hands, brought is out of Ravens Clough. In this area the twitchers identified kestrel, buzzard and crows (perhaps, more appropriately, ravens?). Three valleys done, one more to go. By now, the rain did appear, so faith in the mountain forecast was partially restored, particularly for those who took it seriously, not all Warts do! To add to the delight, darkness was closing and there was more scrambling out of Black Clough and more heather and tussocks to enjoy. Another drainage ditch meant some running (!) which meant we were well and truly separated with most of us eventually finishing in pairs through the tricky brashing strewn wood near Fagney Clough. The drainage ditches on the track in the wood provided some Beechers Brook experience to round off the evening.
It was quite a Warts’ outing topped off with the added pleasure of changing in the heavy rain. This was the final straw for some as shown by the number turning up afterwards at the Anglers, just three of us. The rest went home for a hot shower or they were too traumatised to face the comfort of the pub. Will it be different next Wednesday when the dark season starts?
A sort of repeat performance?
As Warting prowess declines for some of us, it is noticeable that Wednesday night start times are beginning to creep earlier and earlier to ensure either we’re not benighted or, possibly more likely, that we can get to the pub earlier. The five o’clock start declared for this September night meant leaving Sheffield at about four-ish to get to Doctor’s Gate near the Snake summit. Our last visit was in March, pre-lockdown, when we were blessed with heavy rain, gale force winds and, of course, darkness!
There was no such bracing weather as we started this evening and no wet feet up the normally watery paved part of Doctor’s Gate. And, it was daylight which makes navigation a touch simpler. Our previous visit included a route miscalculation to Cabin Clough rather than to the newish bridge at Birchen Orchard Clough. This time the bridge was reached without much difficulty though one Wart arrived bloodied (but not bowed) having nosedived into the heather. Unaware of his blood-spattered face, he joined, Banquo’s ghost like, the others at the bridge.
This bridge was the first check point of last year’s Club Championships so, in these Covid fraught days, this prompted speculation about whether this year’s champs could actually take place. The Cap’n suggested a time trial or staggered start approach using the same checkpoints as last year. The parking is reasonable in Glossop and there are apparently no access queries. This enthusiastic discussion was curbed a bit as we followed the course to the second checkpoint at Lower Shelf Stones. This climb must rate as one of the Dark Peak’s longer and harder climbs so the enthusiasm for this route waned a little. One member of the group also managed to organise to receive a phone call half way up thus providing us all with an excuse to stop and admire the view of yet more uphill. Meanwhile, the developing strong wind was as ever happy to remind us that it was Wednesday night so a good battering was thankfully received over to Higher Shelf Stones. A bit of shivering, searching for spare clothes and sheltering behind rocks and talk, only, of whisky encouraged us to move on quickly via Crooked Clough and the PW (hardly touched) to the tussocky moor and the car park.
It was very much an evening of repeats and deja vues which may be experienced yet again in November if the proposed Club Championships is accepted. However, despite all this repeating, practising, reccying and the subsequent detailed outdoor pub discussion at the Anglers, will we get the route right on the day?
A group of six socially distant but, of course, friendly Dark Peakers (Chris B, John D, Andy H, Clive L, Moz and I) had gathered at the Snake footbridge for the Fairbrook Round time trial on probably the hottest day of the year, the inglorious twelfth of August. This was not ideal for all the group so there were radical mutterings of changing the event to an official Warts’ outing depending on our athletic condition at the top of the descent into Grindsbrook. In true Warting fashion, we set off with this defined (?) plan in our minds though, the condition of our feet was soon on our minds. The crossing of Fairbrook provided a welcome pedicool for those for whom cooling was more critical than the dead weights of saturated shoes. For the others though, red hot feet and possible blisters awaited. Going up Gate Side Clough, there was plenty of time to ponder a unique feature of this TT, i.e. which of the two first checkpoints to choose, (a) Hartshorn or (b) the 604m spot height, and then to decide on the optimum route there. There were at least two 604m “spotters” from our group and more from the three later starters, Pete G, Paul A and Tom W. Having decided on the Hartshorn option, which had taken up some distracting thought off the hot climb to near Seal Stones, it was nevertheless still hard! There are hard men in the Warts who prefer the soft caressing of the deep heather, tussocks, bilberry and the newly planted feathery grasses, to the flexibility improving effect of the rock-strewn track at the head of Blackden. Andy H chose the former, over the direct and high line to Hartshorn but being a softie, I and others plumped for the track and a then a fence-side path to Hartshorn where, very generously, Paul A who had by now caught up, was waiting to check that the rocks were really Hartshorn. After assurance that they were, he sped off to the edge.
Remembering the Warts’ “plan”, I took stock and, in a moment of aberration and over confidence, decided to descend to checkpoint 2, the gate in Grindsbrook. Decisions involving downhill first and uphill second are always less considered than the opposite way when a more realistic choice is usually made. Impetuously and without waiting for the others, as should be typical Warts’ practice, the steep and slippery descent was made. There was even time to sightsee on the way down to assess the exit from the gate towards checkpoint 3 at Fairbrook Naze. There was a hint of a path through mainly rock free feathery grass back up to the edge path towards the jaws of Grindsbrook. This ascent avoided the muscular return back up the fence taken by Paul and it led into the brook for the crossing of Kinder. As Paul disappeared over the horizon, Clive and Moz were descending to checkpoint 2 to make an ascent up the brook itself. So, the remaining pack of Chris, John and Andy had taken the Warting option to head directly from the edge to checkpoint 3, missing the delights of Grindsbrook.
My last sighting of people on this outing was a walker on the edge path but no Warts or time trialists. Following the stream and then my bearing of 320⁰, I wandered over this longer crossing of Kinder with no one in sight, in glorious sunshine on a (very) hot evening. It certainly felt to me as if this was extreme social distancing to the extent that it was even approaching being positively unsociable distancing. The time trial was now becoming almost enjoyable as the Kinder “summit” and its soft relatively even grassland (formerly peat) was reached. Post-trial analysis revealed that the Warts’ party had crossed Fairbrook lower down than, and unseen to me so I reached the Naze unaware of them. The descent on mainly soft peat was thrilling (!) and though I was still unaware of the Warts, they had spotted me. Paul was waiting at the bridge and we both were able to enjoy the silhouettes of the others finishing down the ridge.
Thanks to the RO for a classic outing though the heat was not to everyone’s liking. Roll on the wild winter Warting weather, they cried!
Time trials abound in these lockdown days! Nicky’s Summer Series, Jim Paxman’s Sprunces, Andy Harmer’s Crookestone Crashout, Lewis Ashton’s Triple Crossing, James Lowe’s Upper Derwent Stones, The Ashop Round, to name a few, all making for a busy schedule. Having sort of recovered from a bruised rib, I decided to try another of the Summer Series, the Rowlee Zig Zag from Fairholmes so Andy H and I arrived in separate cars to start and run the time trial, at a distance. And what a distance it turned out to be!
Who would have thought that one word could have such an effect on a race result? That word was knarly!
Discussing the route before we set off, Andy mentioned that there was a good direct line through the wood from near Lockerbrook Farm to the first checkpoint, except it was knarly. Now, Andy’s “knarly” is probably my impossible so at the decision point after the climb from Fairholmes, I decided to take the traditional route up through a fire break to the open moor rather than Andy’s line. I duly arrived at the moor enjoying my own dose of forest knarliness. A quick descent to the check point, the gate, but no sign of Andy. His line must have been too knarly even for him. Feeling rather pleased with myself, I took a high line before descending steeply to a gate (CP 2) above Rowlee Farm. Still no sign of Andy, in front or behind; was he injured, had he retired or what? A bit of a climb was needed to return to the moor for a tussocky descent to CP3 in Alport Grain. From here I had a direct bearing for a climb to the start of the descent to CP4, a cairn. But, climbing out of Alport Grain through the bracken I could see a silhouetted figure descending to CP3, ah, a decent distance in front of Andy but must push on. Across the flagstones on the ridge to overlook the Alport valley where there was a need to adjust the navigation, i.e. I was off line, to the right to get the best descent to the cairn. But what’s this? A runner heading back up from the cairn, oh no, it’s Andy, at least 10 to 15 minutes ahead! How did that happen? My pride was now well and truly deflated, I was still only just beginning the descent to the cairn! Hey ho, must carry on. The cairn, whilst tall enough, is in a hollow scooped out of the hillside (a landslide?) and is therefore not in a prominent and not in an easily visible, position so why put one there?
Leaving the cairn, there was some compensation in that there was a figure on the skyline at the edge of the “scoop” seemingly searching for a good descent line. Now, all I could do was to try and catch up some time on Andy by hurrying, if I could rise to a hurry, to the finish. Avoiding the flagstones by using a quad track, I think good progress was made to reach the gate at CP1. Since I wasn’t sure where Andy’s first short cut was, I ran all the way round the woods and past Lockerbrook Farm to the finish. Andy, now fully changed, was there to greet me, having finished 15 minutes ahead in 1 hr 32 mins.
So, what was Andy’s route? His cut through mid-wood behind Lockerbrook Farm saved 6 or 7 mins and the direct descent from CP1 to CP 2 on a green sward (a Tim Hawley tip) saved yet more time. Climbing out from CP3 through the rapidly developing bracken, as I did, was not the best option. Instead Jim Paxman had recommended to Andy following the Alport Grain which is not on the direct line, and then turning right along a drainage channel before crossing the flagstones and over to CP4. More time saved! On the return, of course, the cut through the Lockerbrook wood, which I didn’t take, gave Andy more advantage. All this gave him 15 minutes overall advantage. As is obvious, the post time trial analysis was very detailed and the puzzle of the other runner was solved during our analysis when she appeared at the car park, it was Sarah from Penistone.
I suppose the lesson to be learned is to do your homework on the route thoroughly before racing (?) but, I guess, we all know that anyway!
Easing of the lockdown has meant that more exercise outings are allowed and trips to exercise can be further from home, so car use is more acceptable. Bearing in mind these concessions and the need to continue social distancing, some time trials on the fells have been organised, usually over a few days to avoid any crowding, of course.
One such trial was the Kinder triple crossing (thanks, Lewis) which was the course for the first few DPFR club championships. Of necessity, the course had to be modified slightly from the original to avoid entering the potentially busy centre of Edale. So, starting at the Snake footbridge, Kinder Downfall was the first checkpoint followed by Grindslow Knoll and then the footbridge at the bottom of Golden Clough. The Snake footbridge completed the circuit.
After weeks of dry, warm and sunny weather, Andy (H) and I arrived, separately, near the Snake Inn (what has happened to the Inn?) in cool cloudy conditions. Needless to say, I’d checked on the mountain weather forecast for the area where a “feels like temperature” of -1 to +1⁰C was expected. Four layers of clothing were needed therefore, for me. I set off a few minutes in front of Andy to keep our distance on the narrow track up Fairbrook. The weather did not disappoint. The strong westerly wind was funnelled down the Fairbook valley along with quite a downfall of rain to add to the general outdoor pleasure. Near the top where some shelter from the wind was enjoyed and on the way to the first crossing, I was reminded of a rather serious navigational blunder I made on a solo 57A race from Langsett (thanks Tom (W)). Since I had known this crossing so well (?) from many training runs and races, I had not bothered to check the bearing so I relied on the lie of the land, a patch of red vegetation, some narrow sheep tracks and some distinctive peat hags and groughs. The considerable amount of restoration work carried out by Moors For the Future had changed the appearance of the ground. It was disguised by newly planted grasses so that, together with my navigational incompetence, I was on the western side of the Kinder river without knowingly having crossed it! Fortunately it was a clear and hot day so I was able to regain the correct route with the words of G.H.B. Ward ringing in my ears….”a man who has never been lost has never been anywhere”. For this crossing, therefore, I had carefully checked the bearing for the shortest line to the river. As previously, the MFF green disguise was there, if not even more pronounced, so I told myself to keep to the bearing of about 240⁰. Without dipping into my reserves of incompetence, I managed to reach just downstream from Kinder Gates. Good enough; though the line more directly to the Downfall may be quicker but may be strewn with energy sapping groughs, possibly a young man’s line?
Had there been more water in the river with this strong westerly wind, we would have been treated to the Kinder Upfall and a bit of a shower but sadly not this time. So, a quick turnaround and back up the river where Andy was speeding along down to the Downfall. Alarm bells began to ring, just how many minutes had he set off after me? I guessed he was catching up. The race was now really on! Winter in the Kinder river is normally a cold feet experience with deepish, and sometimes slushy flowing water but now there was just a few puddles here and there and some sandy, gravel patches. These were surprisingly deep and cloying so I didn’t want to hang around in these for too long, quick sands had come to mind, maybe this spurred me on! The next decision point was where to leave the river? It was the second major grough on the left, not the cairned one. Fortune was on my side, a thin trod on the right hand side of the grough led almost all the way to the head of Crowden where there was a bit of rough over the rocks (the “Zoo”) to the flagstones leading to the long distant Grindslow Knoll. On the way there, I did not trip, nor did I make any sudden turn but suddenly my hamstring decided it was unhappy and duly told me! Such was the racing adrenalin, I bravely (!?) carried on to the windiest part of the course, on top of the Knoll where staggering around was the only way to proceed until reaching the lee of the Knoll. There had been a few anxious glances back on the route but, so far, no sight of Andy or anybody else. The slalom through the slippery woods at the bottom of the descent provided enough excitement to top up the adrenalin level which was needed for the climb (hard slog!) to the third crossing. There are about three or four stages to this climb, each interspersed with relatively flat (!) shelves where there is a chance to see how the opposition is sizing up. To my surprise, I saw three figures coming up this Unnamed Clough trod including Andy. Gosh, I must try harder but it was to no avail. Over the crossing, one of the three, Glen (B) stormed by, at a safe distance, with a cheery greeting. I followed, but heading then towards Seal Stones there is a fence to cross. Here I dipped into my not inconsiderable reserves of incompetence. Yes, I climbed partly over the fence but forgot to lift my trailing leg over fully and thereby did a spectacular fall causing a sharp pain in a lower rib (on the left-hand side, if you want to know). Gamely I carried on down to the crossing of Fairbrook where Glen was having a quick wash, and on to the finish at the Snake bridge. It was certainly eventful for me but for Glen and for Megan who finished shortly after, it was a routine training outing with no dramas. Andy also finished at about the same time but both of us felt a bit battered by the experience, unlike when both of us had got round a few (many!) years ago in about half the time.
Ah, those were the days!
Our currently shrunken world has meant any running excursions are generally limited to what can be reached and returned from, using your own two feet, from home. This limited circle of my world has developed into a grumpiness brought about by the particular over familiarity of the immediate initial starts to any outing. I can now tell you how many drainage bars there are across the tracks in Ecclesall Woods. And, if you want to know, should you be so interested/sad, there are twelve along the steepest section of the Woods. Arguably there are thirteen since one is now hardly functional and is in such disrepair that it’s necessary to really search for it….. This useless detailed knowledge stems from my lack of speed and the need to count something, anything, to take my mind off the task in hand, i.e. running (?) steeply uphill. Other interesting features of that specific path are the trip hazards, two small tree stumps and a prominent embedded brick. Their positions are never to be forgotten having tripped over all of them, probably because I was too busy counting drainage bars!
This closing in of horizons and over familiarity makes the hills and rising ground previously hardly noticeable, now become significant obstacles to overcome. However, in reality, this may be a result of deteriorating fitness rather than over familiarity. So, for the sake of sanity and proportion, a widening of horizons was needed. Well, just how many different places is it possible to visit with the conditions that they’re reachable, not on road, there’s some rough ground (after all I’m pretending to be a Wart), there’s a decent hill with a view and it’s quiet? For proper Warts, there’s also the need for darkness, the sighting of more hares than people and plenty of peat bog for the conditioning and maintenance of feet colour. No self-respecting Wart has white feet, remember, the club was temporarily renamed Dark Feet Fell Runners one particularly wet and muddy winter season, pre-neoprenes.
Day dreaming about TV programmes (another effect of confinement, perhaps?), I remembered one called Twin Peaks which I’d never watched but which had a very peripheral connection, through its name, to fell running. Was there any such pairing nearby? Bearing in mind that our National Park is called the Peak District, for any local peaks I may choose, I would be licensed to include round topped ones rather than peaky ones, since most in the Peak District are so. What emerged from my randomly generated thoughts was the coupling of Oxstones and Houndkirk Hill. Certainly not perfect, there was some familiar ground to cover to access them, but nevertheless worthy I thought. So, on a sunny morning (first wearing of shorts), having reached the first “peak” of Oxstones, I was able to enjoy the soft peat and heather to reach God’s Spring which was in glorious full flow despite the current drought like conditions. My memory of the way to the stream crossing was one of bracken and rocks with a hint of a path. No longer, now there was a significant path with a sensible (not Warty) crossing before a climb to the second peak of Houndkirk Hill. What a pleasure! Despite its lowly reputation, it is a local beauty and could, from the right angle, be considered to be a peak. The return was not so glorious. By now, it was no longer early and my confinement grumpiness came to the fore as Lady Canning’s Plantation was busy. Deviating on to little used fire breaks, I kept to the social distancing rules and subsequently scrambled up very steep slippery slopes, dived into brambles and diverted on to alternative tracks to stay safe.
But to keep a sense of proportion, I had reached the heather moors and two peaks in the most glorious weather. I had no right to be grumpy!
I shouldn’t complain. I am fortunate. Nevertheless the restrictions brought about by the Corona virus are,…….well,…….restrictive. The Ecclesall Woods are terrific, they are my starting point, two minutes from home, of all my runs. The alternatives from home are all on road but they are out of my bounds. Whilst the woods are possibly and arguably at their best at spring time, with bluebells and fresh green leaves, this (very) dry season and the heavy recommended exercise use has given the paths a worn and tired look. Plus, too much familiarity does bring on a sense of deja vue, if not boredom.
So, how can the running routes be spiced up? Time trials have been suggested e.g. Nicky’s greatest height climb in an hour from home and back. This got me thinking of a route for that, I used the nearest trig point (almost) and back. This further begged the question of where are the other local trig points which I could manage in a “reasonable” time without resorting to the use of the car with its guilt loaded “Is your journey really necessary?” cachet? A Christmas present from one our sons came to the rescue. It was an OS map centred on home, neatly named as “Urban Perambulations”. Despite its title, it does have a bit of the south eastern side of the Dark Peak, so, were there any other local trig points?
Some of them are ones from Alan Yates’s 15 Trigs round, namely, High Neb, Rod Moor and Emlin which was in the top left-hand corner of my map; also marked on my map is a trig point at Stanage Pole. Further south, there are trig points at Cowper Stone, Oxstones and a hidden one (behind a wall) on private land near the top of Limb Valley. A couple more at Totley and White Edge, complete the ones on my map and which are mainly in the National Park. Most of them are reasonably reachable to only get there but what goes out, must come back again, thereby doubling the distance which, for me, becomes less manageable.
In order to keep the world turning, I obsessively believe each trig should be touched with three fingers (mine!), on each of my visits. It has certainly worked so far though I’m not sure whether my mental health needs to be checked?! Which trigs, therefore, could I visit from home to do my bit for the world? The nearest was on private land though before the erection of an extra barbed wire fence could, with a stretch, be touched. Now, I’m reduced to touching just a stone in the adjacent wall with three fingers. So far, it’s kept things moving! The next nearest one is near Oxstones, close enough to be considered for an outing from home. To continue this almost due westerly line, the next candidate trig is near Cowper Stone on Stanage Edge. Any further ones would possibly take me into beyond reasonable distance territory.
The plan was therefore set and, armed with two jelly babies, my mobile phone and a pair of glasses to read the phone, I left home on my mission to save the world. I indulged myself by taking the most direct line which did involve Ecclesall Woods and some tarmacked snickets and ginnels to reach the Birkdale playing fields and the first trig. The descent from there into Limb Valley was slightly tricky with the forest ground being covered in dry beech nuts which provided an interesting rolling surface, not quite skiing but needing some slick slalom moves. It’s a bit of a drag up the hard track to Ringinglow and then through Lady Canning’s Plantation, though the compensation was my first hearing of a cuckoo this year. The nature experience continued with the sound of a curlew at Oxstones. Burbage Moor is now fully dried and there are some very pleasant patches of dry and bouncy peat to delight in. Nature again stepped in near the Cowper Stone when a pair of Canada geese squawked (not a sweet bird song) from out of Hallam Bog. Half of my mission was now completed, a couple of snaps for proof of the visit and one jelly baby set me off on my return journey without, of course, revisiting the intermediate check points.
Once back home and recovered enough to even contemplate another mission, where next, south to Totley and maybe beyond or even a three-jelly baby run to Stanage Pole or even High Neb? But, this maybe “vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself. And falls……..”.
Big Brother is watching you! A recent news report included an aerial shot of walkers, not runners, you’ll notice, on Curbar Edge. Graphically, they were tagged with the comment “Not essential” and likewise, shots of cars at the car park were also tagged and, I understand, their number plates were recorded. I guess these views were generated from a police drone (they were, our Curbar representative tells me he could hear it). There have also been warnings from various organisations such as the Peak Park, their residents and the BMC to stay away so it’s clear and understandable that we are not currently welcome in the Dark Peak. There’s no getting around it!
Whilst solo running off paths and in the dark could be considered to be sufficiently isolating, if not completely mad, it is nevertheless not acceptable because of the risk of injury from a non-essential activity. So, Warting as we have known it since the foot and mouth crisis a few years ago, is banned! So, no Warting, no Dark Peak, no Fell therefore no DPFR but at least R remains. But wait, there may be a silver lining to this cloud. On my early morning wanderings running from home, self-distancing has become the norm, if not an obsession. Whilst Ecclesall Woods and Limb Valley are not areas well known as fertile ground for Warting, the need for self-isolation has driven me into some limited patches of knarly territory.
I suppose the orienteers have already led the way in finding these patches. I remember many years ago, going out for an innocent run, when I was enticed almost accidentally into an event in the Woods. I soon realised that bramble bashers were not horticultural weeding devices but some form of orienteer protective gear. Soreness and scratched shins combined with disorientation were the main benefits of my excursion into the world of orienteering but it was a sort of early introduction to Warting. At the moment, the search is still on to link up the local knarly patches in an attempt to find a continuous strip of Harmerian horror suitable for Warting. The latest discovered patch is in a beech wood in Limb Valley (note, not in the Peak District!) on a steep hillside. In this current dry spell, the accumulated beech nuts have dried so that they produce a rolling surface for any one climbing the slope. It is rather curious to lose grip and slide between the tree roots forcing a walking pace, anyway, that’s my excuse. Admittedly, it’s not quite Priddock Wood but it’s just about in the same league. This limited rough stuff has the beneficial effect of massaging the ankle joints which may have become a bit less flexible with all the path and, dare I mention it, road running we’ve been forced to endure.
Clearly, there’s more searching to be done to complete my essential work to establish Urban Warting routes which will ensure safe social distancing. Well, that’s my justification for local exercise! When the work is completed, we will all become Urban Warting Runners (UWR), a new sub group of the temporarily (hopefully) obsolete DPFR.
Stay safe and keep fit.
In these days of Coronavirus, the imminent possible threat of self-isolation is sufficient to send we Warts out to the hills as much as we can in case we are forced (hopefully not) to be cooped up at home for two or three weeks where we may also be struck by cabin fever.
A bracing outing in the hills is just the medicine to lift the spirits, not to mention the subsequent trip to the pub afterwards. It was fortunate that the start was at the Doctor’s Gate junction with the Snake road near its summit so that a full dose of bracing could be enjoyed. The Wednesday evening weather also was forecast to be suitably Warty with two hours of heavy rain between 7 and 9 pm. However, there were two disappointments as we started, firstly there was some light, almost sunny and no rain. To compensate, the ground was well, if not over-watered, as we climbed up Doctor’s Gate to cross the Pennine Way and on to Coldharbour Moor. The builders of the Snake Road clearly did not think of we navigators when they decided to put a large semi-circular loop around this moor. Now in the dark, we were (mis) guided by the road on our left believing it to be almost in the direction of tonight’s first checkpoint, the new bridge over Birchen Orchard Clough. Thus, we found ourselves at Cabin Clough having ignored Old Dike which would have been a good handrail for BOC. Had we caught a dose of cabin fever? A quick navigational 90⁰ adjustment and a bit of a sprint (are we talking about Warts here?), allowed us to admire the handiwork of the new(ish) bridge which was also checkpoint one of the last club championships. To continue the theme of the club champs, we then planned to visit its second check point but…….
Our descent into Shelf Brook was almost uneventful though our top orienteer took an alternative line to the valley which required a bit of shouting to bring about his welcome reappearance. I think the climb from Old Glossop to Higher (and Lower) Shelf Stones is one of longest climbs in the Dark Peak and even though we were starting our climb from part way up, it seemed to be a pretty long slog particularly as we were receiving our increasingly bracing therapy. I’m only hoping this therapy did also improve our balancing skills which were tested to the limit, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. Despite this south westerly wind pushing and shoving us around, we staggered drunkenly up to Lower and Higher Shelf Stones.
Sometimes on Warts’ outings, moments of reality are revealed. So tonight; a group of mostly elderly men were huddled behind some wind carved rocks providing sparse shelter from the gale force winds and, now, rain, eating jelly babies and sipping whiskey whilst also struggling to put on warm extra layers. I suppose, really, we do enjoy this?! The stop at Higher Shelf Stones was necessarily brief and there was now the usual compulsion to get back to the cars via the head of Crooked Clough across Devil’s Dike and hopefully to the fence to avoid the watery Doctor’s Gate. Well, no. Our almost final bracing therapy was the rain, wind, running water and bog to the car park. The changing facilities here are second to none, with cold showers and wind providing the bracing needed to complete the outing and, I lost a pair of dry (yes) green socks to change into, oh trauma!
Our newly rediscovered refuge pub is The Yorkshire Bridge where there was serious discussion of responsibility to look after our own and of the benefits of single, double and quadruple bivvy bags and whether they should be carried by us all or by just a couple of us on our adventures. There was some speculation on who should share the multi occupancy bags and how to decide who was most suitable and whether the Warts should appoint and official warmer. This appointment has been deferred until, possibly, a volunteer actually emerges. Until then, we will discuss possibilities on our next adventure. Look forward to it!
After all, though the Warts are a sort of sub group, we are still members of Dark Peak Fell Runners, the name implying, amongst other things, we are creatures of the night. The first rule of Warting, therefore, on a Wednesday evening is the necessity for it to be under the cloak of darkness. Also, rule number two requires the terrain to include a high proportion of rough ground, often now described as Harmerian.
So, the Warts were in alien territory in Castleton for our annual winter visit to the White Peak. Early misgivings about this venture were soon confirmed as we ran up the road (!) to a snicket leading to some slimy and muddy field crossings. If it’s possible, this type of mud seems to be much dirtier than peat and, soon, there were mutterings of discontent (rule number three?) which were relieved by a stretch of road at Odin’s Mine. The climb to Mam Tor seems to be exponential, in that the more you climb the steeper it gets. Whatever, it’s hard work but it warms you up by the top. The lack of meteorological wind and its cooling effect on the climb was somewhat made up for by somebody’s personal wind which hovered odiously over the group. It probably did us some good.
The plan from there was go to the pond on the north side of Mam Tor though at least one Wart was less than keen. Whilst we peered over the edge waiting for a couple of Warts to arrive, there was a bit of a kerfuffle involving excitable dogs (three of them) one of which was so excited it decided to eat its owner’s leg (you know whose leg) thereby producing an awful lot of shin blood. It was very gratifying to see the number of people helping and what can be used to repair a half-eaten leg. Some remnant snow provided a sterilised wash, a plaster materialised from somewhere and a doubled, still warm, buff proved to be a useful tourniquet/bandage. After these running repairs which left a patch of bloodied snow for any later visitors to speculate over, we had been significantly delayed thus compromising our planned route to the pond (rule four is to change the planned route) leading to false, of course, accusations that some people will do anything to avoid going to the pond.
The flagstones off Mam Tor and a bit of road running elicited more grumbling (rule three again!) before reaching the top of the left-hand side of Winnats. By this time, some Warts had split off in different directions from Mam Tor and some latecomers had managed to reach the pond though they were not seen by the main group of us until the pub. Rule five is to do with the group breaking up and, sure enough, the view from the top edge of Winnats was enough to cause a further split leaving only a few for the crossing. There is a sense of power (misplaced, no doubt) in being able to watch the car head lights going through the pass whilst watching from high above. Such dreaming was brought to a rapid halt as we faced reality and descended, surprisingly, mainly on very steep grass. Up follows down in the fell running world so we were able to follow a sort of track up the, again, steep other side. This was without doubt limestone country so the meadow land at the top proved to be almost pleasant easy running but there is often a sting in the tail for any Warts’ outings (rule six??). There are various stony gullies leading eventually to Castleton and there’s nothing like the combination of running water and polished limestone to bring tears to the eye. It was a slow descent with more comments about going back to the Dark Peak (rule three again).
What remained of the main group arrived in the bright lights of Castleton not having crossed the border into Dark Peak territory, namely the pond, though Willy K et al. (only seen at the pub) apparently did. After this possibly eventful, dangerous, strenuous and interesting expedition to the White Peak we retired happily to the pub, having satisfied the rules of Warting. It had to be done!
The second 5.30pm outing of the season was called whilst the Landmarks race was being held from The Sportsman. This may have accounted for the limited turnout of five, mostly the Ecclesall lot plus one Loxleyite, all in one car, heroically driven by Clive. We were reminded that the previous Windle Edge early outing raised only four Warts so it was going to be a crowded night, starting in daylight. Bob laid down the challenge of reaching the three sheeper sheep fold without the use of torches.
The deep and crisp but uneven snow extended our visibility, of course, as we enjoyed a spectacular sunset over Manchester way, with a small crescent moon and a bright planet (?). Unsurprisingly, the three sheeper is rarely visited because, I suspect, it’s not marked on every map and, even if it is, it’s not the easiest feature to find. We were on the edge of darkness by Swains Greave and were circling around near the fence and various groughs when we capitulated and switched on torches. About 50m from the fence, Tom almost immediately found the three sheeper under a sheltering bank but hardly visible in the snow. The Cap’n delayed any celebration until we’d climbed up to Barrow Stones (a location for Labrador tea?) where snow drifts made a magical landscape. Shelter from the significant wind (feels like temperature of about -9⁰C and therefore requiring my seven layers) was hard to find but when we did, celebration was limited to jelly babies, possibly because it was too cold for whiskey?
After the necessarily short, cold stop, it was a bit of a relief to descend, temporarily out of the wind, to the Derwent river for the climb to Shepherds Meeting Stones. Deep heather and snow made for a strenuous ascent despite support from the wind. The shout now for Lady Cross was for a bearing of about 25⁰ which happily coincided with the highly illuminated Emley Moor mast. With this as a guide, this was possibly the straightest line the Warts have ever trod. It was a bit disheartening though that, after all the wilderness experience of the Barrow Stones area, we should be seeing and hearing the traffic from the Woodhead road. We persevered and reached Windle Edge which challenges the Doctor’s Gate venue as the most bracing changing spot. Five semi-clad, head-torched men sheltering behind a car was something that travellers over the Woodhead could only imagine to be a hallucinatory experience.
The two and three quarter hours excursion was rewarded with a visit to the local pub thought by one member of the party to have been renamed The Beaters. This was possibly a hallucinatory effect induced by travelling at speed on the way out to Windle Edge on the Woodhead. Fortunately, the pub remains as The Dog and Partridge, though, who knows, it’s not out of the bounds of possibility that it may be renamed.
A cold, snowy and spectacular outing with skilful navigation but beware of the Woodhead hallucinations!
The Warts tell me that as an alternative to the Landmarks race and Sportsman a select few are heading off to Windle edge to make it to the 3 sheeper, Barrow stones and back via Shepherds meeting stones and Lady cross. Not a long outing but it's important to note that the run will start at 5:30pm.
Morning road chaos in the snowy and icy north east of Sheffield, possibly presaged an interesting Warts’ night out from the Broomhead layby. We could but hope! Despite a few absentees from the south and west of Sheffield, ten of us set off on the increasingly snowy track to follow a modified version of one of the Summer Series races. Whilst we would probably come to regret the feeling that track running was a bit boring, we nevertheless made good progress (the best of the whole evening) until we were drawn to the joys of deep dead bracken and swamp for our crossing of Ewden Beck.
It’s not necessarily the water crossing itself that is the challenge but sometimes it’s the entry and exit to and from it that can provide interest. This night was such an occasion. A snowy slimy steep descent did elicit a few less than gentle comments including comparisons with the current gold standard of notorious slopes, namely Priddock Wood, only visited a week ago. After this, it felt easy to wade across the cooling waters of the Beck for the climb out. At some critical angle, slopes go from feet only to hands and feet and this was such an angle, prompting speculation about the need to also have studded gloves, for those who actually wore gloves. The climb was equally slimy and snowy as the descent, though even steeper. I think that Ewden Beck is gaining in notoriety, maybe it’s now the silver standard?
Having survived the Beck, we were entertained by more deep bracken and snow for a visit to the ruined cabin at Park Cote (dated 1883?). As some sort of relief, we were able to run via a gentle climb in plenty of snow, to Fox Stones though no refreshments were allowed! Instead, in true Warting tradition and because of our experience of the Ewden valley, the originally proposed route was changed to avoid another slippery slide into the beck and a wet feet river crossing. (Are we getting neche?). So, instead, we were to fly over the river via the “girders” and fight through the rhododendrons even though the Cap’n had declared some weeks ago that this route was no longer viable. Hey Ho!
Before then, the refreshment stop was declared to be the Earnshaw Ridge or thereabouts so there was a bit of a drawn-out ambling climb through the now usual deep drifting snow, knee high heather, bracken, swamps and rushes. Whiskey, jelly babies and some other confection (?) were on offer to encourage our return. It must have been a long way through the usual undergrowth to hear “Are we there yet?” and “Can we go home?”. It was actually a long way, involving a couple of references to the technology, carefully protected from the conditions by a high technology sports sock but we did return to the Beck area to find the now, infamous girders. There were the brave and the cautious crossers. The brave walked across balancing on a couple of the three or four girders (actually rails), the cautious crawled over. In so doing the latter, it was possible to closely examine the rusting and crumbling of the steel, how long will the girders last?
So, no immersion in the Beck. As always, the rhodos didn’t seem to too difficult until about half way up when the path turned into quite a significant stream and all our efforts to avoid a wet crossing of Ewden were as nought. Still, the neoprenes just about saved the day. A sprint back to the layby helped warm us up for The Old Horns where the wild water swimmers were already warming up. When they left, only the Warts remained to enjoy the illuminating discussions on massive fireworks, speleology and bladder control. Honestly, there was some sort of link,,,,,,,,,probably the beer!
It has been vaguely mentioned that Warts’ outings often turn into adventures and our latest outing was formally declared to be one such. There was enough excitement before we even set foot on rough ground. The Ladybower’s new car parking arrangements, pay as you display, ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) and free parking for “clients” left us confused (easily done). Clarification from the pub staff meant we had to pay £2 for two hours and then it was free when we became clients after the run. The pressure therefore was on us to return within two hours.
Our annual pilgrimage to Priddock Wood started, of course, directly from the car park and down to the river crossing. In the torchlit mirk one Wart (Tim H) was seen leaping impressively across and landing spread-eagled on the vertical face of a large boulder, no wet feet! The rest of us took a more cautious crossing, tip-toeing over slimy moss-covered boulders nicely spaced but awkwardly angled. I made an attempt (see left!) of recording our annual visit to PW by taking a photo of the string of torches climbing through the wood. By the time I’d faffed about getting the phone out of its waterproof case, most Warts had disappeared. However, there is a vague image of at least one Wart and a disembodied torch light but the surrounding undergrowth and rock gives a taste of the climb which feels pretty significant requiring fine judgement of a branch’s strength before heaving on it. The general consensus was that young saplings provided the most sure support but old knarly branches were not reliable, i.e. they snapped off at the least touch. Surely a metaphor of life?! To top off this adventurous start there was a last steep climb and descent of a couple of metres. This gave us a pleasing sense of achievement as we gathered at the glorious summit nicely lit by moon and torches.
115⁰ was the shout for Jarvis Clough cabin and it was somewhere along this line that we started actually running; Pete G reckoned that this was 21 minutes after we had left the car park, no point in rushing into It! The cabin was its normal airy, rustic self and surrounded by squelchy bogs. This was to become the theme of most of the rest of the run. Only Tom W managed to avoid some of them by finding a path towards Crow Chin unlike the rest of us who bog trotted to the edge. Fudge, whiskey and jelly babies were taken near Crow Chin. Wed did aim for a sheepfold near Moscar Fields but time was pressing and I don’t think we found it so instead we enjoyed the delights of a thigh high classic swamp before reaching Cutthroat Bridge.
In sharp contrast, Cutthroat to the Ladybower was the rocky road. I guess we had been so used to the soft tender massaging of our feet by the bogs that these hard and uneven rocks were not easy on the feet. However, we did survive and probably more importantly (?) we did arrive within the two hour parking allowance.
Our adventure continued, in front of the warm welcoming fire in the Strines Inn where we met the Wild Water Warts also crowding around the fire.
Another Warts adventure!
Tom reminded us that there are two North Grains, 100m apart, Upper and Nether with, helpfully, Upper being the upper of the two on the Snake Road. And, for those who really want to know, spacious parking is at the Nether of the two Grains. Here, belated greetings for the New Year were exchanged and we welcomed Cat who is new to Warting and Penny after a year’s long absence due to injury.
I thought the start of the Crookestone race and the start of one of the Warts’ Westend runs through the Banktop Plantation were seriously steep but the rock climb direct from the Nether carpark takes the steepness to another height (unless, of course, you know of a more serious one, any bids?). It was recognised immediately, therefore, that this was going to be a typical Harmerian outing, though in recognition of the coming Saturday’s birthday run and the need to save (?) ourselves for it, tonight’s trip was to be limited to one and a half hours. At this stage, there was some scepticism, based on hard won experience, that we would achieve this.
In order to collect another Nether, we scrambled out of the rock face and headed over the groughs towards Nether Reddale Clough which was descended in the belief at the time that it was the Alport. Remember, after all, it was dark and the extent of torch beams was a couple of meters. At least that was my excuse. For fun and excitement, we descended the “Alport” until we realised that the Alport had shrunk and that this must be Nether Reddale. So, having descended, climbing back out provided some useful training, we all thought. We did make it to the Alport and we did descend it though, on the way down more “saving” was needed as John D tipped head over heels into a stream. He faced downhill with legs in the air and head in the stream. Many hands hauled him out only then for us all to face the icy like slippery crossing of the Alport. Fortunately, hands across the water avoided anymore dunkings. Having crossed it once, another kilometre found us crossing it again though with less drama and yet more hand holding.
With one and a half hours in our grasp, it was a direct crossing of Over Wood Moss area to the car park. If you like groughs which, of course we all do, then, oh what joy, particularly when the occasional gully block gave us some deep immersion therapy, not to be missed. Whilst there was half a plan to visit Upper North Grain cabin, we never did, though we may have crossed the upper reaches of Upper Grain and, for completeness, we finished in the nether reaches of Nether North Grain and the car park in an hour and a half.
So, a successful outing duly preparing us for the Birthday run on Saturday and then topped off with refreshments at the Ladybower.
Is there some sort of Bermuda Triangle like effect near Derwent Edge or did our experience from Strines Inn result from the presence of a nearly full moon? The biggest clue, I suppose, is possibly in the local place names, primarily, Lost Lad, the hidden advice of (go)Back Tor and Howsure (!) Tor and, when in an extended state of confusing lostness, the comfort and sustenance yearning of Cakes of Bread and Salt Cellar. A couple of years ago or so, a Warts’ very snowy outing to celebrate the Cap’n’s birthday, managed, in a white out, to wander along the wrong path near Back Tor. Repeating the celebration tonight, eleven Warts reached Back Tor without incident and then set off for Lost Lad. We are a very sociable group and, particularly on the downhills, there is breath to spare for conversation. We all strode off confidently deep in conversation from Back Tor following the flagstones to Lost Lad, or, so we thought. Whilst the discussions were, of course, utterly fascinating, we had taken our eye off where we were actually going until someone tentatively suggested that we’d seen too many flagstones. Murmuration like, we turned to go back to Back Tor though only two of us reached there. The rest went down Bradfield Gate hoping, I think, to cut the corner to Lost Lad, meanwhile, we two reached it only to see distant torchlights which disappeared as we descended into Sheepfold Clough. We took our time to Beresters Tor and eventually saw the group climbing towards us. In the less than cosy atmosphere of the Tor, the group revealed they had enjoyed a complete circumnavigation of Lost Lad without actually reaching its summit.
More mystery was to follow. Now reunited into one group, we crossed Abbey Brook without too much bother and climbed via the very ruined wall and the fence to Loweshaw Tor. Next target was the blockhouse but, as far as we could tell, big as it is, it had been removed, so, target missed. Instead, we managed to find, by tripping over it, the tiny iron bar on the path near the Strines Inn whose welcoming coal fire helped us recover from the two and a quarter hour exposure to the apparent feels-like temperature of -7⁰C on the tops. There was also plenty of birthday cheer and jollity which kept us in the pub until 10.00 pm, or is it possible we’re getting slower? Never!
Ah, ah, what a wonderful winter Warts’ wander!
Unusually, the route for tonight was posted in advance through an email from the Cap’n to the Warts. There was a reaction from John D who posted an account of a similar outing two years ago from Midhope. Then, there was mention of slimy, slippery slopes encountered in escaping from Ewden Beck/Candlerush and the need for exhausting high knee lifts to cross the moor to Tom’s tree. Despite this and the current weather forecast for fog and a “feels like temperature” of about -5⁰C, eleven Warts did arrive in the full moon at the bend in the Midhope road. Whether it was because of these reports or because there was whiff of rebellion in the air (the full moon?), there was a change to the pre-planned wander. We were promised more running (gasp!) and on tracks (double gasp!). This triggered a mild comment, surely jogging, not running? On this, there was some degree of agreement though Ian W and his Lincoln friend (both young bloods) indicated their wish to elevate themselves to running and duly ran, adding an extra checkpoint at Mickleden Pond to which the rest of us didn’t aspire.
Bob’s alternative did not disappoint, as we ran (yes, at least we thought it was) up the track by Sugden Clough in and out of the moonlight and into the mist. Happily, there was a crackle and sparkle of frost on the damp grassy track to make the running (?) more bearable. It couldn’t last, of course. We reached the blue matting track which proved to be even more slippery than the aforementioned Ewden Beck escape slope so, to maintain some sort of balance and dignity, walking next to it was the answer. We descended in this way until the serious bog where, thoughtfully the blue matting had been reinforced with a se
ries of very slippery logs. Of the many talents Warts have, I don’t think log rolling is amongst them though, given their many eccentricities it wouldn’t surprise me if there was at least one log roller. Anyway, there wasn’t one in this eleven so we continued our walking at the side of the track and we were almost relieved to leave it and go on to the general heathery bog towards Outer Edge trig. It’s a surprisingly long way there, especially at mainly walking pace; when we arrived no whisky nor sweeties were taken such was our dedication to serious running. To ration the enjoyment of slippage, the return from the trig avoided the blue matting and logs and replaced it with some enjoyable deep and knarly groughs until the track and the moonlight emerged from the mist and, then, full speed ahead. Phew!
The post outing analysis at The Horns confirmed that, indeed we did a bit more running but managed to include some of the elements of a traditional Warts’ run. So, another successful Warts’ trip.
As Warts’ start locations go, the one having potentially the windiest, wettest and coldest changing “facilities” is Doctor’s Gate near the summit of the Snake Road. This potential was realised on the early (5.45pm) outing there this Wednesday. There were eleven of us and, all except one, were retirees or part timers, clearly a discerning and distinguished group! An early start allowed for longer enjoyment of, and on, the hills. In view of the approaching Club Champs from Glossop, Andy (RO) selected a route to avoid impingement on any possible courses from there (no reccying!); as it turned out, it probably mattered not a jot.
Whilst the outline of Featherbed Moss could be seen from the car park, any further location clues from such outlines were obscured by the increasingly enveloping mist encountered on climbing directly from the car park and on towards the Upper North Grain hut. As a foretaste of things to come, there was a need, after only about ten minutes, to consult Chris’s “technology” to sort our whether to go upstream or downstream the Grain to find the hut. This was resolved and the hut seemed to be in a sorry state with some of the main roof beams either rotten or broken and the floor a muddy mess. By contrast, last year the nearby Oyster Clough hut was very civilised, with table, chairs, log book, a tin of beans, a candle in a jam jar and a flagged floor, all the creature comforts. However, it is understood that a gale has since blown the roof off and the hut is now in a sorry state, or is it? No time tonight, though, to find out.
An encounter with some measuring equipment further up the Grain, i.e. dip wells, prompted an explanation of the dangers of previous open versions of the wells. The local voles seemed to have a tendency to dive into them and then drown with others following, perhaps, to save them. The rather dismal record, so far, is six drowned voles in one dip well. Well, they now have caps to avoid such events. In our weather induced hysteria, images of voles wearing flat caps to prevent dip well drowning were generated. This delusion helped distract us across soggy open moorland although, through the combined effect of the tunnel vision of a waterproof hood, the torch spot light and the wet misty blackness of the surroundings, it was difficult to see anything other than the immediate mainly boggy ground.
It was, of course, inevitable that we crossed a river, this one swollen by the recent and continuing rainfall. Even the upper reaches of the Alport river can have some surprises. Crossing the rushing, knee high water is usually not a problem but add the slippery-as-ice underwater rocks then, despite warnings, a fall into the cooling water can happen. Needless to say, I provided a bit of entertainment to raise our spirits without resorting to the whisky. We continued north westerly now to The Swamp though it was questionable on this wet evening why it should be distinguished from the rest of the moor which was almost at its swampiest. Because of the lack of any discernible landmarks there was a feeling that we were on a bumpy sort of treadmill. We seemed to be covering the same old ground, swamp, stream, pool, peat, rushes (we weren’t) and even a few rocks all of which had been programmed into the imaginary treadmill.
There were quite a few stops, thankfully, for perusal of maps and “technology” by our navigation team of Bob, Andy, Pete, Chris and others until we met a PW stone sign with two arrows at right angles, near Bleaklow Head. More consultation and, then, much to our surprise, we reached the welcome sight of Wain Stones. Spirits, in flasks, were lifted and sweeties were handed round. Hern Stones followed and with a slight wobble (see the map) the trig of Higher Shelf Stones appeared. Never was a lump of concrete so keenly celebrated!
Three distinct land marks, Crooked Clough, Devil’s Dyke, aka the PW, and the fence brought us to our sumptuous changing room and then to the even more sumptuous Anglers’ Rest where the Cap’n declared that this was probably one of the hardest winter outings.
Who can disagree?!
The start locations for the Warts’ winter season fixture list are mostly spread over the north, north east and north west of the Peak district so that the tussocks, streams, bogs, heather and bracken can be thoroughly enjoyed. The Warts living in the south, therefore, have a longer trek for these delights. So, at least one fixture location in the south is granted by the Cap’n, as compensation. We southerners looked forward to the short trip to The Grouse. However, injury and other activities meant that only one of the Ecclesall contingent turned up. Thankfully, the Totley, Curbar and Hathersage Warts did appear. The Loxley Valley Warts made the long trip to the foreign south to enjoy whatever delights were to be offered.
Such was the apparent tussock trauma of last year’s outing from The Grouse that some parts of Big Moor were to be avoided for a number of years until full rehabilitation of these Warts had been achieved. This night, three (at least) routes were suggested, variously including the White, Froggatt, Baslow and Curbar Edges together with a stone circle and Wellington’s Monument. A choice of a sort of amalgam of the three was made and away we dashed (!) from the pub car park. However, such is the unfamiliarity of the Cap’n with path running that, within the first half mile, he performed a tumble resulting in an outburst of the danger(s) of such practices. Amazingly for a Wednesday Warts’ wander, our feet remained dry for most of the path along Froggratt and Curbar Edges. However, a diversion to a trig point soon cured that problem as we picked our way through a bog worthy of any northern Dark Peak bogs.
As is becoming routine for Warts’ outings, the original plan, to visit the Wellington monument, was shelved as we arrived by more dry paths at Curbar Gap car park. This rethink possibly may have been because it would involve passing the Eagle Stone and some Warts may have been tempted to prove their virility (allegedly) by climbing it. So, for health and safety reasons, the new plan was to descend on the road (!) and then follow a long fairly muddy track in the trees and underneath the edges to the northern end of Froggatt. Here, yet another last-minute change was made to visit the indistinct stone circle which had been missed on the way out.
So, honour was satisfied in that we visited most of the planned places and the southerners had their moment in the sun/dark though I suspect it may take another year before the Cap’n returns! Equilibrium was restored in the pub as the discussions ranged from lactose intolerance, volcanoes, the near extinction of the human race and the capture of methane from burping cattle.
Not being satisfied with successfully organising the FRA relays at the weekend, Tim T. also organised the Urban Nights Race 1 for this Wednesday night. This possibly accounted for the limited turnout of seven, including ultra-runner Sam, at the Warts’ outing from Rowley Bridge. However, seven makes a compact group which agreed on a route to Jaggers Clough, the quarry, a path near Druid’s Stone, Madwoman’s Stones and Crookestone Knoll. The alternative suggestion, starting directly up to Crookestone Knoll was fairly quickly dismissed, I can’t think why!
The rocky track, eventually leading to Hope Cross, was well watered and whilst initial efforts were made to avoid wet feet, they were soon abandoned to concentrate on not tripping over the rocks. The junior division of tonight’s Warts’ outing, Fi and Sam, lead the climb and then the descent up and over to Jaggers Clough. The remaining five followed them into this surprisingly deep clough. By the way, who or what was Jagger and why was the clough so named? If Jagger can be used for a Clough and Ward for a Piece, it is hoped that Tom’s Tree, Bob’s Rock, Moz’s Pimple, Penny’s scree and others will, in time, also be sufficiently established (and venerated) to be included on Dark Peak maps.
It has been a long-standing wish of some members of the club (mainly Warts) to hold the AGM at the quarry located on the way from Jaggers towards Nether Moor. Despite giving some shelter for members from the wind and rain, the quarry would nevertheless be expected to be sufficiently cold, wet, draughty and seat-less to restrict club reports and discussions to a minimum. At least, this fantasising distracted us from our supposed purpose of running, instead, a bit of scrambling allowed us to escape from the quarry and practice high knee lifts through the heather to Nether Moor summit. It is perhaps misleading to describe it as a summit, better would be “a slightly raised piece of ground”. It has certainly given mapmakers a puzzle with the OS defining a spot height of 442m and the Harvey map 444m and, curiously, the cairn, which might have accounted for the difference, is only marked on the lower spot height of the OS map.
Oh well, back to more, high knee lifts up to Kinder Edge. This prompted Sam to ask whether this was typical of Warts’ outings, to be given the simple reply, “Yes” thus generating the comment that more training over this terrain was needed. In true Warts fashion (could Warts ever be fashionable?), we came close to Druid’s Stone, though, we weren’t entirely sure. Never mind, we did find Madwoman’s Stones or were they? There is a group of stones not far away which have also been claimed to be them. So many questions on this outing. Whilst avoiding the climb at the start to Crookestone Knoll, we had no objections to its descent, although there were some more discussions on the best line, aim for a tree and make sure you get the right one.
As is becoming more frequent, there were more questions than answers although the refreshments at the Anglers provided all the answers we needed. It was another good night run.
Cap'n Harmer has declared an alternative from Doctors Gate (just before Snake Top, SK096928), starting at the earlier time of 5.45 (17.45 if you prefer). So be prepared to be out for even longer than usual :)
Could we have been running too quickly from Broomhead to the upper footbridge over Oaken Clough? The sprint along Dukes Road and the Land Rover track had brought us to there after only 45 minutes so it was too early to head back to the cars. This was despite Phil taking the younger Warts on a one mile detour to somewhere near Flint Hill, for a bit of extra training, you understand. The background to this concern about time, resulted from last week’s outing from King’s Tree to Bob’s shed and Margery Hill which meant that most of us arrived home at about 10.30pm. (Note that refreshments were nevertheless taken.) Hence tonight’s frolic was designed to be shorter and, for a bonus, the girders were to be avoided to prevent any serious encounter with bracken which was in full magnificent bloom.
So, no long outing and no bracken. Having reached the Oaken Clough footbridge early, a route was decided upon to go from there to Fox Stones and then back via the shooting cabin, only a short distance, thereby bringing us back to the cars in reasonable time. The logic, as was plain to see, was impressive. We had a good line over the moor to Stainery Clough which was crossed without too much inconvenience, just a few slippery rocks, a small rock fall and a bit of bracken. Crossing more moorland over some old burnt and fresh heather brought us to Ewden Beck. Here we were treated to the sight (in torchlight, of course) and sound of a delightful waterfall fed by yesterday’s downpour. The crossing was a repeat of that of Stainery Clough, only bigger this time with the bracken above our heads. A little bit of open ground to Fox Stones provided some relief together with the whisky and jelly baby refreshments taken there.
It was only about one kilometre to the shooting cabin so it was thought we could make up for some of the time lost crossing the rivers. The logic, again, was sound enough but……….. the blooming bracken began to eat into that valuable time. The whole outing was planned to take 90 minutes and before we reached the second crossing of Ewden Beck, there were only 9 minutes available. We fought bravely through the over-the-head bracken and the clouds of insects interrupted in their slumbers by giants with one bright shiny torch eye charging through their homes. Sliding feet first (if you were able) through trees, clinging on to branches which inconveniently snapped, we were able to have another crossing of the Beck. This time we doubled our enjoyment by reaching an island which, by definition, allowed an extra dip in the cooling Beck. From there, we climbed uphill through the dense bracken which seemed to close behind us as we forced a way through giving any followers no advantage. There was some relief from a short stretch of open ground which deceptively was a deep and unforgiving bog. Such is the determination of the Warts, we nevertheless continued despite this false dawn (I hasten to add that we were not so late!). Encouraged and enticed on by those fortunate enough to have reached the cabin, we set about to cross the stream at the cabin, “there’s a path just opposite”. This last 20m involved probably the tallest bracken on the steepest slope leaving the Cap’n to perform a sort of somersault. The torchlit view of him upside down with legs in the air and framed by the bracken was not something I want to dwell on. We did reach the cabin and then the cars, but late, well over the planned time, and with an overdose of bracken. Ah, the plans of mice and men!
After that extreme bracken experience, a couple of things came to mind. Firstly, the run back on the track was tedious and, after a little while on it, there was a strange feeling of missing the excitement and challenge of the bracken. I’m happy to report that I have now fully recovered from that aberration. Secondly, it was pointed out that this experience would be of benefit for next week’s Hunter wreck night race in that there wouldn’t be the same intensity of bracken. So, the evening’s outing was possibly a form of therapy to prepare us for the race. You never know, it may work. We’ll see next week!
© Dark Peak Fell Runners 2020
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