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?!
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