Saturday 11th June 2011
A Bit On Edge: Kings Tree to Hathersage – 16.25 miles
Ordnance Survey Explorer OL1 – The Dark Peak
Kings Tree – Slippery Stones – Cut Gate Path – Margery Hill – Wilfrey Edge – Howden Edge – Wet Stones – Cartledge Bents – Cartledge Stones Ridge – Back Tor – Derwent Edge – Whinstone Lee Tor – Cutthroat Bridge – Jarvis Clough – Moscar Moor – Crow Chin – High Neb – Stanage Edge – Stanage Plantation – North Lees – Bronte Cottage – Baulk Lane - Hathersage
Fairholmes: Snack Cabin
Hathersage: Pubs, Cafes, Shops, Transport, Accommodation
Sunny at first, windy, cold and wet later, clearing up for the evening.
This was an outing I had been planning for some while. A window of opportunity had arisen: I had researched my route and done my preparation, and had been keeping an eye on the weather as the weekend drew nearer. So, even though the forecast seemed a bit dodgy, I wasn’t about to be put off.
Getting to the Ladybower area from Derby by public transport looked like being a complex and long-winded affair, so I was very grateful for the offer of a lift. As it was, we arrived at Fairholmes just in time for me to squeeze on to the next bus to Kings Tree, where I sat listening to the murmur of happy chatter.
It was already 11.00am and I had some way to go, so I set myself a brisk pace and soon pulled away from the crowd. Early conditions had been pleasant enough, and the sun was shining as I crossed the elaborate packhorse bridge at Slippery Stones.
Picking up the Cut Gate Path, I was buzzed by a pair of MTBers. Ahead a couple more were slogging up the steep section, bikes slung over shoulders. I paused to catch my breath – behind me, over Cranberry Clough, the cloud was beginning to build.
Five minutes later the rain began, sharp and stormy. Then came the hail! Fortunately, I’d had the foresight to pack my winter waterproof, so with hatches fully battened down, I continued the climb.
The path southwards over Margery Hill is fairly easy to find as long as you keep your wits about you. The rain relented slightly as I joined Wilfrey Edge and watched the recent bout of inclement weather move away along Howden Edge.
Despite the unpleasant conditions, there was plenty of wildlife to see. On this section I spotted both Curlew and a Short-Eared Owl; a little further on what I think was a Common Sandpiper.
I followed the clear path along Howden Edge, later branching off towards the obvious knoll of Wet Rocks where I passed a group of twenty-or-so arriving from the west – it may have been a poor day, but there were quite a few people about. It may have been the group from the bus, but it’s difficult to tell under waterproofs.
Then I struck out eastwards across the open moor – keeping on the high side of the catchment for Abbey Brook – at first on a clear track, then narrowing paths and finally over rough moorland, gradually swinging south east to cross Abbey Brook at an easy point beyond the eastern end of its steep sided gorge. Pushing through the heather I inadvertently startled a Mountain Hare, which bounded away in a perfect circle right back to its lair.
I took my lunch sitting on some nearby rocks enjoying a brief sunny interval. Another short spell of bog-trotting brought me to the flagged Cartledge Ridge Path, an easy route up to the distinctive outcrop of Back Tor which I reached about 2.00pm – as did a significant squally shower!
Fully waterproofed again, I set off along Derwent Edge past a series of bizarrely eroded rock formations. As the forecast had predicted the weather was definitely coming from the western quarter, as the hail and thick rain beat an erratic tattoo on my jacket’s hood.
In brighter interludes there were spectacular views west to the Great Ridge, the Vale of Edale and the Kinder Plateau. Occasionally, Red Grouse chuntered off into the distance.
Passing the Derwent/Moscar path crossing, I soon reached Whinstone Lee Tor where I’d hoped for a bit of a break, but another heavy shower cut it short. So I carried on down to Cutthroat Bridge, crossed the A57 and set off up Jarvis Clough. At the end of the clear track a less-obvious route aimed roughly due east towards the edge, gradually petering out into a series of indistinct sheep paths. I picked my way carefully forwards, alone apart from a multitude of birds – Red Grouse, Lapwing, Curlew, Quail and Meadow Pipit.
Finally, I found my way to the base of the edge. Further south, the ramparts are the haunt of climbers, but here there are breaches in the fortifications that allow the walker easy access to the top. I slipped through a gap near Crow Chin and took a short break.
By now, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining, although the wind was freezing. I stopped to chat to two climbers who couldn’t believe how cold it was for mid June! But the edges in the evening sunshine are a beautiful sight, my tiredness forgotten as I passed over High Neb towards Stanage Edge proper.
I dropped off the top near Long Causeway following the path below crags speckled with climbers, picking my way down towards Hathersage via North Lees, Bronte Cottage, Brookfield Manor and Baulk Lane, with glorious views back to the crags.
By now I was making fairly slow progress, but I didn’t mind. There was a game of cricket taking place on the village playing field, and I stopped to watch a few overs.
The Youth Hostel is quite close to the village centre, so it was a simple matter of popping out for something to eat and a few pints at the Little John pub. That first pint of Hartley’s XB really hit the spot – putting that “end of walk” grin on my face. Bliss!