Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Grindsbrook & Crowden from Edale Walk

The Kinder Plateau is one of my favourite places. Every few months the wild loving loner inside me yearns for a solitary walk on the gritstone and peat with only the Skylarks for company. I have walked Kinder more than any other high ground in Britain. I live in Manchester so it is only half an hour away. I have slept on Kinder, walked it in deep winter and been scared to death when caught out by the weather on a few occasions. It is a fascinating and constantly changing landscape. I love that when stood on Kinder's west edge I can see North Cheshire where I was born and my beloved Manchester that I have always proudly called home and spent my entire life. On a clear day you can see as far as Merseyside and North Wales. It is my favourite place to sit and contemplate life when required. Today however there was no time for contemplation. I was here to stretch my legs and make sure my muscles were ready for the Three Peaks Challenge in a fortnight.

Grindsbrook Clough, Peak District National Park
One thing I love about Kinder is that there are dozens of ascent routes all with varying terrain and difficulty. One of the most difficult and most fun is the scramble at the top of Grindsbrook Clough. I thought a good arm and leg stretching scramble after a short leg stretching ascent would be the perfect workout. My favourite way to get to Kinder is by jumping on the train out of the city centre. I love the contrast of the bustling city centre train station and forty minutes later the idyllic village of Edale. On a Saturday morning the train from Piccadilly to Sheffield which stops in the Peak District is full of happy hikers of all ages.

Hairy Caterpillar in Grindsbrook Clough, Peak District
I left the happy train at Edale and made my way up the lane towards the village, listening to birds singing and enjoying the smell and colours of wild flowers in the hedge rows. I passed The Old Nags Head in the village then crossed Grinds Brook on the wooden footbridge. I turned left following the lower footpath towards Grindsbrook Clough.

Narrow section at the bottom of Grindsbrook Clough, Peak District
The path passes through a small wood then crosses the stream at the bottom of Golden Clough. The view up Grindsbrook Clough is really inviting from this point and the path rises above the stream and makes its way through the valley. The path eventually reaches a tricky narrow section. The original path originally went to the right over the top of the tricky section but a landslide and erosion has made it impassable. I followed an older group of walkers over the muddy rocks, one offering to let me pass but I let them stay in front, being polite of course, not because I'd then be aware of any loose or slippery rocks.

Grinds Brook, Peak District
At the tricky section I found a huge hairy caterpillar on the rocks and stopped for a photograph. Another thing I wanted to try was ducking my new waterproof phone into the brook to see if I could capture a few images of the world beneath the amber water. It certainly seems a much quieter world than above the amber water. I'll definitely try a few more snaps underwater next time and try to capture some underwater wildlife. I don't even bother carrying an actual camera anymore on most walks. My phones twenty mega pixel camera takes photos perfectly good enough for the blog and website.

Grinds Brook, Peak District National Park
The path crosses over to the left side of the brook as it gets closer to the top of the valley. The brook has exposed and shaped the gritstone into fascinating formations here. Parts of the brook look almost man made with perfect shaped slabs sat on top of one another. The exposed banks show the cake like layering of fragile shale that make the Hope Valley hills unstable, as demonstrated by the nearby Mam Tor and Back Tor landslides.

Grinds Brook Waterfall
At the top of the valley Grinds Brook splits in two. Every time I have been up here before I have gone left as most people do ascending the easier scramble to reach the mushroom shaped rock by the path to Grindslow Knoll. Today I wanted to explore the route following the brook to the right. I've looked down into it from the rocks above and it looks a lot more exciting.

Grindsbrook Clough
This new way up didn't disappoint. There was loads of scrambling opportunities when you follow the stream and boulder field. The views to the rocks above and out across and beyond Grindsbrook Clough behind me were awesome.

Grindsbrook Clough Scramble

Looking back towards Grindsbrook Clough, Peak District

Grinds Brook Waterfall

Gollum's Rock at the narrow section
At one point the stream falls through several narrow sections, some of them fairly difficult to negotiate. At the bottom of these sections there was a pool with a large rock in the middle. I sat on the rock for a while doing my best Gollum impressions.


Gollum by Grinds Brook Waterfall

Stunning landscape at the top of Grindsbrook Clough, Peak District
As I came out of the top of the narrow sections the landscape changed. The stream was now falling over the fascinating wide curved gritstone slabs I have seen elsewhere on the plateau where streams falling of the plateau have washed away the overlying peat. They look like huge gritstone versions of the boiler plate slabs you see in places like the Isle of Skye. The streams erode tiny ever changing ravines and pool holes on them.

Plateau path above Grindsbrook Clough, Grindslow Knoll beyond
When I reached the plateau path I turned left and headed towards the mushroom shaped rock on the way to Grindslow Knoll. The mushroom shaped rock sits at the top of the other route out of the top of Grindsbrook Clough. It was fairly busy here. I continued along the path, then instead of heading towards Grindslow Knoll, turned right on the plateau path towards Crowden Tower.

Plateau path near Crowden Tower
When I reached the rocks at Crowden Tower I found a quiet sheltered place to eat my lunch. You can't beat a warm bum shaped gritstone boulder with a view for a lunch spot. I continued along the plateau path towards Wool Packs passing this pig shaped rock on the way which someone had sensitively decorated much to my amusement.

Pig shaped rock near Crowden Tower, Peak District

Views from Crowden Tower, Peak District National Park

Approaching The Wool Packs, Peak District National Park

Wool Packs, Kinder Plateau, Peak District National Park
There are thousands of impressive gritstone rock formations all over the Peak District National Park and the Kinder Plateau. However there is something special about the huge imposing giants at Wool Packs. As you walk through and around them you feel like you have been dropped into a scene from Lord of the Rings.

Wool Packs, Kinder Plateau, Peak District National Park
The next impressive rock formation was Pym Chair where I sat for a while to check the map. Despite my many walks on the Kinder Plateau I have never actually tried to find the elusive featureless 636m spot height that is supposed to be the highest point on the plateau. I wondered if today could be that day.

Swine's Back and Edale Rocks on the distant horizon from Pym Chair
The plan was originally to visit Crowden Tower and Wool Packs then return to Crowden Brook and descend Crowden Clough to Edale. On a recent walk to Kinder Downfall and Kinder Low however I saw the incredible results of the five year 2.5 million pound project to restore the Kinder landscape. The landscape has completely changed. Gully blocking, brash spreading, fencing, reseeding and moorland restoration work has returned the landscape to what it once was before it was destroyed by decades of natural and man made erosion.

Pym Chair, Peak District National Park
The terrain looked more inviting than it had ever done before in my life time and the weather was calm. It was time to go off path and look for that elusive 636m high point and finally bag Kinder Scout. I headed along the plateau path towards Noe Stool from Pym Chair. When I was half way to Noe Stool I went off path and headed north along a slight ridge of higher grassier terrain I spotted on the map. The terrain was much drier and firmer than it had been in previous years. Although the gully blocking does create deceptively deep pools that cause a few interesting diverts.

Kinder Scout Summit, Peak District National Park, England
I could clearly see the rocks and trig point pillar at Kinder Low to the left. I know the Kinder Scout summit is less than a kilometre north east of there and is just a post with stones. I searched the horizon to my right and was pleasantly surprised to spot the post not far from where I was and in the line of where I was heading.

Kinder Scout Summit, Peak District National Park, England
I reached the small pile of stones with post. I do not want this to be the summit of such a fascinating hill. It is incredibly boring and featureless. I looked east and could see a few walkers stood by another pile of stones in the distance. I made my way across to that pile hoping for something better but it was not to be. I'm not too sure which of these two is supposed to be the 636m summit but neither are worthy of it. More to the point though. The last survey was in 2009. It definitely needs doing again. No one can stand at either of these two so called summits, look towards Kinder Low and say that they think they are higher than Kinder Low. There is no way on earth these two spot heights are higher than Kinder Low anymore.

Crowden Clough, Peak District National Park
I was massively disappointed by the supposedly true summit. However looking towards the clearly higher Kinder Low with its firmer ground, rock formations and trig point pillar on top, it didn't matter, I'm convinced that one day in the future Kinder Low will rightly be declared the true summit of Kinder Scout when a new survey takes place.

Myself chilling out above Crowden Clough, Peak District National Park
After the disappointment of the so called summits I took a direct route back to Pym Chair. I traced my route back along the plateau path through Wool Packs to Crowden Tower. When I reached the top of Crowden Clough I descended the narrow and steep path into the top end of the valley. As I stood on a rock outcrop to take a photo I spotted a bird diving in front of me and realise it was a Peregrine Falcon. It swooped once again then landed on a rock on the quieter side of the valley. I sat for a while on the rocks chilling out and waiting for it to fly again which it refused to so I carried on descending the steep rocky path into the valley.

Crowden Brook, Peak District

Crowden Clough, Peak District National Park, England
Crowden Clough is similar to Grindsbrook Clough but definitely has less rock and no scrambling. I saw a pair of Dippers in the stream at the bottom of the valley. I love watching them bobbing around on the rocks in small streams. I could have turned left and taken a short cut round the foot of Broadlee-Bank Tor to join up with the path before it drops to Edale but wanted to explore Upper Booth so carried on instead. I was glad I did as the quiet enchanting woodland section at the bottom of the valley was fantastic and the meadows full of summer wild flowers backed by peaks were absolutely stunning.

Brown Knoll above summer meadows, Upper Booth, Peak District

Foot of Crowden Tower above flower meadows, Upper Booth, Peak District
Foxgloves are one of my favourite flowers. They lined the path in blue and white as I made my way into Upper Booth. I turned left over the bridge and walked through the farm following the Pennine Way long distance footpath which would take me back to Edale.

Cute lamb at Upper Booth, Peak District National Park
There was an unexpected fifty metre climb to the foot of Broadlee-Bank before the path descended to Edale. The path heads straight through fields filled with cows and sheep, some young. I'm not too keen on protective mother cows. I nipped into the post office shop at Edale for a cold drink out of their fridge, then made my way back down the lane to catch the train home. The train was absolutely rammed as the Stone Roses were playing in Manchester and all Trans Pennine Express services between Sheffield and Manchester had been cancelled. The train was a Northern Rail Pacer, one of those rickety temporary measures that was actually based on the design of a Leyland bus. It was a strange mix of buzzing concert goers ready to go out for the night and knackered sweaty hill walkers like myself. I felt very sorry for those whose noses within intoxicating distance of myself. I had a great day out and got some much needed leg stretching done in time for the Three Peaks Challenge coming up the weekend after.

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