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This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

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Sunday, 11 October 2020

Sunday Walk - Bleaklow - the great, untamed wilderness [Ladybower Trip] [New Walk]

Fairholmes Circular via Bleaklow and Derwent Head or the Westend Valley

Length: 27.3 km (16.9 mi) [shorter version possible, see below]
Ascent/Descent: 646m; Net Walking Time: ca. 7-8 hours
Toughness: 10 out of 10

Take the 09.00 bus line 273 from Sheffield Interchange (Stand D3) to Castleton (calls Ashopton, Ladybower Inn 09.25), arrives Fairholmes, Derwent Dam 09.32. 
Return bus to Ladybower Inn and Sheffield: 18.36.

Quite possibly the wildest and remotest of the fully written up SWC walks, this route leads from a remote bus stop on the famous Derwent Reservoirs through woods onto a grassy boggy ridge past Alport Castles, Britain’s largest inland landslip area with its fascinating rock formations and piles of rocky debris, to one of England’s few great, untamed wildernesses: Bleaklow. Bleak by name, bleak by nature, it is famed for its extensive, wild moorland and is home to two of the three highest points in the Peak District. Despite its reputation as an endless, featureless mass of peat bogs, Bleaklow is quite magnificent though. Its contours are more rounded than Kinder's, but it is less accessible and more remote with fewer paths and features aiding navigation, basically an often-pathless wilderness – rough, boggy, quiet, wild and lonely. But it also has some picturesque gritstone rock formations, worn into shapes by wind and water and plenty of scenic river valleys running off it.
The route across Bleaklow follows the Pennine watershed across the heart of the unforgiving plateau, with wide vistas across the Dark Peak area and to the North, before descending through the very pretty Upper Derwent Valley past Howden and Derwent Reservoirs back to the start.
Note: The stretch along the large – and partly pathless – peatland plateau requires excellent navigational skills and very good stamina, as any divergence from the best line requires much higher levels of energy, due to the deep peaty groughs, some watery holes and boggy ground either side of (and sometimes on) the best route.

An Alternative Descent Route from Bleaklow Stones avoids most of the often-pathless crossing of the high moors and leads via Grinah Stones, Barrow Stones, Round Hill, Ridgewalk Moor & the Westend Valley to the road by Howden Reservoir and thence to Fairholmes. This is rated 9/10, with 24.8 km/15.4 mi distance and 581m ascent.

Lunch: picnic.
Tea: Derwent Café (a hot and cold food kiosk in the Fairholmes Visitor Centre, open to 17.30 [not guaranteed]).

For walk directions, map, photos, height profile and gpx/kml files click here. T=swc.350

1 comment:

Thomas G said...

The bus out to Fairholmes ran 17 minutes late on account of being very busy, and the car drivers had long left, so we had a staggered start to the walk. Steeply up through a wood onto a grassy Ridge with stunning views in the sunshine across to Kinder's north face and up the Woodlands Valley. There was a cold wind all day, but just when we most needed a clear, fluffy clouds day with mainly blue skies and very far views, we got it.
The flagged path out to the Alport Castle landslip was easy, then the ground became a bit more demanding, onwards to Westend and Alport Moors. 1 walker gave up at the trig on Westend Moor on account of having soggy boots already, before the real action had even started. She walked a variation of various bits of the other SWC walks in the area and had a full day of it.
On through partly difficult to negotiate terrain up to Bleaklow's plateau with its deep groughs, gritstone sculptures, mountain hares and peat hags. After the glorious Bleaklow Stones, at the path fork, all opted for the Main Walk option and spent 40-50 (hopefully) entertaining minutes negotiating the widely pathless plateau. With grand views in all directions, more hares, plenty of pretty copper-coloured grasses in the groughs and a not too energy-sapping progress.
We stayed pretty close to the ideal line along the watershed and eventually crossed into Yorkshire to initially follow narrow paths along the infant Derwent river down the very scenic Upper Derwent Valley. The river was bubbling away quite nicely after recent rains and the rest was just an exercise in following it, fording a few streams, and then walk along Howden and Upper Derwent Reservoirs back to Fairholmes. Derwent Reservoir was full and overflowing which always makes for a good photo. Back at the bus stop in drips and draps, from 18.10 onwards, with the 18.36 arriving on time. 1 of the 20 knees on the walk had started hurting, so one of the car drivers and her chaperone finished a bit behind though.
Great day out.
N=10 w=dry-and-sunny-with-a-cold-wind