Walk of the month: Upper Peak District - High hopes up on the misty moors

The National Trust has launched a plan to restore the landscapes of the upper Peak District. Mark Rowe sees what's in store

As a rule of thumb, when there's cloud on the high moors of the Peak District, the cafés of Castleton will be full to bursting, the air full of grumbles about the uncooperative weather. The British countryside has no shortage of dreamily attractive viewpoints, but can it be just as inspiring and uplifting when the weather closes in?

For some of us, the answer emphatically is yes, and low cloud is an invitation to strike up the flanks of Kinder Scout to take in the peculiarly atmospheric moods provided by bog and fog. On this particular walk, I've just finished climbing Jacob's Ladder, the steady, flagstone plod from Edale to Kinder. I may not be able to see more than 50 yards ahead, but closer by is heather moorland and hidden ahead are strangely alien rock shapes. More of them later.

The first two miles of this walk had proved deceptively bucolic and easy going, contouring around the lower flanks of Broadlee Bank Tor before descending to Upper Booth and Lee Farm. Sheep graze quietly, while aerial drama is provided by a flock of crows mobbing a buzzard. The route is framed by thickets of birch, rowan and, down by the streams, alder and fractured, abandoned stone barns.

The climb up Jacob's Ladder has always been an important packhorse route over the high Pennine moors, with salt from Cheshire and cotton from the mills moving east, and coal and lead headed in the other direction. Just by Swine's Back, I head east along the ridgeline and enter a moonscape of isolated, freakishly curved stones, fashioned and polished by ice, water and wind over the centuries.

Huge weathered gritstone pillars appear to have simply dropped out of the sky: here one that looks like a frog, there a fossilised giant snail and an upturned tooth, its roots pointing skywards. They have intriguing names, such as the Pagoda and the Wool Packs. It's easy to see why the sculptor Henry Moore is said to have been influenced by these peculiar rock formations.

The 7,000-year-old blanket peat bog that sits on top of Kinder Scout has evolved from prehistoric river deltas and is a startling thing to behold. But it is also in trouble. Partly as a legacy of the Industrial Revolution, the moors here have been subjected to acid rain for centuries, stifling plants and drying out the peat. Wildfires, sheep grazing and yes, even walkers, have added to the problem.

Things are set to take a turn for the better. This autumn, the National Trust launched its plan for managing the High Peak Moors. Over the next 50 years, the trust wants to address major issues that are damaging the high ground of the Peak District National Park, an area that stretches from Manchester to Sheffield.

The hope is for native trees and shrubs to spread up the valleys and narrow gorges known as cloughs, providing shelter and food for wildlife and stabilising erosion. The bogs that characterise the high ground also require some TLC – much of the peat is drying out and wearing away. Restoration work aims to make these areas wetter and enable this expanse of living bog to lock carbon in the new peat.

Just after the outcrops of Crowden Tower, the path drops down to cross a ford before snaking around the back of Grindslow Knoll. The path splinters again into a mish-mash of broken stone, exposed sand and fractured rocks. Somewhere in here I find a crossroads and a path dropping steeply into Grindsbrook Clough. Until the 1990s, the way up the clough made for a harrowing introduction to the Pennine Way, with the very first steps of the 280-mile route to Kirk Yetholm as arduous as anything else that lay ahead. I walked up here in 1986, subjecting myself to the footpath equivalent of square-bashing. Just three hours after setting off on the Pennine Way, with blisters the size of oranges, I was lost on the moorland plateau. The weather's much the same today, but having in the intervening years discovered the usefulness of a compass, I'm a little more confident.

Scrambling down Grindsbrook Clough I find that not much has changed. The path gives up the ghost altogether at times and I reach down between huge boulders that fill the gully. Back in Edale, I talk to Sophie Milner, the National Trust's project manager for the High Peaks vision. She, too, is a fan of thick mists. "No two days are the same. You can be up there sitting by the heather with the bees buzzing around, or you can go up when there is a mist and it's completely atmospheric and other-worldly," she says.

Despite the planned changes, the Trust is mindful of not making the moors too manicured. "We'll take care to keep the moors wild and remote," says Sophie. "Paths, signs, steps and gates can make places look cluttered and can take away from the feeling of wilderness on the moors. We're happy for the moors to be a bit of a challenge, so we'll keep man-made features to a minimum." Keep the compass in your pocket.

Directions

Start/Finish: Edale Station

OS map: OL1 Dark Peak Area

Distance: Five miles

Time: Three hours

Visitpeakdistrict.com From Edale Station, head through the village and turn left on to the Pennine Way, opposite the Nag's Head pub, and follow the path to Upper Booth Farm and on to Jacob's Ladder. Come off the Pennine Way, taking a path to your right and skirt eastwards around Kinder plateau making for, and passing by, the gritstone rocks and tors. Continue past Crowden Tower and the follow the footpath down into Grindsbrook and back to Edale Station.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Edale Station is served by Northern Rail, with trains from Sheffield and Manchester (08457 48 49 50; nationalrail.co.uk).

Staying there

Mark Rowe stayed at White Edge Lodge cottage near Hathersage (0844 800 2070; nationaltrustcottages.co.uk). Three nights' rental from £441; sleeps five.

More information

Peakdistrict.gov.uk

Visitpeakdistrict.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home