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Guidebook to 40 walks in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park. 35 circular routes for most abilities, from 8km to 19km, around Edale, Marsden, Fairholmes, Baslow and Castleton, including Kinder Scout and Mam Tor, and 5 longer (25km to 45km) routes highlighting the best of the Gritstone Edges, High Moorland and Deep Valleys.
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Located in the Peak District and distinguished from the neighbouring White Peak by the layer of gritstone which covers its limestone bed, the Dark Peak features a wild landscape of sweeping moorland and big skies. Easily accessible from Sheffield, it boasts a wealth of natural, geological, historical and cultural interest – and some great walking.
This guidebook describes 40 walks in the Dark Peak. Ranging from short strolls to full-day adventures, they showcase the region's unique character. Dramatic waterfalls, striking gritstone edges, heath and woodland are just some of the delights encountered, with many of the routes venturing off-path to explore hidden cloughs and valleys. Detailed route description is provided for 35 walks, accompanied by 1:50,000 OS mapping and interesting facts about local points of interest, then a further five longer walks (of 25-45km) are summarised in the final section, including a classic circuit of the Kinder Scout skyline.
Taking in the high moors of Derwent, Bleaklow, Kinder and Howden, the walks reveal not only the area's wild beauty but also some of its fascinating stories. 10,000 years of history lie waiting to be uncovered – from Neolithic burial mounds and Bronze Age cairns to remnants of the region's more recent industrial past. This guide is a perfect companion to discovering the secrets of the Dark Peak and experiencing its magnificent landscape in all its glory.
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|Plants and wildlife|
|Local services and transport|
|Maps and navigation|
|Using this guide|
|Eastern Dark Peak|
|Walk 1 Chatsworth to Birchen Edge|
|Walk 2 Longshaw Estate and the gritstone edges|
|Walk 3 Fox House to Big Moor|
|Walk 4 Fox House to Stanedge Pole|
|Walk 5 Grindleford to Higger Tor|
|Central Dark Peak|
|Walk 6 Hathersage to Stanage Edge|
|Walk 7 Wyming Brook to Stanage Edge|
|Walk 8 Bamford Moor|
|Walk 9 Win Hill to Hope Cross|
|Walk 10 Kings Tree to Shepherds Meeting Stones|
|Walk 11 Westend and Bleaklow Stones|
|Walk 12 Derwent Edge|
|Walk 13 Alport Castles and the Woodlands Valley|
|Walk 14 Margery Hill to Back Tor|
|Walk 15 Low Bradfield and Dale Dyke|
|Walk 16 Langsett to Howden Edge|
|Walk 17 Langsett to Pike Lowe|
|Walk 18 Torside to Bleaklow Head|
|Walk 19 Wildboar Clough to Lawrence Edge|
|Walk 20 Old Glossop to Bleaklow Head|
|Walk 21 Kinder Scout Northern Edge|
|Walk 22 Kinder Scout Western Edge|
|Walk 23 Kinder Scout|
|Walk 24 Kinder Scout Southern Edge|
|Walk 25 The Great Ridge|
|Northern Dark Peak|
|Walk 26 Dunford Bridge to Ramsden Clough|
|Walk 27 Crowden Horseshoe|
|Walk 28 Crowden to Chew Valley|
|Walk 29 Marsden to Black Hill|
|Walk 30 Alphin Pike to Birchen Clough|
|Walk 31 Binn Green to Great Dove Stone Rock|
|Walk 32 Cotton Famine Road|
|Western Dark Peak|
|Walk 33 Goyt Valley to Shining Tor|
|Walk 34 Derbyshire Bridge to Shutlingsloe|
|Walk 35 The Roaches|
|Long day walks|
|Walk 36 Marsden to Edale|
|Walk 37 Langsett to Edale|
|Walk 38 Gritstone edges|
|Walk 39 Edale Horseshoe|
|Walk 40 Kinder Scout skyline|
|Appendix A Route summary table|
|Appendix B Useful information|
|Appendix C Aircraft crash site locations|
On a beautiful winter’s day with a sky that was powder blue and dotted with brilliant white clouds, I dropped down from Barrow Stones to Ridgewalk Moor. As the path levelled out the wind suddenly became stronger, not enough to blow me over, but enough for me to think it was time to be getting off the high moor and down into the valley. The afternoon was drawing to a close and my walk that day had been one of the most enjoyable that winter. I hadn’t seen a soul, it being a weekday, and my walk had taken me off the footpath and across a succession of moors, rising up to Bleaklow Stones via a series of spot heights that formed a natural ascent. As I turned to head towards Round Hill I had the most amazing sense of the ocean. I stopped and breathed in the air, taking huge draughts into my lungs. I could smell and taste sea salt on the wind, fresh, tangy and exhilarating. It is a moment I relive, and it is just one of many memories that I have of the Dark Peak.
The area has a habit of producing days that are to be remembered; it is one of the reasons it is loved by so many people. It is a place of great beauty and variety, with a landscape that changes with the seasons. Its primary trait is one of restrained menace. The land broods, waiting for an excuse to show its dark side, often suddenly from nowhere and in a most brutal way. There is a reason why seven Mountain Rescue teams surround the Dark Peak, which alone is enough of a warning to any walker to treat the area with respect.
The Dark Peak is fringed with gritstone edges that look out across wide valleys to high peat moorland. It is famous for two things. The first is gritstone, coarse sandstone laid down between 360 million and 300 million years ago when the area was a vast river delta. The gritstone forms long high edges, a Mecca for climbers, and outcrops that give walkers superb viewpoints across wide valleys to the high moors beyond. The second feature the Dark Peak is famous for is encountered by all who venture onto the high moors: peat. In summer, it takes the form of a dark chocolate brownie that has a gentle bounce which makes a gait slightly comical. In wet weather it is an entirely different matter. Chocolate fondant is perhaps an appropriate description. Peat, when saturated, still maintains its solid appearance, which makes crossing the moors a challenge, especially if you enter a grough, a steep-sided incision from which egress is less than noble. At best you can end up covered in the black ooze up to your knees; at worst it can be up to your thighs.
The walks are not just about this incredible landscape. They are also about the human element that lies deep within the Dark Peak. From the Neolithic remains of fire platforms to Bronze Age cairns and burial mounds, we walk in footsteps long ago imprinted into the soft peat. It is an area that has witnessed murder, with the martyrs at Padley Chapel (Walk 5), mystery at Cutthroat Bridge (Walk 8), and human despair in Hannah Mitchell, who lived a life under such cruelty at Alport Hamlet, yet went on to become a Manchester magistrate and writer (Walk 13). The first national park to be granted this status was the Peak National Park, in April 1951, with those who fought for the Right to Roam frequently at the forefront of the national parks campaign.
Industry has made its mark, first with the peat cutting and then more visibly along the gritstone edges and the quarries producing the famous millstones and the stone for the great dams. War also has played its part, with at least three areas taking part in military training, the most famous being the Dambusters of the Upper Derwent Valley. In the last century the area has been the resting place of many aircraft, the remains of which can still be seen.
The Dark Peak presents a different experience with each season. Autumn invites you to savour the blazing colours of the ancient woodlands around Longshaw, and the smell of the landscape readying for the winter slumber. Then take a winter’s walk on Higger Tor, the wind driving snow horizontally across the moor, the cold biting the cheeks: perhaps you will be lucky enough to experience the thrill of sighting a mountain hare in its white winter cloak. In spring the path up to Grindle Barn from Ladybower has a beautiful meadow full of cornflowers and buttercups. And finally summer beckons, promising long days exploring the groughs of the Kinder Scout plateau, lunch at Crowden Head, reclining on soft sweet-smelling grass, and bathing in the Fairie Pools at Slippery Stones after a hard day’s walking. There are ample opportunities for challenge and character-building, testing navigational skill and self-reliance, and endless moments of pleasure discovering this rich and varied landscape.
I hope you enjoy the walks in this book and that it leads to further exploration of the Dark Peak and some wonderful memories.