Sunday, 15 February 2015

Mill Hill & Kinder Scout - The Northern Edge

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Route: Snake Pass, Featherbed Moss, Featherbed Top, Pennine Way, Glead Hill, Mill Hill, Sandy Heys, Kinder Downfall, Kinder Gates, Seal Edge, Blackden Moor, Blackden Brook, Blackden Barn, River Ashop, Woodlands Valley, Snake Inn

Date: 15/02/2015
From: Snake Pass

Parking: Roadside parking at Snake Pass summit
Start Point: Snake Pass
Region: Peak District Dark Peak

Route length: 10.7 miles (17.2 km)
Time taken: 05:00
Average speed: 2.2 mph
Ascent: 461m
Descent: 658m

Featherbed Moss (544m), Mill Hill (544m)

Other points of interest: Sandy Hays, Kinder Downfall, Kinder River, Seal Edge, Blackden Brook

After being absolutely spoiled by a recent trip to the Lake District, it was back to normality the following weekend for another crack at Kinder Scout. You may remember I've been tackling the vast expanse of Kinder Scout (the edges at least) in stages, the first focussing on the southern edge and another walking the west including the famous Kinder Downfall. That left the wild, northern edge un-walked which we certainly couldn't leave for too long. We devised another two car route beginning at the Pennine Way as it crosses between Kinder and Bleaklow and finishing at the Snake Pass Inn. The forecast wasn't great but it was dry, which is always a bonus.

My car was the lucky one to be left at the pass and after part-parking, part-crashing it against the embankment, we set off into the mist along the Pennine Way. The Pennine Way, in the way it does in many sections, floats on top of the boggy moorland thanks to a huge number of square stone blocks. These provide a safe and dry way to cross much of the wetness that you encounter across the Pennines. Other walkers may have gazed upon us with a certain amount of curiosity as we abandoned the safety of the path and ventured out into the mist shrouded moorland.
Heading off-piste onto Featherbed Moss
Our aim was Featherbed Top, the high point of Featherbed Moss, large moorland between Kinder and Bleaklow. I get the impression that rarely visited, despite being a short distance from the Pennine Way and an easy gradient to the summit. The ground wasn't half as wet as I expected it to be, the subsoils seemed to be clinging on to the chill of winter. Featherbed Top is marked by a lonely post, stuck in the ground in the absence of any rocks with which to build a cairn. The thick fog prevented us seeing any views.
The summit of Featherbed Moss (Featherbed Top)
The last bastion for this winters snow
We headed west off the summit, eventually coming across the Pennine Way again, floating along the top of the peat again. And easy stroll of a couple of miles past Moss Castle led us to another summit within spitting distance of Kinder Scout itself; Mill Hill.
The sanctuary of the Pennine Way
The sun does its best to creep through the mist
We were going to climb Mill Hill on a previous trip but decided against in on account of time. We'd have no choice this time as the route we needed to follow crossed directly over the top. Like many of the hills of the Peak District, Mill Hill bears the sad remains of a crashed aeroplane, this time a B24 bomber from the United States Air Force. The bomber crashed into the hillside after encountering severe turbulence but miraculously, both pilots survived.
The summit of Mill Hill
As were atop Mill Hill the clouds swiftly began to lift, revealing the prow of Kinder Scout ahead. It was looking like the day may end being not too bad after all. The depression between Kinder and Mill Hill carries a number of paths across it with a proud marker post guiding the various ways. Our route would take us straight up the steep slopes of the north-western corner, still following the route of the Pennine Way.
Clouds break in the direction of Chunal Moor
Kinder Scout is almost revealed
Mill Hill's summit
Kinder Scout becoming clearer
Clouds roll past Sandy Heys
Mount Famine and South Head on the horizon
Kinder Scout
A fine marker post stands at the junction of four paths
Mill Hill seen from the climb up onto the Kinder plateau
We followed the Pennine Way to Sandy Heys, a rocky outcrop on Kinder's western face. It provides a fine vantage point, overlooking Kinder Reservoir to the south-west and the Kinder plateau stretching off into the clouds to the south-east. It also hints at the famous Kinder Downfall where the Kinder River tumbles down the hillside.
Leygatehead Moor
A view north along the Pennine Way
The rocky protrusion of Sandy Heys
Kinder Reservoir beyond Sandy Heys
Clouds roll over the top of Kinder Scout
Rock formations at Sandy Heys
A short distance from Sandy Heys, and off the beaten track, stands a trig pillar; one of three that grace the plateau of Kinder. This one, nameless on the OS map, is a few metres lower than the one found at Kinder Low but it too stands tall on a plinth of concrete, elevated by the erosion of the peat over many years. Curiously, a second pillar can be found at this point, lying on its side at the base of the erect one, seemingly pushed to one side at some point in its life.
Erosion management
Trig pillar known as 'The Edge' with the toppled one next to it
As we loitered around the trig, a helicopter swept in and touched down a short distance away, dispatching a group of neon-clad men who were looking rather serious. Nothing to worry about, they turned out to be from Moors for the Future, a partnership aimed at reversing 200 years of erosion and restoring the moorland to its former glory. Based on what I've seen over the last year, they're doing a fine job. They had been placed around Sandy Heys to direct the helicopter as it began to ferry bags of vegetation up onto Kinder.
Moors for the Future arrive in style
This didn't last long sadly as, during its second trip, the clouds rolled in with a typical swiftness, obscuring all before us and, more importantly, obscuring the helicopters view of the hillside. Understandably, the next time we saw a glimpse of it, it was hightailing back to the safety of the valley below.

The clouds remained low as we made our way to Kinder Downfall, the aforementioned waterfall. There were large numbers of people milling around so we didn't hang around for too long, following the Kinder River right into the heart of Kinder itself. The ground became considerably snowier as we ventured along the river, crossing it at Kinder Gates and striking out onto the open moorland.
Kinder Downfall

Kinder Downfall
Kinder River
Kinder River
A daring crossing
The Kinder River as it penetrates into Kinder Scout
Looking towards Kinder Gates
As we've done previously, we were aiming for Fair Brook, crossing Kinder at one its narrowest parts. Here we could pick up the path that heads east along Kinder's deserted northern edge. The clouds were low enough to prevent any substantial views but at least they weren't too thick - we could see where we were going.
Open moorland on Kinder Scout
Rock formations above Fair Brook
We crossed the open moorland and found the path that starts its crossing of Seal Edge. Unlike the southern edges, the north side of Kinder is much quieter and less frequented. There aren't the wide eroded motorways that you can find elsewhere and it has a certain wild charm, despite not having impressive sights such as the Woolpacks or Nether Tor.
Fair Brook below
Heading along Seal Edge
Formations along Seal Edge
More formations on Seal Edge
We were robbed of some of the drama of Seal Edge by the low cloud though the deep drifts of snow certainly made for a more challenging and slower route across the top. We spent the next hour or so making our way along the edge, passing around an impressive rock formation whose name seems to elude me. Eventually, we reached the head of Blackden Brook and began a rather slow and perilous descent.
Middle Seal Clough
An interesting formation close to Seal Stones
Blackden Brook
There is a path the runs alongside Blackden Brook, jumping down the steep rocky terraces that line the stream. The difficulty came where large patches of snow had covered the path, requiring an unconventional technique to part-slide and part-stomp through. It may not appear so on the map but the first few hundred metres of the descent are very steep, only easing once you are in the very depths the ravine.
The first fall on Blackden Brook
Blackden Brook
The distraction from the difficult path were the numerous waterfalls that carry the stream through the valley; they are magnificent though no single one appears to have a name - they all appear under the disappointing moniker of 'waterfalls'. The falls continue until the valley becomes shallower though the path still remains tricky to follow in places. As the valley begins to open up, we were caught out by the route of the path, following it to Blackden Barn rather than crossing the stream a few hundred metres earlier. This meant we had to negotiate an unplanned crossing of Blackden Brook using a combination of a leap and a pair of crossed fingers.
Blackden Brook
Blackden Brook
Blackden Brook
Blackden Brook
Blackden Brook
Blackden Barn
The River Ashop
With dry feet, we crossed the River Ashop by more conventional means and scaled the hillside to the Snake Road which we followed back to the Snake Inn. I wouldn't recommend a repeat of this as there is very little room at the road edges and you are often forced to walk on the wrong side (i.e. with traffic approaching behind you). I can hazard a guess some of the drivers may have uttered a few choice words in our direction. Though we didn't follow it, you can get from Blackden Barn to the Snake Inn by following the old Roman Road but requires a bit of a climb, one of the reasons we avoided it this time.
Kinder from Woodlands Valley
Blackden Moor above the Woodlands Valley
Still, the finishing point at the Snake Pass Inn allowed for a refreshing beverage before heading back to retrieve my car and assess the damage from the morning's attempt at parking. No long term effects. Who needs the plastic strip below the bumper anyway?

Another successful and interesting route around Kinder made all the more interesting by the descent into Blackden Brook, despite the presence of the low cloud. I've said many times before that Kinder Scout is an endlessly interesting place and arguably my favourite location in the Peak District thanks to the sheer variety that it offers. Stringing this and two previous walks together covers the majority of the famous Kinder edges; save for the eastern extremities so the next logical step will be to walk the Kinder circuit; a route that's already being pencilled in for the Spring. Watch this space.