Sunday, 11 March 2018

Black Hill & Wessenden Moor

Open Space Web-Map builder Code

Route: A635, Dean Head Moss, Dean Head, Black Hill, Issue Clough, Dean Clough, A635, Pudding Real Moss, Leyzing Clough, Wessenden Lodge, Blakely Clough, Black Moss Reservoir, White Moss, Featherbed Moss, A635

Date: 11/03/2018
From: A635

Parking: A635 Layby
Start Point: A635 Layby
Region: Peak District - Dark Peak

Route length: 10.2 miles (16.4 km)
Time taken: 04:50
Average speed: 2.1 mph
Ascent: 456m
Descent: 464m

Summits: Black Hill (582m)

Other points of interest: Wessenden Head Moor

The further north you get from Edale, the wilder and less-frequented the Peak District becomes, culminating in the huge moorland areas of Bleaklow, Wessenden and Saddleworth and the highest point in West Yorkshire, Black Hill. For travellers on the Pennine Way, this is the third main summit after Kinder Scout and Bleaklow and the highest point until you reach Fountains Fell and Pen-y-Ghent in the Yorkshire Dales.

Despite this, these moors are relatively easy to access thanks to a convenient layby along the A635, located slap bang in the middle of Wessenden Moor, giving the perfect starting point to investigate these quieter moorland areas.
The layby on Wessenden Moor
From the layby, Black Hill stands approximately 2 miles away and, though the gradient is not difficult, the rough Pennine moorland makes for traditionally slow going. A path is marked on the map though don't expect to find it.
Black Hill
Drifts of snow were still evident on the moor
We made out way up onto Dean Head Moss, a low ridge which gives a drier approach to Black Hill's summit. As the route steepens, the odd cairn appears before you reach the summit plateau, a large, flat area topped by a trig pillar.
Something resembling a path on the way to Black Hill
The occasional cairn makes an apperance
Snow on the slopes of Black Hill
Black Hill
Atop Black Hill
The summit - Solider's Lump
Wainwright wrote of Black Hill: "It is not the only fell with a summit of peat, but no other shows such a desolate and hopeless quagmire to the sky". This was a reference to the desperate state the hill used to reside in, worn of all vegetation by the acidic rains from the industrial revolution, leaving the trig pillar swimming in a peat bog.

Fortunately, Moors for the Future began conservation work on the hill in 2003, bringing back the Sphagnum Moss that is so vital to a healthy peat habitat. Today it is a triumph of landscape restoration, just compare the two photos below:
Before and after - the restoration of Black Hill
The official name of the summit is "Soldier's Lump" which is a reference to the eighteenth-century visits of the Royal Engineer surveyors who first used it as a triangulation point. An examination of the mound in 1841 revealed the timber framework for the theodolite which was used for the survey which began in 1784. The original instrument is now in the Science Museum.

We joined the Pennine Way at the summit, marked by its traditional stone blocks. The Way descends from the summit past the deep gash of Issue Clough and then along the flanks of Wessenden Head Moor. The route is unusually direct for the Pennine Way though does cross two impressive cloughs, the largest one (Dean Clough) can be tricky to cross when it's in spate.
Back on the Pennine Way
Issue Clough
Looking back to Black Hill
The Pennine Way at Black Dike
Some new boardwalks allow a dry crossing of some of the streams
Dean Clough
Dean Clough
Dean Clough
Once across the clough, the Pennine Way meets the A635 once again where we were able to indulge in the luxury of a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea from the van parked up in the layby. From here, the Pennine Way crosses the road and makes its way into the reservoir-strewn valley of Wessenden Brook.
Entering Marsden Moor
Passing theWessenden Upper Reservoir, the Way uses the well-surfaced reservoir tracks to descend to Wessenden Lodge, located below Wessenden Reservoir (the second of a chain of reservoirs that supply water to Marsden and Huddersfield).
Framing the landscape
Landscape
Pudding Real Moss above Wessenden Head
Wessenden Head Reservoir
Snow drifts left in the valley
Wessenden Reservoir
Wessenden Reservoir 
The next short section of the Pennine Way is a bit of a pain as it ignores a perfectly useable track which contours around the valley of Short Grain, instead dropping to the valley floor and climbing back up an immensely steep slope. Luckily the steepness is short lived and the Pennine Way emerges onto the Short Grain track once again.
Birken Bank waterfalls
Short Grain
The steep bank we'll be climbing in a moment
Blakeley Reservoir
Climbing gently, the path wends through some shallow valleys until it emerges onto open moor once again at Black Moss. Here there are two lonely reservoirs; Black Moss and Swellands Though located side-by-side, the two reservoirs actually serve two opposite sides of the moor and, subsequently, entirely different towns. The Pennine Way crosses between them, right along the watershed.
Looking back to Wessenden Reservoir
West Nab
Climbing out of Blakely Clough
Pule Hill
Black Moss Reservoir
Leaving the Pennine Way to continue north, we circled Black Moss reservoir and joined the route of the old Pennine Way - the route it took before it was diverted. We had expected the return leg to the car park to be across largely pathless moor but were pleasantly surprised to find much of the route paved. I suspect this work was done prior to the Pennine Way diversion. Either way, it makes the final stretch much easier than we anticipated.
White Moss
White Moss