September 17, 2019, by Matt

Beauty and the bog

David Beckingham writes after one of our days walking last week…

The noted guide to the fells and moors Alfred Wainwright didn’t enjoy his time on the Pennine Way, or the weather at any rate. Reading a well-worn B&B copy over breakfast in Padfield, with rain closing in, it was hardly encouraging to learn of his contempt for the boggy ground and bleak atmosphere of the day’s high point Black Hill. We wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to walk fourteen miles in the wet either. And as we left Crowden, heading north under Black Tor, even the local sheep were gathered under an all-too-rare stand of trees for shelter. But it was a day not without beauty.

While yesterday had dramatic scenery, the moulded and scoured millstone grit of Kinder Scout shelving away to the big city of Manchester, today’s hanging mist made for a more intimate, isolated, experience – for the most part alone on the moor tops, clouded-in, barely-met by other walkers. And yet, heads down, there seemed more time to see the heather, burnt by the spent summer sun from vivid purple to pale pinks, the red grasses bent by the prevailing winds, and the curling, browning brackens. More observant of a small frog sat still in our path as we forded Crowden Great Brook, of lark and pipit darting on the wind, and more alert to the call of the grouse hidden on the moorland.

While yesterday we were under Manchester airport’s flight path, at times circling almost at eye level, today was a much quieter day – low cloud and mist baffling any overhead noise. There is an acoustic quality to walking in rain. For most of the day we were accompanied only by the dampening sound of the rain on our hoods, and the rythmic tap of walking poles on narrow footpath slabs pitched across the boggy ground punctuated only by a “sweep, sweep” of waterproof trousers and crinkle of cagoule.

The paving would prove unrelenting, and fatiguing too. But it was at the very least a good guide across the boggy peat – one notable change since wainwright guided his readers across the “glutinous slime” of Black Hill. After descending to a group of reservoirs it would lead us finally up and across Black Moss, to a junction with the Standedge Trail. From there, leaving the Pennine Way and with the rain finally clearing, we could pick our path down to the welcome warmth and rest of our accommodation in Diggle.

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