Tuesday 24 July 2012

A Sunny Morning at Dovestone Reservoir

Tuesday 24th July

Distance: 4km; Negligible ascent; Sunny and warm; with Isabel

For once the weather was actually nice when I had the day off work with Isabel so I decided that we should go out for a walk somewhere and Isabel agreed with the idea :)  There is a nice 4km stroll around the edge of Dovestone Reservoir up on the north-western edge of the Peak District, which makes a pleasant outing with an ATP, so this is where we headed this morning.

Looking NE over Dovestone Reservoir
It was warm and sunny as we set off walking from the car park at around 10:15am and headed north across the dam.  In fact it was so warm that I had opted to walk in sandals and shorts, quite a change from recent weeks!

Looking down Dovestone Reservoir from Yeoman Hey dam
There were good views across the reservoir and into the surrounding hills as we followed the good path in a clockwise direction.  I like walking here with Isabel as you get the feeling that you're pretty much in the hills even though it's not that far away from home!  And due to it being mid-week it was actually relatively quiet here today.

Looking west over Dovestone Reservoir
Isabel walked a reasonable amount of the eastern side of the reservoir, although she did keep getting distracted by the gravel on the path and the nearby sheep!  Eventually we reached the bottom of the Chew Valley, where it was noticeably busier with many families out for lunchtime picnics down by the stream - something to think about for the future.  Today however we headed back to the car and returned home for lunch after a pleasant hour and a half stroll.

Alderman's Hill and Dovestone Reservoir

N.B. 30/10/12 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 24/07/12, (from 26/07/12)

Sunday 22 July 2012

Rydal Park and the River Rothay

Sunday 22nd July

Distance: 7km; Negligible ascent; Overcast but dry; with Isabel, Laura & Heather

Lynsey was away backpacking in the Yorkshire Dales making the most of the fact that summer had finally arrived!  Yesterday, Isabel and I had a good morning stroll at Dunham Massey and today we had arranged to meet Laura and Heather for an ATP walk in the South Lakes as they were there on holiday for the week.

We left home in glorious sunshine and it remained sunny as we headed north up the M6 and it only started to cloud over and look increasingly grey when we were heading into the Lakes on the A591.  It transpired that it was sunny pretty much everywhere else in the country today, yet we had managed to arrange to go walking in the only place where the sun was in hiding!  However we didn't let this dampen our spirits and we had a good walk nonetheless.

As Adam was heading off mountain biking for the day, a walk from Ambleside was required as I doubted whether I could fit two pushchairs in our car boot!  The obvious choice was a circuit up to Rydal by way of the coffin route and then returning along the minor road alongside the River Rothay, which we previously walked back in September last year, and this is indeed what we chose to do today.

Rydal Park
Therefore at around twenty to twelve we set off walking from their holiday cottage and did battle with the hoards of people thronging the streets of Ambleside town centre to emerge unscathed on the other side.  After following the main A591 road north-west to the edge of town we picked up the broad track through Rydal Park.

A CD tree!
As we approached Rydal Hall strange artworks began to appear beside the track, including the CD tree pictured above.  We found a relatively quiet spot in the gardens for our picnic lunch, which we followed by visiting the waterfall and the Grot.  This small building was built in 1668 to provide a window to frame the view of the waterfall in and has recently been restored and repaired between 2005 and 2007.  The following two photos show the view of the waterfall from within the Grot and from the bridge above; I think I probably prefer the view from the bridge rather than the window getting in the way (although Isabel did enjoy looking out of the windows a lot!)

Rydal waterfall from The Grot
The Grot and Rydal Waterfall
We headed down to the main road, which unfortunately we had to follow for a short distance although luckily there is a pavement here as it was very busy today.  We crossed the River Rothay by means of Pelter Bridge to pick up the minor road alongside the river; this road is out of bounds to most traffic, which hence meant it was a pleasant stroll.

Stepping stones over the River Rothay
After around a kilometre and a half we reached the old packhorse bridge over the river that allowed us to return to Ambleside via Rothay Park, where there is a strange twisting cairn.  After coffee and cake at the Rattle Gill cafe we parted company with Laura and Heather and headed south, and soon after we joined the M6 the sun came out again!

"Turning Point" in Rothay Park

N.B. 30/10/12 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 22/07/12, (from 24/07/12)

Saturday 14 July 2012

Little Fell - Exploits on a Forbidden Mountain

Saturday 14th July

Distance: 17km; Ascent:580m; Overcast, little wind with occasional rain; with Laura and many others

Little Fell is one of two forbidden 2000ft mountains in England, the other one being Mickle Fell, and there both lie on the MoD Warcop firing range in the North Pennines.  Access to the area is extremely restricted and only available for around 12 weekends a year and only then along rights of way as it is exempted from being access land under CRoW.

Unfortunately there are no public rights of way to the summits of either peaks, but I believe that access to Mickle Fell is relatively easy by way of a permit system (which I will find out for myself at some point, hopefully later this year).  Little Fell however is a different kettle of fish as there is technically no unaccompanied access allowed to it!  Luckily the kind people at North Pennines AONB arrange with the MoD to have an annual access walk to its summit and this year I had actually been organised far enough in advance to bag a space on it :)

And so early this morning Laura and I left the south Manchester area and drove northwards to the agreed meeting place in the small village of Hilton, where the popularity of the walk became evident as the tiny car park was completely overwhelmed.  After finding somewhere else to park, we joined the group for a brief introduction to the area.  At around 10:15am we set off walking and soon entered the firing range, marked by Danger signs. 

Danger Area!
Our route initially lay along a permissive bridleway / vehicle track, which took us around the western slopes of the shapely Roman Fell, whose summit seemed to be trying hard to lose its cloud cap.  It seemed somewhat strange initially to be setting out for a walk in the hills with no idea of the actual planned route, with the exception that we would be going up Little Fell!  I guess it's because I'm so used to actually planning my own routes so it was odd to be being guided today but it was through necessity (although I doubt I would have done that much of a different walk myself anyway!)

Roman Fell
Looking SW out over the firing range
There were good views south-westwards over the lower parts of the firing range and on over the Eden Valley towards the northern Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes in the distance.  Soon we began to ascend to traverse the flank of Roman Fell and around here we spotted our first shell.

One of the many shells
We zig-zagged up past the remains of a barytes mine to reach the end of the track.  Here the route onwards went through surprisingly stony ground for the North Pennines, past further mining remains some of which appeared to be held together by lots of old bits of timber.

Mining RemainsMining Remains
Soon we reached the open moorland, with good views northwards towards Cross Fell.  Given the large quantity of rain recently, the moorland was surprisingly dry - it had that look about it that suggested it was normally much wetter!  We came across the remains of a pretty looking egg amongst the grass and moss, but unfortunately I have no idea what sort of egg it is.

An egg on Long Fell
Ascending Tinside Rigg
Looking north over the moorland towards Cross Fell
We soon reached the small summit cairn on Tinside Rigg before heading north-east across the moorland, sometimes on a faint path, to reach the scree slopes at around 700m on south-west flank of Little Fell.  Here we spotted yet more shells amongst the rocks.

Shells high up on Little Fell
We soon reached Little Fell's trig point, surrounded by a stone windshelter; however strangely this did not actually mark the summit, which lay around half a kilometre away to the NNW.  But as it was now well past 1pm, we stopped here for a spot of lunch with good views across to Mickle Fell (another forbidden mountain) and northwards towards the giant golf ball on Great Dun Fell.

Lunch near the trig point on Little Fell
After suitable refreshment we set off to find the true summit, which is described as a large flat area of grass and heather with no cairn.  Upon reaching the approximate location, several people got out GPS units to track down the actual location of the true summit.  There was some disagreement as to it's location, presumably either due to differences between their GPS units or the grid references they had for the summit.  To be certain I visited three locations all within 50m of each other, including the location quoted by www.hill-bagging.co.uk at NY 78092 22291, and therefore concluded that I had now definitely bagged Little Fell (Nuttall).

The featureless summit of Little Fell (NY 78092 22291)
The group gathered around the area that most people had concluded was actually the summit, where there was a small celebration as two gentlemen had brought a small bottle of champagne up with them to celebrate their completion of the English 2000ft peaks.  This was also Laura's last English 2000ft peak and so we joined in the celebration with a cream tea minus the tea (i.e. scone, jam and cream!).

We didn't hang around for too long on the summit as the weather looked to be about to make a turn for the worse, and headed north-westwards down the moorland towards Scordale Head.  There were good views across the open expanse of the moors towards Mickle Fell and down into Scordale.

Mickle Fell from near Scordale Head
Around now it began to rain, and with no sign that it was likely to stop any time soon we donned our waterproofs and made our down into the narrow gap that formed the head of Scordale.  After a while the valley opened out, the rain stopped and some blue sky even appeared!  A reasonably large waterfall seemed to appear directly out of the hillside with no stream apparent above it; we were clearly in a bit of limestone country.

Descending upper Scordale
Upper Scordale
Lower down in the valley, the industrial past of the area became more obvious with more mining remains and some handy information signs.  Apparently it used to be a major site for lead mining, especially after the mineral rights were acquired by the London Lead Company in 1824.  There were also plenty of wild flowers around, including lots of a purple flower that I think is a form of Thyme (well that's certainly what it smelled like!)

We continued down beside the stream on an ever improving path as the sun began to poke its way out from the grey clouds; we we soon stopping to remove layers due to the heat!  There were good views back up Scordale towards the moors.  The last couple of kilometres were along a vehicle track and we were soon back at Hilton at around 4:30pm.  Many thanks to North Pennines AONB for organising the walk; it was a good day :)

I also tracked our route using Viewranger Buddy Beacon and Social Hiking, and you can see the resulting map complete with photos here.

N.B. 30/10/12 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 14/07/12, (from 20/07/12)

Sunday 8 July 2012

SLMM 2012 - Day 2: The Return to Wasdale Head

Sunday 8th July 2012  

Distance: 17.2km; Ascent:790m; Mainly dry and overcast; with Mark
See approximate route in new window (checkpoints are shown as waypoints)

I woke at around 6:30ish due to the number of overly keen people already up and about, and was pleased to discover that it was dry outside :)  However the disadvantage of camping with so many other people was the seemingly endless queue for the portaloos in the morning!

As we hadn't finished within 45 minutes of the class leaders yesterday we would be taking part in the mass start between 8am and 8:30am (the fastest few teams in each class set off even earlier!), which meant that we didn't have to rush too much and had time for a brew :)  I wandered down to the start to pick up our list of controls for today's route and returned to the tent to plot them out on the maps at our leisure as today's clock had not yet started ticking!  I was slightly disappointed to discover that we wouldn't be returning over the hills on the south side of Wastwater, although the controls we had been given did look to form a reasonable route.

The Sunday mass-start
The organisers seemed very keen to continuously remind everyone who hadn't yet set off that the start closed in x minutes time, where x started at 15 minutes and gradually reduced as you might expect!  By the time we had finished packing up, x had reduced to 9 minutes and we were walking down the field to the start.

We officially started soon after 8:20am and headed for our first control of the day around a kilometre away to the south-east.  Whilst planning our route in the tent earlier we had decided not to follow the circuitous route of the forest tracks but instead to cut across country alongside the northern edge of the woods before following the river down to the bridge and our check point.  This also appeared to the be the approach of the vast majority of the other teams and to start with it all went well, if a little damp underfoot.

However the River Bleng proved to be about knee deep and most of the fell runners just waded it using the fence as a handrail.  But we decided that we didn't fancy getting our boots wet this early on in the day if we could help it and opted for a boulder hop across.  Mark went first but disaster struck around half way across when a suspicious looking rock turned out to be very slippery and there was a dramatic splash as Mark fell into the river!  However no harm was done and he was soon on the other side, if a little wet!  In the light of this I decided to modify my planned crossing slightly and accepted getting damp feet so that I could place them a bit more securely and successfully made it to the other side without falling in :)

Now all we had to do was follow the true left bank of the river downstream for around 200 metres to the bridge, but the route turned out to be an extremely damp peat bog that was over knee deep in places - lovely!  Check point visited we returned back the same way to the forest edge, which we followed SSE and soon picked up a forest track that made for easier, and drier, walking!

On the forest track near check-point 2
After around a kilometre of the forest track we found our second control of the day at a track junction where we turned left towards the hills.  This track ended after another kilometre leaving us with 150 metres of boggy fire-break to negotiate to reach the forest edge.  Here the ascent began, gentle at first, across damp moorland to reach our next check point by the cairn on Glade How (Birkett).

Ahead lay just under 300 metres of ascent, which would take us to our highest point of the day.  After a quick break on Glade How, we joined the seemingly never-ending stream of walkers heading up into the mist.  At around 10:20am we reached the summit of Seatallan (Nuttall, Marilyn, Wainwright, Birkett), where our fourth check point was located.

Descending Seatallan
A number of teams appeared to have resorted to much compass work to find the right way off Seatallan, however the route onwards seemed obvious to us and so we followed our noses and then the path down the north ridge of Seatallan and soon dropped out of the cloud.  Our next check-point was on the SE slopes of Haycock so we followed the clear path northwards across the pass and skirted a boggy area to the west before forking off right on a traverse to find the correct stream.

Upon reaching the stream the check point was nowhere to be seen.  After consulting our altimeters it became clear that we were a little too high and so followed the steam down for a short distance to find the control.  However a number of other teams just continued traversing the hillside; presumably they had decided that it was the wrong stream!

A short steep descent brought us to check point 6 at a sheepfold in the valley bottom, which was followed by a boggy traverse and short descent to reach a stream confluence where check point 7 was located.  The section between here and check point 10 covered some pretty horrible terrain with loose rocks covered in wet bracken, which hence made for some pretty slow progress.  However our poles were a godsend on this terrain and we overtook several other teams clad in fell shoes.

Wast Water
There were good views down the valley to Wast Water as we traversed the unpleasant hillside above Nether Beck to reach a wall; perhaps it would have been easier to follow the valley floor and then walk up next to the wall?  (and indeed this is what the planner's choice route showed after the event!)  Not to worry, we soon had check point 8 in the bag and descended down to cross Over Beck at a handy footbridge.

Over Beck
From here we had two uncrossable boundaries to deal with that we were officially only allowed to cross at the crossing points marked on the special SLMM map.  Therefore we had two options: either a steep ascent to reach a higher crossing point or a traverse to reach a lower crossing point (both options also involved further traversing to cross the second wall at its only crossing point).  We chose the second option, along with many other teams, and were somewhat disappointed to find that the crossing point didn't actually exist!  We were certain we were in the correct location, but there was no stile that we concluded that there would be at the official crossing point.

We could see a reasonable distance downhill and concluded that it wasn't there.  Uphill however we could spot the higher of the two crossing points marked on the map and opted to head for that one instead.  First wall out of the way, we descended to cross the second wall before traversing to reach a well concealed control at the base of a small crag.

On the home straight back to Wasdale Head
A slippery descent brought us to a faint path alongside a wall, which we followed north-eastwards for around a kilometre to reach our first manned check point of the route, which was also our last one.  Red and white tape now showed us the way to the finish, a little over 500m distant.  We ran the last couple of hundred metres, arriving at the finish by way of a little bridge over Mosedale Beck shortly after 1pm.

Day 2 times
The food tent beckoned and we joined the snaking queue, which went all the way around the inside of the large marquee!  Lunch consisted of some sort of multiple bean stew with pitta bread, followed by flapjack; all very welcome after two days on the hill, especially as I'm not really used to walking against the clock!  By now the results had been displayed on the tent wall and we discovered that overall we had finished 50th out of 101 finishers in our class with a time of 10 hours and 19 minutes, which we thought was pretty good considering our extremely limited amount of running over the two days :)

Our certificate :)
After lunch we wandered around saying our goodbyes to various people before heading back to Stockport, via Liverpool, for a roast dinner / curry with Gordon, Lucy, Mark and Lynsey.  All in all it had been an excellent weekend, especially as I didn't get anywhere near as wet as I might have expected from the forecast!

N.B. 30/10/12 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 08/07/12, (from 16/07/12)

Saturday 7 July 2012

SLMM 2012 - Day 1: Wasdale Head to the Midway Camp

Saturday 7th July 2012

Distance: 18km; Ascent:1130m; Sunny; with Mark
See approximate route in new window (checkpoints are shown as waypoints)

The luck of the draw had resulted in us having a relatively early start time of 8:58am this morning for our first ever mountain marathon.  We had entered the Wansfell class, which was pretty much the easiest class on which you were allowed to run if we wished.  After breakfast we struck camp and registered ourselves on the event, at which point Mark was given an SI card to attach to his wrist that would record our visits to each of the check points.

Setting off from Wasdale Head on Saturday morning
It was bright and sunny as we set off from the event centre at Wasdale Head at 8:30am for the "20 minute walk" to the start up in Mosesale as part of a steady stream of entrants, most of whom looked to be fell runners.  After 15 minutes or so, we got our first sighting of the start and it still looked to be quite some distance away!  Therefore we quickened our pace and made it to the start with 2 minutes to spare.

At our allotted time we passed through the start gate and picked up our list of check points for the day; this was also when we found out where we would be camping for the first time.  The clock was now ticking and so we could either opt to go directly to our first check point or spend a few minutes annotating our SLMM Harvey Map of the area with our check points for the day.  We opted for the later as it would save time later, and this appeared to be the approach of most of the teams who were busily scribbling on their maps in the sunshine.

Heading for the first check-point

Yewbarrow towering above Mosedale
The first check point wasn't too far away: a re-entrant on the way up Black Sail Pass and we were there around 30 minutes after starting.  There were good views from here back to the start in Mosedale.  We picked up the main path up to Black Sail Pass, but soon forked off right on a much fainter path that looked to take a more direct line up to our next control.  After much ascent we finally reached the summit of Looking Stead (Nuttall, Birkett) and found our 2nd control on it's north side. 
On Looking Stead heading for the 2nd check-point

The check-point on Looking Stead
The views from up here were excellent with good views across to many of the surrounding groups of hills, including those on the north side of Ennerdale.

High Stile and High Crag above Ennerdale
We headed west up the main ridge with the intention of contouring round to Wind Gap at some point.  However the ground looked quite rocky and we eventually decided that it would probably be quicker to go up and over Pillar.  We soon reached the trig point on the summit of Pillar (Nuttall, Marilyn, Wainwright, Birkett), where we had a quick break whilst admiring the views.

Summit of Pillar
The SW slopes of Pillar were mainly easy and grassy and we decided that as we were in a running class, we might as well do a spot of running!  The strange thing was that we seemed to be some of the only people running, and it seemed a little odd to be jogging past teams kitted out in fell running shoes!  However the running was short lived as the ground soon steepened and we were scrambling down the rocks to reach check point 3 in Wind Gap.

From here the only way was up and we ascended up the steep slopes to soon reach the summit cairn of Black Crag (Nuttall, Birkett).  After descending slightly to a pass we picked up a traversing path towards Red Pike, which we followed for a few hundred metres before cutting across country to the stream bend high on Scoat Fell, which formed our 4th check point.

We jogged down the gentle, but wet, slopes to reach Scoat Tarn where the crossing of the outflow seemed to be causing problems for some who were trying to keep their feet dry!  However we had no problems, as we used our poles for assistance, and soon reached our 5th checkpoint on the south side of the tarn.  From here it was a reasonable distance to our next one, with an intervening valley in the way!

After descending down into the head of the Nether Beck valley, we picked a traversing line up through the small crags to reach the boggy area of the Pots of Ashness below the north side of Seatallan.

Mark pointing to check-point 6 in the Pots of Ashness
Our 6th control was described as by a tarn, which as you can see above was not entirely obvious!  However the steady stream of people heading to a particular point in the boggy hollow strongly suggested that that was where the control point was!  And therefore we headed for it!

After crossing the pass to the west we began to descend towards the valley of the River Bleng.  Soon we found a few rocks to sit on and enjoy a 10 minute lunch stop, much to the amusement of passing competitors!  The descent proved to be quite steep through rocky and ferny ground; I was very glad of my poles!

The check point was not obvious from the descent as it was slightly hidden by a small hummock down by Tounge Gill - very devious!  Although we didn't really have any trouble locating it and were soon traversing the hillside to reach check point 8 by the waterfall on Red Beck.  From here we picked up a faint sheep path that traversed the hillside to reach the cairn on Hause, from where we could pick out the overnight camp in the distance.

Cairn on Hause prior to the boggy tussocks
The ground from here on was unpleasant consisting almost entirely of boggy tussocks!  This made for relatively slow going!  However eventually we reached our final control of the day, just on the edge of the forest at a track junction.  Now all we had to do was finish and there was a good track - even better!  We ran the last few hundred metres to the finish point and after checking in we were given the following printout of our times:

Day 1 times

It was now only 2:30pm and it was a little strange to be finished for the day so early!  But it was sunny :)  We set up camp in the increasingly busy field and set about having a relaxing afternoon :)  Given our relatively early start this morning, most of the people we knew were yet to arrive.  Gradually however they began to appear until by late afternoon we had quite a sizeable group consisting of Mark, me, Gordon, Lucy, Ian, Janet, Rich, Ben, Robin, Shayda and Jon.

The sunny mid-way camp
We picked up our beer, milk and soft drink order and sat around having dinner in the sun.  However the weather finally changed at around 7:30pm - it started raining!  And so we all retreated to our tent for an hour or two.  Eventually it stopped and we were back outside socialising.  I took a wander down to the results boards displayed at the finish to see how well we did today: we finished in a time of 05:29:14, which meant that we were 46th out of 109 finishers, which we were pretty pleased with!

N.B. 30/10/12 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 07/07/12, (from 13/07/12)

Friday 6 July 2012

Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon

This weekend Mark and I are taking part in the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon, which this year is based out of Wasdale.  Therefore we are currently heading north on the M6 and hoping for good weather!  Although it currently looks like it's going to be wet!  Very wet!

We're doing the easiest course, which is the Wansfell Class and it should hopefully be good fun.  Due to the event rules I won't be able to take my normal phone (as GPS devices are banned) and therefore any blog posts will have to wait until I'm home again on Sunday...

Tuesday 3 July 2012

On the Edge of the Peak District - A Circuit from New Mills

Distance: 32km; Ascent: 800m; mainly dry and overcast; Solo

With the Saunders now less than a week away, I decided that I should really get out for a long walk as it had been 4 weeks since my last hill-walk!  I had negotiated the day off from work and all I needed now was a plan.  With the forecast not sounding particularly pleasant for the high ground, I settled on a varied circuit from New Mills that would take in the Millennium Walkway, Lantern Pike, Coombes Edge, Werneth Low, Etherow Country Park and the Peak Forest canal; a significant amount of this would be new ground for me, which is always good!

Therefore I was up early today in time to catch the 7:02am train, which after 20 minutes or so deposited me at New Mills Newtown station.  I wandered down to a bridge over the River Goyt to reach the Millennium Walkway, which as its name suggests was opened in 2000 to provide a footpath link to The Torrs, suspended high above the river.

New Mills Millennium Walkway
I soon reached The Torrs, where there is one of the few outdoor climbing crags that stays dry in the rain (as it's underneath a road bridge!).  At the confluence of the rivers Sett and Goyt it was interesting to see that a small hydroelectric plant had been built since my last visit several years ago.  According to the information sign, Torrs Hydro as it is called is the first community owned and funded hydroelectric scheme.  It uses an Archimedes screw, nicknamed Archie, to generate the electricity and apparently it has generated 520,000 kWh of electricity since starting operation in September 2008.

Archie the Archimedean screw (inside the cage) at Torrs Hydro, New Mills
I continued to follow the path down the left bank of the River Goyt to reach the start of the Sett Valley Trail, a disused railway line that runs to Hayfield at the foot of the western slopes of Kinder Scout.  I followed it around two-thirds of the way to Hayfield before branching off left to follow the Pennine Bridleway as it ascended up the hillside on the north side of the valley.  After some steepness I reached the summit of Lantern Pike, from where the views were excellent!

Viewfinder on the summit of Lantern Pike
Just as I was about to leave Lantern Pike the sun broke through for the first time today and it remained sunny for much of the next hour of so as I followed the Pennine Bridleway northwards before cutting off left to reach Cown Edge and the start of another section of access land. 

Entering access land
Now I decided that it would be nice to walk along the top of Coombes Edge and given I was on access land I thought nothing about cutting across the moorland to reach it.  However when I did I found a barbed wire fenced barring me from accessing the path and I hence walked parallel to the path for a while hoping that I might find a crossing point.  I soon came to a fence junction, but all three fences were topped with barbed wire with no obvious crossing point and checking my map confirmed that every side of the three fences was since access land!  Having noticed that the second fence was incomplete in a couple of places all I had to do now was cross the first fence.  Remembering Alan's encounter with barbed wire a couple of years ago, I very carefully stepped over the fence at a lowish point and soon was on the path with no barbed wire related injuries to show for it :)

Coombes Edge
The path along Coombes Edge was pleasant with contrasting views north towards the Black Hill and Chew Valley moors and west towards the urban conurbation of Greater Manchester.  After following the edge to its end I descended on good paths surrounded by wild flowers to reach Charlesworth where there was a strange scarecrow in fancy dress outside the Methodist Church.  Now I've seen scarecrows in fancy dress before at the Kettlewell scarecrow festival but this one appeared to be all on its lonesome.

Wild flowers on the way to Charlesworth
A strange scarecrow in Charlesworth
After following the busy A626 for just over a kilometre, I turned right down a narrow lane followed by a steep woodland descent to reach a footbridge over the River Etherow.  Once on the far side, I began my final ascent of the day up through Back Wood to reach Werneth Low Country Park.  I've been here a couple of times before for pleasant strolls with good views of the West Pennine Moors and the Peak District; however today the rain threatened and I decided not to linger.  So, after a quick visit to the summit of Werneth Low / Idle Hill (HuMP), I picked up a good bridleway heading for Compstall.

Werneth Low
Summit of Idle Hill / Werneth Low
Soon it began to rain for the first time, but it only really drizzled for 15 minutes so I didn't bother with waterproofs.  And anyway it was one of those days when it was quite humid and I'd probably end up just as wet if I donned waterproofs!  After picking up a permissive footpath I soon reached Etherow Country Park and descended to reach the River Etherow for the second time today.

Weir on the River Etherow
After wandering alongside the river and lakes I reached the main road at Compstall, but luckily my onward route only involved a couple of hundred metres of road walking.  I picked up the Midshires Way, which I followed down to an Iron Bridge over the River Goyt, which was possibly the first cast iron bridge in the north-west when it was built in 1813 and apparently it is now of national importance as the only remaining iron bridge of its type in the north-west.

Brabyns Park Iron Bridge
After crossing Brabyns Park in the gathering gloom (although the rain never materialised), I picked a way up through the woods to reach the Peak Forest Canal just before it crossed the railway.  The section through Marple was quite impressive with a flight of 16 locks (although I had already missed the first four).  At the southern end of the locks I reached the junction with the Macclesfield canal on the edge of Marple.

Peak Forest Canal on southern edge of Marple
The trains back from New Mills only ran every hour and after consulting the map and the timetable I concluded that I could probably make the 15:50 train if I got a move on!  Therefore I walked quickly along the towpath of the Peak Forest Canal, with hardly any photo stops, and the tactic worked but only just as I only arrived on the right platform just as the train approached!  It had been a good and quite varied walk and I had managed it all without having to put waterproofs on, which was quite impressive given the weather forecast!