Circuit of Black Hill from Crowden-in-Longdendale, 20 February 2018

Black Hill, 582m high in the northern Peak District, was a hill that had been on my ‘to do’ list for some time as I hadn’t been there since walking the Pennine Way, which passes over it, in 1974. At that time, the trig point was surrounded by a sea of oozy peat and it was almost impossible to reach it. I’d seen pictures and read that the peat had been restored so was looking forward to seeing what it was like. The route I’d planned was to follow the Pennine Way route from Crowden past Laddow Rocks to the summit and then return via the footpath over Westend Moss.

On a fine sunny day, full of promise, I pulled into the car park at Crowden at 08:15, having left home at 06:40, and found only one other car present. Most surprisingly the car park was free; the normal going rate to park for the day is usually about £4.50! I set off up the valley of Crowden Great Brook and gradually ascended on to the edge of Laddow Rocks; once popular with rock climbers and giving great views back down into Longdendale.

Heading up Crowden Great Brook towards Laddow Rocks
Laddow Rocks with Black Hill, right, in the far distance
The view back down into Longdendale

From this point, there wasn’t actually much more climbing to do and it was simply a matter of following the path across the increasingly wild and desolate moorland but with its own beauty nonetheless. Sections of the path had been paved, which made the going much easier. The only sign of life as I approached the summit was the occasional golden plover, now coming back on to the moors to breed. The summit was a joy; no sign of oozy peat but a nice grassy surface. There wasn’t much of a view really as the summit barely sits above the level of the surrounding moorland. About a mile to the south-east, the 228m high transmitter at Holme Moss was clearly visible; this provides radio coverage to a large area.

The summit of Black Hill, 582m high

Leaving the summit, it was now a case of following ill-defined paths over the moors back towards Longdendale. This proved to be reasonably straightforward, although the ground was quite boggy in places. I descended through an old gritstone quarry to the small St James’s Church  where in the churchyard are the unmarked graves of navvies who worked on the building of the Woodhead railway tunnels. Unfortunately, British Rail closed the electrified railway that ran from Sheffield to Manchester, through Woodhead in 1981. The trackbed now forms part of the Trans-Pennine Trail. It was then only a short distance back to the car after a 10 mile moderate walk.

St James’s Church, Woodhead

With some time in hand I drove round to the car park at Torside and walked along the course of the old railway to the one time Torside level crossing and then across the dam of Torside Reservoir, just one of several reservoirs in Longdendale built during Victorian times to supply Manchester with water. At the far side of the dam there is a rather elegant spillway to capture excess water from the reservoir, a great subject to photograph.

C116 16-08-1974 76023 and 76025 Torside
When the Woodhead line was open: an electrically hauled freight train approaches Torside level crossing in 1974. This is now part of the Trans-Pennine Trail
The spillway of Torside Reservoir with Bleaklow in the background

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