|OS Route Map →||Route file →|
Date: 15 Mar 2009
Start / Finish: Horwich End.
Maps: Explorer OL24 The White Peak + a tiny bit of OL1 The Dark Peak.
|Day 1||Shining Tor & Axe Edge||14.7 miles / 2970 feet (23.7km / 905m)|
|Day 2||Burbage Edge & Combs Moor||12.5 miles / 1520 feet (20.1km / 463m)|
A solo 2-day backpack around the familiar Dale of Goyt with an extension circuit of Combs Moor, host to two Dewey 500m tops and one of the very few pockets of the Peak District we have not walked before.
This walk actually visits six Dewey summits and passes within very close striking distance of Oliver Hill, a seventh top that we climbed years ago and I didn't feel inclined to revisit, adorned by transmitter masts and requiring an out-and-back detour. Combs Moor is recently designated Access Land and is a typical managed grouse moor, generally well defended by walls and barbed fences with no obvious entry points on the map, yet the edge path seems surprisingly well used and the circuit here provided some unexpectedly pleasant highlights.
Note:- the Access Land designations of Dane Bower and Combs Moor specifically exclude dogs.
From the main crossroads in Horwich End I took a new approach and walked W up the B5470 to the footpath sign, this is part of the Midshires Way. The line quickly swings R around a very wet patch well before the first buildings and follows a surfaced track past Taxal church and onwards to Overton Hall farm. Here I turned up the farm track towards the ridge and onto a clear path to the conifer plantation, where a sign indicates the onward path to Windgather Rocks. Emerging from the trees, it was disappointing to see the mist right down but patches of blue overhead gave hope for an improving day. It cleared the ridge quickly and it was quite warm so far, but the escarpment edge delivered a really chilling blast - time for the pertex windshell and hat. Windgather Rocks are well named.
The ridge path follows a line inside the wall flanking the narrow lane and veers L across the moor to Pym Chair and onward to the first Dewey summit of Cats Tor. The views were really dull today and the photos I half-heartedly took turned out uninspiring, as expected, but the walk is always an enjoyable one. The paving protagonists have been busy here too in the years since our last visit, the next section of the path to Shining Tor has been completely surfaced with slabs:- I remember it was a peaty affair and rather wet in a few spots, but there is a difference between a few strategically placed slabs and an uninterrupted stone highway. This was a Sunday and the first of three large groups of r*m*l*rs were filing down the path as I approached the trig point.
Another surfaced path and track lead out easily to the summit of the A537 and the Cat & Fiddle, a veritable magnet for walkers, and also bikers enamoured of the fast straight sections and severe curves of this famous road. The path shown on the map leading directly to the next top Whetstone Ridge is not entirely a figment of a wishful imagination but very nearly. Passing a shakehole with no sign of it, I set off up the rough moor and later spotted the faint ghost of a tractor track. The very flat top appears unmarked and undistinguished, and I descended to rejoin the well worn track down Danebower Hollow. It was brighter now with a better view of nearby Shutlingsloe and I could see the Jodrell Bank radio telescope on the Cheshire plain.
Across the A54 to another magnet for walkers and picknickers, the valley leading to Three Shire Heads. The industrial past is immediately evident from the chimney and old workings, while lower down the boggy parts of the path are again paved - this is part of the Dane Valley Way (DVW). The focal point is the grouping of tiny falls at the bridge by Panniers Pool, a confluence of approach lines and teeming with people today.
I crossed the bridge and took the track around Turn Edge to the narrow lane at Hawk's Nest. This brief section from here to Axe Edge is hardly picturesque for the Peak District, it has a tired scruffy atmosphere about it which was not helped today by the smell and noise of an informal motor cycle scrambling meet, where the bikes are revved around the hillside and over boulders. A little further on there is a stile onto a path by the stream that cuts off the rise and fall of the road to the right-of-way up Wolf Edge, a peaty path through the heather that soon arrives at a prominent group of boulders and descends to the foot of Oliver Hill.
I turned L here to Oxenstitch and Hilltop to join the good track onto Axe Edge, and where the track curves L towards the buildings I took a wet peaty path northwards onto the moor which soon improves and arrives at a rocky outcrop. A little further on I crossed the pathless moor to rejoin the DVW as far as Thatch Marsh, with the prominent trig point of Axe Edge Moor to the east. Immediately past a fenced enclosure there is a thin path directly to the summit.
On the way across I had noted a secluded area near a rocky outcrop and I returned there to find a pitch: it was damp and a bit tussocky but it turned out to be a really good spot, accompanied by the occasional trill of the curlew and call of the grouse.
The attractive dawn sky raised hopes of a brighter day and so it turned out to be, the first attraction being the colourful early light on the moorland grasses and the greater clarity, an invigorating start. The first objective was the trig point on Burbage Edge seen clearly to the north.
The DVW is an easy walk on a clear grassy track, crossing the A537 and a byway to reach the upper slopes of the Dale of Goyt. Where the path starts to descend I left it to ascend the rough pathless moor to Burbage Edge. The descent northwards has a clear path that passes through a small gate by a stream to reach the closed-off tunnel entrance and disused trackbed that curves neatly around the basin of Wild Moor, a fine walk.
I decided to try to forge a route directly northwards through the areas of Access Land to Combs Moor, though it was by no means obvious how to access any of them. To save lengthy details the map and route file show the line I took, the access point onto Combs Moor itself is a stile and notice at SK 03673 75864. A good track ascends from the stile to a gate on the edge of the plateau and the first new Dewey top is Combs Edge a short way SE on a clear path, I didn't see any cairn on the heathery dome.
The rough moor looks vast and formidable from here, quickly dissuading me from a direct crossing, and I decided to stick with the edge path and circle around to the far side, a good decision:- the path seemed fairly well used and reliable, making progress quite swift. The rocky Flint Clough was a surprise, as the path arrived at an almost vertical drop to the stream far below and turned neatly inwards to the ravine to minimise loss of height. The first top reached at 506m has a good windshelter but the true top is the 507m trig point further on. The views over Peak Dale and Dove Holes were not inspiring to say the least, the attractions of this moor lie elsewhere.
I returned to the windshelter where I had spied out a hint of a path alongside the cross wall. This improves further on and crosses a tiny stream to join a grassy shooters track by some grouse butts, giving an easy descent to the edge wall where I turned L to arrive at a stone cabin.
The map shows a path descending from here across the steep face of the escarpment, and it's a good one, giving pleasing views over the dale and upwards to the edge. Further on the path fades as it begins to ascend but reasserts itself to reach White Hall Outdoor Pursuits Centre not far from the access point. From here there are many ways back to Horwich End but I took the deserted narrow lane for the direct and quickest route.