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Arnfield & Black Hill / 2 days / 23 miles (37km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 05 Mar 2009
Start / Finish: Arnfield (by Meadowbank Farm SK 00733 96699). This was the nearest good parking place I could find on a quick drive around, but be warned if using it: the section of this minor road between Meadowbank and the A628 at Arnfield reservoir is 'Unsuitable for motors', as I discovered. Turn off the A628 at the other end in Hollingworth.
Maps: Explorer OL1: The Dark Peak.

Day 1Black Chew Head, Black Hill & West Nab14.4 miles / 3030 feet (23.2km / 923m)
Day 2Laddow Rocks & Longdendale8.7 miles / 630 feet (14km / 192m)

A solo Dark Peak route from Arnfield, approaching Black Hill via Ogden Clough and Chew reservoir and returning over Laddow Rocks and the Longdendale reservoirs. It was designed around two new Dewey 500m tops: Black Chew Head and West Nab.

This was probably the last backpack of the season to feature a brief taste of winter: snowing on the tent and a thick frost. The clarity was excellent on the first day, unfortunately I forgot to load the recharged battery into the camera - no photos from this trip I'm afraid. I've included it for completeness, mainly to keep the cross-references from the Hill Lists up to date and also to add a few notes on the Dewey tops that may be useful.

Day 1 - Black Chew Head, Black Hill & West Nab

The first signs of Spring were evident as I walked along the footpath by Arnfield reservoir and across the fields towards the Access Land at Ogden Clough: the pure trilling notes of the curlew and the lapwings peewitting around. Across the clough and a short climb up the other side is the start of the path that follows the line of the old permissive route along the flanks of Boar Flat to recross Ogden Brook further up. The path remains clear for the ascent of Ormes Moor to the crest of the moorland marked on the map as 'Wilderness', a broad and rather boggy area which required some zigzagging around to remain dryshod. A discernible line reappeared further on and the path became clearer again, joining the prominent edge path to Chew reservoir, the highest in England as I recall.

I took the very familiar path from the eastern end of the reservoir track that gradually ascends Laddow Moss. At the county boundary line where the path starts to descend, there is now a fence which I followed on its western side using a faint path through the wet tussocky terrain, and this soon arrives at the first new Dewey top of Black Chew Head. There is a small but prominent cairn near the fence, but the map shows the 542m spot height further on where the county boundary turns NW. The top is undistinguished really, the only notable feature being a small desolate lake nearby in the rough moorland. I backtracked to a stile in the fence and descended the quite easy slopes to join the Pennine Way (PW) path at Laddow Rocks.

The PW is paved from Red Ratcher onwards for almost the whole traverse of our old friend Black Hill to Dean Clough and the A635. I followed the Wessenden Head road northwards towards the next top West Nab, passing signs on the left indicating the Marsden Moor Estate, and when the road bends right and starts to descend, a little further on is the access point via a stile. A faint path crosses a short stretch of rather boggy ground to another stile, and just beyond I was on easy grass. A short sharp climb gains the summit and trig point, a nice top of boulders and rock with extensive views north eastwards today in the clear air.

With more time I would have descended westwards and down to the reservoirs to vary the line, but I today retraced my route back up to Black Hill. Beside its fairly new and smart beehive cairn, the summit trig point appeared lopsided atop its plinth, I wouldn't be surprised if it was gradually sinking again. The paved path was just protruding from the large pool of standing water near the top and the plateau looked quite picturesque for once in the late afternoon sun. The tall transmitter mast of Holme Moss is an eternal presence when walking Black Hill, towering above the skyline like the first sign of a huge emerging spacecraft a la Close Encounters, and well after sunset the scene at the tent was quite eerie when its column of red lights came on.

Day 2 - Laddow Rocks & Longdendale

Lacking a functional camera, this was one morning when I hoped there would not be a fine sunrise, and there wasn't. I opened the door to a frozen world of grey and white, the whole plateau shrouded in mist and a light fresh sprinkling of snow. The grouse were in fine fettle for the approaching Spring, calling and cackling loudly from all directions.

I had thought of returning over Tooleyshaw Moor, but the mist didn't look set to clear any time soon and I saw little point. I retraced my route to Laddow Rocks, a very enjoyable walk from a different perspective than yesterday, like walking in a lurid foggy alien landscape in total silence except for the grouse. Laddow Rocks is always a highlight, even when looking from the edge at a grey wall of cloud with only an occasional glimpse of the rock face on the far side.

The PW arrives at a 3-way fingerpost above Crowden campsite where I turned R continuing on the trail to the dam between Torside and Rhodeswood reservoirs. Here I left the PW and took the old railway trackbed route to the dam at Valehouse reservoir. There are steps here that lead down to the reservoir access road that gave me an onward route to Bottoms reservoir, the last of the Longdendale chain. The final link is a pleasant permitted path through the woodland below the road that emerges at a large building and bears R to continue alongside a leat to the start of the access road on the A628. From here I walked through Tintwistle to rejoin the outward route at Arnfield reservoir.