A couple of hours of heavy snow followed by clearing skies made for an interesting fell run in the Peak District.
|Crook Hill with Ladybower and Bamford Edge behind|
|Lose Hill, Back Tor and Mam Tor|
|Northern Flanks of Kinder|
|Down through the trees|
|Good path through the woods|
|Good running terrain|
|Still reflections on Ladybower|
|Ladybower’s eastern shore|
|Crook Hill, high to the west|
|Rocks or a coach and horses?|
|The final climb|
|Run with a view|
|The last woodland|
|16km and 800m climb|
Not the bleak mid-winter of tales and imagination with deep snow and icy winds, the landscape frozen in nature’s frigid grasp.
Just wet, windy, dark. Incessant rain, water levels rising.
Days that didn’t seem to grow light as if the sun, hungover on festive excess, found the effort of rising beyond midday too much and slumped once more, dragging any vestiges of brightness with it.
Days without sky, just a low, wet fog blurring the boundary of land and air.
Days when colour drained from the landscape; land, water, sky all monochrome.
Running continued despite less than inspiring conditions – a couple of days on the high fells with map and compass in hand, enclosed in a grey world extending 100 metres, sometimes less. Good practice.
Sub hour runs fighting wind and rain. Returning cold and wet.
Short hill reps on a day when I couldn’t face battling the elements on the higher hills, hoping the effort would overcome the strong wind and rain and keep me warm. A vain hope, cold and wet again.
A day with a little respite, a brief hour when the sun tried, weak shafts reaching tentatively through the grey, a fleeting glimpse before the sky’s steely grey shutters slammed once more and the rain returned.
|A brief snatch of sunlight|
And now the rain has finally stopped, its mark has been made, the land sodden, rivers swollen, fields flooded.
But at last, now that the year has turned, for a short while at least there is a little ray of hope.
|Cloud capped Peak District hills|
|Approaching Lose Hill summit|
|Along the Great Ridge towards Mam Tor|
|The ancient hill fort of Mam Tor|
|Approaching the summit with the ridge to Lose Hill behind|
|The unstable east face|
|Steeply down off Mam Tor|
|No through road|
|High above Winnats Pass|
|Limestone towers above Winnats Pass|
|The last drop, into the valley|
|11km and 650m ascent|
|Reflections on Howden Reservoir|
Perfect conditions to explore the high moors of the Peak District where even in summer the ground can remain wet and after this year’s weather is particularly sodden. Today, after the recent sub zero temperatures the peat would be frozen allowing easier progress across the usual mire.
|Subdued moorland colours|
|Icicles or stalactites?|
Further on I startled a mountain hare which dashed off zig zagging through the heather, its winter coat ironically conspicuous against the browns and visible long after it would have been in its summer colours. No predators were evident on the moor today and as if to celebrate a brace of grouse flapped away cackling, safe from the guns for now.
The sun was fading now, dimmed as the milky white cloud thickened and the sky became opaque. The landscape flattened and the cold seemed to increase. I turned for home, again taking a rough line across the moor to pick up the valley that would lead me back to the start.
Back at the reservoir the mirror remained intact.
|Reflections on Howden Reservoir|
|Winter comes to the Peak District|
And with a cold, crisp winter’s day giving an ideal opportunity for a run I decided to visit some less frequented parts of the Peak. Starting at the turning circle at the northern end of Derwent reservoir I immediately noticed a keen wind. The water, glassy and mirror like on my last visit now rippled under the northerly breeze.
|Climbing Cranberry Clough|
Emerging from the shade as I climbed higher, the sun and exercise battled with the sharp wind to determine my temperature and once I gained the plateau the wind prevailed.
Leaving the main path and picking up a faint sheep trod I headed for the Bull Stones, a lonely gritstone outcrop high above the infant Derwent, stark today against the snow and sky. Atop one of the boulders a solitary grouse had walked, leaving in the snow its arrow print trail as if to point the way.
|Walk this way|
From there it was on towards Outer Edge, the notoriously boggy ground just frozen enough to prevent sinking into the underlying morass.
|Outer Edge, firm for once|
My route now took me westwards across pathless heather to the splendidly named Rocking Stones. These weathered outcrops present a fascinating natural sculpture, their gargoyle visages facing the elements, defying gravity, enhanced today in profile against the harsh winter sky.
Onwards across bleak moorland I headed for the Horse Stone, checking the compass before contouring round Stainery Clough, seeking out the line of least resistance, a faint trod petering out into deep heather, hard going and warm now with Howden Edge giving temporary lee from the north wind. Then as I crest the rise of the hill the stone is before me, bleak and solitary, a lonely sentinel on the bare moor.
Today she stands in a moat of ice, horizontal beddings tilted slightly and on the southern side, incongruously, lies a vertical slab of gritstone, a relic of an ancient top perhaps that finally succumbed to millennia of weathering. This presented a tantalising invite to climb the stone, as if placed there deliberately offering a foot up, bridging the icy water. The view from the top was worth the risk of an icy bath.
|Horse Stone – invitation to climb|
I dropped on a compass bearing south-eastwards now into a small plantation and crossed the clough at a stream junction following it downstream to emerge on the track by the infant Derwent.
|Track alongside river Derwent|
Turning left, I was on easy terrain now and was soon back at Slippery Stones, aptly named today. It was only here that I saw my first human beings since starting out, startling the couple as I overtook.
|Sunlight & Shade|
|Out of the reach of the sun|
Emerging from the woods I ran alongside the reservoir in full sunlight, warm again to the car.
|13km 660m climb|
|Ladybower, the plug hole and a distant Win Hill|
|Win Hill summit|
|Win Hill trig point and views to the west|
|Mam Tor, Lose Hill and Kinder|
|Heading down with Jaggers Clough behind|
|Sunshine & puddles|
|Wot no sugarlumps?|
|Hawthorn and Win Hill|
|Striding out to Win|
|Me and my shadow|
|Almost there, along the dam wall|
|12km with 675m climb|
The recent heavy rain meant that muddy shoes and wet feet were the order of the day but this was a small price to pay for the light winds and blue skies, so welcome after a grim, grey week.
It is harder to be inspired on these dull days, no yonder far horizon of blue hills nor sun dappled heather and bracken. But wait, there is a visual reward to be had if you look more closely.
One such day finds me running on the moorland around Derwent Edge practising some navigation skills. The reduced visibility creates a smaller world and as I run it forces me to focus more on my immediate surroundings. I notice things that on a dry, sunny day I would run past or would simply not be there.
The silvery web of a heathland spider lies low amongst the mosses and close inspection reveals an intricate network of gossamer threads suspending thousands of tiny water droplets.
|gossamer threads and water droplets|
Amongst the heather, crowberry is adorned with an intertwined jewelled necklace, each precious stone a perfect orb of moisture, so tiny and yet detached from its neighbour, impossibly suspended on such a slender thread.
|nature’s own necklace|
And for a few fleeting moments the sky brightens, a false promise of sun but enough to illuminate a myriad of dew drops, sparkling pendants on the moor grass.
|dew drops on moor grass|
|a myriad of sparkling pendants|