A walk on the Dark Peak

Written 21st September 2023 by David Abbott

The latest in our series of wellness events, a programme run for Olliers colleagues, much of which takes place in office time, was a walk up on the heather moorland above Glossop, Derbyshire, on that part of the Peak District known as the Dark Peak.

The Dark Peak is so called because the underlying rock is gritstone, a rock through which rainfall does not drain easily, the result being the formation of black peat bogs, swampy ground and heather moorland. Strangely-shaped, wind-eroded rock outcrops crest some of the hilltops.

Therefore a group of us met up on a blustery summer’s morning at the summit of the infamous Snake Pass road, at the point where the long-distance Pennine Way footpath crosses the main road, close to the start of its tortuous route from Edale in the Peak District, north along the spine of England to the Scottish borders.

It was a fine, if breezy, morning when we set off up the Pennine Way track. The land hereabouts is designated as open access, which means it is permissible to wander around on the landscape, at will and off track, but the moors are criss-crossed by deep “groughs” (natural fissures in the peat) which are difficult to cross and which can trap the unwary, particularly after rain. It is all too easy to sink and get stuck fast in the peat bog, so it makes sense to stick to the well-worn paths.

After about a mile and a half we diverted off the Pennine Way and up a subsidiary track to our destination – the aircraft crash site near Higher Shelf Stones on the moor. This is the spot where a US Airforce bomber crashed in 1948 with the loss of 13 lives; much of the resulting wreckage is still there. There is a memorial there to the fallen and a remembrance service takes place there each year; it is quite a moving experience to visit the site. There are a number of aircraft crash sites up on the high moors, many dating from World War 2 – often they were aircraft returning from missions, coming to grief in low mist or the dark, misjudging the altitude they needed to maintain to get over the high ground of the moors before dropping down onto the airstrips of the Cheshire Plain.

Having paid our respects, we then made our way the short distance to the white-painted trig point which marks the highest point on this part of the moor, and which sits right on the edge of the escarpment, giving us stunning views down to the flatlands below. The west wind was blasting up from the Plain below, and so after a brief stop for the obligatory photographs we retreated from the edge and made our way back to our starting point, using a different path which hugged the edge of the moor, making a couple of exciting stream crossings via stepping stones in the process. 5 miles walked, wellness increased.

David Abbott

David Abbott

Head of Corporate Responsibility & Wellness

Manchester

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