An August Bank Holiday weekend at Bamford Edge and Kinder Scout
Bamford Edge to Kinder Scout via the Great Ridge.
Of all the many spots in the Dark Peaks that is perfect for a wild camp, there are probably few better than that of Bamford Edge. The elevation of just over 1300 feet isn't the highest, but the views from the top are spectacular. With Wyn Hill directly east, and the Great Ridge just beyond, and to the north Ladybower Reservoir with the iconic dam at the forefront, there is plenty to feast the eyes upon.
With this in mind, I decided the forecast for a weekend of warm and sunny weather would be ideal opportunity to not just visit Bamford Edge for the first time, but to camp up there as well. Pictures and videos I'd seen made it appear a mythical place, a perfect formation of heather topped moorland, mountainous views and despite the reservoirs being less than natural, watching water always lifts the spirits. Working close to the station at Nottingham is always handy for a trip up north, and with this in mind I decided to take my heavy and cumbersome backpack to work and with an early afternoon finish a bonus, I was in Sheffield by 3:45. Last minute provisions purchased, and shortly after the slow two car diesel that runs between Sheffield and Manchester was boarded. The journey is always a slow one, but who really cares when the scenery, like on this sunny Friday, is so green and lovely. The hills becoming ever more dramatic as the line rolls through the Hope Valley, culminating for me in the small station at Bamford.
Unlike the pleasure of emerging in Edale via a quiet country lane, finding your way to Bamford is along the narrow path at the side of the noisy and busy A6013. However, the village itself was quiet and peaceful, though I gave it cursory attention as I headed up The Clough, a walkway that became progressively narrower, and notably more muddy and even more noticeably, steeper, as I climbed up to New Road and emerged even at this early stage of the walk, wet through with sweat and gasping for the water I'd recently acquired from the sinks in the public toilets on the edge of Bamford Village. Emerging though from the woodland that enveloped most of the walk through The Clough, I looked up to see my first sight of Bamford Edge, the thick heather in the immediate vicinity was purple and vivid but above there was the rocky outcrop of the Edge that ran as far as I could see into the far distance. The "official" path, if there is such a thing is accessed around the south of New Road but spotting a way through the heather, I clambered over the low fence and headed en-route to the rocks, with the path, naturally, becoming ever steeper and the path narrower as I tripped and bumbled my way to the open land.
Thankfully, I seemed to be the only person heading northwards. A couple of groups came the other way and there were also a couple of people hanging off a number of ropes that were hanging several feet under one of the large boulders on the edge. The views on this clear, late summers day were magnificent and it was now only a matter of choosing where to pitch camp. The lack of people around initially led me to attempting to pitch up next to the path on the edge of the edge. With the tent door facing the reservoir below, my thought of opening the tent to that in the morning was an exciting one. However, the rocks under the ground seemed to be copious in number, and with people in the distance heading up this way, I moved the tent inland and found a spot that was less dramatic in view, but more sensible in location, pitching it in a spot in the middle of some longish grass and and fifty foot away from the original spot where it seemed quite popular for more people to arrive with cameras and tripods to wait for the dusk.
By the time the sun started to set, I'd counted at least a dozen people up at the edge and about as many cameras, too. The evening was also turning chilly so it seemed a good a time as any to get dinner on the go, which tonight was a Summit To Eat dehydrated chicken tikka curry, which I'd bought for my Pennine walk a month before but which arrived, less than handily, a day after my departure. Once water was boiled and food rehydrated, I took a seat on a rock right on the edge and enjoyed a very tasty curry in a very picturesque location; the fading sun had cast beautiful golden wisps of light wrapped around thinning clouds, and Ladybower Reservoir below was in shadow and silhouette of the thick forests and hills on the banks around it. A brief chat was enjoyed with three young lads from Nottingham, as it transpired, their response of "nah, that's mental, man" when they learned I was spending the night up there had me chuckling away for a while, long after they, and all the other photographers up there had departed. Once I was on my own I sat and stared in to the dark distance with a hot chocolate on the go. The relaxing ambience was later disturbed when I was about to nod off in my tent, which was suddenly at around 10:30 illuminated in yellow light. I thought I was about to be turfed off the hill by a ranger, so I unzipped my tent to be apologised to by a fellow wild camper who informed me in passing that he was enjoying a twilight walk. I was less than impressed.
After that brief interruption I slept like a log, and thankfully too such was the walk I'd planned out for the Saturday. First things first, though, and clambering out of my tent at 7:00 I was met by a beautiful, sunny morning. I walked over to the edge and looked out to the reservoirs which were completely invisible due to the low lying fog and clouds above them, and also over Bamford village to the south. It was a stunning way to start the day. What was also stunning was my choice of breakfast. There was no-one else around and so I took my stove over to the rocks and cooked off a couple beef burgers, with added bacon and cheese. Not the worst way to start a day off with, and they powered me up for the walk to Hope and then up to the Great Ridge.
I timed my departure well, no sooner had I began the descent down to the New Road, this time on the well worn path, the crowds of people began to head past me. Back on The Clough a dozen or so Chinese students were wearily clambering up, and noticeably were not in the most suitable of attire for a hot day either. One girl, bringing up the rear, asked me if there was much farther to go until the top. I cheerily told her there wasn't, but it was just as steep. Her laughter definitely contained the sort of pitch that it was news she didn't want to hear. I reached the bottom, hot and without water, and dying for a drink. The good timing continued when I strolled past a cottage with the owner tending to his garden, and he very kindly filled my bottle up for me. It's unlikely the gentleman will stumble upon these ramblings but if he does, thank you for your kindness. From here I needed to get to Hope and studying my map, I took a couple of back lanes that took me away from the main roads and were indeed lovely and quiet, and not before long I was enjoying a well earned break in Cafe Adventure in the village. Most people there were getting stuck into delicious looking cooked breakfasts but my burgers were still keeping me going, and a pot of tea sufficed.
Being almost midday when I left Hope, I knew it would be rush hour when I eventually climbed to the top of Lose Hill, and then made my way to Mam Tor. Especially when conditions are as lovely and sunny as they were today with people making the most of the late summer weather. The views from Lose Hill especially are gorgeous, and appreciated more so following the clamber up to the summit in the first place after the walk through some of the fields and farms outside of Hope. I've rarely, if ever, reached there in solitude and like today, there were groups of people enjoying picnics, taking a break and posing for the obligatory group photo which, being a solo walker, usually means I'm roped in to act as group photographer. Once left alone I was able to stand off the path and gaze at the view over the Edale valley, with on this clear day, Kinder Scout, where I'd be staying the night, standing imposingly over the horizon. At the bottom, Edale lay cosily among hills and trees and occasionally the trains would silently traverse through the valley to Sheffield and Manchester. As usual, I hurried up and along Mam Tor as quickly as possible to escape from the crowds. Once on the other side of the winding road that slices inbetween Mam Tor and Rushop Edge, things quietened down and I was able to slowly take in my surroundings in my own time and company, as the path left the views from the mountains and entered the moorland setting that I love so much. The stony track of Rushop Edge was replaced by flagstones as the path heads over Brown Knoll, the golden grass and blue sky a beautiful setting to wander through. Eventually of course the path joins my beloved Pennine Way, and the sign post that signals the arrival onto the trail always receives an affectionate little pat from me as I stroll past and head up the path to Edale rocks, and the Pennine is ever so slightly savoured before the path splits and the right fork at the large cairn took me to the Woolpacks.
Despite camping in the same location four times now, on each occasion I seem to struggle to find the spot and usually find myself wandering around for minutes at a time attempting to find a semi-recognisable feature that may help lead me to my favourite Kinder campsite. Easily done, I guess, in the labyrinth of rocks and boulders that passes for the Woolpacks, and is, once it is located, a lovely place to spend the night - right at the southern lip of Kinder and with views down to Jacobs Ladder - and from there one can sit on a rock and follow the distant Pennine path around to the adjoining flagstones to Brown Knoll, where I emerged from earlier. I pitched up early and walked the five minutes around to Crowden Tower to get me enough water to last the night. This done, the sunny late afternoon felt like one of those moments when you simply want time to stand still, to simply boil up a cup of tea, and sit on the rocks surveying the views and soak in the peace and quiet. There wasn't a sound to be heard. I spotted a few other tents and campers scattered around in the distance, but that aside there was no one else up there. I rehydrated another Summit To Eat, this time a tasty meat and potatoes meal, watched the sun go down and then climbed into bed. The air and tent was so warm that I only had my shorts on inside my sleeping bag, unheard of for a camp up on Kinder. I got up a couple of times for some night shots, and then slept right through.
Having gotten used on previous Kinder camps to be greeted in the morning by either fog or rain, it was a treat to unzip my tent at 6:30 and be greeted by warm and clear skies, with some golden light emerging under a patch of cloud out east. Due to having completely run out of water I didn't hang around to relax and slowly wake up to this beautiful dawn; instead I packed up and made a hasty retreat back to the Pennine Way, but now walking largely east I was walking into the sunrise and once the sun was up, it illuminated the path all the way down to Jacobs Ladder. I was gasping for a drink, and at the bottom of the ladder where the lovely little bridge sits over the River Noe, I splashed my face in the cool, clear water and spent five minutes filtering and drinking as much as I could. Goodness me it tasted good. Pitching ones tent down here wouldn't be the worst idea in the world if it wasn't so close to what is usually quite a busy path. However, hunger then replaced the thirst and once back in Edale the wait for a train home was spent in the Penny Pot Cafe enjoying a delicious breakfast. Naturally, being a Sunday, the trains were even more unreliable than they usually are and so my scrambled eggs and beans breakfast was extended into snacks and a couple of pots of tea, but the delayed exit had its virtues, for one should never be in much of a rush to leave Edale.