LEJOG30: Edale to Crowden

For me doing the Penine Way has been one of those life goals, like running a marathon or doing a road trip across America. It started in a lesson I had in the second year of primary school given by a teacher ironically called Mr Walker (apologies to those who have heard this already). The lesson was about emotional value, and Mr Walker was comparing the financial value of his digital watch to the emotional value of the guide book he used while doing a long distance walk (guess which one…)7. He described how the book had got wet and lost and dirty but had been their throughout his monumental journey. It was irreplaceable and had more emotional value compared to his watch which might have cost more but meant less to him.

The book was the Wainwright Penine Way companion, and his description must have fired something in my imagination because ever since then I’ve had a facination with the idea of walking for ridiculously long periods of time, and a simultaneous desire to complete the Penine way, even tho I know it’s not the best long distance walk in the uk.

There are two ironic things about this ambition. The first is that I was forced to do lots of walking on family holidays both before and after this lesson and hated it, and yet still this idea grew. The second is that I didn’t even have a clue what the Penines looked like, and have only got a vague idea to this day. It’s big, open and isolated is all I think I knew. But neither of these things stopped the ambition growing. In fact, the whole LEJOG thing could be seen could be seen as an attempt to stretch out my idealised Penine Way fantasy.

And now I’m about to do it. There’s a little bit of me that’s slightly concerned that I might not actually like the reality of the walk, but most of me is just exhilerated about the idea of moving beyond green fields and villages and into mountains and wilderness.

The start was a little pre-amble along the side of the hills. My bag felt heavy despite being pretty easy going land, but then it did often at the begining of the day. The ascent up kinder scout didn’t take too long but did take a bit of effort and I was dripping with sweat once I got to the first cairn. The hills were lovely, muscular folds covered in green and yellow tufts of grass. As I rose I felt happier and happier, and got a stunning view behind me of the hppe valley I’d left behind. At the top it all changed slightly, lots of boulders, sand, peat bogs and heather. The rain started to come in stronger and I didn’t get much of a view but kept to a rocky escarpment edge. As the rain cleared I could see amazing hills spread out beneath me and the Manchester connurbation sprawling in the not too far distance. It all looked fabulous in the sun.

I continued on past kinder downfall, an amazing waterfall over layers of rock strata and boulders all looking like they were about to fall over each other, it had a sense of frozen momentum like a cubist painting. The views were great but the wayfinding was confusing. There were no signs and paths were vauge. I just pushed through in want I hoped to be the right direction while trying to avoid the wettest or muddiest paths. To be fair to my penine way guide book there isn’t much direction you could give aside from ‘turn right at the lump of black peat/boulder/patch of sand that lools exactly like every other lump of black peat/boulder/patch of sand’. However I think more signage could and should be provided.

I pushed on along an amazing spikey and craggy edge with a spread of moorland below. I was unsure of the path and it’s relationship to my map but I felt like I was on track. The path got increasingly muddy and unclear, by this seemed to fit the reputation o the Penine way. However,  over the space of 30 minutes it slowly dawned on me that I was in fact very much off track and that if I continued I could get myself very lost indeed. After all the build up i felt really pathetic and fell into a little fit of self-flagulation at being so stupid for even thinking that I could do the Penine way, let alone LEJOG. This brief wallowing in self-pity was quickly curtailed when I realized that my current path could actually be dangerous and that I didn’t had any batteries for my torch. The realisation of a the potential for a real crisis, such as spending the night lost among the peat bogs, soon focused my thoughts and I made the decision to turn back and rejoin the path where I left it rather than follow an ad-libbed workaround of a route that could (literally) kill me.

I rejoined the path feeling incredibly irritated with myself, especially about the fact that I’d added probably 1.5-2 hours to my walk, giving me less time to relax despite having expended more effort. However this internal self-directed tantrum was soothed by the view as I passed over Feathered Moss, a massive flat boggy moorland overlooked by sun lit hills on all sides. Everything looked amazing, almost exactly as I had pictured it without picturing it. Even when the rain inevitably came in, the big sky enabled me to fully experience the dramatic cloud battle above. Ironically I had a perfect view of the craggy edge I had got ‘stupidly lost’ on, and from the outside it looked amazing. To be honest when I was on the edge the view was amazing, moors and hills spread out for miles, it just slightly spoiled it to realize that I should have been a speck miles away on those moors.

I spent the next hour or so navigating the groughs of the moorland bogs – basically channels carved out of the peat like little black valleys. This had the beneficial affect of shielding me from the worst of the weather, which continued to drizzle. Again there was minimal signage but my luck was in and I managed to make all the right turns and ended up on Bleaklow plateau. Reknown for being bleak, it looked like a herd of giant space cows had randomly deposited a load of their massive dark black giant cow pats on the landscape and left then for moss and heather to grow on. I walked among these cow pats for a while before finding more fertile looking moorland which ultimately took me to the reservoir near my accomdation in Crowden.

I had been intending to camp but after  my extended trip (what had meant to be 16 miles was probably by now over 20) I decided to stay at the youth hostel. It was practically deserted and being staffed by a single person (who was really dedicated and lovely and I hope is appreciated by her employers). Apparently they had had a booking for a school group (similar to Edale) but it had been canceled, tahnkfully. Over dinner I chatted to Dave, who was cycling LEJOG, and Stewart, who was walking the Penine Way. To be honest  there’s probably no other reason to stay at Crowden because it isn’t even a village-it’s only purpose is to have a hostel and campsite‎ to serve people wanting to explore the surrounding area. But then given how amazing the surrounding area is, I think that’s as a good a reason as any.

I was tired when I climbed into bed but happy. It had been a long day, due mainly to my ‘unforced error’ on kinder scout, but a good one. It was one of those freak occurances in life: a day as good as you’d hoped.

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