Thomas P. Ogden

Day 3 - Blackstone Edge to Ponden

Pennine Way Day 3, via Stoodley Pike, Graining Water and Top Withens.

After a comfortable evening at mum and dad’s house on Sunday evening, I said ‘bye’ and set off again early on Monday. The first two days could’ve just been a nice weekend’s hiking not too far from home; for the next fortnight I’d be on my own.

‘Now I’ve worked out how to limp on both feet, I’ve just got to keep this up for the next eight hours.’

The start contrasted harshly with the morning before: drizzle replaced sunshine, solitude replaced chatting with dad and my heels and shoulders hurt already. I naïvely set off with my sleeping bag strapped to the rucksack, rather than inside it, and when it fell off for the second time I realised that it was already soaked.

‘Why isn’t this sodding holder thing waterproof?!’

Light Hazzles and Warland Reservoirs felt sinister as I walked along their edges, with the fog obscuring my view any further than the black water’s edge. Wet high voltage power lines crackled loudly. Following along the drain I saw a figure appear out of the cloud right in front of me: a young chap who, under his dark hood, seemed to be as glad to see another person as I was. ‘The whole thing?’ he asked? ‘I’m doing it in sections now. I’ve tried it all the way twice but didn’t make it. Once everything gets wet, it’s over.’ I glumly considered the sopping sleeping bag and tent on my back, and wondered how waterproof the backpack itself was.

I continued towards Mankinholes and up to Stoodley Pike (A) along a path I’d taken on a circular walk with my dad a few weeks before. I was calmed a bit by the familiarity. The Pike is a monument to peace built after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814. Usually visible for miles around, I almost walked into the 38m-tall black obelisk in the blanket fog. I struggled to make out its top, staring up in the wind, and again felt very uncomfortable. There’s a spiral staircase inside which allows one to climb up in the blackness, but the idea did not appeal so I quickly set off down towards Callis Wood.

Obviously, I didn’t have time to stop by lovely Hebden Bridge (enclave of tolerance and creativity among northern mill towns) and began the precipitous climb up from the valley floor at Callis Bridge (B). Heptonstall Church—where Sylvia Plath was buried—came into view soon after along the next valley.

After a long, dispiriting moor slog I dropped to a meeting of two streams at Graining Water (C) and sat in the small space of grass, sheltered from wind, to eat some lunch. Concerned about progress, I didn’t stop long before heaving my bag up past another large reservoir and then beginning another slow moor climb up to Withens Height and another literary landmark on the other side.

The ruined farmhouse of Top Withens (D) was the inspiration for Wuthering Heights in Emily Brontë’s cracker. It’s certainly isolated enough. My feet were as sore as Heathcliff, so I could think only of finishing for the day. I finally found Ponden House and paid to pitch my tent down by a stream on the old grounds of Ponden Hall, where the young Brontës would come to play and read in the library. This was literature day, then.

I peeled off my socks, full of blood, and tried to clean up my blisters. I think I was a little delirious with exhaustion, as I remember forcing myself to eat some cold cheese and bread before I crawled into my damp sleeping bag at about seven o’clock. I put the Radio 4 In Our Time podcast on my headphones, and drifted through three or four episodes without listening before I fell into fitful sleep.

Blackstone Edge to Ponden Profile
Map

Day Distance Ascent Duration Dead Poets
3 30.3 km 924 m 9 h 2