Day 1 - Edale to Crowden
Pennine Way Day 1, via Kinder Scout, Snake Pass and Bleaklow.
So this was it then. I woke up on the sofa-bed at my old house in Manchester, with a bellyful of nervousness and a slight funk in the head from a cheap bottle of Bordeaux I’d swigged on Friday evening. ‘Have I prepared enough for this?’, ‘Will my dodgy knee give up after a couple of hours?’ and ‘Will everyone think I’m a twit when I have to admit I couldn’t do it?’ were all doubts stirring while I fished a teabag from my morning brew.
‘You’re walking to Scotland? No bus fare?’
Edale, the starting point of the Pennine Way, is handily located on the Hope Valley railway line between Manchester and Sheffield, and I’d been quite looking forward to that little journey to begin my walk. The train was delayed by some violent-looking types who—from what I could hear over the reassuring Guided By Voices in my headphones—were flatly refusing to buy any tickets. I think the inspector gave up in the end. Gorton, Romiley and Chinley all flew by, I hauled my rucksack off and up to the Old Nag’s Head Inn and put the compass lanyard around my neck.
‘Did they set alarm clocks for early morning trouble-causing? That’s dedication to the art.’
A couple of other parties were getting themselves together as I set off, and I quickly passed a group of sweet-looking girls on the first path and, feeling brave by now, gave them each a smile and ‘Good morning!’. Soon I was climbing Jacob’s Ladder up to Kinder Scout (A), and the soft, green hills and day-walkers of the southern Peak District were promptly replaced by the fiercer, lonely Dark Peak.
The guide¹ recounts this section as a ‘lunar terrain of gritty pebbles and bare black peat.’ The rusty patches of moss made me think ‘martian’ a better descriptive. Not that I’ve been to Mars recently. Once past Kinder Downfall I was into my first proper wilderness stretching out to to Snake Pass (B).
As I paused by the side of the road for sandwiches and a swig from my hipflask, a chap coming the other way stopped briefly for a chat. He’d been up checking out one of the WWII aircraft wrecks lost up there in the mist.
The route up through Devil’s Dike to Bleaklow (C) was as cheerful as these sobriquets suggested²: walls of peat leaned over me, hailstones pinged off my cheeks and the path became an indistinct stream bed which forked unnervingly. I didn’t hang around at the windy summit and followed the steep edge round and eventually down to Torside Reservoir. All that was left was to pass through the calm wood on the other side and watch some sheep headbutting each other before finishing the day at Crowden.