Harden Moss (17km)

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My latest Peak Challenge walk led me to discover one of my new favourite places in the Peak District, which is exactly the kind of thing I had hoped to achieve from this challenge.

I started off at Langsett Flouch car park, owned by Yorkshire Water and free to use. I arrived early enough that Langsett, usually heaving with visitors, was relatively quiet. The only person I came across as I walked through the woods was a pleasant old gentleman who asked me lots of questions about where I was going that day, and whether I’d heard of the ‘Three Words App’. He was very enthusiastic about it, although I’m not sure that he knew exactly what it was!

I came across this weathered fingerpost sign pointing towards Swinden, a place name I’d not heard before. It turns out that Swinden used to be relatively populous, but most of the farms were demolished or abandoned during the construction of the reservoir. Sheffield Corporation Waterworks wanted to keep farm animals away from the immediate catchment of the new reservoir, to reduce the possibility of contamination.

The right-of-way along Swinden Lane was easy to follow, as the landowner had erected enormous roadworks-style signage to guide visitors across their land. It made me chuckle, but I can imagine why they felt the need, as honeypot sites like Langsett can attract the worst types of visitors. I continued along the bridleway and heard the sound of honking geese, and wondered whether I was going slightly mad. Thankfully not, and as I looked over the wall towards Swinden Lodge, there was a field full of geese. Well, it made a change from the sheep.

Once I had reached the Access Land, the ascent began. I was following Hordron Road, a well-made track, and it all felt a bit too easy. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the air was crisp and cold. It felt good to be outside.

I reached the top of the track and looked out over Hordron Clough. I took a video which won’t capture it, but this diminutive valley felt big. I don’t know what contributed to this feeling the most, but it really struck me. What also struck me was the absolute bleakness of the moorland on the opposite side of the valley. I knew I would be returning that way later today, and it didn’t look very exciting!

The path continued down the hill and a well-made footbridge took me across the clough, into the shade of the hill. The sunlight had not yet reached this side of the valley, and the puddles were still topped with a microscopically-thin layer of ice, which cracked when you so much as looked at it. I followed the path along the line of grouse butts, until I emerged at the top of the hill with the Crow Stones standing proudly in the distance.

The going was tough up here, and although there were signs of a small path here and there, the condition of the peat meant that progress was slow. Large areas were already heavily eroded and I tried my best not to make this any worse as I negotiated the ups and downs. I came across a couple of boundary stones marked with a “B”. The modern boundary that lies here is between Sheffield and Barnsley, although some sources online claim that the B is for Bradfield Parish. Curiously, one of the letter Bs is upside-down (or back-to-front). I assumed that the stone must have fallen over at some point and been stood up again the wrong way around, but that can’t be right, as the B on the other side is correct.

I continued on my way and before too long reached the trig point at Outer Edge. The view from here covers Howden Reservoir in the near distance, and a huge portion of the Dark Peak after that. But it wasn’t the best view that I would get today.

I had planned to eat my lunch at Crow Stones, so I sat down at Outer Edge and poured boiling water from my thermos into my Firepot dehydrated meal. I usually wrap the meal pouch in one of my spare hats to insulate it for the 15 minutes it takes to rehydrate it, but I’m always worried about spillages, so today I brought a plastic foil jiffy pouch that one of my parcels had arrived in. It worked really well!

The walk over to Crow Stones was uneventful, but when I arrived, the view took my breath away.

I think this is my new favourite place in the Peak District. The weathered stones are dramatic, and the view is stunning. This panorama from Ulrich Deuschle’s brilliant tool adds labels to the different peaks that you can see from here. I’d love to spend a night camping up here.

The other two objectives of my walk were both aircraft crashes, near Crow Stones. Both were relatively easy to find, but I was glad I had put my gaiters on after eating my lunch.

The first was Airspeed Consul TF-RPM which I found at SK 17403 96623, near grouse butt number 9. Peak District Air Accident Research says this was an Icelandic Airlines ferry flight which became disorientated in cloud, leading to the death of all three crew members.

The second was RAF Airspeed Oxford LX518 which I found at SK 18031 96733. The solo RNZAF pilot was on his first night-time navigation training flight, and was killed after becoming lost. He was only 22 years old at the time.

After finding the two aircraft wrecks, it was time to head back to the car, but I had a long way to go yet. The walk across Featherbed Moss was dull and boggy, punctuated only by the mountain hares as they jumped out of the heather a few metres in front of me as I walked along. I could see all the way to Ferrybridge power station near Castleford, but unfortunately the view was the only positive element of this leg of the walk! As the slope steepened, the blanket bog gave way to deep peat groughs. I chose to walk on the stony, silty ground at the bottom of them, until the water became too deep. Then I made my way up the side, and problems with the depth of water were replaced with problems with the depth of heather!

It was slow going, but eventually I reached the bottom of the hill. It felt like the kind of place that nobody else would ever go. Why would they? I was only here to tick off the grid square and there’s not much to draw other visitors in! I was slightly worried about crossing the river at the bottom, and I was right to be… I was lucky and found a crossing point that I could just about get across by using my walking poles to provide stability. I don’t use my poles much but I always carry them for times like this.

I followed the river back to Langsett, passing several nice picnic spots. I think they are far enough away from the car park to be quiet even in summer, so I’ll come back here for a picnic when the weather is warmer.

I could tell I was nearly back at the car park, as the footpaths became five metres wide and muddy all the way across!

All in all this was an excellent day out. You could do it as a shorter loop, starting at Langsett, heading along Swinden Lane, to Hordron, then back again along the river. But then you’d miss out on the aircraft wrecks and Crow Stones, my new favourite place in the Peak District. And it netted me a further 10 spaces on my Peak Challenge as well!

My Peak Challenge is now 37% complete (157/424)
Yellow grid squares were completed on this route. Green grid squares were already completed.

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Categories Peak Challenge, Logbook