Friday, 5 March 2010


What a difference a week can make. It's almost springlike with the sun shining out of a clear blue sky, and even though the temperature has only managed to creep a couple of degrees above freezing it feels much warmer. On Curbar Edge weather-worn hollows on the tops of the gritstone boulders hold pockets of ice shimmering in the unaccustomed sunlight. The fine weather has brought many people out although they are all, like us, muffled up against the chill that bites hard on this exposed edge.

We pace ourselves along the long stretch of rock, not wanting this tantalizing but entirely false sense of freedom to be over too soon. The bright sun on brooding rocks brings everything into sharp relief and the views, as usual, are outstanding. It never fails to surprise us how far and how much we can see. Our horizon is taken up by the distant bulks of Kinder Scout, Bleaklow and Howden Edge all liberally covered with snow and looking magnificent. Closer is the long length of Stanage Edge - a familiar haunt of ours - with its rugged cliffs looking as though they have been buttressed with columns of snow. Here, thankfully, it is clear! Sadly, we won't have spectacular photographs today, Paparazzi Cate has 'the wrong lens'. Never mind, we'll make the best of it.
We amble along following the undulations of the ground until Paparazzi Cate slips on a slight downward slope and falls with a definite squelch. But it's OK. The buns in her rucksack are safe. She had heroically protected them as she fell. That's dedication for you. Of course, now she tries to hide the soggy, muddy patch on her behind without much success, it's there for all to see. Wish I had the camera!

The path on top of Curbar Edge is easy to follow as it runs along to join Froggatt Edge. We decide to keep on walking until lunch beckons, then backtrack to where we can drop down to the lightly wooded lower slopes below and then return to the car.
However, inspiration strikes when we see an indistinct track off to our right near an old field enclosure and we set off across open land towards White Edge. The path becomes ever more obscure as we press on. An old wooden post, probably the remains of a disappeared fence-line, carefully nurses a tiny bilberry plant in a pocket of rotting timber. The plant seems impossibly fragile in this harsh landscape.

We're alone now apart from two sheep who act like escaped convicts, eyeing us suspiciously then sidling away. All the other walkers are on one or other of the edges, and we're traipsing across the rough moor in the middle. We feel almost intrepid as we negotiate tussocks of dried, bleached grasses and ice-encrusted bogs.

As the land dips we know that our progress may be impeded, we spy reedy grasses and know that we'll hit water soon. We hear it before we see it, although we've already found the peaty bog that accompanies the moorland stream. But before we venture knee deep into the mire we see a safe crossing place a little way upstream where we are able to leap gazelle-like (!!) across some boulders.

Still dry shod we arrive at a small copse of trees with sheep-cropped grass beneath. The sun is shining on a large flat boulder which positively invites us to sit down. How could we refuse?

Lunch is eaten enjoying the solitude and silence. Coffee is drunk, a cheery nip from the secret flask consumed and the buns (fresh cream doughnuts) are brought out. They were, apparently, the lowest calorie buns on offer that day! No matter, every calorie is savoured.

White Edge is in our sights so with our energy stores suitably replenished we forge ahead without even a hint of a path to follow, and arrive exactly where we want to be. Amazing! We have a steep uphill pull onto the Edge but we're there with relative ease - the doughnuts must have helped - and was the effort worth it? Definitely. The extra few metres of height up here make all the difference. Sure, we lose the views of the valley bottoms but the distant panorama has widened out.
All that remains is the traverse along the edge, the path much narrower here than on Curbar Edge but no less distinct, passing many more walkers and the stark, white trig point at 365m. We descend, turn right around the field boundary and go sharply downhill, negotiating a muddy bog and the even muddier Sandyford Brook before climbing up to the road and back to our cars.

As we sit on the back of our cars removing our boots we look up at the cliffs of Curbar Edge. Maybe it's a trick of the light, but staring down at us are some Easter Island Heads. Next to them is a bear. The heads are photogenic but the bear refuses to be captured on film.

With the photos taken we round off a wonderful walk on a wonderful day and keep our fingers crossed for next time.