Oyster Clough, Cowms Rocks, and Alport Castles

Route Summary:

A Dark Peak walk starting at Birchen Clough Bridge and ascending Oyster Clough before moving on to Cowms Rocks and Alport Castles. The route then returns back to Birchen Clough Bridge via Rowlee Pasture, Blackley Hey and the footpath that runs beneath The Knots.

Route Information

  • Start: A57, United Kingdom
  • Date:24-11-2017
  • GPX File: Download
  • Trig Pillars:N/A

Other POI: Birchen Clough Bridge, Dinas Sitch Tor, Cowberry Tor, Oyster Clough, Shooting Cabin, Cowms Rocks, The Knots, Hey Ridge, Alport Valley Plantations, Alport Farm, Alport Valley, River Alport, Little Moor, Alport Castles, The Tower, Rowlee Pasture, Hagg Side, Hagg Farm, Snake Pass, Woodlands Valley, Roman Road, Crookstone Out Moor, Blackley Hey, River Ashop, Hayridge Farm, Blackden View Farm, Cowms Moor

Route Description:

I started the walk at the car park at Birchen Clough Bridge, just past the Snake Inn on the A57 Snake Road. As it was a weekday, the car park was completely empty apart from my own car. I headed through the Pine forest, following the old Roman road east, travelling beneath Dinas Sitch Tor and above Cowberry Tor before reaching the fork in the path. I took the left fork here and followed it gradually uphill as it contoured around onto the slope of Oyster Clough.

Pine Forest near Birchen Clough Bridge
Pine Forest near Birchen Clough Bridge
Looking back near Oyster Clough
Looking Back near Oyster Clough

The walk along Oyster Clough’s slope is tremendously easy. It’s a long straight path that takes you the whole length of the clough, eventually ending at the shooting cabin. There are some nice initial views looking across to Cowms Rocks and The Knots, but as you get steadily further up the track, the views become those of the opposite banks of the clough. There are usually good views looking south towards Kinder Scout too, but unfortunately, due to the low winter sun, any attempt to look in that direction blinded me.

Oyster Clough width=

Looking across at Cowms Rocks and The Knots
Looking across at Cowms Rocks and The Knots

The shooting cabin has been used as a base to spend the night many times and, judging from the visitors’ book that sits on the table, alcohol is frequently involved too. I’ve no problem with that of course, I wish I’d have done it myself – I just wish people would remove their junk afterwards.

The shooting cabin
The shooting cabin
Inside the shooting cabin
Inside the shooting cabin

From the cabin, I ventured a bit further to the end of the clough, crossed over, then began the walk back on the other side. I contoured along the slope, quite a few metres below the top where peat hag territory began. The route eventually leaves the clough and curves to the left, eventually reaching Cowms Rocks, with the strangely shaped lumps and bumps of The Knots down below. These were formed as a result of a large landslip and the landscape looks very similar to that at Alport Castles. In fact, the last large landslide to happen here was as recent as 2008, and left the A57 closed for over a month. Over the tops to the north is the sprawling mass of Alport Moor.

Looking back towards Oyster Clough
Looking back towards Oyster Clough
Looking north to Alport Moor
Looking north to Alport Moor
Cowms Rocks and The Knots
Cowms Rocks and The Knots

The route continues following the line of a stone wall onto Hey Ridge and down the side of Alport Valley Plantation. A little way down, a break in the trees appears to the left and the remains of an old wall lead down into the woodland. I followed this all the way down to Alport Farm. The ground was very mossy and soggy alongside the crumbled wall and, coupled with the steepness, I managed to slip a few times on the way.

Hey Ridge
Hey Ridge
Walking through Alport Valley Plantation
Walking through Alport Valley Plantation

From Alport Farm, I made my way across the River Alport and up the slopes towards Alport Castles. Alport Castles is formed by a landslide, and it’s thought to be the largest example of a landslide in the United Kingdom at over half a mile long. I skipped exploring The Tower and went straight up onto the top edge of Alport Castles to take some photos in the low but bright winter sun.

Alport Castles from Alport Farm
Alport Castles from Alport Farm
Ascending the slope to Alport Castles
Ascending the slope to Alport Castles
Looking towards The Tower
Looking towards The Tower
A closer look at The Tower
A closer look at The Tower

I followed the edge back, across Rowlee Pasture and towards the junction of footpaths at Hagg Side. I always enjoy this little stretch as it affords outstanding views over Alport Valley and back towards Alport Castles. At the footpath junction, I descended past Hagg Farm and towards the A57 Snake Road.

Looking back towards Alport Castles
Looking back towards Alport Castles
Crossing Rowlee Pasture
Crossing Rowlee Pasture
Looking towards Hagg farm and the Woodlands Valley
Looking towards Hagg farm and the Woodlands Valley

I crossed straight over the A57 and followed the bridle path over Haggwater Bridge and up through the Woodlands Valley. The path had turned into a stream and it was a good test of my boots waterproofness. Eventually, I arrived at the Roman road not far from Hope Cross. I turned right and started the gradual descent back down towards the River Ashop and the A57, past Crookstone Out Moor and through Blackley Hey.

Haggwater Bridge
Haggwater Bridge
The bridle road up through the Woodlands Valley
The bridle road up through the Woodlands Valley
The Roman Road
The Roman Road
Descending through Blackley Hey
Descending through Blackley Hey
National Trust Information Board for Blackley Hey
National Trust Information Board for Blackley Hey

I crossed over the River Ashop via the footbridge by the ford and headed back into Alport Valley as far as the footpath junction. Here, right would have led me back along the valley, but I took the left turn that would eventually take me back to the foot of Oyster Clough. This was the least interesting part of the walk as I trudged through various muddy pastureland, avoiding cows where I could until all the daylight was used up and the torch came out. Eventually, via a brief foray through a pathless pine forest, I arrived back at the old Roman road that would lead me back to the car at Birchen Clough Bridge.

The ford across River Ashop
The ford across River Ashop
Signpost
Signpost

It had been a fantastic walk, and there was barely another person out. I think I passed two walkers between Alport Castles and Hagg Side, and that was it. The rest of it was all mine to peacefully enjoy alone.

Route Map
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