Wildboar Clough, Bleaklow Head, and Black Hill

Route Summary:

A fantastic Dark Peak walk that starts at Crowden and ascends Bleaklow’s Wildboar Clough – surely one of the finest scrambles in the Peak District – before crossing moorland to Bleaklow Head. The route then follows the Pennine Way to Black Hill via Torside Clough and Laddow Rocks before finally taking the direct route back to Crowden.

Route Information

  • Start: B6105, Glossop SK13 1JF, UK
  • Date:05-05-2016
  • GPX File: Download

Other POI: Wildboar Clough, Shining Clough Moss, Bleaklow Head, Wain Stones, Shelf Moss, Pennine Way, Clough edge, Torside Clough, Torside Reservoir, Rhodeswood Reservoir, Laddow Rocks, Grains Moss, Dun Hill, Black Hill, Tooleyshaw Moss, Tooleyshaw Moor, Westend Moss, Hey Moss, Loft End Quarry, Crowden

Route Description:

The sun was out, and after my recent enjoyable half-circuit around Edale, I decided to head back to the Peak District and bag a couple of popular summits that I’ve somehow not managed to do yet. Crowden was the starting point and the plan was to ascend Bleaklow via one of the few decent Peak District scrambles, Wildboar Clough, before circling back and following the Pennine Way to Black Hill.

The walk started at the National Trust car park, not too far away from Wildboar Clough, and just off the B6105. A short path from here led to the Trans Pennine Trail, which I followed for a short distance before coming to the signpost pointing to Wildboar Clough. I naturally headed the way that it indicated and carried on following the path until I was alongside the lower section of the clough. I wasn’t sure at which point the path was going to take me down into the clough proper, so I decided to scramble down the steep bank early for a more interesting walk. At this point, the floor of the clough was a dry, rocky stream bed and the exciting section that I was eagerly waiting for didn’t appear until a bit later when I’d managed to ascend about two-thirds of the height.

The way to Wildboar Clough
The way to Wildboar Clough
Wildboar Clough lower section
Wildboar Clough lower section

The waterfalls looked wonderful and – if memory serves me correctly – there were three of them to navigate. The climbing of them was relatively simple, although I didn’t necessarily choose the hardest route. If the third waterfall had been dry, I’d have most likely attempted to climb up the right-hand corner. As it was though, I didn’t particularly fancy getting drenched this early in a 16-mile trek and so I ascended via an easier and drier chimney on the left hand side. Once this third waterfall was ascended, the route became fairly easy going and was a simple case of following the line until it eventually met up with the Pennine Way route.

Wildboar Clough lower waterfall
The excitement starts
Wildboar Clough waterfall
More climbing
Wildboar Clough waterfall
And the final climb
Wildboar Clough - upper section
Easier going from here

The top of Bleaklow is, as its name suggests, bleak. A barren and wild landscape with liberal scatterings of gritstone rocks and plenty of peat hags. In terms of making fast progress, the Dark Peak area is always best tackled in dry weather – unless you’re one of those hardcore walkers that love walking in peaty bog more often than not (It’s fun, honest!). The summit of Bleaklow (Bleaklow Head) isn’t the most impressive sight in the world. Just a pile of rocks on the peat. I headed in a westerly direction and circled back around until I was back on the Pennine Way which I followed back towards Crowden. Once you get to Clough Edge, alongside Torside Clough, the views become much more impressive with the reservoir visible in the distance. The path also becomes much more defined and easier to walk on around this point. It’s a fairly gentle and pleasant descent that eventually leads back down to the B6105 and the Torside Dam.

Bleaklow Head
The cairn at Bleaklow Head
The Wain Stones
The Wain Stones aka Kissing Stones
Torside Clough
Walking along Clough Edge
Looking back at Torside Clough
Looking back at Torside Clough

Torside Dam runs between Torside Reservoir and Rhodeswood Reservoir. Altogether in Longdendale Valley (the valley that runs between Bleaklow and Black Hill, and that Crowden is a part of) there are a chain of six reservoirs and are collectively known as the Longdendale Chain. The reservoirs were completed in 1877 by civil engineer John Frederick Bateman, known as the greatest dam-builder of his generation, and at the time, were the largest artificial expanses of water in the world. Local geography/history lesson over! The Pennine Way took me over the dam where I stopped to take a few photos before continuing across the A628 and on route to Black Hill.

The weather was much warmer than I was expecting, and the sun had barely been covered by cloud since I began. My girlfriend advised me to take some sunblock with me, and I dismissed the advice, thinking that it wasn’t going to be anywhere near that hot. I was regretting that now with the back of my neck feeling like a hotplate and 2 of my 4 small bottles of water already drunk. At this point, I still had the whole of the Black Hill route to do in the heat, and only 660ml of water left. Silly me.

Rhodeswood Reservoir
Rhodeswood Reservoir
Torside Reservoir overflow
Torside Reservoir overflow

The path to Black Hill, ie the Pennine Way, is a fairly straight-forward affair with little in the way of difficulties barring an occasional stream crossing. Whether this is still the case in bad weather, I don’t know. The views are excellent, with Crowden Great Brook down to the right, and Black Tor and Rakes Rocks up to the left. Across the other side of the brook is the great lump of Bareholme Moss, easily identified by its horizontal line of rocks three-quarters of the way up. Just past Rakes Rocks, the path suddenly ascends steeply for a short distance (it’s really the only strenuous part of the walk to the summit), crosses Oaken Clough, and ends up on the top of the distinctive Laddow Rocks. The path continues until the dramatic contours around Crowden Great Brook are out of sight, and all that lays ahead is barren moorland. Eventually, the path becomes paved with large stone paving slabs which lead all the way to Black Hill summit. Like Bleaklow, Black Hill doesn’t actually feel like a hill once you get to the trig point. It feels like a hump in the middle of a moor which, in effect, it is. Looking around, there’s not a lot in the way of great views, or at least not what you’d normally expect from the summit of a hill.

Laddow Rocks
Laddow Rocks
Looking back at Crowden and Bleaklow
Looking back at Crowden and Bleaklow
The Pennine Way to Black Hill
The Pennine Way to Black Hill
Black Hill trig pillar
Black Hill trig pillar

So… at last, I was at the summit of Black Hill. It felt like it took an eternity to get there as I staggered across the bleak moorland with mild sunstroke and my water now gone. I had plotted my route in advance, and looking in the direction of my return path, the first thing I noticed was… there’s no path. Feeling safe due to the fact I was using the ViewRanger GPS app on my phone, I headed in the direction that I was supposed to be going. This was a lot more difficult as there’s a lot more in the way of wetland and bog to navigate once you leave the comfort of the paving slabs, even in this fine weather. A faint path occasionally appeared for a short while only to disappear again within minutes, but it was enough to give me the confidence I was heading the right way. I was really struggling with the heat and my legs didn’t feel like they had much strength at all left in them. So I walked, and walked across terrain that pretty much didn’t change, daydreaming about the variety of drinks I was going to buy myself on the way home. Eventually, in my daze, I almost walked straight off the edge of one of the small cliffs at Loft End Quarry! The sudden appearance of the quarry took me by surprise, and also gave me a vital shot of motivation as I knew I was nearly at the end. There’s an old track that used to be used by the quarrymen, which took me down from here and eventually to the A628. From the road, it was a simple case of crossing to the other side of the reservoir and heading back to the car park.

Needless to say, I stopped at the first shop on the way home, and guzzled copious amounts of liquid!

The return journey to Crowden
The return journey to Crowden
The disused Loft End Quarry
The disused Loft End Quarry
Route Map
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