Let’s face it, you either like walking on gritstone moors or you don’t – I do! I started walking in my mid-teens, on the gritstone moors of the Forest of Bowland, the nearest hills to where I lived. Perhaps the term ‘gritstone moors’ is a bit of a misnomer though, as most gritstone moors have more peat in evidence than gritstone, which makes this kind of walking an acquired taste. I’m a Lancashire lad, but I had never walked in the Saddleworth area, so a visit seemed long overdue.
For those of my generation, the name Saddleworth has another, more sombre connotation. These are the moors where Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the so-called “Moors Murderers”, buried the bodies of their child victims – the grave of Keith Bennett still remains undiscovered somewhere in these quiet hills.
We put these grim thoughts behind us as we walked by Yeoman Hey and Greenfield Reservoirs, before passing below the impressive gritstone outcrop of the Raven stones on our way to the delightful Birchen Clough. A narrow path clings to the hillside, not far above the stream with its deep pools and cascades. It became obvious that a stream crossing would be required, and right on cue the path led down to the waters edge
From the clough, a narrow path led up to the Hanging Stone, marking the beginning of the top of the Raven Stones. The Hanging Stone does just that, balanced above the valley below, defying gravity as it probably has for many years. Just beyond there we arrived at the aptly named “Trinnacle”, a three headed pinnacle perched high above Greenfield Brook. It provides a great place for a lunch stop, or just ‘mucking around’.
Although these hills lie just within the Peak District, it’s the edges that are remembered, rather than the peaks. Our route traced its way along the top of the Raven Stones Edge, followed by the Ashway Rocks, Dean Rocks and the Great Dove Stone Rocks. On the way we passed two memorials, both quite visible from the valley bottom. The first is an iron cross dedicated to James Platt, a local MP killed in a shooting accident in 1877. The second memorial is a cairn perched on a small gritstone outcrop above the Great Dove Stones, commemorating Brian Toase and Tom Morton, killed in a climbing accident in the Dolomites in 1972.
Following the gritstone edges had two advantages. Firstly we avoided the worst of what appeared to be a full-blown Pennine peat bog on the higher ground to our left, but the main benefit was the views across the moors and down to the valley. We carried on past the remains of a stone shooting hut at Bramley’s Cot before ending up at Chew Reservoir, said to be the highest reservoir in England.
From there everything went downhill in the best sense – easy walking down Chew Road took us quickly back to Dovestone Reservoir and the start point. It was a real T-shirt day, and being realistic probably the last day of summer. Still, there’s all that winter walking to look forward to.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock