About 4000 years ago, the slopes of Mam Tor in the Peak District of Derbyshire would not have been a good place to be. The hill is mostly sandstone lying on top of unstable shales, and 4000 years ago the southeast face started to slide down into the valley in one of the largest landslips ever to have occurred in the UK – what’s more, it’s still sliding, earning the hill the name of ‘The Shivering Mountain’
I’ve been here a few times, usually with Chris. There’s a cracking walk out of Castleton, the village that lies in the valley below Mam Tor, that heads for the summit then stays high on what is known as The Great Ridge. Staying high in this case is a relative term, as Mam Tor is a mere 517 metres in altitude, with the Great Ridge coming in at around 400 metres – the illusion, however, is that you are on something much higher.
I had been in Edale the previous night, to catch the start of The Spine Race on the Saturday morning. Having cheered the runners on their way I still had another job to take care of – a walk out for Border Collie ‘Mist’. There was no hesitation in deciding that I would head for Mam Tor.
‘Mist’ is easy to please on a walk – all she wants is room to run, a doggy toy to chase after and a peak or two on the way. If there is a possibility of sandwich carrying hikers along the way, then that’s even better, and innocent bystanders trying to eat lunch are frequently mugged by the permanently hungry dog, trying her best to look cute!
Today there were few opportunities for the Collie to blag an early lunch, so we carried on along the Great Ridge on a murky, windy morning. I wondered how the runners on the Spine Race were going on – at least I was only out for a couple of hours. After just a couple of kilometres from Mam Tor I reached Hollins Cross, and it was time to turn off the Ridge and to head down to the Valley.
My route back took me by the ‘remains’ of the old Manchester to Sheffield Turnpike road, built in 1802. Someone had decided that building a road across an unstable, moving slope was a good idea, in the same way that builders today put houses on flood plains. Between 1802 and 1979 the road required major work on six occasions, but in 1977 another major slip took place, leaving 2ft steps (60cms) along the road. In 1979 the road was abandoned, and the original route down Winnats Pass re-opened.
The old turnpike is in good condition lower down, and now provides car parking for visitors and walkers – it also gave me a fast easy route back to my start point at Castleton. From there a two-hour drive had me back home in North Wales, ready to pack my bags for my annual trip to Greg’s Hut as part of the Spine Race.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock