Blackstone Edge, high up on the Pennine Way – the UK’s famous long-distance footpath – on the section between Marsden and Hebden Bridge, like other nearby photos I have posted about, such as Buckstones, Blackstone Edge is a rugged, windy place studded with outcroppings of rough, dark millstone grit. It is indeed an edge, overlooking Littleborough and the Lancashire town of Rochdale.
The escarpment is familiar to walkers. My friend and I have visited for the first time earlier this summer, and passed by since, on route elsewhere. Blackstone Edge sits at 1,549ft (472m) above sea level. That’s not as high as Black Hill, which I believe is regarded as the highest point in West Yorkshire. Blackstone Edge is not in Yorkshire, however. On this walk we crossed the Lancs border.
It was a bright morning at the end of June when we set off across Close Moss, our home tract of moorland, on the packhorse path, meeting the Pennine Way at Haigh Gutter and the main Huddersfield – Denshaw road. This part of the Pennine Way crosses the Lancs border, past the trig at White Hill to Windy Hill where some of the routes for our upcoming walking guidebook pass by. Beyond the Windy Hill transmitter (fondly known as The Robot) lies the M62, the busy motorway horizontally slicing across northern England and connecting Liverpool in the west to Hull in the East. There is a special Pennine Way footbridge which spans the 62, and it is to here we headed, intending to reach a series of reservoirs south east of the town of Todmorden. Rain was forecast to come in somewhere around 4pm so we had to set off from Marsden at 8am and had packed waterproofs just in case.
We made good time across the Pennine Way bridge and started the gradual ascent up the rocky ridge of Blackstone Edge. It isn’t a peak, as such, just high ground with a trig point placed rather awkwardly on a boulder.
We didn’t stop, just flew past trying to avoid the Sunday walkers who’d suddenly appeared from nowhere. It’s quite a steep descent down the other side, picking round outcrops and slabs of gritstone. The Edge juts out like a fortress in places, looking higher up as we descended and glanced back, than it did when we’d approached it from the motorway side. Rochdale and Greater Manchester are much lower down than the Western edge of Pennine Yorkshire.
Last time we were up here, we turned left onto a Roman road, looping back on ourselves. This time we continued along the Pennine Way path past a sort of old quarry, and following a catchwater drain to the A58 Rochdale Road.
Here lay The White House, and we’d legged it to get in and have a brew before dinner. It was a good sign to see lots of cars in the car park, and it started filling up quite quickly, all older people. Must have been a Pensioners’ Special menu on. We sat down and drank what turned out to be a rather pricey coffee each. Mine was certainly tiny for the several pounds paid, always a downer.
Still, onwards to the reservoirs. We sat beneath the wall of Blackstone Edge reservoir to eat our sandwiches before continuing past Light Hazzles and the start of Warland Reservoir. It was at this point we realised it was 2pm, and rather a trek back to Marsden if the forecast was to be believed.
Now I’m not being too quick at the moment on account of a gammy knee which sometimes feels like it’s far too flexible and bending the wrong way, and making me walk like a newborn deer or antelope or something. Both weird and inconvenient, though totally painless. We scampered as fast as we could back the way we’d come up the Edge where we noticed the low-flying Dakota – see recent post Incoming…
We flew up and over, back across the motorway bridge and Windy Hill, all the while keeping our eye on the darkening clouds. 4pm came and went. Windy, chilly but still dry. Back at Haigh Gutter on our home stretch of moor, we decided it would be quicker to my friend’s house by continuing along the Pennine Way path, rather than going back along the Packhorse way and hitting the village first.
Along the rocky rim of Close Moss, which itself is very exposed on its western edge as it overlooks Castleshaw reservoirs and Saddleworth, we almost got blown off. Struggling against the wind, I found myself having to dig for the fruit pastilles. A sugar rush was definitely necessary. The rain came on and it was a bit of a challenge trying to pull on a raincoat and extricating our backpack raincovers with the wind battering us to our right.
The walk became a bit of a plod, and a squelchy one at that, as what started as drizzly stuff eventually turned heavier and wetter with about a mile and a half to go. We arrived back at base not too long after 6pm more than a smidge disheveled, and quite ready to acknowledge we had underestimated the distance a bit.
Our total mileage in the end was 25, which is a fair way. Blimey. Still, we’re both up for a bit of an adventure. ‘Are you lost, ladies?’ ‘Nah!’