Looking down to Crowden Brook
Patrick was up and away early and we packed up while trying the impossible task of avoiding the midges that continued to breakfast on our blood as we breakfasted on flapjack and coffee. As we left the campsite, we watched a group of girls on the Duke of Edinburgh awards climbing a steep hill from the site watched by their guardians. These 'shadows' follow the youngsters on the scheme at a distance so that their presence is undetected and we were to be approached a few times during the early part of the walk by concerned 'shadows' seeking for their errant charges. We climbed the steep hill out of the campsite and at the top, turned off of the campsite access road to follow the Pennine Way into the valley. This was one of the sections I had enjoyed most the previous year, setting off alone and in silence at 6.30am for what was for me one of the most dramatic sections of The Way as it ascended to the summit of Laddow Rocks.
Climbing up to Laddow Rocks
We stopped regularly to take photos and climbed steadily as the path ascended above the river running through the valley bottom. The climb was soon over and we admired the view from the summit of the cliffs to the river below. Behind we could see the hills we had descended the previous afternoon, the steep path clearly visible. As we descended the cliffs to the river, we passed the couple from the campsite who had stopped for a break and said ‘hello’. They seemed quite friendly but not anxious to hold a conversation so we continued on our way along a flagged path across a gently ascending moor towards Black Hill. This hill was once a feared obstacle on the Pennine Way, a sticky black morass of peat bogs that the walker was obliged to negotiate but now all has changed as the flagged paths have repaired the erosion and the summit is now quite green after a programme of regeneration.
As we neared the summit, we could see a small gathering there. Two of them caused a temporary confusion in me as they looked very familiar but I couldn’t think how I knew them until it dawned on me that they were the two ‘shadows’ from the campsite. With them were Patrick and ‘Beardy & Bandanna’ so we had quite a party on the summit, in total contrast to my visit the previous year. After quite a long break on the summit of Black Hill, we shouldered our packs and set off once again following ‘Beardy & Bandanna’, who had set off a few minutes earlier. We had not got far when we heard a shout from behind and turned to see one of the ‘shadows’ running towards us holding out a bag, it seemed that one of us had left something behind. It quickly became obvious that the bag belonged to ‘Beardy & Bandanna’ who were almost out of sight by this time so I ran after them shouting and waving until they heard me and stopped. The bag contained clothing and after thanking us, they continued on their way. As we continued, we climbed steeply in and out of the Dean Clough defile and headed for the road, where as expected, the mythical snack van lived up to its reputation by being absent.
Descending to from Black Hill
It was while skirting the reservoirs in the Wessenden Valley that I became irritated by my rucksack, which seemed to be very difficult to get to sit comfortably on my back. I fidgeted constantly with the straps but it just couldn’t seem to get comfortable. We descended into the Wessenden Valley on a good track with views of the reservoir and after passing a lodge, dropped off of this down to the river. From here, there was a short, almost vertical climb onto a hill and once on the summit, we stopped for a break. As we sat, relaxing and taking in the views, we caught sight of Patrick, who was still on the track as it headed down to the town of Marsden. He was making a detour to do some shopping before returning along the main road to Standedge and the campsite at the Carriage House pub, which was also our halt for the night. I had highlighted a path from Marsden that he could follow almost back to the pub but he didn’t seem interested in following it, preferring instead to stick to his plan of walking alongside the busy road, which I found strange. Personally, I will go to any lengths to avoid road walking, particularly along busy highways. We finished our break and set off once again but had only gone a short distance when we found Beardy & Bandanna having a break by the edge of a stream. They seemed to have settled in and were looking quite comfortable, which was odd as they had a long day of around 22 miles as they were aiming to get to Mankingholes Youth Hostel. I later discovered that they never made it that far. We had a bit of a chat with them and said goodbye and left them sitting there in the sunshine.
Because of their schedule, that was the last time we saw them. There now followed yet more reservoirs and boggy moorland, which inspired me to label this section ‘Reservoir Bogs’, and it wasn’t too long before we were descending to Redbrook Reservoir, where the Great Western pub was clearly visible just beyond. At this point on my walk the previous year, I had left the Pennine Way to take the track towards Marsden for a short distance before heading towards the Carriage House pub on a smaller, narrower path. I had arrived to discover that the pub didn’t open until the evening and as I had set off early, it was now only around 1.00pm. I had then road-walked to the Great Western, which was open and enjoyed a leisurely lunch before going for a stroll around Redbrook Reservoir and having doze in the sun while I waited for the Carriage House to open. As we knew the Carriage House wouldn’t be open, we crossed rough ground passing the sailing club and headed directly for the Great Western where we hoped to get lunch but were disappointed to discover that in the year that had elapsed since my previous visit, it had closed down. Disappointed, we strolled along the road to the Carriage House where I phoned the owner and enquired about camping. He gave us instructions on where to pitch and details of the shower and toilet block and we were soon relaxing by the tents on what proved to be a pleasant, sunny afternoon. Later, Patrick arrived as did the quiet couple, and we spent the afternoon attending to chores such as washing and drying clothes before retiring to the pub at around 6pm for dinner. We were joined by Patrick who sat with us but the couple remained apart, preferring their own company on the opposite side of the pub.