Friday, 26 June 2015

The Pennine Way - 26th June 2015 - Standedge to Jack Bridge - Breakfast of Champions

Leaving the Carriage House Inn, Standedge

As we were packing up the following morning, a few raindrops had started falling, which had me dragging the tent into the shower block in an attempt to keep it dry. As there had been no rain in the night and it had been fairly windy, the tents were dry when we emerged from them, so it would have been really irritating if they got wet while packing up. In the event, it didn’t amount to anything so the tents were still dry once packed. We set off directly across the road following a path we had seen the couple using. I had checked on Patrick’s map and saw that it led directly back onto the Pennine Way at Millstone Edge without either the need for road walking or retracing steps. Although it was dry when we set off, there was a lot of low cloud cover and the day threatened rain but the shortcut proved a useful one and we were soon back on the trail. 

Millstone Edge

The walk along Millstone Edge was fairly exposed and there was a little drizzle as well as a chilly, blustery wind and as I was feeling fairly chilly, I stopped to retrieve my jacket from the rucksack. The walking was quite enjoyable and the conditions excellent for walking and we made good progress to the summit marker on the top of White Hill. From here it was a short walk to an ‘A’ road where we stopped for breakfast at a roadside snack van, mostly used by passing lorry drivers. We were surprised to see Patrick sat enjoying breakfast and we proceeded to order two huge breakfast baps that were so enormous, it was difficult to know how to start eating them. After breakfasts consisting of flapjack bars over the previous couple of mornings, the baps consisting of egg, sausage and bacon were soon consumed, despite their enormous size. These we washed down with pint mugs of tea as we joked with Brian, the owner of the van who informed us that he had been in this location for 38 years. We bought snacks from Brian - who was something of a joker - to put into the rucksacks and he obligingly took a photo of the two of us before we said our goodbyes and headed for the footbridge suspended above the M62. 

Summit of White Hill

Breakfast at Brian's

We crossed the six lanes of traffic as it roared beneath us like a vast river in spate and headed off across a moor in pursuit of Patrick, who by now was just a small blemish on the ridge-top ahead of us. Soon, we reached the trig-point on Blackstone Edge, curiously placed in an elevated position on top of a rocky outcrop overlooking Littleborough before descending to walk alongside a drainage ditch via a short section of ancient cobbled packhorse trail. 

Blackstone Edge

Arriving at the White House pub, we decided against the forty minute wait for it to open and carried on alongside a number of reservoirs on level tracks. Throughout the morning the low cloud had sprinkled us with occasional showers but none had lasted long and the keen wind had kept the temperature just about right for hiking. After leaving the reservoirs, the prominent spire of the Stoodley Pike monument came into view on the ridge ahead but it was some time before we actually reached it. As we approached the entrance, Patrick emerged from the interior gloom of the tower and warned us that it was very dark on the steps up to the viewing platform. The view from the viewing platform was pretty impressive and we walked around the outside of the tower to enjoy the 360 degree view before descending. 

Wild horses near Stoodley Pike

Approaching Stoodley Pike

The afternoon passed uneventfully as we made our way to the Calder Valley and it wasn’t long before we were descending steeply through woodland to the Rochdale canal and the road into Hebden Bridge. Here, because there wasn’t a campsite at Hebden Bridge, we temporarily left the Pennine Way and followed the Pennine Bridleway as it zig-zagged steeply up the side of the Calder Valley on a track to Jack Bridge, where we knew there was a campsite next door to a pub, which seemed like an ideal prospect.

Stoodley Pike from the Pennine Bridleway, near Jack Bridge

By now, the sky had glazed over in a sheet of steel grey that threatened rain as we emerged at a road in front of houses where there was no sign of the Pennine Bridleway. We followed the road for a while to Blackshaw Head, which wasn’t our intention and as light rain began falling, started to descend on a road down to some houses. Our spirits had dropped a little in the rain as we stopped to look for a campsite from above when suddenly, I made out the name of the New Delight Inn in very faded paint on the rooftop of one of the buildings in the valley below and we left the road for a track that descended straight to it. We found the campsite next door and after a checking with the campsite owner, put the tents up just in time for the rain to start in earnest. Once the rain had cleared, we attended to various hygiene tasks and made our way to the pub for dinner, where we were joined by Patrick, who had pitched his tent next to ours. This also allowed us to escape the midges, which were out in force and we spent a pleasant evening in the pub eating, drinking and chatting.

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