21st July 2019

It was decided that the Club should return to Laddow Rocks for the first time since May 1988. Geoff would supervise the climbers, and David would lead the walk. For the walk, given the starting point of Crowden then the obvious choice would be to accompany the climbers to Laddow Rocks and then proceed along the Pennine Way (PW) to Black Hill and then return by an alternative route.

In the event the morning of 21st July saw five climbers and three walkers (David , John E and Jonathan H) gather at the car park near Crowden Youth Hostel. A fourth – Phil C – was undecided whether to walk or climb. All set off together for the first two miles to Laddow Rocks at about 10am. The climbers – being unfamiliar with the route to this little visited but historic crag – following the walkers along a combination of tracks and faint footpaths on the other side of Crowden Brook from the PW. After crossing Crowden Little Brook signs of disagreement on the route became apparent, the climbers (at least all but Geoff) hanging back to discuss route options, before turning back to try an alternative approach. It transpired that this was due not to a lack of confidence in the walk leader (I trust) but to the advice of a local dog walker who said a much better approach was to reverse a little way and then take a lane to reach the PW sooner. The walkers meanwhile followed the planned route across Crowden Great Brook by an old footbridge and then follow a footpath (believed to exist from the map) to climb up to the Pennine Way. A faint path was indeed evident on the ground, except for the final 100ft or so up to the PW, which was achieved by a steep scramble through bracken.

Making progress along the PW towards the still distant but increasingly impressive Laddow Rocks, some of the climbers (viz. Rob and Mike P) caught up the walkers – who felt this was due to superior fitness rather than route selection! Taking a breather at the Rocks, the opportunity was taken to admire the view across Crowden Great Brook to the Castles, a rocky outcrop on the far side of the dale and back down over Longdendale towards Bleaklow. The first of the climbers now descending to seek out routes up the crags, the walkers determined we should continue. We had indicated to Geoff that we expected to get back by about 4pm. He wanted to return to the Hut early to start to prepare the tea – and if he was unable to get a lift back early with one of the climbers (in which case we would find a leaf or similar under the windscreen wiper of the car), then he would get a lift back to Stoney with the walkers. It being gone 11am we felt we should continue towards Black Hill, if Phil wanted to join us then surely he would catch up. (It turned out that Phil was looking for an easy day, resting for a fell race in a week’s time. So he stayed with the climbers to watch their progress. Seeing this to be at times slow due to the challenges presented by the crag, he determined to remain a spectator before going to see if he knew some the runners participating in the Holme Moss Fell Race that day. Flags to guide the runners had been evident on parts of our route so far).

So we continued along the PW. Due to the flagstones progress was better than it used to be, when Black Hill was notorious for its dark, deep bogs. Although the skies were greyer than anticipated, the clouds were high with distance views across the moors and only a few drops of rain fell, without threatening anything too serious. We were passed by a few runners taking part in the fell race. The path crossed the brook several times, in most cases this was easily accomplished as the water level was low. Only at one point did stepping stones beneath dark peaty water lead us to find an alternative route, treading on rushes to cross the stream. We arrived at Soldier’s Lump, the summit of Black Hill (582m), at about 12.45pm. It came into view just at the time we were beginning to wonder why we had not yet got there, with a small crowd of people evidently marshalling the fell race around it. A compass bearing confirmed a thin track heading south east to be the start of our return route via Tooleyshaw Moss. A gnarly old fell runner provided further assurance that this was indeed the line, we should head towards a stake and cairn visible a few hundred yards away. We took lunch in the lee of a peat hagg just beyond there, the wind feeling a bit fresh when you were stopped. We continued along the faint track after lunch, the track bearing south as we hoped it would being marked by small, well constructed cairns at intervals. This track was to provide much better going than we had anticipated once off the PW, enabling us to enjoy distant views across the grassy moorland to beyond the Holme Moss road.

The head of Crowden Little Brook was now apparent to our right, but a trackless descent into it being unappealing we remained on the higher ground following the path over White Low and Westend Moss. As we descended from here another decision presented itself – to continue our descent into the lower reaches of Crowden Little Brook or remain higher along Hey Edge until descending into Longdendale. Having followed the skyline so far we took the latter option and found ourselves being drawn towards a pillar on Hey Edge. Described as a pillar on the map too, on arrival we found it clearly to be an OS trig point complete with benchmark. We were unclear why this should not have been shown by the usual blue triangle on the map (and I still am, despite a few web searches while writing this account).

We began our descent towards Crowden, with Torside Reservoir beyond. We walked round the rim of the quarry above Broadholes Wood, presumably used to build the dams in Longdendale.  From here we could see the climbers through field glasses on Laddow Rocks – small figures on what appeared to be a long route, surely it had to be the DPC party as another group on the crag seemed unlikely. It being too steep and loose to descend to the path below, we followed the more circuitous quarry road. But this gave an opportunity to study the steep-sided quarry walls, which might give some good routes if the rock was sufficiently secure, and a fine view down an incline towards the Woodhead Reservoir. We then headed back towards Crowden, with a final steep descent to the caravan and campsite, and the car park beyond.

Passing the campsite, the prospect of an ice cream proved too tempting. So it was Magnums all round and we chatted with a gentleman of south or south east Asian origin (also enjoying an ice cream) who had recently taken up fell walking, we had followed for most of the day. Then on the car park a short distance away – where we found Geoff waiting by the car. No use trying to bluff our way through the ice cream issue, he had seen us descending from the quarry as he approached the car park and had correctly assessed that we should get to the car about 4pm as previously indicated. He duly did so, only to wait 15 minutes for us to appear! Still all agreed that a good day was had, and we returned to the club hut for a convivial evening in the company of those from the walking and climbing parties, and those only able to make tea at the hut.