The high moors of the Peak District have had their first dusting of snow.
Winter comes to the Peak District
And with a cold, crisp winter's day giving an ideal opportunity for a run I decided to visit some less frequented parts of the Peak. Starting at the turning circle at the northern end of Derwent reservoir I immediately noticed a keen wind. The water, glassy and mirror like on my last visit now rippled under the northerly breeze.
Thankful of the meagre heat from a wintery sun in an almost cloudless sky I set off along the woodland track towards slippery stones and the ancient bridge spanning the river Derwent. Icy puddles and a frosting of snow fringed the path as I ran over a carpet of needles beneath the trees. After crossing the old bridge I took the path up Cranberry Clough, suddenly in shadow the air was colder, harsh against my face and I pulled my Buff over my mouth in an attempt to banish the numbness. The higher, south-facing slopes, kissed by the low sun showed their usual hues of bronze whilst those in shadow and on the north-facing slopes retained a thin dusting of frost and snow.
Climbing Cranberry Clough
Emerging from the shade as I climbed higher, the sun and exercise battled with the sharp wind to determine my temperature and once I gained the plateau the wind prevailed.
Leaving the main path and picking up a faint sheep trod I headed for the Bull Stones, a lonely gritstone outcrop high above the infant Derwent, stark today against the snow and sky. Atop one of the boulders a solitary grouse had walked, leaving in the snow its arrow print trail as if to point the way.
Walk this way
From there it was on towards Outer Edge, the notoriously boggy ground just frozen enough to prevent sinking into the underlying morass.
Outer Edge, firm for once
My route now took me westwards across pathless heather to the splendidly named Rocking Stones. These weathered outcrops present a fascinating natural sculpture, their gargoyle visages facing the elements, defying gravity, enhanced today in profile against the harsh winter sky.
Onwards across bleak moorland I headed for the Horse Stone, checking the compass before contouring round Stainery Clough, seeking out the line of least resistance, a faint trod petering out into deep heather, hard going and warm now with Howden Edge giving temporary lee from the north wind. Then as I crest the rise of the hill the stone is before me, bleak and solitary, a lonely sentinel on the bare moor.
Today she stands in a moat of ice, horizontal beddings tilted slightly and on the southern side, incongruously, lies a vertical slab of gritstone, a relic of an ancient top perhaps that finally succumbed to millennia of weathering. This presented a tantalising invite to climb the stone, as if placed there deliberately offering a foot up, bridging the icy water. The view from the top was worth the risk of an icy bath.
Horse Stone - invitation to climb
I dropped on a compass bearing south-eastwards now into a small plantation and crossed the clough at a stream junction following it downstream to emerge on the track by the infant Derwent.
Track alongside river Derwent
Turning left, I was on easy terrain now and was soon back at Slippery Stones, aptly named today. It was only here that I saw my first human beings since starting out, startling the couple as I overtook.
The lovely, low sun created patterns of light and shade as it filtered through the pines along the track, the snow and frost remaining where the weak, warm sun had failed to penetrate.
Sunlight & Shade
Out of the reach of the sun
Emerging from the woods I ran alongside the reservoir in full sunlight, warm again to the car.
13km 660m climb
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