Black Hill is a fine example of successful landscape restoration. Alfred Wainwright once wrote of Black Hill, "It is not the only fell with a summit of peat, but no other shows such a desolate and hopeless quagmire to the sky, this is peat naked and unashamed". Imagine his delight if he could see the beautiful accessible grassy plateau now. The Moors For The Future partnership have brought this once desolate and inaccessible moor back to life. Though others are put off by photos of this so-called hopeless quagmire in old guide books, why not go and see for yourself the real Black Hill. You won't be disappointed.
This suprisingly quiet curcular walk starts from the small hamlet of Crowden, on the Woodhead Pass, between Manchester and Sheffield. The walk takes you through the beautiful Crowden Great Brook valley, via the awesome Laddow Rocks, over the newly restored Black Hill summit, then returns over much wilder moorland and completing a horseshoe walk you won't forget. There is plenty of wildlife to keep you company and the heather is fragrant when blooming during summer months. This is a moderately difficult walk on a good day and a hard walk in bad weather, where map, compass and the ability to use them is essential.
This walk starts from Crowden on the A628 Woodhead Pass between Manchester and Sheffield, situated above the Torside Reservoir in the Longdendale Valley. The entrance to the car park and adjoining camp site are well signposted. The entrance is on a sharp bend on a very busy road so take care when looking for the entrance. Click here to view on Google maps where you can also get directions.
From the car park walk through the woods to the camp site. You will pass picnic benches on your right. When you reach the wall of the campsite turn right along a path until you reach a junction of roads. Here turn left along a tarmac road along the back of the camp site and with the farm on your right. The road crosses Crowden Brook then starts ascending. After a short ascent you will reach the Pennine Way on your right heading north over a field to a gate. Cross the field and head through the gate on to open moorland.
Pennine Way near Black Tor
You will pass a small conifer plantation where there is a monument to a local hill walker. Continue north following the Pennine Way route into the valley. The impressive rocks of Black Tor are now prominent on your left. The path here is beautiful in summer when the heather is in flower and stunning in autumn when the ferns turns red. The path drops slightly after Black Tor to cross a small stream.
Pennine Way near Rakes Rocks
After crossing the stream there is a short steep section as the path crosses a small knoll beneath Rakes Rocks which now dominate the skyline on the left. The views down the valley at this point are fantastic and as you reach the top of the small knoll you get a fantastic view with Laddow Rocks now on the left.
Laddow Rocks from Oaken Clough
The path reaches Oaken Clough where the Oakenclough Brook trickles down the hillside. The path leads to an obvious crossing place in the brook where there are some lovely little waterfalls. After crossing the brook continue ascending the path towards Laddow Rocks. The path takes a high and exposed route across the top of Laddow Rocks giving incredble views across the valley and beyond.
Crowden Great Brook
After traversing Laddow Rocks the continue along the Pennine Way path as it descends into the sheltered upper valley of Crowden Great Brook. Follow the path along the left or western side of the brook through the valley. At the end of the valley the path crosses the stream a few times below Red Ratcher where there is a dark shale bank.
At the head of the valley the path is well laid with huge paving stones. The path crosses the brook one last time before reaching a stile at Grains Moss. Cross the stile and continue on the well paved path in a north easterly direction heading towards the higher ground. This is now exposed wild open moorland.
Grains Moss Stile
The path ascends Dun Hill to reach the flat wide plateau of Black Hill. After a short walk across the flat plateau you will see the raised white trig point pillar at Black Hill's summit, also known as Soldier's Lump. A reference to the Royal Engineers of the 18th century who used the then ground breaking Ramsden theodolite on this hill during the first traingulation surveys of Britain, the framework they used to hold the theodolite was found in the mound a century later.
Black Hill Summit
Alfred Wainwright once wrote of Black Hill, "It is not the only fell with a summit of peat, but no other shows such a desolate and hopeless quagmire to the sky, this is peat naked and unashamed". For decades Black Hill was aptly named. It was a desolate unforgiving mess caused by natural and man made erosion. Look at historic photos online and you will see it for yourself. However in the last two decades hard work and investment has paid off. Seed dropping of grasses and mosses has completely transformed the terrain.
The summit now has a well laid paved area which helps keep people off the peat. Even the exposed concrete base under the trig point pillar has been encased in a circular dry stone wall. Much like the neighbouring Bleaklow and Kinder plateaus, Black Hill is a landscape restoration success story.
The views from the summit aren't much to write home about. Views are restricted by the wide and flat plateau. To the north west you may be able to make out Pendle Hill and the hills of the Yorkshire Dales. One of the most prominant features is the huge Holme Moss transmitter which towers above everything to the South East.
Unfortunately the second half of the Crowden Horseshoe does not follow a paved route from the summit. The second half of the route is over pathless boggy peat moorland. On a bad weather day or if you are unsure about walking on such terrain I would seriously consider returning the way you came.
Looking in a South to South-Easterly direction from the summit you should be able to make out a guide post on the summit of Tooleyshaw Moss, just five hundred metres from the summit of Black Hill. You need to look for a faint path heading in that South to South-Easterly direction and cross the boggy ground to reach Tooleyshaw Moss. When you reach the area of the guide post you will see a small pond.
Continue heading South East to South following the prominent path traversing Tooleyshaw Moss. There are stone cairns marking the route through the peat hags and troughs. When the path reaches the lower end of Tooleyshaw Moss and passes over Tooleyshaw Moor some of the peat bogs can be tricky to navigate and unavoidable so take care.
The path descends from Tooleyshaw Moor to flat ground and a stile. Cross the stile and start the ascent of White Low. Keep to the right whilst traversing White Low and Westend Moss in a South Westerly then Southerly direction. There is a steep descent to flat ground where the path splits. Take the path to the right to descend into the valley at Hey Moss. The path will eventually reach a rocky quarry track. Continue along the to reach the quarry then head through a gate to descend the footpath back to Crowden.