Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Diggle to Warland Reservoir

We woke this morning to a room full of damp clothes. The few clothes we had donated to the dry room were completely dry, and it made me wish we'd shed more the night before and worried less about being properly attired in front of the Rhodeses.  We turned on the television to find out who had won the election, but the news wasn't really captivating us (we were HUNGRY).  As we ate, Alan filled Chuck in about the Standedge Canal Tunnel.  Alan's town band had played at the grand re-opening of the tunnel in 2001, and he knew all the history of the area and the canal.  He was quite proud of having met Prince Phillip (apparently in his wellies - Prince Phillip, not Alan) at the re-opening.

Chuck is in love with canals, and so there was no way we were headed back to the trail without having seen Standedge Tunnel.  Fortunately, the tunnel was barely a hop, skip and a jump from New Barn.  Okay, we didn't hop, skip, or jump there, but it was a lovely, short stroll.
The Standedge Tunnel - Chuck's favorite sight so far
The interesting thing about this tunnel is that in the construction of it, they ended up working towards the centre from both ends. As often happens when two different groups try to approach something from different directions, meeting in the middle is something that requires a lot of bending and twisting (something I know all too well from work).  The two groups ended up about 34 feet apart in the middle of the tunnel, and so a shallow S-shaped curve was required to bring the two tunnels together.

After checking out the tunnel, we decided that last night's exertions had taken their toll, and we couldn't stand anymore road walking than we had to.  So, we took the bus from Diggle back up the hill to the trail.  I think Chuck was hoping for a double-decker bus, but this was not to be. 

The first part of our journey was along Millstone Edge, which gave us nice views of the valley Diggle is situated in.  We had lots of wind again, and I was a little worried we were in for another hard day of hiking.  We seemed to be making pretty good time though, and there was no rain fortunately.
Along the Marsden Moor
We crossed Marsden Moor and then passed several ugly reminders of humans' impact on the world - the A672 and the M62, along with a large radio tower.  To get past the M62 we had to walk across a narrow cement bridge high above the road.  The wind was blowing fiercely, and I found the bridge vertigo-inducing. 
The pedestrian bridge over the M62 - somebody looks cold
Our next challenge was Blackstone Edge.  The climb to the boulder and rock-filled plateau wasn't as bad as some, but the path was nothing but muddy climbing thanks, I believe, to four-wheelers that had torn up the ground.  It was easy to sink knee-deep into the mud if you didn't watch your step, and trying to decide where to place each foot so as to avoid sinking made me slow (again).  As we went up, we saw a large group of walkers behind us.  They were quickly making time on us, and I reached the top of the climb at the same time as the first of the group - a little humiliating as these walkers were merely small dots when I was half way up the climb.  Chuck comforted me by pointing out that none of them had likely walked 13 miles the day before through horrific conditions and none of them now had huge, heavy backpacks.

The group was a walking club of "pensioners" (as they are called in Britain), mostly men.  While Chuck and I huddled next to a large boulder to get some shelter from the wind, they milled around in front of us (seemingly unaffected by the wind or the mud), taking pictures and chatting while they dug out their nicely prepared lunches.  I was half tempted to go ask them if they had spare sandwiches for us...

After a short rest, we headed down from the top.  There were lots of big rocks seemingly arranged in rows or paths, and it was impossible for me to resist stepping from rock to rock instead of on the actual path.  I could try to say that I was avoiding mud by walking on these rocks, but really, the kid in me was just happy to hop from rock to rock. 

We managed to get a little off track after passing the Aiggin Stone (a 600 year old stone which perhaps was a guidepost in medieval times). There were three or four possible "paths," and we (read, "I") must have been too tired to clearly interpret the direction to go from the guidebook.  We still managed to get to the bottom of the hill, but the "correct" path would have taken us atop an old Roman road, which I was sorry to miss.   We instead took the more direct path down.  I think we were too anxious about the possibility of a meal at the pub down at the bottom of the hill (The White House).  Unfortunately, as we were to discover all along the trail, many of the pubs in small towns either close completely or don't serve food between the hours of 2 and 6 in the afternoon.  We were just a little too late for lunch and way too early for dinner. 

There was an old quarry nearby, and our guidebook suggested that one could discretely camp there.  The wind was still quite fierce, and we hoped for some shelter in the quarry at a minimum. If we could find a good spot, we'd just settle down for the night (and then maybe we could even have that meal at The White House later).  There were a couple of people at the opposite end of the quarry staring at the rock walls and also a huge area that was full of the remains of campfires, soggy magazine pages, bits and pieces of blankets, and tents.  We wondered if perhaps this was a place where the homeless sought refuge.

The ground was quite wet, and there really was no shelter from the relentless wind. We decided a break was in order while we tried to make up our minds about whether to continue on.  The two guys we saw on the other side of the quarry came by.  It turned out they were local rock climbers who were helping to write a guidebook on various climbs throughout the country.  The quarry walls were apparently a climbing area, although we didn't think they looked very high.  

Our new acquaintances filled us in on the reason for all the rubbish in the quarry.   According to them, there was a group of "Africans" that lived in the area.  Said Africans apparently believed that their god came to earth somewhere up in the Pennines nearby.  They used to hike out to the spot and conduct ceremonies. But, one English winter was apparently enough for their god to change the past, and it turned out that the god came to earth right on top of the quarry instead.  So, now they come out to the quarry and have frequent sessions which apparently end with leaving a lot of crap behind them. 

Funny, the men were quick to complain about the trash left behind, but I noticed that they didn't pick up a single piece to take with them on their way back to their nearby cars.  We decided we'd have to make up for them and carried a few things with us to the car park trash can on our way down the trail.

We passed The White House regretfully and continued on along a gravelly path that led to a series of reservoirs.  As it had all day, the wind was determined to punish us.  Occasionally we'd be lucky enough to have it at our backs and be blown along, but it was mostly coming at us from the side.  The reservoirs were placed high above the surrounding landscape, and so there was no hope of a nearby hill serving as a break.  The reservoirs were not particularly interesting either, and neither was the land around us.  We passed the first two reservoirs without any likely camping sites in view. 

It was now almost dark, and we didn't appear to be close enough to anything on the maps which might provide a nice spot for the night.  The choice was now between walking on into the dark and perhaps struggling to set up the tent in limited light or trying to camp near the reservoirs on any flat ground we could find.  In the end, we decided that it wasn't going to get any better than the top of the third reservoir (the Warland Reservoir).  We set the tent up right on the spillway and hoped that the wind would die down.  (Our hopes would be sorely disappointed.)  We also wished we had a couple of bikes to allow us to pedal back to the White House, now a couple of miles behind us, but we settled for trail mix, dried apricots, and a little chocolate.

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