Hiking the Pennine Way | Edale to Marsden | England

On 17th June 2015 I traveled to Sheffield in South Yorkshire to meet my son and go for a couple days hiking. We met at the train station and after a quick bite to eat we boarded a train to Edale, Derbyshire; the location of the start point of the Pennine Way. Arriving about 11.30am we left the train station and made our way to The Old Nags Head public house. A pub in the center of the village and the official starting point of the Pennine Way.

The weather was overcast with some drizzle but we had no worries as the forecasters had said it would be light rain between 12-2pm then clearing up. There were a few hikers in the area, with some starting their hikes along the Pennine Way.

The first three miles of the trail were easy going, mostly flag (paving) stoned path leading through low-lying sheep fields. There was very gentle undulation in the terrain, which is just as well, as we had started to deal with the progressively stronger rain.

Reaching Lee’s farm marked the point the rain really started to come down. At the shelter on the edge of the farm complex a group of hikers were taking cover. It appeared full as people were lined up at the doorway peering out and looking towards the sky. A short exchange of words confirmed to the hikers it was our intent to continue up Jacobs Ladder and onto Kinder.

The last time I had been here was over 35 years ago so I have very little memories of the Kinder climb. I had read in articles that the climb was challenging and very hard. Standing at the bottom in low visibility and with the trail rising up about fifty meters before disappearing out of sight meant we had no concept of the hike ahead. In good spirits despite the rain we started our climb, just waiting for it to get harder, but before we knew it we were at a cairn and a sign marking the top. Having hiked the Appalachian Trail the previous year my perception of “challenging and very hard” is somewhat guided by the experience.

After a water and snack break we continued the short climb to Kinder. Near the top we met two hikers heading back down. I wish I had my GoPro running to record the exchange as the Yorkshiremen gave a great rant about the inability of weather men to get a forecast anywhere near reality. In only a way a Yorkshireman can do it we was treated to a barrage of clichés and expletives that had me stood, in pouring rain, laughing like a mad man.Pennine Way sign

Although when he told us he had been hiking the area regularly for over 30 years and didn’t want to go over Kinder in “this weather” I was a little uneasy. If it was bad for an experienced Pennine Way hiker like him are we good to head up? But head up we did and it wasn’t long before we came to the top of the climb. Unfortunately this resulted in the wind having a free rein to batter us and drive the rain sideways as it did.

Visibility dropped to 20 meters and the rain was clearly more than a quick drizzle. But still optimistic we would get the reprieve at 2pm as promised we continued on. Approaching Kinder Downfall we met a father and daughter heading the opposite direction. The father explained they were trying to get to Crowden but couldn’t locate the trail at the falls. He said they were turning around and heading back to Edale and would try again the next day. I told him we were going on and wanted to try get to Crowden the same day. At which point he asked his daughter if she wanted to continue with us. It turns out her decision not to join us was a good idea as locating the trail at the falls took a good hour with worsening weather and resultant poor visibility.

But eventually Callum located a trail and following 20 meters or so we started to see it more defined, although the next mile or so it was hard to see at times and seemed there were several available trails to take.

Having hiked an obvious flag stone path (instead of the worn trail to the right) we turned left down some rock stairs and started to decent rapidly into a gully. Pleased we were finally able to see more than 20 meters and the rain was easing rapidly we descended at pace to make up time. We had gone about ½ a mile when we started to see two hikers coming up the gully towards us; the unfortunate part was we recognized them as starting the Pennine Way ahead of us back in Edale a few hours previous. I figured they had gotten turned around somehow and were headed in the wrong direction. Wrong! They had in fact hiked a considerable distance down the gully and realized they were no longer on the trail. Checking our maps and agreeing we had, in fact, headed the wrong way we turned around and commenced the steep climb back up into the rain and mist.

Taking the “right” trail we soon came across a stake marker confirming the trail and correct direction. We also met two hikers, a man and a woman, whose accent was not local. Turns out that they were from San Francisco over to hike the Pennine Way. They had no tent or over night gear and were slack packing to a Bed and breakfast (BB) in Torside. More interestingly the woman as a former Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hiker (2007) and had heard about the Pennine Way during her AT hike. They raced off ahead of us as we headed north along the now flag stone path.

A short time later the path again split, flag stone straight head and a gravel trail to the right. I could see the Americans disappearing into the mist straight ahead but this time decided to take a compass bearing and check the map. Lucky for us I did as the Pennine Way was the trail to the right!

It wasn’t long before we crossed Snake Pass, a road that cuts across the Pennines. The trail seemed to change instantly and instead of being wide-open moorland the trail sank into deep peat bog and was rocky and very very wet. Crossing streams several times and boots sinking into the black peat mud meant our feet were now truly soaked. One consolation was that the weather finally started to break and we started to see views into the distance. Although surrounded by dark clouds we were not being rained on. We could see a small collection of buildings in the far distance and it appeared the trail was headed towards them. The hours were getting short and it was apparent we would not get to Crowden campground before 9pm.

Finally drying out and knowing we were getting closer to the camp for the night we picked up the pace a bit. But unfortunately this was a mistake. In a moment of lack of concentration while crossing a stream I slipped, and ended up on my back in the running stream in turtle fashion. My head was lower than my feet and my pack locked me into the turtle position as I was wedged between two rocks. Water poured down my rain jacket sleeve, my trousers and filled my boots. Callum had to help get me out my predicament and climbing onto the bank my worry was the water had soaked my pack contents. However a quick inspection confirmed that the Hyper Light Mountain gear Cuben Fiber backpack was, indeed, waterproof!Pennine Way

We negotiated the steep decent down to Torside and at the bottom saw a sign for The Old House Bed & Breakfast not 500 meters off the trail. As it was 8.30pm and we still had a way to Crowden it was decided to head to the B&B and see what was available.

One arrival we were greeted by the owner and the very brief conversation confirmed a vacancy (the last available room) had two beds and included a cooked breakfast. We were soon settled in having cleaned up and hung our clothes up to dry. We were to late for a meal so used our hiking food supplemented with cold coke from the fridge.

Later in the evening we saw the Americans walking by the window having just hiked in. I must say I was relieved to see them off the mountain.

In the morning while at breakfast we were reunited with the Americans and the couple we had met as we went down the wrong trail the day before. After small talking of the day priors weather and the hopes of a nicer day we all headed out separate directions. The hike to Crowden from Torside was very pleasant. A flat wooded path along the side of a reservoir in clear weather gave us hope of a good days hiking ahead. Before Crowden the trail turns left and heads up a gully leading to a climb, which was steeper than Jacobs Ladder and made more difficult by the rocks jutting out. However it wasn’t a long climb and once on top there was a great views, helped by the clear weather. The trail runs along the edge of the ridge-line and gave great views for 180 degrees.

Pennine WayComing down off the ridge-line we entered a moorland terrain which allowed the wind unhindered access to the trail. At times it was so strong I was blown off the flag stone path and onto the boggy peat. The terrain was pretty level with only small rolling climbs and descents. We soon dropped sharply from the high ground and crossed A635 and arrived at Wessenden Head reservoir.

The trail was now a graded path and easy hiking. I knew we had to leave the Pennine Way and head east to Marsden and upon coming to a fork in the trail we met two hikers. They informed us that the path to the right lead to Marsden and was called the Heritage Trail. Thanking them we head up the path, which skirted the summit of the surrounding high ground. I could see below the graded path and realized that, in fact, we should of stayed on it. We continued on the Heritage Trail for a couple of mile and although it took us longer than needed we arrived in Marsden early afternoon.

We had a wander around the town and purchased some cold coke (always a trail favorite) then caught a bus to The Carriage House Inn.

The Carriage House Inn is 2 ½ miles from Marsden on the A62 but can be accessed either via a side trail from the Pennine Way or less than a mile from the Pennine Way/A62 crossing. We sent up tents behind the pub and proceeded inside for a hot meal and couple cold beers. The food was excellent and although quiet, there was a constant stream of customers coming in and out. Two other hikers were at the pub and we chatted about the hiking.

The wind didn’t abate all night and I didn’t get great nights sleep. In the morning we packed up and caught a bus back to Marsden where we grabbed some breakfast and caught a train back to Sheffield.

My first experience of hiking the Pennine Way was positive, despite the first day’s weather, lack of views and wrong direction I still leave enjoying the time. Of course hiking with my son made the trip so much more enjoyable and I couldn’t imagine gaining the same pleasurable experience without him being there.

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