I managed to haul myself out of the house yesterday, and after checking in at the briefing centre I drove up Longdendale, parked at the Blacks and headed up just to the east of Far Black Clough. Much to my surprise I saw a pair of Lapwings on the moor - they usually are only found on farmland. The male was performing the distinctive tumbling courtship flight to a single enraptured female sitting on the moor. A bit further up I came across this ancient tree stump that had been eroded out of the peat. Before the peat was formed the area was wooded, and occasionally you find these 5,000-8,000 year old tree stumps on top of the original soil surface.
As I headed up towards Barrow Stones and then to Grinah I started to see hares, despite the fairly poor visibility - at this time of year they are still in their white winter coats and are easier to spot. One of the jobs we have to do as Rangers is count the wildlife that we see (and the people too!), so I began to keep tally. I also saw (and heard) half a dozen Golden Plover - they have a very distinctive mournful call. They are very wary birds that fly off before you can get close and at this time of year they start appearing to stake out nesting sites on the moors. By the time I got to Grinah stones the visibility was poor, the lumps in the mist are the stones themselves. Considering how poor the day was I'd been lucky to see anything at all!
I hunkered down into one of the many nooks in the rocks at Grinah to get out of the drizzle and ate my lunch before heading over to Bleaklow Stones, where I bumped into my first human of the day - unfortunately it didn't count as it was Andrew, another one of the Rangers. After a bit of a chinwag I bimbled over towards Near Bleaklow Stones - more hares. At one point I saw seven sat in a tight group - normally these are solitary animals. Still, more to add to the tally.
In the morning at the briefing centre John had been telling us how an American friend of his who had been living in New Zealand was walking from Edale to Crowden, and joked how we were to keep an eye out for him. Sure enough as I crossed Near Black Clough I bumped into a chap who fitted the description. We walked across to Far Moss, he's involved in conservation and was very interested in the restoration work that is taking place on Bleaklow. At Far Moss we parted company and I walked back over Shining Clough Moss to Near Black Clough - more hares to add to the tally.
Finally I wandered down Near Black Clough to the car, the final piece of wildlife being an owl I saw flitting through the trees in Birchen Bank wood - the first time I've seen one there. Oh, the hares - how many did I see in total? One hundred and nineteen. The guys over on Kinder think they've done well if they see nine!
I've been busy the last couple of weeks, and as a result I've been a bit remiss about posting stuff to my blog - as Bob reminded me yesterday - so I'm making up for it today. A couple of weeks ago I helped out on one of the guided walks arranged by the Ranger Service. We set off from Crowden and headed towards Lad's Leap - well, the main party did, I'd forgotten my boots, had to dash home for them and ended up playing catch up. It wasn't a particularly promising day, and by the time we got to Lad's Leap we were well up into the clag.
We then headed over towards Laddow, and by the time we got there about an hour later the weather had changed beyond recognition. This often happens, and it's one of the reasons why people often get lost in the Dark Peak, as as well as improving as it did here, it can get worse even quicker!
We headed north along the Pennine Way from Laddow, stopping where the path drops down towards Crowden Great Brook for lunch. Straight after lunch we crossed the brook, followed by a sharpish climb up onto Sliddens Moss - just the thing to settle your butties ;-) In the foreground is Crowden Castles, one of the many landslide features found in the Dark Peak. Behind that you can see the edge of the Bleaklow plateau, and in the far distance, Kinder.
One of the selling point of this particular walk was that it included a visit to the site where two meteor jets crashed on 12th April 1951. The lead pilot thought that he was near to Leeds, descended down through cloud to what he though was his airfield and flew into the ground. His wingman followed him into the ground, and the resulting wreckage is spread over about half a mile of moor.
After everyone had their fill of wreckage we headed off Sliddens towards the ruined sheepfold at the confluence of Meadow Clough and Crowden Little Brook, the valley in the foreground. In the background you can see the northern edge of the Bleaklow plateau.
Finally we had a rest and a snack in the sheepfold before heading back to Crowden. That's Bob, doing his best to add to the pollution from Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds. He's also got his GPS out, so I presume he didn't know where we were - right Bob? ;-)