Wrecks walk

On Thursday last week I got a phone call from John Owen, one of the other rangers, asking me if I'd like to help out on a guided walk. I'd agreed before he told me that I'd just let myself in for, a 24km trog round seven of the aircraft wrecks that litter the Peak District. I got in contact with my friend Bob to get GPS coordinates for one of the wrecks I hadn't visited and he mentioned that he'd been having problems getting GPS data into Google Earth, so I decided I'd record the track of the walk with my GPS and see if I could get it into Google Earth. The GPS management I use (OziExplorer) can export data to Google Earth, so I've provided a 'fly through' KMZ file, if you have Google Earth installed you should be able to load the file and then press F10 twice to start the tour. Fortunately Google have just added high resolution photos of the Bleaklow area so you can actually get a fair idea of the terrain. The KML file also includes the boundary of the Peak District National Park as well as the route of the Pennine Way within the park.

Aircraft wrecks walk

Because of the distance involved we started bright and early at 9:00am. For me that just required a leisurely stroll the 150m from my front door to where the walk started. We had 14 people turn up at the starting point in Old Glossop, some who had come from as far as Norfolk for the walking festival. The forecast was for poor visibility , and it was spot on - there was a heavy overcast sky as we started down Mossy Lea, but thankfully it didn't look like it was going to rain.

Aircraft wrecks walk

We headed up Mossy Lea, passing Shire Hill on the right and Lightside on the left before heading up Doctor's Gate and and up Crooked Clough, climbing up past the footbridge and then stopping for a quick rest before heading up Ashton Clough. This view is west back down the valley, towards Glossop. The high ground to the left is Coldharbour Moor.

Aircraft wrecks walk

This is the bottom of Ashton Clough, a steep gorge that climbs 240m in about 750m, and the sides are even steeper. A Douglas C-47 (Dakota) crashed up on the edge of James's Thorn to the west (left) of this picture. Over the years bits of the wreckage has slid down into the bottom of Ashton Clough - here you can see the cylinder block of one of the radial engines.

Aircraft wrecks walk

This is the location where Douglas C-47 2108982 (Dakota) of 314th Troop Carrier Group USAAF crashed on 24th July 1945, just below James's Thorn. Unfortunately all the crew were killed. If you look at the GPS track just below this point you can see how we zigzagged up the hill, due to the steepness of the slope, some of the folks scrambled up the rocky bottom of Ashton Clough, those with a more nervous disposition took the (only slightly) easier route up the left hand side of the clough. The fence in the immediate foreground is part of the fence that was put around the entire Bleaklow plateau as part of the Moors for the Future project, and the rocky area in the background is Higher Shelf Stones.

Aircraft wrecks walk

Just above the wreck of the Dakota is all that remains of Lancaster KB993 of 408 Squadron R.C.A.F., which crashed 18th May 1945. The crew of six were all killed. This view is looking west back towards Glossop, and beyond that, Manchester. By the time we got here the low mist and cloud had burned off and it was really quite warm - spring is finally on the way!

Aircraft wrecks walk

We then headed over to the wreck just north of the trig point at Higher Shelf Stones. This is Superfortress B-29 44-61999 "Over Exposed" of the 16th Photographic Reconnaisance Squadron U.S.A.F. It crashed on 3rd November 1948 whilst descending through cloud, just days before the crew were due to return home to the USA. This is the biggest wreck site in the Dark Peak, a significant amount of wreckage remains. A couple of years ago a wedding ring belonging to one of the crew was found at the site, and was eventually returned to the granddaughter of the crew member. There is a memorial service here every Remembrance Sunday (the Sunday nearest to 11 November) for the crews of the 50+ wrecks in the Dark Peak area. The smoky mist near the ground is water vapour coming off the peat - as the mist burns off the surface of the peat heats very rapidly as it is so dark, and water starts to evaporate from it, re-condensing as it hits the still-cool air.

Aircraft wrecks walk

Due to time constraints we missed out the Botha and Wellington wrecks to the north and instead cut across to the Blenheim on Sykes Moor. This was Blenhein Mk.I L1476 of RAF 164 Squadron, which crashed on 30th January 1939 while on a training flight from RAF Church Fenton. This is hidden in the bottom of a grough and is quite difficult to find, but the GPS coordinates I was given by John Fielding were spot on. Finally we headed over towards John Track Well before crossing over the newly-replanked shooting path to Glossop Low and thence back down the quarry track to Old Glossop. All in all a splendid walk - any day when it doesn't rain and doesn't require thermals is a good one :-)