Despite having only bagged two county tops today, we had somehow spent much of the day doing them. We only therefore had time left for one quick bag, and Blackstone Edge was our target. It was a shame, but our forth planned bag of the day, Waystone Edge (the highest point in Calderdale) would have to be left for another trip, when it would no doubt cause us some considerable problems.
We survived an apparent assassination attempt by the usual idiot driver you seem to get in BMW’s (he overtook both our cars at high speed on a completely blind bend, narrowly avoiding an oncoming car by sharply cutting us up and nearly forcing us off the road and over a steep drop). Both Jus & I were ranting against the execrable driving of BMW’s as we left our cars by the White House pub and carefully crossed the A58 to begin our ascent of the hill via yet another section of the Pennine Way.
I had expected this to be another boring moorland walk, but had picked the northern approach as looking slightly more interesting than the south. It turned out to be an inspired choice, as the interest started almost immediately with the pleasantly rocky bowl of a quarry to our left. In front of this was a wide but shallow concrete channel running at a very gentle angle, and we speculated wildly on its use – maybe it was used to float or even “bobsleigh” material down from a higher quarry. As we walked along the broad, level track beside it, other smaller channels joined from above and it became clear that it definitely carried water and was most likely a drainage channel (the name “Broad Head Drain” on the map was a good clue, too!). From my researches since, it appears to actually have been built to supply the Blackstone Edge reservoir, which in turn kept the Rochdale Canal topped up.
Following the countours around the hillside, Blackstone Edge itself soon came into view – a long escarpment crowned with a few crags, and littered with scree from centuries of erosion. Jim was annoyed when I was first to spot the trig point, set on top of one of the crags. We turned left and more steeply up the hillside on what is purported to be an old Roman Road, but is nowadays somewhat rocky and quite hard to walk on compared to the previous path. It led us up to the Aiggin Stone.
From the “antiquities” font on our OS map I had actually read “Aiggin Stone” as “Niggin Stone”, which frankly sounds much better. I was quite disappointed to discover the real name from a small plaque nearby. The Aiggin Stone is said to be a medieval waymarker, set beside the Roman Road which by then had become a packhorse route. It also marks the old boundary between Yorkshire and Lancashire, and is somewhat mysteriously marked with the letters “I” and “T”. We rested briefly here, as no doubt countless others have done throughout history, before turning right to continue on the Pennine Way towards the summit.
The teenager in me was amused by the fact that the moor to our left was called “Dick Slack”. I could not be amused for long though, as my attention was soon fully focused on what had suddenly become a rather technical path. We had to step carefully from loose boulders to huge bare slabs of gritstone, all the while thinking how awkward this must be for a Pennine Way through-walker carrying a full pack. Oops, I shouldn’t moan or else someone will come and run tarmac through the whole lot...
The summit of Blackstone Edge is crowned by an assortment of crags, which in term proudly sport a trig point. The whole ensemble surprisingly looks far more impressive from the Pennine Way than from down below, although in looking at it we nearly had our faces chewed off by head-on gale-force winds – I think that this escarpment is somewhat vulnerable to Britain’s prevailing south-westerlies! We struggled carefully up to the trig point, where we could barely stand upright. The next crag along looked like it might actually be marginally higher than the trig crag, but required either a very tough scramble or a big leap from a neighbouring crag, both of which were too risky in the high winds. On a calm day it would be easily attainable though.
Whilst Jim busied himself with his camera, Cat adopted her best sun-worshipping pose and Jus found somewhere to simply hide from the wind, I busied myself exploring the nearby rocks. There were several exciting secret crevices through which one could squeeze and then jump out unexpectedly on one’s friends.
Oh, I haven’t mentioned the views yet. They’re fantastic; stretching way across Hollingworth Lake, to Rochdale and beyond. We couldn’t look at them for too long though, as staring into the wind made our eyes water! Instead, with time pressing, we returned the way we’d come, satisfied that even if we hadn’t achieved our planned quota of tops for today, at least we’d finished on a good’un!