Black Hill The Crowden Horseshoe

Black Hill

Black Hill is a fine example of successful landscape restoration. Alfred Wainwright once wrote of Black Hill, 'no other shows such a desolate and hopeless quagmire to the sky, this is peat naked and unashamed'. Imagine his delight if he could see the beautiful accessible grassy plateau now. The Moors For The Future partnership have brought this once desolate and inaccessible moor back to life. Though others are put off by photos of this so-called hopeless quagmire in old guide books, why not go and see for yourself the real Black Hill. This Crowden Horseshoe walk starts from the small hamlet of Crowden, on the Woodhead Pass, between Manchester and Sheffield. The walk takes you through the beautiful Crowden Great Brook valley, via the awesome Laddow Rocks crags, over the newly restored Black Hill summit, then returns over much wilder moorland and completing a horseshoe walk you won't forget. There is plenty of wildlife to keep you company and the heather is fragrant when blooming during summer months. This is a moderately difficult walk on a good day and a hard walk in bad weather, where map, compass and the ability to use them is essential.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from the car park in the small hamlet of Crowden at grid reference SK 072 993. Crowden can be found on the the A628 Woodhead Pass between Manchester and Sheffield, situated above the Torside Reservoir in the Longdendale Valley.
  2. To get to the car park there is a small road signposted on a sharp and often very busy bend on the road. Take care when looking for the road and when exiting it later. If you pass the road do not panic as there are plenty of turning opportunities further along the road.
  3. At the correct turning there is a Public Telephone sign on the reservoir side of the road and prominent sharp deviation signs on the other. I am also informed that there are buses including National Express coaches that will drop off and pick up from the bus stop at Crowden.
  4. The start of the path can be found at the back left of the car park where it heads west through the forest behind the car park. It passes a few picnic benches then reaches a bridleway by the campsite.
  5. When you get to the wall of the campsite, turn right and head along the bridleway, keeping the camp site on your left and the forest on the right.
  6. The path will reach a junction of roads. Here cross the road to head north along the road signposted to the Crowden Outdoor Education Centre & Youth Hostel.
  7. After two hundred metres the road crosses Crowden Brook. Cross the bridge and enter the car park in front of the Youth Hostel. Cross the car park to the other side and ascend a small path. The path crosses a bridge over a small leat.
  8. After crossing the leat the path branches off in several directions and ascends through the heather. The best route is to head north after the leat then a clearer path turns left and starts the ascent up the hill.
  9. A half kilometre ascent towards the crags of Black Tor above will reach a much wider path - the Pennine Way. Turn right and head north in to the valley along the Pennine Way.
  10. You will pass a somewhat out of place plantation of around a dozen trees on the right hand side of the path under Black Tor. The path drops to cross a small stream then rises again as it passes the crags of Rakes Rocks on the left.
  11. As the path gets closer to Laddow Rocks and the views down the valley open up, it will start a steep ascent. It fords the tumbling Oakenclough Brook then ascends the shoulder of Laddow Rocks.
  12. The path will reach the top of Laddow Rocks and then travel along the top of its awesome crags. The views over the crags across and the full length of the valley are stunning.
  13. Follow the path on its traverse of the crags. It will start to drop as it reaches the north end of Laddow Rocks crags. The path now descends in to the wild and narrow Crowden Great Brook. To the right across the valley are the Castles.
  14. Continue through the narrow valley, keeping Crowden Great Brook on your right, until the far end of the valley where the path fords the ever narrowing brook several times over often boggy ground.
  15. Eventually you will reach the end of the valley and open moorland at the foot of Meadowgrain Clough. Here you will have to climb over the dog friendly stile over Black Hill's perimeter fence.
  16. After the stile it is an easy ascent up Dun Hill along the obvious Pennine Way slabs. As the path gains height the peat hags and groughs get larger. As you start to level off on the summit plateau, the path winds its way across a lovely pond where if you are lucky you will see Dragonflies laying eggs in the water.
  17. Continue along the path across the pond. After only another hundred metres you will find yourself at the summit trig point pillar known as Soldier's Lump. This name relates to the Royal Engineer surveyors who were given the arduous task of erecting trig points as part of the original survey to map Britain.
  18. The views from Soldier's Lump are not the most amazing as the summit plateau is flat and wide. To the north you can usually make out the hills of the Yorkshire Dales, and to the west the West Pennine Moors. The most obvious feature in view from the summit is the huge seven hundred and fifty foot tall, one hundred and forty ton, Holme Moss radio transmitter.
  19. From the summit head for the stone cairn at Tooleyshaw Moss. To reach Tooleyshaw Moss you need to head south to south east on a bearing of a hundred and fifty degrees for around fifty metres.
  20. That sounds simple, however the way is often blocked by a deep bog so you may have to head back towards the pond and then walk to it from there instead. Luckily the tall stone cairn on Tooleyshaw Moss provides a navigational target, when you can see it.
  21. From the Tooleyshaw Moss stone cairn head south then south east along the path. The path is often marked by wooden marker posts or small cairns of stones. After a kilometre and dropping down a small boggy col and up again you will find yourself at the high point on the bump of Tooleyshaw Moor at the spot height of five hundred and forty one metres.
  22. From Tooleyshaw Moor continue heading south. The path will drop to a col where you once again cross a stile over the Black Hill perimeter fence The path then ascends the ridge now on the double summit of White Low.
  23. Bending right, and heading south west from White Low, you will eventually find yourself on the descent from West End Moss to a wide path on Hey Moss. From Hey Moss descend south west on a small path which eventually reaches the wide rough track of the Crowden Little Brook valley.
  24. Turn left heading south along the Crowden Little Brook valley track, and after only thirty metres you will pass the foot of the old Loftend Quarry spills. The spills have several small plantations to improve them aesthetically and keep them stable.
  25. Where the track starts to take a sharp bend round the hillside again, a stile heads off to the right in the direction of Crowden. Cross the stile and head down a steep rough path to Crowden.
  26. At the bottom of the steep path you will reach the track to the Youth Hostel that you left earlier. Turn left and head back along that track to the junction of roads you crossed at the beginning of the walk. Cross this again and take the footpath down the side of the campsite. When you reach the campsite buildings turn left through the forest to reach the car park.
  27. The Camping and Caravanning Club's campsite at Crowden is great if you need to stay overnight, and I am told the Youth Hostel is very good too. For food and drink after the walk you can't beat the Bulls Head Inn at Tintwistle. Five miles west along the Woodhead Pass main road you will reach the Tintwistle 'Please Slow Down' 40mph signs. Just sixty metres after those signs take a turn to the right up Old Road to reach this walker and dog friendly local pub.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL1 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 110 Map Click to buy Collins Ramblers Guide Peak District Click to buy Pathfinder Guides Peak District

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.