Autumn in the Derbyshire high peak is very satisfying, at least it certainly is to me, it is my favourite season and the Peak District, one of my absolute special places to get away to. The Snake Pass road, (a57) holds many fabulous memories over the years of visiting and hiking there. As a family we have so many favourite routes that we tend to return to for guaranteed relaxation and family fun, but occasionally it’s good to shake things up a bit and try something new. Birchin Clough in the Derbyshire High Peak was one of those moments.
The a57 built by Thomas Telford and opened in 1821, connects the cities of Sheffield and Manchester via Glossop and takes in some stunning landscapes, it crosses over the Ashopton viaduct above the Ladybower reservoir and snakes its way through the valley reaching the summit and dropping down into Glossop and finally Manchester. The Derwent valley visitor centre is directed from the Ashopton Viaduct where further walking can be found such as Derwent and Howden Dams or a walk to Alport Castles.
We’d walked many of the routes in the Snake Pass area and had decided to try out the Birchin Clough route, a short distance from the Snake Pass Inn and with parking available in Birchin Clough layby. We parked near to the Snake Pass Inn, put on our hiking boots and packed up our water bottles and rain proofs, the weather can be unpredictable especially so up on the bleak moors.
We hitched up the dogs and walked a leisurely trail through the pine plantation with the a57 running alongside us until reaching the stile where the dogs needed to go back on lead. Here is the layby beside Birchin Clough. A clough is a steep ravine or valley, in old English, a clōh. Also used to describe a gorge a glen or other cleft in the hillside. Relates back to old Germanic dialect and possible Norse influences.
If heading up to the moorland expanses I recommend good sturdy, waterproof hiking boots, some rain wear and pack up some water and some lunch, a compass and map are also advisable if at all possible, standard advice if walking on moorland, especially high moors such as these. Weather can change for the worst in the blink of an eye so be prepared. The moorland is particularly susceptible to bogs, so be careful where you walk, but the peat moorland is stunning, and the wildlife is a delight to see.
From the layby the route up is way marked beside a stile, for us these are always tricky to maneuver over because of our clumsy large dog, he struggles to get over and must be partially lifted over and guided carefully. Our other two small terriers are no problem at all, point them in the right direction and they’re over and the lead can be passed to whomever crossed first. With Max it is always a matter of problem solving, but we get there in the end.
So up we went, the path is very steep going but with steps for the most part until reaching the next stile. Once we’d reached the top of the stepped path and looked back down, the view over the valley is amazing, I feel the air up above the tree line is fresh and revitalizing too, maybe it’s just me, but I feel more alive outside in the fresh air and amongst the heather and pine.
We sat a while on the stile and admired the view across the valley, if you look carefully Kinder Scout can be spotted across the valley and the snake pass road glimmers through the trees, way below. We looked at the stormy looking clouds that amassed in the distance, wondering whether it was heading in our direction, before we took off again and went up a little higher and onto the moorland.
The moorland near Birchin Clough is called Alport Moor and is at this time of year, in the autumn very prone to bogs, so keeping an eye on where you put your feet is important. In Winter the landscape can be even more inhospitable so even more reason to be prepared and wear extra layers when walking moors, layers are good when walking or hiking because you can add or remove a layer as needed so you stay at a comfortable temperature without getting yourself damp with sweat because then you cool down too fast and once you become damp, you’ll become uncomfortable and worse still, you’ll chafe. I personally wouldn’t walk open moorland in wintertime without a map and compass and proper preparation, it is surprising how fast fog can descend and temperatures drop.
It is so very peaceful and relaxing up on the moorland, an especially nice moment was while watching a red kite on its hunt, hovering so still and then elegantly and with speed, swooping down again while looking for prey. Later still we saw a couple grouse that we accidently startled, even though we were a good 3-4 metres away, strolling along taking our time and keeping the dogs close to us. At times we were having to walk down into peat troughs and back out carefully again, but all worth the effort for the experience and the exhilaration of the walk. Soon we were further into Birchin Clough where the brook runs through and a couple of lovely little waterfalls can be found.
Maybe a little tricky at times and perhaps not suitable for all due to the peat bogs and holes that are everywhere up there, but it is indeed calm and relaxing, so heathery and rugged. The moorland stretches out for miles upon miles and sure to be explored by us another time. We’d had such fun day outdoors exploring but we had to remember not to the tire out big old Max the dog, he’s not as young as he used to be, so we returned the same way. Once back down into the valley we wandered through the pines where the autumn sun shone through leaving mottled patterns across the trail. On the way home, we couldn’t resist a quick visit to Ladybower reservoir and even though the water level was looking rather low, it is always a wonderful sight to see whenever we visit.
Birchin Clough in the high peak is my new place to find peace and tranquility while I get a leg stretch and a breath of fresh air with heather and pine views. I hope I’ve inspired you and yours to get outdoors for some fresh air activity too. 😊