THE MAM TOR PROBLEM

 

There are two problems with Mam Tor:

1. It’s a chuffing great hill and exhausting to climb,

2. A road fell off the side of it.

The first one is the good sort of problem, the kind that is enjoyable, a challenge, and easily solved. The second is the kind that gives the Highways Agency a major headache and gets resolved by ignoring it and pretending it’s not there. Well, sort of. The road was abandoned and now looks like a scene from Fallout, which is kinda cool. The old road is accessible by foot, which is the way I explored the whole of Mam Tor. The story goes like this:

 Mam Tor: The Problem
I have a ridiculous amount of work to do, having taken a week off to get my first year report sorted and my house move done and out of the way. But I was bored, and I was not going to spend my holiday doing all work and no play! And so, I asked a mate if they’d like a jolly jaunt to the Peak District. Mam Tor lies between Edale and Castleton, and we began our journey at Edale Railway Station. Upon leaving the train you are plonked on a desolate platform in the middle of nowhere – but take a few steps beyond the concrete and you find yourself in a green idyll. Everything about this part of the world is truly beautiful; detached from the grey, grimy, yet marvellous world of cities that I usually inhabit.We set off south toward Mam Tor, sort of making it up as we went along,but roughly obeying the map in the railway station. To my utter delight (no, really), we soon found a car park with some public toilets (I had been holding it in since Manchester), but not only that, it was one of the checkpoints from a 27-mile walk I’d done a year previously. So I had a wee and got all nostalgic about a car park, and then we were on our way again.

We got on to the main road and found a path down to the base of the hill (you don’t fully appreciate the ‘down’ bits until you’ve done a fair bit of ‘up’), which was flanked by innumerable foxgloves. These were so beautiful, and followed us most of the way across the hill. Tons of buttercups too, a bit like nature had joined a flower-arranging class and was showing off its skills.

dog roses
dog roses

foxglove
foxglove

buttercups
buttercups

foxgloves in the forest
foxgloves in the forest
And then the ascent. I was pretty sure I’d done this bit before as well, but my memory wasn’t as clear. I may have been distracted by the angry sheep, some of which had horns and looked like they could do some serious damage. So I just climbed the well-defined, yet sometimes precarious, path to the top; in as nonchalant a fashion as possible. Because sheep notice that sort of thing. Pausing for a rest every so often, it felt good to look down the hill to see how far we’d come and how far we were from the scary farm animals (haha, I grew up in the countryside, would you believe?). I’m in much better shape than when I did the 27-mile hike, and this time it felt good rather than agonising to feel the pull on my muscles and hastening of my breath.

I didn't hang around to get a picture of the sheep, but this sheep turd was unthreatening enough to pause for.
I didn’t hang around to get a picture of the sheep, but this sheep turd was unthreatening enough to pause for.

We made it to the top, and – more memories. We were at a junction in the path that I’d formerly crossed, by walking along the top of the ridge. While tempted to abandon the mission and just climb up the bigger, more impressive hill, the route to the old A625 was downhill, and therefore a desirable option. The path down the hill was well-trodden and carved out in to the hill like a mini-gorge, but also so smooth as to not have enough footholds. But it’s ok, there was plenty of gorse to cling on to in the event of slips (OUCH OUCH OUCH). We followed the path down towards Castleton, with yet more foxgloves and angry sheep, and entered a wooded area. Out the other side, we were at our destination.

Here are some pictures from the cool forest-y bit at the end of the path down the other side of Mam Tor:

 

IMG_2558
root staircase

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wood, trees, etc

IMG_2560
almost there

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flowers

 

The rain started, and we sought shelter under a tree to change into our waterproofs. I used my electrical engineering knowledge (ha) to advise that it was perhaps a poor idea to shelter under a tree in the thunderstorm, and seeing as it didn’t look like stopping any time, we diced with death no longer and set on our way. The next photos were all taken when the rain sort-of-looked-like-it might-stop-if-you-really-really-wished-for-it-to-but-it-was-never-actually-going-to.

The image (right) is from Google Maps, with a section of the road just… missing. One night in 1977, following the legendary hot summer of ’76, and a period of heavy rainfall, half the road disappeared. Thankfully it was overnight during a less busy time. Astonishingly, one lane of the road was kept in use until 1979, when it was decided that it was no longer sustainable or safe to maintain the road.  a625

 

looking up to the road from the footpath
looking up to the road from the footpath

you can still see the road markings
you can still see the road markings

IMG_2568
deterioration of the surface

where a section of road has fallen away, you can see the layered construction
where a section of road has fallen away, you can see the layered construction

the road is warped and looks like pictures I've seen of earthquake zones
the road is warped and looks like pictures I’ve seen of earthquake zones

landslide
landslide

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road surface cracking under tension

storm drain inlet structure intact even though the road has fallen away underneath
storm drain inlet structure intact even though the road has fallen away underneath

how much damage is due to erosion, and how much due to weathering?
how much damage is due to erosion, and how much due to weathering?

exposed soil, perhaps as a result of a recent slip
exposed soil, perhaps as a result of a recent slip

that dip in the road is actually a precipice
that dip in the road is actually a precipice

looking up at the higher road section
looking up at the higher road section

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this drain is still attached to the road, but is purely decorative

crumbling road surface
crumbling road surface

more road markings
more road markings

road to...
road to…

Some of the rain got into my waterproofs, but because it was pretty hot as well as rainy (yay British summer!), I was also feeling a bit sticky from my own sweat. So it was kinda gross, but worth hanging around to take these pics:

After leaving the old road, we headed further down the hill in to Castleton, where it started to get sunny again. We walked past many caverns (no time to visit, boooooo!) but we did end up in a comfortable pub, giving us time to dry out and recover from the first part of our trek (yes, we were still only halfway through, but the rest of the walk was on the flat back to the railway station at Hope). A pint tastes so much better when you’ve walked seven miles to get it.

 

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