Archive for the ‘gulley scramble’ Category


OK from the headings below you can pretty much see where this is going. I’m trying to put together a guide of what you should do when you’re out enjoying the moors and you come across the various animals who make it their home, for their safety and yours. Please feel free to help me build this resource in the comments section.





Highland Cattle


Mountain Hares


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Another Monday night, another bunch of feeble excuses (bellyaching, babysitting, birthday) the worst of all time being “I’ve been on a history walk. In Sheffield”. A history walk. In Sheffield. Just let that one sink in a moment. This left Dr Crowe and Mr Tuck a free hand to chance their arms at a little gulley number spotted by Dr Crowe as a possibility when once he was upon the Raven Stones. A plan previously hatched on the train home from work over a battered Ordnance Survey map named the object of their desire: Birchen Clough.

Birchen Clough

Birchen Clough

Usual time pressed departure, Mr Tuck hurling himself into Uppermill Spa en route for booze and chocolate – apparently not for us so what with the excuses and this most recent disappointment the evening wasn’t shaping up very well. Fortunately things changed when we got to Binn Green car park where we met with clear skies with a low, spectacularly delicate cloud formation. Several layers of waterproofs later we set off along the reservoir track towards Greenfield Reservoir. Headtorches dimming (all that early autumn activity on Pule Hill) we stopped and swapped batteries. Actually several sets of batteries as we tried to find enough that worked. Duly illuminated we struck off from the main path and found ourselves at the bottom of the water run off below Greenfield Reservoir. The only way was up, and then up beyond the dam onto the hillside towards the kind of place a path ought to be. Contouring round we dropped back down at the head of the res. All the dam rambling had taken a while and still dumped us on the wrong side of the intake. Scrabbling across a slippy escarpment in the dark wasn’t much fun with water of unknown depth but certainly low temperature on either side.

The path less taken but more bleedin’ obvious greeted us and took us to the bottom of Birchen Clough. The clough itself appeared as a gentle rise overlooked by the Raven Stones which were silhouetted in a shower of clichés. We got a good look at the clough. Too much water, too deep and too fast to go for a straight up the middle approach. This was after all a recce and we didn’t want to spoil the fun for a larger group outing. A modest start then, criss-crossing the gulley as it rose easily. At our early rest to check out the first obstacle Mr Tuck rightly observed that we had created the sport of extreme stepping-stones. Extreme stepping-stones is to gulley scrambling, what bouldering is to climbing. A cut down version of the real thing to be practised by those in need of a substitute. We confidently expect a BMC sub-committee to consider the ethics of stepping stoning and whether it is really the “done thing” giving as it might the “professional” stepping stoner an unfair advantage over amateur gentleman gulley scramblers. It might also spawn a whole range artificial aids (water wings?) and unseemly garments detrimental to the traditions of the sport (i.e. non-tweed).

Such musings powered us over the first of several narrowings in the flow and over the larger boulders on the cloughside. The gulley walls were gainfully employed as the flatter stones in the flow of the water proved extremely slippery. The first major waterfall was taken with due care and attention and our previous practices, developed on Oaken Clough, paid off. We emerged over the brow of the fall on the side of the Pool of Tranquility. In “The Land that Time Forgot” this would have been the bathing place of prehistoric nymphs. On this evening it would have been survivable only by a geordie hen party. We took coffee and a cheroot for the Doctor. The view up the clough looked fine, though the distances were foreshortened in the dark.

Circling the pool brought us to the next waterfall which posed the evening’s second biggest challenge (the first equal were Fingers’ excuse for not coming and Tuck’s battery management issues). Mr Tuck favoured a move to the right and headed across the flow. At the central point he was forced to assume a kneeling crawl below the main force. Steadily on unsteady ground he gained the gulley wall and a degree of security.

Meanwhile Dr Crowe trended left, working finger jams in the cracks of the side wall until the face of the fall was reached. The band of rocks and stones between the flow and the gulley wall arrowed towards a face above a couple of metres high. The wall on the left began to overhang and was covered in a thick layer of moss, a natural line for a green crack specialist. It was all looking a bit desperate but a traverse across the flow wasn’t really an option so it was a simple brutish mantel through spray and when the moss gave out a direct thrutch through the brim of the waterfall gave the traditional and inelegant conclusion to a fine night out.

Turning back to look down the clough we saw that it we couldn’t see anything – mist had sprung up in a ten minute interval to reduce  to a few metres. That and a check on the time meant heading down. We took the path on the left hand side of the clough picking our way through mist and boulders, following trails of sawdust (left from a weekend fell race?).  Took extreme stepping stoning to a new level – extreme stepping stoning in only a few metres of visibility – the opposite bank only vaguely outlined. Only a few more directional difficulties and then back on the big path back to the car park

Disorientation and dam rambling put the pub beyond reach and even the car park was devoid of intimate couples.

In truth, an evening of swing at the climbing wall was averted and more evidence provided for our grandchildren to truly marvel at the brutality of a recession which forced their forebears to seek entertainment in freezing waterfalls.

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12th October 2009 Oaken Clough Gully

It was Monday night and in the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf. Actually it was the germ of an idea.

Six grown men with slightly ungrown minds (Dr Ali, Fingers Wren, EyUp Sharpey, Steve Fraser, Mr Tuck and Dr Crochet  stopped hanging about in Crowden car park and headed up the path beyond the Youth Hostel. Branching off rightwards from the main Pennine Way path we trod up the side of the brook, gaining a little height as we moved towards the moorland. A crescent moon didn’t offer much light, Dr Ali’s headtorch was soon attracting low flying aircraft. Fingers and Sharpey were in charge of directions:

“which clough?”;
“you can see trees on the other side of the valley”

Oh yes, but not in this light. The rest of us were left in the dark as the leaders hoved off across the brook. We’d hit the spot: two streams – one meandering along the mini-valley bottom, the other flowing with more force from a dark shoulder silhouetted against deep charcoal sky flecked with the random glitter of stars.

The first few yards were rock hopping and quickstepping round deeper pools, splashing around shallows. Dr Ali and Sharpey abandoned us idiots to take the high ground, leaving the rest of us to pursue the line of beauty (and water).

The first waterfall looked like an obvious unnecessary soaking for little reward so a quick skirt round the bank to the next jumble of stones and rocks. A few ups and alongs led to the first fall. A decent sized face, with few apparent holds appeared, water streaming down the centre (a phrase to be much repeated I fear). What seemed at first sight to be steps cut in the side turned out to be treacherously slippy mini ice rinks. “Don’t fall off ’til I’ve got a photo” called out Steven “David Bailey” Tuck. A bit of purchase on the side and I lurched up. Fortunately a couple of good hand holds on the side held me as both feet went skidding off simultaneously and I got the first soaking of the night.

In for a penny and a pound we headed up the central falls, trying to stay out of the big pools. Mr Tuck took the next face by traversing through the torrent and we picked our way up with some surprisingly good holds in the body of the water. We carried on in this way and that, slipping, scrabbling and stumbling through the falls and pools catching glimpses of our bone dry comrades above on sides of the gulley. All forms of vegetation were tried and generally found wanting for leverage. All the while our spirits rising as the difficulties were dispatched, obstacles overcome and the lunacy of the situation became increasingly inescapable. Four wet men declaring that this was the most fun they’d had in ages.

Steven Fraser took the direct approach on the next big fall, hugging the slab, grinding off sheets of moss for friction and dragging himself over the lip of the spout. We mere mortals took to the right hand side, laying back a little off the side edges and using the water carved steps to gently ascend to the next difficulty.

The stream issued forth from a roof into, what in the gloom seemed like a cave. In reality it was a gulley within the gulley capped by an overhanging block. The two Steves escaped left up dry groove shouting dire warnings. Dr Crowe and Fingers took this as an invitation to investigate further. With Fingers’ arc light on the problem it looked suitably challenging. However this depended on the exit through the back of the roof. Advice rained down on us mixed with water forced through rock:

“it’s dangerous and tiny”;
“He said “it’s dangerous, try it”!”

“You’d need to be a pencil to get through it”

“He’s stopped making sense, now”, then
“It’ll go you know”
“We’ll come back and make it go”

After a bit of a nibble at the ridge alongside the pool (definitely do-able in rock boots) we made our way up the dry groove too, just in time to sort out what all those instructions were.

Next up through a short section to be confronted by a  more substantial pool bound by steep sides. Whereas Steven Fraser took to the right over a series of rounded boulders, Fingers identified the road less travelled or the way of the clinically insane – a traverse on perpendicular rock, relying on tenuous footholds and barndoorable ribs. Needless to say the critical move was only a Tucklength from being achievable and so it was left to our reach specialist to force the route. It has to be said he did so much gardening that at one point it seemed as if he wanted to build an island to stand firm upon to preserve the purity of the line. In the gloom we saw the method in his madness as handholds appeared, the pendulum was controlled with a grasp of heather and a fine exit up to the Pennine Way path at ten to ten.

Six nocturnal ramblers made a rapid descent through alternately stoney and boggy ground (Sharpey finding that the bit next to the wooden bridge was the boggiest of all) concluding that although it was the best Monday night for a while, the very best thing was that it was quite a normal thing to do. The other thing that was quite normal was that the couple in the Vectra in the car park turned the interior light off when six headtorches appeared. The engine quickly turned over and they made their exit to finish off elsewhere. We just went to the pub.

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One week after identifying Oaken Clough we got the weather and decided to give it a go:

Photos on picasa

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