For my next county top report I thought I’d head away from the south of England and tell you about a long jog on a very cold winter’s day back in 2014.
The highest point in South Yorkshire* is a small rock formation standing at 548m named High Stones, just south of the better-known Margery Hill. In contrast to the rolling scenery of the southern counties, the Peak District – for it is this national park in which the summit sits – can seem a wild and unforgiving place, and this day was no exception. A widespread frost overnight had set the already well-churned mud solid, and I arrived at the car park just outside Langsett knowing the ten mile out-and-back route on which I was soon to embark was going to be very tough going.
I was a little short on route options for this run, really. Normally I would try to create a loop, as I like to think it lets me see more of an area if I’m short on time. On this frozen December day however I was heading from Sheffield to Bradford on my first full Christmas tour with the wonderful Kate Rusby, and didn’t fancy risking becoming stuck in a freezing bog given that I had to be on stage later that evening. A bout of frostbite could really have thrown a spanner in the works.
It was decided, then: Up from the reservoir along the Cut Gate Path and take a left at Howden Edge. Navigationally simple, probably safe (certainly safer than navigating across rain-bloated open moorland), and sure to offer up a good challenge underfoot.
And so to my ascent. Fell running shoes donned and laces tightened, I was treated to a gentle warm up down the slope to the Little Don River bridge. Although my legs appreciated being eased into it for a few hundred metres, I can’t help but think it’s never good when you start a route by descending, as it invariably means you have to go up even further and you’ve got an unpleasant surprise waiting right at the end when you’re knackered and need a little a sit down.
A sharp rise away from the reservoir relaxed into a fairly constant drag which continued, quite unremarkably, for the next 5km or so. If you detect a little disappointment in my tone you’d be correct I’m afraid, as it turns out the path is slightly sunken below the rest of the moor and as such there is no view to be enjoyed. With the exception of the world around me becoming gradually more white with frost (and a little snow) underfoot, that is really all there is to report. I was alone with only my thoughts and the sound of my own breath – and it was a bit of a slog, to be honest.
Until Howden Edge.
It was breathtaking – one of those views that simply cannot be described. Go there, as soon as you possibly can.
I was extremely cheered by this change in fortune, and positively skipped my way up to the trig at Margery Hill. The final kilometre of my outward journey or so passed in a flash as I bounded my way along the ridge and up to High Stones.
The way back was… exactly like the way up. It was a relief to know I was more or less done with running uphill for the day, and could enjoy the slowly unfolding view of the Langsett Reservoir below as I neared the warmth of the car and a cup of tea.
I always look back fondly on this little adventure, although now I’ve committed my thoughts to paper I realise it’s taken me a while to work out why. The view from Howden Edge is worth every second of the tedious trek towards it, but I suppose on a warm spring morning that part may have been more enjoyable. When you get there, it is surely one of England’s finest panoramas. There is also an option to visit the ridge from Fairholmes Visitor Centre (via the banks of Ladybower Reservoir) so perhaps that would be a more varied and interesting route, and not too much of a diversion from the magnificent Snake Pass that links Glossop and Sheffield.
If you’ve been up from there, have any other Peak District favourites to suggest, or are wondering about your own county’s high point, I’d love to hear from you! You can comment on any of my posts or get in touch via the Contact page. Thanks for reading, and click follow below if you’d like an email as soon as I upload a new article!
*Why not just ‘Yorkshire’? Well, because the Wikipedia article I use for reference declares high points in the four official administrative areas of South, West, North, and East Riding. That’s it, really.