Tanky’s Trog - fell running from Edale to Marsden

Over the Edale Valley

Over the Edale Valley - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Derbyshire Life reader Steve Dean recalls a special morning out in the Peak District 35 years ago.

One of the most famous walks in the Peak District is the celebrated Marsden to Edale, a 21-mile route that takes in the high country of Black Hill, Bleaklow and Kinder Scout.   

This fine route over the roughest moorland in the Peak also involves 3,500ft of ascent and is often subject to bad weather.   

The route is thought to date from the early 1900s and gained popularity not only for its quality, but also because Marsden and Edale were well served by the railway, giving easy access to walkers both in the Manchester and Sheffield areas. 

In the 1980s I was a keen runner and a member of a wonderful group of nutcases called The Dark Peak Fell Runners.   

There were regular fell races all over the country, several of them over the Peak District Moorland. 

Every December a race was held over the Marsden – Edale route, in often challenging weather.   

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It was known as Tanky’s Trog and attracted big fields, with the top runners incredibly covering the 21-mile course in around two and a half hours.   

I took part in this splendid event a few times and have such fond memories of muddy peat, howling winds and occasional bright sunshine as we splashed our way over the wildest parts of the Peak District.   

We used to say in the club that anyone who could beat four hours for the Marsden – Edale, would be capable of a sub-three-hour marathon on road.   

Looking down over Bleaklow

Looking down over Bleaklow - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I had wanted to do a solo run over the course for some time and in late March 1985 the opportunity arose.   

There was still some snow on the hills, but we had just enjoyed a spell of dry, windy days and I decided the time was right.   

On a Tuesday night after work I drove to Edale and caught the train into Sheffield, then to Huddersfield.   

There I met my climbing pal Mick Wrigley, who lived near Marsden, who was putting me up for the night. 

I slept fitfully and it looked a bright morning as Mick gave me a lift into Marsden. At 5.30am I set off up the good track that runs alongside the reservoirs in the Wessenden Valley, slowly gaining height towards the moors ahead.   

It is tempting to run this section too quickly, but there was a long way to go. Four miles in, I reached the A635 road. Ahead loomed the bulk of Black Hill and a 500ft climb to the Trig Point.   

Nowadays much of this path is paved with gritstone slabs, but back in the eighties it was a wet, peaty section that made running hard work.   

I was relieved to reach the highest point, by which time it was firmer underfoot. The light cloud was clearing now, and it felt good to be striding towards Westend Moss, gradually losing height towards Crowden and its huge quarries.   

After a short section along the A628 road I reached the steep steps down to the Woodhead Reservoir and followed the minor road round to Skew Bridge under the old railway line.

Woodhead Reservoir

Woodhead Reservoir - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The previous day, Mick had driven from Huddersfield and hidden a bottle of water and two Crunchie bars near the bridge. These were very welcome, as I had run 11 miles and was starting to feel it.  

Suitably refreshed, I got ready for the 800ft climb up via Rollick Stones onto the top of Bleaklow. The climb went reasonably well and I paused on top of Rollick Stones to take in the fine view to the west.   

Ahead of me lay the lovely wilderness of Bleaklow.  It was a sunny morning with a slight breeze, and it felt a privilege to have the place to myself. I saw hares on the way to Bleaklow Head and in the sky were numerous skylarks and lapwings.   

My route soon picked up the Pennine Way, and I made my way up past the Wain Stones, the highest point at 2,060ft on the whole run.   

Fortunately, the recent period of dry weather had made running conditions quite reasonable under foot and I was soon passing Alport Low and joining the A57 Snake Pass road with 15 miles covered. 

The transition from running on the moors to hard tarmac was surprisingly demanding but, fortunately, it was mostly downhill and as I passed the Snake Inn I saw the first people since setting off.   

Sunrise on the Peak District moors

Sunrise on the Peak District moors - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A stile led me through trees to the bridge over the Ashop River and then a quick splash across Fairbrook had me gearing up for the 900ft climb up to Seal Stones and the plateau of Kinder Scout.   

The top fell runners run this section, but I was walking now, hands on thighs, until the slope eased and I was next to the rocks and the edge of the Kinder plateau.   

Seal Stones is a superb viewpoint, with the whole of Bleaklow spread out before you. The next section was a good stretch of running round the edge of the moss, over Blackden Brook to the Eye Stone, and the quick crossing of Kinder to the head of Dry Clough.   

The going here was heavy, but I was soon on the sharp descent down to Grindsbrook and then onto Edale village.   

It was now a lovely morning with a feeling of spring in the air. The hills retained some snow, but the bright sunshine and blue sky together with the calling of a pair of curlews made for a peaceful setting as I finished the run where I had left my car the night before.   

It was just coming up to 9.30am and as agreed, I walked over to the Nag’s Head pub and phoned Mick to let him know I’d got to Edale safely.   

Despite the sunshine, cloud was building to the west, and I wondered if I’d had the best of the day. 

As I drove home to Derby, the 20-plus miles of running were taking their toll. However, I was delighted to have had the wildness of Bleaklow and Kinder all to myself in such reasonable conditions.   

When I got home I fed my cats, had a quick shower and hurried to work as I was expected in by noon. 

Looking towards Council House, by the River Derwent in Derby

Looking towards Council House, by the River Derwent in Derby - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

At that time, I was working at The Council House in central Derby, next to the River Derwent. In moments of boredom, I would glance out the window at the river and think of its source nearly 50 miles to the north on the moors beneath Bleaklow Stones, not far from where I had run that morning.   

By the end of the afternoon I felt tired and, walking home in the rain, I reflected on a Derbyshire day of great contrasts.  

This was over 35 years ago. These days, at 71, the effects of open heart surgery and increasingly creaky knees have limited my running activities, but I’ve no regrets.   

That day is a warm memory of being young and fit, and of beautiful scenery on a spring morning.  

More than that, it reminds me of my dear friend Mick who sadly died recently, and of the wonderful characters I met in the Dark Peak Fell Runners.   

Kinder and Bleaklow are still a delight, but these days I’m walking instead of running! I feel so fortunate to have lived in Derbyshire for nearly 50 years, and to have been able to enjoy the hills and crags to the full in this lovely place. 

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