Inside the outdoor industry

Book Review: Moors & Tors – Classic walks on the Upland moors of the Peak District

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I’ve never been a great user of walking guidebooks, preferring instead to pore over a map or pick up word of mouth recommendations. But a washed out Lakeland backpacking trip in August changed that. I found myself clinging to every word of my precious new guide, thumbing furiously through the pages to find out when I might escape my waterlogged purgatory. For the first time I also saw the interest in brief historical or environmental notes illuminating my path, and noted that I wouldn’t have considered many parts of the route, were it not in the guide.

At the end of my walk while waiting at the counter of a shop in Keswick, I spotted some good-looking small guidebooks on a stand. I scanned through a few of Vivienne Crow’s guides such as Top 10 Walks: Lake District: Walks with History, recognising her name from hillwalking magazines. It wasn’t until a month later when I received two Peak District guidebooks to review for Northern Eye books, that I realised the connection. These were from the same collection I had spotted a few weeks before, and it was the quality of the photography and finish that had caught my eye.

The Peak District is the closest wild area to me, but I’ve often ended up treading the same old ground around Edale, Dovedale, or Alport and Bleaklow. Now armed with two ‘Top 10 Walk’ guides from Northern Eye – Moors and Tors and Rocks and Edges – I’ve started to explore some new and varied walks. I’m most interested in some of the more remote upland moor walks, so I’ll focus in on ‘Moors and Toors’ below.

Ten of the best short walks in a pocket sized guide

Serial guidebook writer Dennis Kelsall has put together a list of ten short walks that are quite varied in character. Most are 2-4 hours in duration, and about 3-7 miles. They range from the dramatic point of Shutlingsloe in the West, to the open moors of Eldon Hole in the centre of the National Park.

In this 64 page, ‘pocketable’ guide, each walk is afforded six pages, which are neatly packed with a good standard of photography (which is often not very inspiring in some walking guides) and an easy-to-follow route description. Last month my girlfriend and I walked the penultimate route in the guide, Shining Tor, from a direction that was new to me. The route starts at the delightful Errwood reservoir before climbing steeply upward via dense woodland, and then cutting across open ground.

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Interesting facts to illuminate the walk

As well as a small full colour OS 1:50,000 map, there are interesting notes about places along the way. In the early part of the walk we spent some time poking around the ruins of Errwood Hall, a Georgian/Victorian country house that was demolished in the 30’s to make way for a nearby reservoir. We also spotted the small circular shrine (above, third from left) as we climbed out of the forest, which is still apparently in use today.

The Grimshawes of Errwood Hall were ancient travellers and returned from one of their trips accompanied by Dolores de Ybarguen, a Spanish noblewoman who settled at the hall as a governess and teacher at the local school. When she died, the circular, stone-built shrine was built in her memory.

— Dennis Kelsall

After snaking upward along a small country lane, we wound up on the ‘summit ridge’ which lead to our highpoint of Shining Tor. All along the ridge we were treated to brilliant unbroken views (above, second from left) over to Manchester and what I assume was Shutlingsloe – the ‘Matterhorn of Chesire’. Unfortunately once up top we had to turn our back on the distant views to head back to the reservoir via a different path to our ascent route.

Despite the relatively short outing (I’m more used to 6-10 hour days) I’d say it was one of the best walks I’ve had in the Peaks over the past five years, and I can definitely see how it placed in the top ten.

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The route descriptions were straightforward and concise, and I only had to glance at the mini map once or twice. In good weather this might be all you need, but in poor weather, or if you are a newbie hillwalker, it would be wise to carry a paper or digital map as well. And you might want to bring a small map case cover if it’s raining.

Don’t expect lot’s of detailed history or expansive route description as there’s only so much that can be included in a pocket sized guide. But do expect excellent photography, the need-to-know facts and route details, and a clean and modern layout.

The Moors and Tors guide isn’t for those who prefer a big lung-busting day out in the hills, but if you want to guarantee a relaxing afternoon’s walk or an accessible family outing, then the short but atmospheric circular walks Dennis Kelsall has selected will do just the trick.

I’m looking forward to taking my new found companion out for another spin next month. The ‘Matterhorn of Chesire’ looks tempting…

Moors and Tors and Rocks and Edges are available for £5.99 directly from North Eye Books.

Northern Eye Books publish award-winning walking and outdoors books for the Lake District, Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, other National Parks, Wales Coast Path, Wales and Cheshire.

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