Katherine’s Big Moor Boggy Bumble
I like to do a little bit of fell running when my knees let me and I love to be up high, particularly on the edges. So one of my favourite runs, which you can just as easily walk, is a 10km route on Big Moor. This route is not for someone who likes to keep to paths, it takes you over uneven ground, sometimes off track and even follows deer tracks across the moor. It takes you down tricky valley sides and through some boggy bits. It’s safe to say you won’t return with clean footwear!
There are various places you could start this route by making a slight alteration; I'll describe it from Curbar Gap car park.
From Curbar Gap car park make your way, initially east, to Sandyford Brook, over the bridge and up the other side of the bank to the southern end of White Edge. At the wooden finger post turn right, but don’t drop down, stay up high, even rising slightly and contour around the end of Swine Sty. Initially head southeast, gently turn east, then eventually head north, staying on the top of the slope above the line of bracken. Now head north, keeping the sloping moor to your right, and follow a deer track towards the stone guide stoop. Guide stoops have been used for centuries to guide people across what would have been an inhospitable landscape, from cities to market towns such as Sheffield to Tideswell. You can use the guide stoops now to take you across the moor, from one to another, until you find yourself in the stream valley running east down into Barbrook Valley. Carefully pick your way down to the Bar Brook, choose a safe place to cross, and head back up the other side of the slope. (Beware that between March and November, adders may be sunbathing on this and other banks, so it’s best not to use your hands to climb up.)
At the top of the bank you will find the Barbrook concessionary bridleway track. Turn left along this track and very shortly you will come across the tranquility of Little Barbrook, a small pond nestled secretly within the vast expanse of the moor. In summer Little Barbrook is teaming with determined dragonflies and delicate damselflies and in spring the water’s edge magically moves with the frantic mating activity of frogs, toads and newts.
After soaking up the energising properties of this little oasis, continue along the track northwards until you reach Barbrook Cottage. A little bungalow looking somewhat lost in the landscape, was once the reservoir keeper's house, later becoming the shepherd's home. Now the office for the Eastern Moors Partnership staff and volunteers, my second home, it makes you feel that Barbrook Cottage must have been an isolated rather than pleasantly secluded spot to live, with all mother nature’s elements being thrown at you with full-force throughout the year!
Keeping Barbrook Cottage on your left, head straight on and you will come across a large gate through to the now drained Barbrook Reservoir, a haven for moorland and wetland birds including curlew and lapwing. Do not go through the gate, instead, follow the fence-line keeping it on your left. You will eventually come to a gate onto a grassy track north of the reservoir. Turn right along the track; this is where you can say goodbye to dry feet if you haven’t already done so! The path is initially very wet and it is up to you to pick your way through the bog until you reach drier ground further along the track. Continue north until you are almost at the road. Before reaching the road turn left along a grassy path, keeping the road on your right and the open moor and stream over to your left. You will get closer and closer to the road until you are walking right next to the wall where you will cross the Bar Brook which is now a tiny moorland stream, home to an abundance of elusive water voles. In time you will come across a small gate in the wall, it is at this point that you need to bear left south-westward across the moor, which will also take you slightly uphill until you reach the Hurklin Stone at the end of a ruined dry stone wall.
At the Hurklin Stone, turn right and follow the wall northwest. At the end of the wall you will reach a wooden three fingered post. You are now back on White Edge, the far end to where you started. Turn left along White Edge, travelling south south-west, keeping the crag on your right and the open moor on your left.
After a good distance keep your eye open for White Edge trig point on your left. It is well worth a small detour up to the trig point where you will get a true sense of the scale of Big Moor and how, though you can at times feel you are in a wild open place, you are but a stones throw from surrounding cities such as Sheffield, easily visible on a fine day. White Edge trig point is one of the finest places to view the annual red deer rut from the end of September to the beginning of November. Here the moorland curves in front of you as a giant natural amphitheatre; the backdrop for an atmospheric drama unfolding before your eyes, as mighty red deer stags fight to remain dominant male during the ritual of the mating season.
After inhaling the view, return to the main path and continue your way along White Edge until you reach the wooden finger post, pointing you back to Curbar Gap car park. Take care on the slippery slope back down to Sandyford Brook. If you are lucky you may be rewarded by the welcome sight of an ice-cream van or Jolly’s quaint coffee van.