Bleaklow is a high upland area within the Peak National Park and nestled between the major conurbations of Manchester and Sheffield in the UK. Bleaklow is far less well known than its southern neighbour Kinder Scout
- although Bleaklow is only slightly lower at 633m (2077ft), compared with Kinder's 636m (2088ft). Bleaklow and Kinder are joined by a 512m (1680ft) high ridge, crossed by the A57 Snake Pass road, a route much favoured by the motorbiking fraternity.
Most visitors to Bleaklow access it by the Pennine Way, a long-distance footpath stretching 150 miles from Derbyshire to the Scottish border, and a few more adventurous people visit the aircraft wrecks which are scattered across the plateau.
The whole upland area of the Dark Peak area of the Peak National Park is barren and bleak in appearance which means the name Bleaklow is extremely accurate. In fact, Bleaklow was called 'the Wastes' by medieval mapmakers.
The Peak District National Park is the oldest National Park in the UK, and is the second-most visited National Park in the world, with 22 million visitors each year so Bleaklow can get 'crowded' especially in the summer months.
Access is only from Longendale Valley in the north and the A57 Snake Pass in the south, both along surfaced sections of the Pennine Way.
The CROW (Countryside Rights of Way) Act came into force in the Peak District on 19th September 2004, one of the first areas in the country to implement the Act. The Act replaces the existing access agreements with landowners which allow people to enjoy large parts of the Peak District. Until the Act came into force, access was by agreement with the landowners. Access to most of the Peak District is now governed by the Act, but in some places the old access agreements still have several years to run and are therefore still in force until they expire.
Contrary to common assumption, the Act does not mean that people can go wherever they want, whenever they want. You can find details of exactly what the Act entails at Countryside Agency's website and you can even check on what land is accessible under the terms of the Act at either the Countryside Agency's mapping site. The Act allows for landowner to close land covered by the CROW Act for limited periods of time, for example for land management, and land owners are allowed to apply for permanent exclusion of land from access, for example for public safety reasons. An online database of access land maps along with any areas subject to restrictions can be found on the Countryside Access website, and the site contains a useful collection of information on exactly what rights the Act gives you. The three PDF documents linked off the bottom of the Open Access page on the websiteare particularly useful in this respect.
The Ordnance Survey have published new maps showing the access boundaries, the 1:25000 sheets of the White and Dark Peak are now available, or you can check the access status of somewhere you are interested in using their online Get-A-Map service.
The CROW Act also contained a lot of new legislation related to wildlife and habitat protection as well as the more commonly-know access provisions. The DEFRA website covers this in detail, and also has some additional information on the CROW Act as well as a useful list of factsheets detailing exactly what you can and can't do. The Peak District National Park Authority also has a CROW page on their website, and if you are feeling really brave, you can find the full text of the Act here.
When To Climb
Like all areas in the Peak National Park, Bleaklow can be climbed (or walked) throughout the entire year. The whole area is just as beautiful no matter which season it is. The weather can get pretty harsh in winter so be prepared to pack thermals strong boots.
EASTER 2003 FIRES
In April 2003, over the Easter Bank Holiday, there were a series of huge fires in the Peak District National Park. The biggest was on Bleaklow, which burned out 844 hectares of internationally important moorland. The upland areas in the Dark Peak are a rare habitat, raised blanket bog, of which the UK has a significant proportion of the worldwide total.
It is a common misconception that the fires are part of 'natures way', but it is important to understand that the moorland has been managed for centuries, and because of the proximity of Manchester and Sheffield (two centres of the Industrial Revolution), the area has long been blighted by heavy pollution. This has obviously has a detrimental effect on the ecology and wildlife of the moors. The peat is no longer forming in any noticable quantities, and in fact in many places is eroding at a significant rate. The peat only started forming at the end of the Neolithic period (6000 - 3500 BC), in response to clearance of the land by humans and a cooler, damper climate. Unfortunately widespread and uncontrolled fires (in contrast to the controlled burns used for moorland management) remove the protective vegitation from the peat, which then erodes rapidly. Because peat is such a mobile surface, subject to drying out and wind erosion in the summer and freeze heave during the winter, it is extremely difficult for vegitation to get a foothold on areas that are bare peat, and the low nutrient and high pollution levels don't help either. The Moors for the Future project is trying to repair centuries of damage, and the fires have been a huge setback.
Peak National Park
- Moors for the Future
The National Park has received a large grant to repair some of the environmental damage that the Dark Peak has suffered, and "Moors for the Future" is the name of the project that has been set up to undertake this work, which will cost £4.7 million over the next 5 years
Information on the UK's first national park