2011-10-04 53 -1

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Tue 4 Oct 2011 in 53,-1:
53.3502126, -1.8684197

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Close to a tunnel ventilation shaft/structure above the railway between the Hope Valley and Chapel-en-le-Frith.


Monty foolishly went.


Emboldened by the previous end-of-the-working-day expedition to Buxton, the advancing night was no worry. A familar journey through Castleton and off towards Chapel-en-le-Frith would get one within a short walking distance, across a field (or along a path) and then across Open Access land towards a crenelated air-shaft building servicing the Cowburn Tunnel. From there to the Geohash would be a matter of pacing out a distance easily calculated from a printout of the aerial shots available from the usual website, for a relatively trivial No Batteries Geohash. Simples!


Emboldened by the prior geohash, the lateness of the hour did not deter the start of the expedition. At about 18:30, and very much already getting dark, passed through Malin Bridge and not yet even out of Sheffield. The ground around grew ever darker and much more rapidly than the largely clear and only slowly darkening skies, as progressing through the Peak District, with some interesting views available to the naked eye that unfortunately could not, even when safe to do so, be accurately recorded by camera. (Still, a significant sample of what was attempted is shown in the gallery, below.) Strangely, the traffic lights at the Ladybower T-junction, below Bamford in the Hope Valley and on the Bradwell turnoff were all inoperative, and nary a sign of streetlights (or any, noticed, in the houses for the whole journey there).

The plan being to stop off at the point where a footpath joined the road heading towards Chapel-en-le-Frith from the top of Castleton (close to a milestone) was a little difficult to accomplish, being pressed upon by following traffic and being disallowed the leisure to identify the necessary landmarks while attempting not to inconvenience the following traffic more than necessary. In the end, the spot was passed and left behind, noticed but not stoppable at, and the onwards flight continued onwards to the aforementioned next settlement, until an opportunity arose to turn into the entrance to the Chestnut Centre (apparently a sanctuary for both otters and owls) and the journey could be reversed, thankfully without such pressing traffic, but also with some practical experience of the intended destination.

Pulling up to the gateway and disembarking, the eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, and the assumed target structure could be seen upon the northern horizon. (The camera was far from able to handle the darkness, despite a long exposure whilst held steady, and the representative image in the gallery below had to have both brightness and contrast controls dragged almost to the top end of their scale, in GIMP, to give that particular uploaded image.)

Advancing across the field, sheep (their white fleeces showing well, to this presumed predator's eye) moved off to each side of the stalking biped encumbered with the telscopic tripod. Air-shaft in view, a backwards glance identified several definite clusters of lights from settlements (some know to lie along the A6) which should be usable to confirm the correct return journey. Photos in this direction should have been more succesful, with lighter skies and actual illumination, but even mounted upon the tripod, it turns out that the camera was being buffetted significantly by the breeze once the pictures were examined more closely in a medium other than the on-camera LCD displays available at the time.

Meanwhile, several planes heading towards Manchester airport, or at least its orbital holding patterns, passed overhead. Some jets, some props. At least one much higher altitude plane crossed almost at right-angles to the rest, doubtless upon some other route in which Manchester did not figure. Except, perhaps, as a volume of airspace to be avoided. None of the photos attempted to record the flashing streaks of light turned out quite right, though.

Having brought along a powerful flashlight, which sufficed only to utterly destroy night vision, the much dimmer mobile phone light was used to examine the map (for those who haven't gathered yet, Monty is almost always a No Batteries expeditioneer), and walking could be continued without illumination (and not startling the sheep). Having crossed a wall (that really was not supposed to be scrambled over, but was solid enough that the only danger of damage was from the single strand of barbed wire strung along the top) into the properly Open Access land after a short sideways search for bit with suitable footholds, a conveniently dry stream-bed was easily crossed and although the silhouette of the target was lost on the wrong side of the still discernable horizon, onward travel was made with confidence until it could be seen once more and headed straight towards.

Reaching some old, un-maintained and barely proud-from-the-ground remains of stone wall, pointing towards the clearly visible lights of Chapel-en-le-Frith itself, helping to somewhat confirm the presumed location given what was indicated upon the OS map being used. A photo was taken, breaking the usual photographic habit by actually using the flash for a couple of shots. (Mindful to not make more than two flashes, so as not to risk being seen as an emergency signal of any kind. After all, being definitely not lost, and in no way was any difficulty, it would have been very embaressing to have later been spotlit by the Mountain Rescue helicopter if some keen-eyed person had alerted the emergency services.)

Approaching the crenelated struture (a quick photo in the even more extreme dark should really have been taken from the northern side, even with extreme enhancement it can't even be made presentable), the next step was to reached into the rucksack for the various bits of paper that had been printed out and... apparently left behind in the car. So, not just a No Batteries geohash, but also a No Printouts one. Never mind, the general distances and bearings from the structure (relative to the orientation of the sides) had been committed to memory, and surely no-one would begrudge a few yards inaccuracy under the circumstances. Except. A ditch. No memory of a ditch. The OS map didn't show a ditch. (Actually, it did, but by the light of the mobile it wasn't so obvious. And it was even more obvious on the overhead supposedly committed to memory. Meh.) So was this even actually the right place?

This had been a worry when considering this twilight walk across moorland. On the OS map there was a clearly labelled Air Shaft which could be positively matched with the ground features. A little circle/dot with the words "Air Shaft" and an interesting curl of contour line around it. But also an unlabelled little circle further down the hill (supposedly across some additional walls, but walls in this area need not be so prominant as the first one crossed). And there was a "wall lines" just in front of it. But from extensive daylight experience of the moorlands it was quite possible that this solid line did not represent a stone wall (collapsed or not), but might as easily be a line of wire fencing or... a small ditch not worthy or wet enough to be granted a think blue line.

A hasty re-think had to be made. Looking downhill (to the west by southwest), there was no sign of a structure that would have been this second (presumed) airshaft, albeit that it might be hidden by the similar darkness of the lower lands below. Facing upwards (east by north-east)... Should one be able to see the actual air shaft construction? The sky in this direction was much darker than before. Time, its northern nature and, moreover, its eastern direction in this definitely post-dusk situation meant that there was plenty of doubt. Tracing the local land, it was not so obvious that the loop of contour quite clearly shown on the map (representing 500m above the national datum point for sea-level) was represented at this point.

Gargh! This is the wrong place. What had gone wrong was, quite obviously, whilst at a point where the original silhouette had been lost sight of, the direction of travel had been more along the rise than it should have been. The wall had either been crossed further down (below another perpendicular length of wall) or distances had even been confused in the near darkness and what had been taken to be one wall was actually another stretch (technically, the one that should have been the Open Access boundary, but it could have been less well built as the originally encountered one).

That's Ok, though, because all that needs to be done now is walk uphill, aquire the proper Air Shaft, and continue with the original plan to estimate the destination, set up some sort of photo (it was going to be a bit anonymous and unprovable but, darnit, it would be right and correct enough for a No Batteries, under the circumstances). And so up the steady ramble commenced, periodically ducking down and stretching up to alter the position of the horizon in order to try to perceive the silhouette of the target.

Encountering an obvious bit of (dry) stream-bed, by now the Air Shaft should have been visible if it was the one on the map that related to the newly presumed track across this area of moorland. By now, the opinion was forming that this had been a foolish errand in the first place, and despite straining the eyes (still blessed, with limited and brief exposure to the mobile phone's illuminating properties as applied to the surface of the map, with a pretty decent degree of night vision insofar as the ground being walked upon), no Air Shaft landmark was visible. The decision was made to turn back to the path, the road and thus the car. Abandon the attempt.

Taking a small curving loop (in case a little extra travel in a westerly direction actually revealed the anticipated landmark, the distant lights were used to go southerly. 'Aiming off', in order to hit the line of a wall (or possibly fence, maybe even a ditch) to one definite side and thus cause no confusion about which direction to follow it further.

Striking a dishevelled wall, it was followed further down in anticipation of striking the stretch of wall that had been flash-photographed (further down). But... that was not found. What's more, with the silhouette of an Air Shaft structure actually quite visible, almost up the line of the wall... Could it be that the first assumption had been the correct one? The journey had reached the correct building? The circuit of the building might even have passed within yards of the hashpoint? This new reasoning held true, but then so did the conviction that staying out on the moorland for longer would serve little purpose and merely raise the possibility of taking foolish to a dangerous level. No, there would be no return back towards the newly re-identified Air Shaft, and the journey home would continue.

On the other hand, there was still room for potential foolhardiness. Continuing down the wall (itself appearing to have a sparse but definitely trod-down pathway, leading along it) would lead to the mainstream beaten track, at the other end of which would be the intersection with the road at the point the car was parked. But it would mean a big dog-leg, and add to the journey-time. Cutting south again would lead to the original field wall and be about half the distance, by being along just one (virtual) side of an equilateral triangle rather than along the other two sides (albeit more defined, on both map and ground).

And so the moorland was once more yomped across, freestyle. Crossing the (still dry) streambed, hitting the field boundary and hunting down the wall for a good, solid crossing point, braving the single strand of barbed-wire (in quite a bit more dark than the first time), adding that extra frisson of peril in the moment of transit (mainly during the time it was being straddled), and totally conscious to ensure that there had been no shifting of stones or other damage to the barrier. (There was not, as this was a well-built wall, albeit that this had meant precious few easily usable footholds in the first place.)

The grazed field was more easily traversed (and not even any sign of sheep, although in the deeper darkness maybe they were able to flee the intruder, unnoticed, or even sit out its clumping transit with impunity). Perhaps too easily so, as more concern was made towards progress rather than its direction. Now with a dearth of traffic on the road it wasn't even obvious how close the road was, but a glance at the silhouette of a tree up the hill and to the left sparked memories of there having been a tree just a bit further up the path/road from the entrance, and so the homeward course was quickly swung about 90 degrees to the port-side, and almost immediately the field boundary, road, path, and (most importantly) the car that was sought had been found.

By the light available back in the car, closer examination at the map revealed where errors had been made (and had been incorrectly identified... As in the old quote: "I thought I was wrong! I was wrong, I was right!") And a resolution was made that at some future time that there is a good reason to pass by this way in daylight, a retrohash ought to be attempted. At some time in the future. Also, do not underestimate the drawing in of the nights. Given your author's "career" in Geohashing started (timidly) only the early part of this year, it had obviously not sunk in that darkness is not always the minor obstacle that he may have considered it to be. Even with his often proud claims of possessing a better than average degree of natural night vision, and a sense of direction and geography that might not be quite as accurate as he had thought.

And all this continued to go through the mind, even as the uneventful (darkness-bound) homeward journey was made. Descending the Winnat's Pass road in the dark was... interesting. But, of course, incident-free. The rest was trivial. Except for the continued lack of traffic-lights and street-lighting, as previously noted. And house-lighting except for one (presumed) public house in Castleton itself.

(In subsequent trips through the area after lighting-up times, after the above record was originally authored but prior to it actually being uploaded to this site, the traffic/street/house lights were all as expected. So it could have been a power-cut, or it might have been a National Park thing, preserving the rustic beauty of the landscape during the "on-season". But it would be unusual (and would have been noticed, previously, if extending the same courtesy to the traffic lights (especially at the Ladybower junction, which is a busy place to depart from signalling) without permanent signage to the effect of them being only operated as a part-time venture. So, it was probably a power-cut all along the main valley and up along the Bamford branch as well, at the very least.)



While prepared, only partly uploaded and time is against me. Need to come back to this and activate the commented out gallery sets.


TBA, with a failure undertone.