Here we go again, with another walk on the wild side – an 11.5 mile linear ramble from Buxton to Whaley Bridge via the spectacular Combs Moss. This is another rare area for us to explore – and our first ramble after the switch from BST to GMT, unfortunately!
Combs Moss is a kind of miniature version of Kinder Scout – bleak, remote and seemingly far from civilisation. The eerie silence is permeated only by the ghosts of long-lost ramblers and the occasional sheep – at least until we visit the area on October 30th. Fortunately, Halloween is the night after our ramble! Combs Moss is pronounced ‘Coombs Moss’, by the way. There are no refreshment facilities available during the walk, so please bring along any food and drink you may require.
Our walk begins outside the famous Buxton Pavilion, where toilets are available. We quickly weave our way past some impressive buildings, including the Opera House, the Devonshire Dome and the railway station with its distinctive arched end wall; then through a maze of railway arches to Lightwood Road, which we follow for a while.
Soon, the solid mass of Combs Moss comes into view ahead of us. We climb past the waterworks and up a steep path and steps to the edge of the Moss, which is open access land. As with Kinder, the main path runs around the periphery of the plateau, along which we head in an anticlockwise direction. Looking back, we can see Buxton nestling in its valley far below us, plus Solomon’s Temple – and the Cat & Fiddle Inn high on the far horizon. We pass the triangulation point at Black Edge, then Lady Low and Short Edge before arriving at our first break point, the prehistoric hill fort site at Castle Naze. Not much to see of the fort these days, other than the double earth rampart protecting its rear. The views though are magnificent, as the fort is on a promontory offering a dramatic birds-eye panorama of the surrounding area
Beyond this point, the edge of the plateau is rather more wild and rugged, with towering cliffs and babbling streams running steeply off the Moss. We continue along the edge of the plateau to a couple of remote shooting cabins. Here, we leave the edge of Combs Moss and descend gradually below Combs Edge along a little-used path towards the White Hall Outdoor Pursuits Centre.
After a short respite, we briefly join the ‘Old Road’ between Buxton and Whaley Bridge, probably once a Roman road. Those wishing for a slightly shorter, easier walk may continue along this route direct to our destination. Otherwise, we branch off along a farm track towards Hazlehurst Farm, then across fields to Haylee Farm. The impressive sight of Combs Moss and Castle Naze should by now be clearly visible across the valley to our right. We head for Thorny Lee, past some small but spectacular rock formations on our left – one mildly reminiscent of Chrome Hill. We then join a scenic track called Long Lane in the general direction of Whaley Bridge. This skirts Ladder Hill and overlooks the Combs Reservoir, far down in the valley below.
We eventually re-join the ‘Old Road’ to Horwich End. By now it may well be getting dark. Fortunately there is a route under street lights from here to the centre of Whaley Bridge. If possible though, we shall join the trackbed of the former Cromford & High Peak Railway for a relatively traffic-free approach to our final destination.
The coach leaves from around the public toilets below the railway station in Whaley Bridge at 5:30PM.
(text by Richard Lake)