Friday’s late afternoon sunshine in the Peak District, and early Saturday morning sunshine in Timperley, with a sunny day forecast, didn’t quite turn out that way.
By the time I’d picked up Alistair P from Stockport and pootled over to the Snake Inn, the day had become overcast, with clouds engulfing the summit of Snake Pass.
Nevertheless, it was dry and not too cold as we milled about in the car park, with Alan Hardy looking on as 22 miscellaneous aspirant or experienced Challengers gathered for Graham Brookes’ tour of aircraft wrecks.
After a long period of faffing, and goodbyes to those whose conditions (old age, broken limbs, etc) curtailed their day’s activities, the eager 22 set out from the car park and chatted their way along the A57 ‘motorway’.
Luckily, a path was soon found that poured us into Woodlands Valley and thence to Lady Clough. Two courteous chaps waited patiently for all 22 of us to climb a stile at one point. By this time our esteemed co-ordinator had fallen to the rear, where recently fallen trees were hampering our progress. The lead group hopped over a wall to the road, whilst the stalwart off-roaders managed to dodge the streams, discarded hub caps and beer cans, not to mention the odd *** bottle, to climb the wall opposite Doctor’s Gate Culvert.
The reconvened group now forsook the thrills of the A57 and headed onwards to Doctor’s Gate. Only Alan H made any effort to keep pace with the leader.
Half way down Doctor’s Gate, Graham veered abruptly off the path, and down to a small amphitheatre below Ashton Clough, where he called a halt for tea and cake. Jane positioned herself to give an impromptu address to the gathered assembly, but she suddenly became lost for words!
It was then a touch of off-piste as we headed up the clough to our first wreckage site.
The dog (Rowan, named after a comedian, archbishop or even a tree?) found it first. The first evidence of the theme of this walk – Peak District aircraft crash sites. This one was a C47 Skytrain (Dakota), which came down in July 1945.
The aircraft was being flown on a transport flight from airfield B.44 at Poix, to the SW of Amiens in France, to Renfrew. It had stopped at Leicester East and took off from there during the morning of the 24th July and failed to arrive at its destination. On the 26th July the wreckage was discovered by a member of the RAF, who was on leave, when he and his girlfriend were walking on Bleaklow. The crash site was attended by the Mountain Rescue Team from No.28 MU at Harpur Hill.
Here, Judith passes part of the rear fuselage found by Rowan.
A few minor obstacles had to be negotiated on the way up to the site, and various other bits of wreckage were seen before we levelled out at the top of the climb, just a few paces away from the crash-site itself.
With the cloud having lifted, there were finally some views to be seen, even if they were a bit muted, as we paused waiting for everyone to regroup.
The next point of interest on the agenda was the site of a Lancaster which came down in May 1945, but with little wreckage remaining, it is the memorial stone which is most notable at this spot. (See slideshow for images.)
The aircraft was flying from RAF Linton-on-Ouse and had earlier been carrying out bumps and circuits but the crew became tired of this and decided to fly around the local area. As it became dark the crew became disorientated and eventually ended up circling Glossop. The aircraft was observed flying into the hillside at 10:10pm.
The demise of KB993 in May 18th 1945 was one of the first post World War 2 crashes on high ground, ten days after the end of hostilities.
There was no navigator on board because the crew should have been carrying out only circuits, a task in which he would have had no part.
After several partly successful attempts to regroup, our motley gang, staggering gently in the wind, wound its way over to the trig point at Higher Shelf Stones (621 metres), where as you can see, the trig point is positioned a little below the summit.
A short way from here was the extensive wreckage of a B29 Superfortress which met its end in November 1948.
On the 3rd November 1948 RB-29A 44-61999 was being used for a flight from Scampton near Lincoln to Burtonwood near Warrington, a flight of less than a hour. Low cloud hung over much of England that day and as such the flight was to be conducted on instruments. After having flown for the time the crew believed it should have taken them to cross the hill they descended. However the aircraft was not quite past the hills. It struck the ground near Higher Shelf Stones and was destroyed by fire.
The aircraft was soon reported missing and the local authorities and nearby RAF Mountain Rescue Service team were alerted. At the time the MRT were on a training exercise in the Kinder Scout area, they made their way as quickly as possible to the southern side of Bleaklow to begin a search for the crash site. They arrived at the crash site at around 16:30 finding that there had been no survivors and with light fading left the recovery of the crew until the following morning.
The aircraft had, for at least part of its existence, carried the name 'Over Exposed', it got the name while being used by the 509th Composite Group to photograph atomic weapon tests as part of Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll during 1946. The aircraft may have still had this name at the time of the crash, however it was being flown by a completely different crew and was with a different unit.
Following the trail of debris for a while, east was our direction to pick up the Pennine Way, enjoying some good Challenge training through peat hags on our way. A hop and a skip took us from there back to Doctor’s Gate, where we had the choice of heading over to Mill Hill or heading straight back via our outward route. Whilst 14 of the 22 chose the latter and spent the extra couple of hours drinking tea and supping beer, the rest of us continued on along the Pennine Way’s flagstones, to Mill Hill, pictured below with a backdrop of Fairbrook Naze.
Graham then set off down the path towards Glossop to locate the remains of a Liberator plane that crashed here in 1944. This crash story has a happier ending.
The aircraft was being ferried from Burtonwood to Hardwick by a two man ferry crew on the 11th October 1944. The two men took off in the aircraft from Burtonwood near Warrington at 10:32. They set their course and climbed to an indicated altitude of 2800 feet. At approximately 10:45 while in cloud and moderate to severe turbulence, Lt Houpt spotted a small gap in the cloud and saw the ground was only about 150 feet below him. He then applied full power and began to climb, but before they could gain any meaningful height the aircraft struck the ground on Mill Hill some 1.5 miles from the Grouse Inn between Hayfield and Glossop.
The two men extricated themselves from the shattered cockpit and walked along one of the streams until they reached the Hayfield to Glossop road. A passing lorry driver stopped and picked them up and took them to a nearby pub where Lt Houpt telephoned Burtonwood to report the accident. They were then retrieved by an Ambulance from Burtonwood and their injuries were then treated. These were mainly cuts & bruises but Lt Houpt did unfortunately suffer a broken jaw that confined him briefly to bed.
John, Alistair and I enjoyed a chinwag as we descended the soft ground of Ashop Clough, returning to the Snake Inn well before 6 o’clock, in time for Gayle to serve us tea in Colin the Campervan. Graham had forged on ahead, upset that all his erstwhile companions had vetoed his final ‘site visit’ in favour of ‘beer o’clock’.
Here’s our approximate route – per Anquet it was 21 km with 750 metres ascent, but the Garmin gadget’s readings of 24 km and 600 metres ascent are in my opinion more accurate. The Garmin gadget also reveals that the average pace for our first 12 km was nearly 26 minutes per kilometre, reducing to 13 minutes per kilometre for the next 12 km after the party split when it crossed the Doctor’s Gate path following our last cake stop.
Thanks go to Graham for planning a such a good route, and to Gayle for providing many of the above words.
Later we were joined by Sue and Lynsey and a number of others, making the party up to 33 for a most pleasant evening at the Inn.
It was great that the TGO Challenge Co-ordinator, John Manning, was able to join us for the event, though slightly distressing to see how the rigours of the job seem to have aged him…
Nice to see that he still enjoys a good plate of food.
Even if you haven’t clicked on any of the other links in this post, I would recommend that you just take a quick look at the full list of Peak District aircraft crash sites. My mind (and Gayle’s – she wrote this sentence) certainly boggled that there are so many.
There’s a slideshow of my photos here.