This is a 100 mile walk from the Croker Hill/Sutton Moor BT Tower in Cheshire to the Winter Hill Transmitter in Lancashire. It covers a large portion of the western edges of the Peak District, before moving through the South Pennines onto the West Pennine Moors. The route traces a line along the hilly horizon from the perspective of Manchester city centre – specifically, the view from my council flat.
The idea had been brewing for a few years. It started when I first got a full sense of the shape of the land around the conurbation of Greater Manchester. I was selling sandwiches in city centre office blocks. One block had an unleased 14th floor which was left empty and unlocked. There were amazing, unhindered views in every direction through the windows of the dormant space. From there, I could see how the high ground formed a kind of a tilted crescent around the region. I could see directly, for the first time, how the places I was familiar with – the hills around the towns I’d grown up and worked in – fit into the larger topographical context.
Later on I moved into a 7th floor flat of a city-centre council block. The edges of the Dark Peak filled the views to the East and South. Over the course of years my relationship with these pennine views changed from a kind of ambient admiration to more of a nagging urge to know them better. I wanted to be able to name what I was seeing, to be more familiar with the order of the land. I was no longer satisfied with vaguely believing that a particular tilted and muzzled peak was probably the same one I recalled from a past visit to Dovestones Reservoir. I wanted to be certain about it.
I started hiking around the areas I could see. Each time I did this the view from home had, on returning to look out at where I’d been, a more tangible reality to it. I began, bit by bit, to learn the horizon.
In tandem with this, the idea to walk the whole of the crescent of high ground that I’d seen in my sandwich years was becoming something less like a pleasing notion and more like something I might actually attempt.
After finally working out a route, I had to work out a way of keeping myself fed and watered. I’m not experienced enough at long distance walking to pack seven days’ worth of food comfortably or to reliably find or prepare safe water, and it would’ve been deflating to have to keep dipping into towns to restock. This was solved by identifying six points along the route, close to roads, where I could leave hidden stashes of food and water. A car journey was taken a few days before setting off on the walk, to plant these stashes in such a way that they’d be unlikely to be spotted by passers by, but so that I’d be able to find them without too much effort. The main concern was hungry rodents or other creatures that might think it worth chewing through the bin-bags, gaffer tape and tupperware to get to what was inside. Thankfully each stash was left completely untouched and I was adequately stocked throughout the trip.