In recent months I’ve really started to enjoy running again. I’ve established half a dozen training routes, developed a Park Run habit and ticked off a handful of local fell races. But what’s more important is that I’ve started to plan ahead. A circuit of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks before the end of the year*, the Marsden to Edale Trigger Race in January and perhaps some sections of the Bob Graham Round in the spring. I’m even coming around to the idea of signing up for the challenging Hathersage Hurtle in May! But before all that there’s plenty of fascinating areas to seek out and explore. Last week, David and I headed out onto Bleaklow to see if we could identify the remains of 3 crash sites featured in Pat Cunningham’s fascinating “High Peak Air Crash Sites”...
High Peak Air Crash Sites by Pat Cunningham
The Peak District lies right in the centre of the UK and has therefore been on the flight path of countless aircraft. Unfortunately during the 1940's and 50's the combination of high hills and inclement weather led to a number of crashes in the area. As Pat Cunningham explains,
The essential cause of most crashes was that, flying at night and in cloud, the crews thought they were over a low lying region and that a 2000 foot reading on their altimeter meant, therefore, that they had that much clear air beneath them. What the altimeter was not designed to tell the hapless few was that their aircraft was already brushing a 2000 foot above sea level rock strewn heather moor.
As you'd expect for this time of year we were accompanied by a cold blustery wind, whilst the odd burst of sunshine was quickly replaced by a series of stubborn showers. Nevertheless the run north along the Pennine Way from the A57 was well sheltered thanks to some impressive walls of peat. Too soon we reached Hern Cloud. Here, a vague path provided us with just enough encouragement to head west and after what seemed like only a few minutes we found ourselves amongst the wreckage of a Boeing F013A Superfortress. Silently we stopped, overwhelmed by what we had found.
David inspecting a fragment of the Boeing F-13A Superfortress 44-6199 that crashed on the 3rd November 1948 killing all 13 crew
However the weather didn’t allow us chance to dwell for too long. Quickly we found the nearby 621m trig point and headed towards the remains of the Avro Lancaster on James’ Thorn. Unfortunately, our map and compass work let us down and we were unable to locate the monument and small pool of wreckage debris. Nevertheless, we meandered around the moor thoroughly engrossed in our search. Eventually our attention turned to our final crash site – a Douglas C-47 Skytrain. Now wearing our jackets and running through sleety rain we contoured around the southerly edge of the plateau and dropped down into Ashton Clough.
Remains of the Douglas C-47 Skytrain 42-108982 that crashed on the 24th July 1945 killing 5 crew and 2 passengers
Here, we encountered several pieces of wreckage that had been swept off the plateau by the salvage crew. This is apparently common practise as it ensures that old wreckage is not confused by search and rescue teams looking for new crash sites. Finally, with our low point reached we crossed a swollen stream, gained the Doctor’s Gate path and headed back along the Pennine Way.
David descending Ashton Clough. The extensive wreckage was deliberately swept down the clough by the salvage team in order to prevent any confusion with subsequent aircrash sites
Rarely had a run gone so quickly or stirred such emotions. To visit such sites was an incredibly humbling experience and one we’ll do again. Next time we’ll bring a GPS!
Pat Cunningham's book is highly recommended and can be bought here.
*Completed on a dull winter day shortly after writing this post. It really was a wonderful day out - 24 miles and 1500m of vertical height gain - ideal preparation for something like this!
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