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Chinley Churn and South Head

Two green hills rise above the Pennine village of Chinley on the edge of the Kinder moors.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 950ft (290m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field paths, quarry and farm tracks, a few stiles

Landscape Hill pastures and moorland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 1 Dark Peak

Start/finish SK 041827

Dog friendliness Dogs should be kept on leads

Parking Roadside parking by Chinley War Memorial, Maynestone Road, or village car park

Public toilets None on route


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1 From the war memorial in Chinley head north east up Maynestone Road. Leave it for a signposted path (grid ref 042828) through a narrow ginnel on the left. Go over a stile and climb north west across fields towards Cracken Edge. On reaching a cart track turn right, then left on a path passing between two hillside farmhouses. Go through a gate past the farm on the right before climbing to the lower edge of the quarry.

2 Swing right on a sketchy path, passing a large hawthorn tree at the base of the grassy hillslope. You join a quarry track that zig-zags up the slope before heading northwards beneath quarry cliffs. Go over the stile in the fence across the track, then climb by this fence to the cliff top.

3 Turn right along a narrow edge path, then right again on a grassy ramp bridging two quarried pits. Now descend left to a prominent grassy track running beneath the brow of the hill and past Whiterakes cottage.

4 Turn right on the track leading from Hills Farm and descend to a tarred lane which passes the evocatively named Peep-O-Day to the A624.

5 Turn left along the pavement of the busy road. After 150yds (137m) an old cart track on the right takes the route past the crater of an old quarry. Turn right at a T-junction of tracks to traverse the lower, grassy slopes of Mount Famine to reach the the col beneath the peak of South Head.

6 It's worth making a detour to see South Head. The obvious route leaves the track to climb westwards to the summit. Back at the col, go through the gate by the more easterly of two access notices. Go over a stile by a pole and descend south-westwards to a walled track.

7 Follow this down to a crossroads of routes north of Andrews Farm. Go straight on into a muddy field. The path soon develops into a track and joins the descending cart track from Andrews Farm.

8 On reaching the A624 turn right for 50yds (46m), then cross to the signposted footpath, which cuts diagonally to the right corner of the first field before following a wall towards Otter Brook. As an old field boundary comes in from the right the path turns half-left to cross the brook on a slabbed bridge.

9 A muddy path now climbs out through scrubby woodland to Maynestone Road. Turn left and follow it back to Chinley.

Stand on the Hayfield to Chapel-en-le-Frith road at Chinley Head and you'll see two fine hills, South Head and Chinley Churn. Both are as green as the little combe of Otter Brook that separates them, and the field boundary walls that are emblazoned on their slopes like spider's webs only accentuate their graceful contours.

The best base for exploring both hills is Chinley. Two sweeping curved viaducts that span the valley high above the town's rooftops are a reminder that this was once an important railway town; a junction for Sheffield, Manchester and Derby trains. The Reverend Henry Thorald called the viaducts one of the greatest monuments to Victorian industrial England. At one time over 150 trains a day would have raced through the valley. At its height Chinley station had a café, a bookstall and busy waiting rooms on every platform.

On leaving Chinley you are immediately confronted by the rust coloured crags, known as Cracken Edge. They form the upper of two distinct tiers. When you get closer the crags turn out to be the remains of an old slate quarry. Exploration reveals the cave entrances of shafts dug to extract the best of the stone; also part of the winding engine that conveyed the slate down to the valley below. Today the scene is of degeneration; the gear to rust: the spoil heaps to grass.

When you reach the brow of the hill you're rewarded with a panorama of the second part of the walk. In it Kinder Scout peeps over the grassy peaks of Mount Famine and South Head. A pleasant grass track takes the route down from the edge back to the fields of Otter Brook's upper combe. At Chinley Head you come to a stark stone-built house with a strange name. Facing eastwards, the house catches the first of the morning sunshine that glints over the hilltops. That's why it's called Peep-O-Day. Note the small circular window built to catch those early rays

The second part of the walk is spent on the eastern side of the combe of the Otter Brook. Another substantial old quarry track takes the route across the lower slopes of Mount Famine to a windswept little pass beneath South Head. From here the Sett Valley and the attractive field patterns surrounding South End farm are hidden by the gritstone rim of Mount Famine and the woods of Kinder Bank. The highland plateau of Kinder Scout has disappeared behind the spur of Kinderlow End. But it's only a matter of a short climb to the summit of South Head at 1,620ft (494m) to bring it all back in to view, and much more, before ending the day with an easy descent back into the valley below using farm tracks and field paths.

Where to eat and drink

The Navigation Inn at Whaley Bridge is a cosy little pub with seafaring memorabilia and historical photos on the walls. Its menu consists mainly of traditional, home-cooked meals. ...

While you're there

Have a look around Buxworth, a village a mile or so west of Chinley. This was once a busy inland port and a terminus for the Peak Forest Tramway and the Peak Forest Canal. These pre-railway industrial transport routes were built in 1806 to link the Peak with the River Mersey.


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