Approaching Laddow Rocks from Crowden
Black Hill is a fine mountain and this circuit enables you to see it at its finest - or wildest if the weather is bad. The route starts at Crowden and follows the Pennine Way up the mountain before returning to Crowden along another ridge further to the east. The route is not difficult to follow - especially now that much of the Pennine Way path is paved - but it is high and exposed to the elements.
Start from the car park just below Crowden Youth Hostel. An exit at the back of the car park takes you to a small lane alongside the small campsite - follow this up past the campsite. Continue straight on and then branch left, which takes you into the grounds of Crowden Outdoor Centre. The path goes right across the front of the centre and exits via a stile on the far (west) side. From here climb steadily up the hillside to eventually join the route of the Pennine Way.
Crowden Great Brook
The Pennine Way contours along the west side of the Crowden valley, taking the western branch when it splits into Crowden Great Brook and Crowden Little Brook. After nearly 2 kilometres you approach Oaken Clough and the path starts to rise dramatically. The path crosses Oaken Clough and after a stiff climb emerges at the top of the hillside high above Laddow Rocks, which you can look down on to your right. This is one of the birthplaces of Peak District rock-climbing.
From here the route follows the top of the valley side for a while before beginning a gradual descent back to the stream, with which it is reunited about 2 km north of Laddow Rocks. It then follows the stream for another kilometre or so, and this section can be very boggy in wet weather. So can the next section where the path turns north-east to cross Grains Moss to Dun Hill, but this has been paved almost all the way to the summit to prevent further damage to this delicate environment.
Climbing Dun Hill
From Dun Hill the path follows a clough with a prominent cairn to emerge onto the summit plateau and the trig point at Soldier's Lump. The story goes that the original trig point here was set on a bed of logs because it was so boggy that the army surveyors were unable to find any solid ground. Until the 1970s the peat was to the base of the trig point, but sadly the peat here has become badly eroded and the trig point now stands at least a metre above the ground level. The erosion is so bad that the path has had to be paved right across this area. The whole summit area of Black Hill has recently been the subject of a project to arrest the erosion and bring back the lush vegetation which once covered the area. Sheep have been excluded and a lot of seed has been scattered, with what seem to be promising results.
The route now returns along the ridge between Crowden Little Brook and Heyden Brook. It is very tempting to head towards the landmark of Holme Moss TV mast, but resist this temptation. The route heads on a bearing of approximately 120 degrees across the quaintly named Tooleyshaw Moss - a new cairn has been erected and if the visibility is good you will be able to see it on edge of the summit plateau. The ground here is very rough and any path is very indistinct, but once you pick up the line of small cairns things become rather easier. After about 500 metres you enter a series of small groughs and the path becomes more distinct - if you can't find it immediately then just try to stick to the top of the ridge.
The path now descends for almost another 2 kilometres to the dip between Tooleyshaw Moss and Westend Moss, and by now it is heading almost due south. Here and there it diverts eastwards to avoid boggy ground, and it's easy to follow this line and end up down in Heyden Brook - try to avoid this if possible! The proper route swings to the south-west and climbs the slight rise onto Westend Moss.
Head straight down the end of Westend Moss, about south-south-west, to reach Hey Moss. Here you have a choice - either follow the crest of the ridge south and then south-west down to the quarry workings at the end, or make a gradual descent down the west side of the hill to reach a landrover track which contours around the hillside below. If you follow this southwards then it arrives at the track which leads from Crowden up to the quarry. Descend steeply down this path to arrive back at your starting point.