Bleaklow and the Bristol Blenheim Crash Site

I’m bitten by the bug that seems to get its teeth in to wreck hunters…. Chris had been teasing me, "I've got some more crash sites we can look at" he said.

I just had to get the coordinates and somehow, squeeze a day in somewhere amid my working diary.

Yes, work, the curse of the outdoor folk. But where would we be without it?

We wouldn't be able to afford to get to a lot of these places with the money it brings in, nor buy that shiny new bit of kit you've been yearning for.

Oh, and just as important, somewhere to stow all that shiny kit when you can't use it because your boss says, "No dice son, you gotta work....."
(Lyrics from Summertime Blues Writers:  Eddie Cochran/Jerry Neal Capehart)

After a little discussion with Chris, my Bleaklow walking buddy, who had looked up two more air crash sites to visit. The two sites we would be looking at were; the Bristol Blenheim and Blackburn Botha.

Chris emailed the coordinates for both of the crash sites and I plotted a route using a very handy tool, Memory Map.

Our start point would be where the Pennine Way crosses the Snake Pass, heading for Bleaklow Head, then towards Torside to visit the Bristol Blenheim. From there, we would backtrack back to Bleaklow Head, and then pick up Black Clough for the Blackburn Botha.

It was decided to visit the Bristol Blenheim first, based on a known and proven route, then to see how things progressed for the Blackburn Botha afterwards.

I downloaded the Memory Map Route Card, which gave me the total distance and height gained, to allow me to calculate the overall time required to visit the two crash sites using Naismith’s rule.

Before I continue; a brief explanation for those not too familiar with Naismith’s rule.

Naismith’s Rule was devised in 1892 by William J Naismith, a Scottish Mountaineer. Basically, William Naismith worked on a basic formula using distance divided by average speed to calculate the estimated time duration of a route.

Naismith’s Rule according to Wikipedia;   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naismith's_Rule

William Naismith also included in his rule, the fact that as you start to climb, you will not walk as fast, and therefore, to cover a similar distance will take longer.

The average walking speed used by Naismith is 3 mph and add 1 minute for every 10 metres climbed.

On top of all that, it is recommended to add 10% extra to your walking time along with a lunch break of what you decide is a suitable lunch stop.

Don't be afraid to add time when planning a route or even shorten the route.

PLEASE NOTE; this is for confident walking conditions. If you have to stop a lot to check your route, which is quite normal for a new route you’re attempting, then your average speed will reduce considerably and the distance to cover will take longer.
The Groughs on Bleaklow

When I’m attempting a new route, I’ll quite happily reduce my average speed to no more than 1½ mph, even though I will quite easily attain a walking speed of 3 mph while I'm on the move. This is to allow extra time to check the map and route.

Also, with terrain like Kinder or Bleaklow, which is a very uneven route, lots of ups and downs as you traverse the groughs (troughs or dips in the ground, some of which can be very deep and steep sided), even after covering the same route repeatedly, I’ll keep the average walking speed down to 1½ mph.

Experience will tell you what is the best average speed to use depending on the terrain you're walking and also how long you will take to climb 10 metres, enabling you to tailor Naismith’s Rule to your own abilities.

I've digressed, I need to get back to the planning of our walk to reach the Bristol Blenheim and Blackburn Botha crash sites.

This worked out to be close on twelve hours total, assuming we didn’t have too much difficulty in locating either or both crash sites.

I printed out maps on the waterproof paper I’ve become quite attached to using, covering the area we would be walking in, along with an extra copy covering an escape route to Torside should things start to turn nasty.

Even though the weather was looking good, I always incorporate plans for adverse weather, no matter how good the forecast is. After all, it is good old British weather.....

With our route planned, we set off on Sunday 6th May, following the Pennine Way, in glorious sunshine with no snow!

On the initial stage of our walk, we did a pacing check. I know the number of paces I take to cover 100 metres, but Chris hadn’t attempted anything like this before. So it would be a useful exercise for future walks if things became a little interesting.





The Pennine Way heading for Bleaklow Head


As we walked along the Pennine Way towards Bleaklow Head, we chatted about various things, one of which was wild camping and we looked at possible sites along with water quality and also other routes and crash sites (I need more weeks in the day to fit all these crash sites in :-/).

The weather couldn’t have been better, a steady 7ºC and the wind around 5 – 6 mph, making for quite a mild day. A big change from the brimstone and snow, that Mother Nature threw at us last time when we went to see the B29 Superfortress.

We reached Bleaklow Head, stopping so I could pose on the cairn, something I couldn’t do last time, because the weather was a little inclement.
Me posing on the Cairn at Bleaklow Head

Did I just say inclement, well, I guess that’s polite enough for what the wind and snow was throwing at us back at Easter time.

After a brief stop at Bleaklow Head, we continued along the Pennine Way towards Torside, but with the intention of passing Far Moss, then going off path from the Grouse Butts towards the Bristol Blenheim crash site.

The Bristol Blenheim Crash Site as we approached it


I will confess, that while I was happy to use tried and trusted map, compass and pacing methods, we had no problem embracing modern technology, just to speed up the journey.

But it did prove useful in checking my navigation skills vs. the GPS. I’m happy to report, we both the GPS and I  agreed on our location.

We then headed off path, a little earlier than planned. I set the bearing based our assumed location from my skills verified by the GPS, for the Bristol Blenheim crash site.

We followed the bearing extremely accurately, managing to find suitable small features to aim for.
<><>
Looking up to the Bristol Blenheim Crash Site

Given that we would have to traverse groughs, which could be quite deep, we also used a technique called leap frog. This is not the leap frog where one of you would bend down to allow the other to jump over you, this was where one person would walk off on an assumed bearing and then stop at a suitable point.

Chris was sent off on this assumed bearing. Once he was at a suitable point, I guided Chris using verbal and arm instruction, to line up with the desired bearing. Once Chris had been aligned to the desired bearing, I then set off to join him.

This worked a treat, along with using features to maintain the bearing, for us to locate the Bristol Blenheim crash site.

I will confess to checking our bearings on occasions with the GPS, but really, there was not much cause for concern, we were not that far away from the crash site, especially as the coordinates were only a few metres off.

That is in no way a criticism of the person who put the coordinates on their website, because there are many factors as to where the variations could come from. It may be they used an old GPS with poorer accuracy over today’s GPS units, or they may have plotted it purely by map and compass, or a combination of methods.

Or perhaps the GPS we used was had a wider variation on the accuracy!

Whatever the reason, or reasons, I was more than happy with the accuracy.




We had a good wander around, paying our respects to the two pilots who died; Pilot Officer S J D Robinson and Acting Pilot Officer J E Thomas.
 


There was a plaque at the crash site, placed on the cairn that had been erected.

The inscription reads;
A BRISTOL BLENHEIM BOMBER, SERIAL
NO L1476 OF 64 SQUADRON ROYAL AIR
FORCE CRASHED AT THIS SITE ON 30TH
JANUARY 1939, KILLING THE TWO
CREW MEMBERS:
PLT. OFF. S. J. D. ROBINSON
ACT. PLT. OFF. J. E. THOMAS

THIS CAIRN WAS ERECTED BY THE
STAFF AND CADETS OF 1401 (ALFRETON
& RIPLEY) SQUADRON, AIR TRAINING
CORPS, ON THE 18TH MAY1991, IN MEMORY
OF THE CREW MEMBERS WHO DIED AND
TO COMMEMORATE THE 50TH
ANNIVERSARY OF THE FORMATION OF
THE AIR TRAINING CORPS

We then sat and ate our lunch, taking in the peace and quiet, while trying to work out the flight path the pilots may have flown before that fateful moment back in 1939.

We could look over to Manchester from the crash site, watching the planes on their final approach to Manchester Airport.

Manchester in the distance


One thing I did notice, there wasn’t many poppies or wreaths at the crash site, unlike the B29 Superfortress, which had quite a large collection.
A small wreath of poppies



I appreciate there was only the two aircrew in the Bristol Blenheim, unlike the Superfortress, which lost thirteen aircrew.

This is in no way a critism, purely an observation based on visiting only two crash sites to date. It will be interesting to see how the other crash sites compare.

We must remember, these crash sites are stuck out in open and bleak places that are not easily accessible to everyone, unlike a War Memorial or Aboretum, which will be easily accessible to everyone.

Lunch finished, we kitted back up and started to make our way back towards the Pennine Way, backtracking to Bleaklow Head, and then head off towards the Blackburn Botha.

By this time, we had agreed that it was highly unlikely we would reach our second destination in reasonable time, but nonetheless, we would see how far we would get.

As we departed the crash site, Chris recalled stumbling across another crash site in the immediate vicinity.

We did have a scout round, but nothing became obvious. Perhaps another time, who knows?

So we continued backtracking along the Pennine Way to Bleaklow Head via Far Moss. Once we arrived at Bleaklow Head, the decision had been made, the Blackburn Botha will have to be another day’s visit.
Bleaklow Head


But, undeterred, we would walk part of the route, just to get a feel for it.

You may recall, we considered walking up Black Clough. This seemed straightforward enough, though we noticed walkers coming in from a different direction, heading towards us at Bleaklow Head and we became curious.
Looking out towards Black Clough!

Still undeterred, we tried to pick up the track to Black Clough, not as easy as it seemed. We followed a trodden path, but I was getting a bit concerned it didn’t seem to pick up the direction we needed to go.

We were seriously considering a route change at this point and returned to Bleaklow Head, with the intention of talking to walkers who were coming along a different path.

We stopped one couple heading our way to understand the route they had been on.They, along with the other walkers we had seen,  were approaching Bleaklow Head via the Stakes route.

We had quite an interesting discussion, which seriously prompted a route change, following the Stakes instead of Black Clough, heading for Bleaklow Hill and then Bleaklow Stones.

While the map shows the ground as marsh, the ground was considerably dry, so we weren’t too worried about traversing the peat bog. However, I feel that Black Clough may be the wisest choice generally.

Chris and I discussed tactics and set a time limit, no matter what, by 3:30pm we would start our return back to the cars and our start point.

So we headed off to pick up the Stakes, upping and downing the shallow groughs, keeping a careful eye on the compass, map and GPS for location info.

The time to return back to the start point was looming in fast, so we made the decision to return to the cars and pick up the Pennine Way.

Far from disheartened, because we didn’t anticipate completing the two crash sites in one day, we actually felt a lot had been gained, whetting the appetite for a return visit.

Not long after turning back, we picked up the Pennine Way and followed it south to where our cars were parked.

As we neared the Snake Pass, we looked across towards Kinder and Mill Hill, with ideas of possibly walking that part from the Snake Pass, out towards Mill Hill at a later date. Oh, and more crash sites out there as well....
Looking over towards Kinder


Though my OS OL1 map was in my pack, the printed map I had didn’t cover that far south. So looking at the shape of Kinder, it looked almost like there could be quite a steep climb up from the Snake Pass.
A map showing the Blenheim and Botha crash sites.

It was a really enjoyable day, the weather was just perfect, even though there was snow flurries, while the sun was still shining, on the eastern side of Bleaklow, which we never experienced on the western side.

Oh, by the way, I didn't get Bleaklowed this time......  (see my previous blog; Bleaklow, The B29 Superfortress and I got Bleaklowed)

One thing I really enjoy while out walking is the camaraderie with fellow walkers. It’s always nice to say hello and wish someone a save journey, and even exchange route information.

While we were out, we met quite a few doing the Pennine Way, along with those just out for the day like us.

I hope those who were doing the Pennine Way, managed to complete it.

Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,
Peak Rambler





10 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed that, thanks.
    Rich

    ReplyDelete
  2. I look forward to your blogposts because I always learn something - the walking speed observations are great and I also enjoyed your experience of the accuracy of leapfrogging (which I tried on a course years ago but have not actually done out in the field). Yet again - a great read Mike :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Karen. I aim to keep them interesting and informative.
      I just can't wait to get out on the next walk.

      Delete
  3. I enjoyed this post too - this is a spot that we have been intending to visit for a while but we never get there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Louise for your comment.

      Due to the size of the Bristol Blenheim, being very small, along with souvenier hunters, the wreckage covers an extremely small area.
      Added to that, it is hidden well within a relatively deep grough, making it harder to spot, unlike the B29 Superfortress, a very large aircraft and the Defiant, again a small aircraft but not hidden in a grough.
      It took Chris and myself a little while to pinpoint the wreckage.

      Delete
  4. Thanks for your comment and the above reply. Don't worry, we know exactly where this wreckage is, we just haven't made it there yet!

    I've seen Tissington Well Dressing this year in photos but we missed it this year - shame as I loved the Gruffalo one! I fondly remember Longnor well dressing from my childhood as my grandparents lived there but they don't do it there any more. There are so many well dressings over the next few months I hope to see a few, but it depends on how the dates fit in with other plans.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm going looking for the wrecks tomorrow with a friend; he's from Leeds and does most of his walking in The Dales...this should be something completely different for him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lee, my humble apologies for not activating this comment sooner. Unfortunately it's still very difficult to get to my computer since my leg was mangled earlier this year while using a pedestrian crossing to cross a major trunk road.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and also for leaving a comment.

      I hope you managed to find the Bristol Blenheim wreckage. Please feel free to report back.

      Delete