The Crowden Horseshoe: A Pale Pond of Dancing Dragonflies
Hollie looks out on the rugged open moorland of the Peak District

The Crowden Horseshoe follows a humble river as it makes its way through the winding slopes of the Peak District. The river's banks deposit you at the beginnings of a vast, open marshland, where dragonflies dance around a pale pond.

Hollie jumps eroded bogland

The river was everchanging. One moment clear, enveloped in dramatic reflections; the next a dribbling mess stained red with the clay-like mud that decorated its high mossy banks. Deep black and sparkling red stones furnished the shores. They looked as if they had recently been spat from a volcano and crystallised. There was no sign of a volcano nearby though, which is just as well because I don't think the local population of rabbits and sheep would fare very well. Most sheep quiver at a sneeze.

Hollie overlooks a winding, rock-strewn river

At the mouth of the river, the marshes were all-encompassing. The vastness would have been intimidating were it not for the wooden beacons erected to guide us home. We made off through the bogland. If heavy rain had soaked into its pores, I can’t see how parts of the Crowden Horseshoe would be traversable. I decided to overcome a particularly soggy patch of land with a bold running jump - a squelchy mistake. Bog filled one of my boots with a greedy readiness. Hollie, who had anticipated my failure from the start (or who maybe just has a better understanding of gravity than me), found this particularly amusing. I took not getting sucked into the mud pit as a definite win and with pride, noted to myself that I had indeed crossed the bog. Head held high, I squelched all the way home. A long way with soggy toes.

        Words & Photography: Scott Norris (@_scott_norris) // summer 2014

Map and Directions

crowden-horseshoe elevation chart

Directions For The Crowden Horseshoe Walk



  1. From the car park in Crowden, head west through the forest.
  2. When you get to the wall, turn right and head along the bridleway, keeping the camp site on your left and the forest on your right.
  3. At the crossroads keep straight and carry on until the youth hostel car park.
  4. At the opposite end of the car park, ascend a small path.
  5. After crossing the small bridge the path diverges. Keep north along a path that heads left and begins climbing the hill.
  6. You soon join the larger Pennine Way. Follow this right (north). It is a good path, but can be boggy in places.
  7. The path descends and crosses a stream before ascending again.
  8. The way steepens towards Black Chew Head before dropping down again to follow a winding brook.
  9. Keep the brook on your right, until fording a number of times as it narrows towards the end of the valley.
  10. At the end of the valley, climb over the stile and ascend towards a plateau and Black Hill, passing a pond.
  11. At the summit trig point head SE on a bearing of 150˚ for 50m. Beware the bogs. Aim for the cairn on Tooleyshaw Moss when it becomes visible.
  12. From the Tooleyshaw cairn head south then SE over the moorland along the path (marked by helpful wooden posts or stone cairns). After 1km, dropping down and up again you will find yourself at a high point on Tooleyshaw Moor.
  13. Continue heading south crossing a stile and then ascending onto White Low/Westend Moss.
  14. Head SW from these tops, to a wider path. Keep descending SW, following the curves of the hill.
  15. Join the track, heading left. When the track begins curving sharply left, a stile heads off to the right. Cross the stile and head down to Crowden and the youth hostel from earlier.
  16. Retrace your steps to the car park.