Red Deer walk on Big Moor
This is a short circular walk onto Big Moor going into its least hospitable parts. Some footpaths are indistinct and in places there is no path at all. Around the disused reservoir the land can be boggy for much of the year. Please do not attempt this walk unless you have appropriate footwear and have a compass which you know how to use.
Park on the B5074 near Barbrook Bridge. This road runs from Owler Bar towards the Longshaw Estate. There is a lay-by on the north side of this road and parking for one or two cars near the bridge. Do not obstruct the gate onto Big Moor.
1 - After passing through the gate onto the Moor a distinct footpath climbs up towards Lady Cross.
IGNORE this path and take a less worn path leading more south-west than the westerly higher path. In a short distance the path becomes more noticeable and this then climbs gently up to the Hurkling Stone -2. For many generations this has been an important boundary stone.
A short stop at this point is advised as one or two stags regularly frequent the land to your right just before the stone and a further family are often seen to the east in the dip going down towards the disused reservoir.
Ignore the path along the wall towards White Edge and keep heading south on an indistinct route. This continues to climb gently towards the horizon and then turns towards White Edge for a short distance. Soon the path turns south again and you are at the highest point where you may see deer in front of you, in the marshy land to the east of White Edge. On several occasions I have seen deer on the high point to the east of the current position. As a check to your position there should be a small pond to the right of the 'track' -3. (This is a good spot for dragonflies in summer!)
The route now turns gradually south-east and follows the shallow valley. There is no recognised path but the walking is usually easy going. This area down to the disused reservoir is the main sheltering area for the deer and you may well see families or individuals anywhere on the slopes around here.
When you reach a small stream – 4, turn to the east and aim for the bottom corner of the reservoir dam which is clearly visible. Again there is no path – apart from those made by the deer and sheep – but the walking is reasonably easy, if a little damp in places! A gate gives access onto the dam wall at this point -5, but take time to check in all directions for deer. In January this area in front of the gate had been flattened, presumably by sheltering deer, as all the sheep had been taken off the moor for winter.
The walk along the dam wall is easy and flat and gives views into the heart of the Moor where further families wander.
At the far end of the dam wall a metal gate gives access out onto the Moor -6. It is worth doing a short detour to the west up to a tumble down stone wall around a field. This is a favourite deer haunt as the walls give some element of shelter in harsh weather.
Returning towards the dam aim in a rough easterly direction and cross a somewhat boggy patch before coming onto the main track across these Moors -7 . If you wish to extend your walk then turn right on this track and go down to the small Barbrook Reservoir which is an idyllic spot in summer. The Bronze Age burial grounds and 2 stone circles to the east of the Barbrook are well worth exploring. In January we saw a family of deer on these eastern slopes which is not normally their territory but perhaps bad weather had forced them to seek new pasture and shelter. In previous years I have seen deer sheltering in the woodland beneath the small Barbrook Reservoir.
However, our route takes us left on this track towards a cottage nestling in the shelter of the main dam. Cross the metalled road leading to this cottage - 8 - and proceed to the most easterly point of the main disused dam. Do not enter the enclosure but follow a clearly defined path along the fence until you come to a stream. At this point the track leaves the contour of the reservoir and heads north-west. Again the track is easily followed and brings you to a gate onto the old Water Authority track -9 . This track follows the course of the Barbrook back towards the main road. We found this part to be the wettest part of the trip – but at least you are nearly finished!
Look out on the slopes to the other side of the Barbrook for the deer familes mentioned earlier at point 5. When you reach the road you will find the gate is locked -10 - and the official route from here is to go parallel to the road down to the Barbrook and cross it by an ancient large stone slab bridge before reaching the gate at the start of our walk.
In January 2011 we saw over 60 deer on this walk. The wardens reckon there are around 130 on the Moor altogether so I this area is most productive as well as being more accessible than the land to the south.