Combs Moss is an outlier of the higher moors of the Daark Peak. It sits between Buxton and Chapel-en-le-Frith, mainly overlooking the latter. Looking upwards from Chapel, a long escarpment dominates the skyline, marked by two protruding side ridges radiating from its eastern edge.
The further of the two, between Combs and Short Edges, is the site of a pre-historic fortress. Using the steep drop on its northern side a double defensive series of ditches at its back, made it an almost impregnable outpost.
Using the steep slope of the escarpment, enemy attackers coming from the north would be seen long before they reached the difficult slope rising beneath the fort. With rough moorland slowing attackers from the south and east, whoever held the fortress would have plenty of time to prepare themselves from anyone wanting to use surprise in their favour.
Combs is an anglicised version of the Welsh word ‘cwm’, meaning a mountain hollow. This hollow became an ideal place to build a reservoir supplying water for the Peak Forest Canal, the northern arm of a canal network linking Trent and Derwent Valley waterways to the North West by way of a railway across the dry limestone countryside of the White Peak. Peak Forest Canal runs west from Whaley Bridge joining the north western network at Marple where it links the industrial Midlands with Lancashire.
I have a special interest in this walk around the upper reaches of the Combs Valley. During my first camp with a scout troop, we pitched our tents in a farmer’s field just outside Combs village. One of our walks followed a rough path up on to the escarpment, the route following one of the side streams. The sight of what seemed endless miles of rough moorland stretching south when we crested the escarpment lip has never left me, and I am sure it formed the start of my love of wild places and high mountains.
The walk starts and ends at the car park below Combs Reservoir, a popular sailing spot. Next it follows the reservoir’s western bank to its end before turning along a country lane into Combs village and its friendly Beehive Inn. A winding field track climbs up to a point close to Chapel-en-le-Frith station, before dropping down to Chapel Golf Course and the side of the main road back to the car park.
3 miles (4.8km) of frequently rough waterside paths and across fields. Maximum ascent 164ft (50m). Many stiles in field boundaries. Muddy after rain.
Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale, Sheet OL24; White Peak Area.
Bus services and trains from Buxton.
Car Park below Combs Reservoir dam.
Beehive Inn at the centre of Combs village and the Gate Inn on the village access road junction with the B5470.
From the car park below Combs Reservoir, and keeping the reservoir on your left, follow the path climbing beside the dam and turn left to follow the western bank of Combs Reservoir.
Follow the course of Meveril Brook as it runs parallel to the reservoir. Ignore the first footbridge on your right after a little under half a mile.
At the four-way path junction at the narrow far end of the reservoir, turn sharp right, go over the footbridge beside the path junction and cross to follow a field path.
Go under the railway bridge and then follow the path up to a minor country lane.
Turn left along this lane which leads directly into Combs village.
Bear left beyond the Beehive Inn, then follow a side lane for about 100yards until it joins another lane, signposted to Dove Holes and again bearing left.
Turn left and climb this lane for a little over a quarter of a mile as far as Rye Flatt Farm.
Turn left opposite the farm, on to a field path winding its way around the curving hillside. Take the left hand path after a little over 200 yards.
Keeping beneath the access drive to The Lodge, which will be on your right, follow the path as it descends towards the railway. Join the access drive away from The Lodge (a one-time sporting retreat).
Go under the railway bridge and follow the Lodge drive downhill as far as Down Lea Farm. N.B. Many of the footpaths on the next half mile have a reputation for being some of the muddiest in the district, especially after a prolonged period of rain.
About 100 yards beyond the farm look out for a footpath on your left. Join this and walk towards Marsh Hall Farm, about a quarter of a mile distant.
Bear right away from the farm for about 120 yards as far as a footpath junction where you should take the path bearing left.
Walk downstream above a deep-cut stream and then in a couple of hundred yards and at the next footpath junction, bear right to cross the golf course. Take care to follow the waymarks across the links.
Reaching the road, the B5470 turn left and using the pavement on the far side, follow past the road junction for Combs village. Continue along the main road towards the dam end of the reservoir, cross over and then turn left for the car park. For anyone relying on public transport, there is a bus stop close to the junction with the village road. There is another pub, the Hanging Gate on the opposite side of the road, conveniently close to the end of the walk.