Secrets of the Dark Peak

The title of this post may well have caught your interest – the same effect came over me when I chanced upon these two wonderful books one weekend in the Peak District.

The first is a ghost story written by Pat Cunningham, an ex-RAF and British Midland Airways pilot and author of three other books forming a series entitled Peakland Air Crashes.

In Kinder’s Mists

“As he returns to flying after a traumatic crash, pragmatic airline captain, and keen fell-walker, Mark Johnston, is taken aback to find himself haunted by guilt. When conscience urges that it would be morally wrong of him to more fully commit to therapist Helen, the woman he loves, he embarks upon a mind-clearing walk across the Kinder Scout plateau. He discovers, however, that not all is what it seems in Kinder’s mists.”

Intriguing, to say the least even if the book cover is somewhat dull – but you know that old saying about judging a book by it’s cover.

As it happens, though the story is a little slow to begin with and a little irritating with constant references by the character of Mark about the love of his life – I felt like screaming at the guy to “stop being such a bloody big girl’s blouse!” – it evolves into a moody and gripping read.

There is much talk about the engineering aspects of flying at first which again becomes distracting to the casual reader – however the effect of this along with detailed descriptions of the Kinder moors only leads you to forget you are reading a ghost story. You become so engrossed with what happens and becomes of Mark that when the final revelation hits you – it truly is spine-tingling.

Any shudder soon gives way to a wry smile, though – but that moment of realisation will stay with you for a while. I can’t really say much else for fear of ruining your enjoyment of this tale.

All in all a bloody good read.

Dark Peak Aircraft Wrecks 1 by Ron Collier and Roni Wilkinson.

“Since the early days of flying in this country, the Dark Peak area of what is now the Peak District National Park has earned a sinister reputation. For this is nothing less than an aircraft graveyard, and one that, all too often, has claimed the lives of pilots, aircrew and passengers.”

Now, I’ve come across some of these wrecks on Kinder Scout – often by chance – and am aware of the U.S.A.F ‘Over Exposed’ on Bleaklow Stones but I’ve never found the urge to seek out these haunting wrecks  thinking this very act to be somewhat morbid.

Initially borne out of curiosity, only recently do I feel that visiting such places acts as a way to remember and respect any poor souls who perished in these accidents – many of which were returning from Second World War bombing raids over Germany.

The sites themselves serve as a reminder to our recent history as much as anything else that can be discovered in the Peak District.

The book is a great source of information to the surprising many wrecks out on the Dark Peak hills – you learn about the pilots, where they came from, their personalties and of course how many came to their tragic end. It’s poignant and shocking in equal measure.

An interesting glimpse into the history of a familiar landscape.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. gaz says:

    Terry here is some info of the halifax bomber which crashed in the lake district on great carrs

    crashed Halifax bomber LL505, Cumbria.

    Wreckage of Halifax Bomber LL505 FD-S which crashed October 22 1944 on Great Carrs in the Lake District, England, killing all 8 crew on board (7 Canadians, 1 Brit).

    The Halifax was on a night navigation exercise from Topcliffe in Yorkshire when they ran into thick cloud. The pilot descended so that the navigator could get a visual fix on the ground but the bomber crashed on the ridge between Great Carrs and Swirl How.

    16 years after the crash, A Wainwright in his guide to the Southern Fells, wrote;
    “The aeroplane, travelling from west to east, failed to clear the ridge by a few feet only; at the place of impact the undercarriage was ripped off (and still lies there in a rough grave of stones) but the crippled machine went on over the edge to crash far down the precipice…”

    F/O J A Johnston RCAF
    F/O F A Bell RCAF
    P/O R N Whitley RCAF
    Sgt H E Pyche RCAF
    Sgt C G Whittingstall RCAF
    Sgt D F Titt RCAF
    Sgt G Riddoch RCAF
    Sgt W B Ferguson RAF

    Gaz ps great site keep those vids coming fantastic


  2. terrybnd says:

    Thanks for that Gaz. Very interesting indeed.


  3. GeoffC says:

    We thought it was a bizarre idea at first, but we did several day walks in the Dark Peak based on tours of aircraft wrecks and they were superb. It's extraordinary how you get caught up in the atmosphere and spirit of it and imagine the history behind them.


  4. terrybnd says:

    Hi Geoff,

    There is a sense of it being morbid seeking out these sites – but you soon realise not only is it a history lesson and great for navigation practice – but you are paying respects to the poor souls who died.


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