Bakewell to Highlow Hall



I had a great long day walking with my old school friend Gary Brown on saturday.  He’s currenty training for an assult on the Coast to Coast walk in August to raise much needed funds for a charity he has a direct and personal relationship with, the Miscarrage Association.  I always find it enormously impressive when the most quiet, the most unassuming, the most gentle of people go way beyond what would be reasonable for a cause they are personnally connected to and often by the most difficult of circumstances.  Gary’s website, where you can find out more and sponsor him, is http://www.garyscoast2coast.blogspot.co.uk/

As part of his training, and part of mine for Elbrus, we agreed to spend a weekend in the Peak District as a dry run / practice for his big walk.  This would let him test things like camping with his Dad (who will be supporting him throughout), cooking and eating, kit and the ‘expedition’ routine.  It would also help assess fitness through a two day ‘yomp’ on a route from Bakewell in the White Peak to Hope in the Dark Peak.  The route was published at http://www.livefortheoutdoors.com/upload/545840/attachments/White%20to%20dark%20route.pdf as a 3-day trip, while we were aiming to cram it into 2 longer days.

In order to give us an early start on day one, we headed into the Peak on friday evening to our campsite just outside Bakewell.  Greenhills Holiday Park is a very nice site with great facilities including a shop and pub, and the tent pegs slid into the ground easier than I can remember for a very long time.  It was busy though.  And noisey.  I do love to see young people enjoying the challenge of outdoor and adventurous activity, but it seemed the site was overwhelmed by DofE groups with the inevitable result that we were late getting to sleep, followed by awaking at about 5.30am.  Hey ho.

After breakfast, we were dropped off in the town and started our walk at about 7.45am.  I confess to finding myself pondering about what a slightly incongruous pair we must have made, me with my 19 year old rucksack, 10 year old mountain boots and Yeti Gaiters, smaller in stature with a bit of a distinctive ‘gait’, alongside the more solidly constructed and be-shorted gary with smart new rucksack and new boots.

Across the meadow by the river we strode, then began the climb out of Bakewell before dropping down to the old railway line transformed into the Monsal Trail.  We followed the trail stopping to be passed by friendly people on mountain bikes and chatting to the occasional dog walker, through the tunnel and across the viaduct.

Eventually, we would leave this trail at Cressbrook, dropping down to the river.  The footbridge gives a perfect viewpoint of the small yet vibrant weir backed by an impressive amphitheatre of water and rock.  Worth the early start just for that!

From here it would be a long climb along the road out of Cressbrook village and into Cressbrook dale, a climb nicely punctuated by a chat with a nice bloke with a collie and chocolate labrador.  We’d see him again as we emerged from lunching in the pub at Foolow…

Heading through Cressbrook Dale we had our first downpoor of the day and a theme was set for the remainder of the walk.  It would rain hard enough for long enough for us to stop and don our waterproof jackets, shortly after which it would stop raining and the temperature and humidity would rise enough to make us stop and remove the layer we’d just put on.  Repeat every 30 mins…

In a slight deviation from the published route we continued up Cressbrook Dale rather than heading off up to Litton, eventually emerging from the dale at Wardlow Mires before continuing on past Stanley House (where there is a sign saying “Beware of the Bull”, but only as you exit the field… thanks…) and on to Foolow.    The ‘Bull’ sign reminded me of a sign I say elsewhere that says ‘The farmer allows walkers to cross the field free, though the bull may charge’…

The path between Stanley House and Foolow is rather overgrown now, and I rapidly began to be thankful for my trousers and gaiters.  The shorts-wearing Gary was somewhat less thankful for his choice of attire.  Arriving into the village of Foolow we made haste and headed for the Bulls Head and a sandwich and welcome pint.  Very nice it was too, in what we generally agreed was technically known in the trade as being ‘a nice pub’.

After lunch, we made the short next leg across the patchwork of fields and dropped down into the beautiful, if slightly infamous, village of Eyam where you can find a craft centre, museum and coach loads of tourists.  We met up with Gary’s Dad there for a few minutes before cracking on and climbing out of Eyam towards Eyam Moor.

Within a couple of minutes of setting foot on the Moor itself the rain started in what would be the heaviest and most sustained shower of the day, easing off as we descended towards Stoke Ford.  As we approached the ford, Gary then won the prize for first fall of the day, stacking it on the muddy path.  Naturally, I didn’t want to be outdone and sure enough a couple of minutes later as we continued round towards Brook Wood, I too stacked it good and proper, landing hard on my hip and hand onto rock.  I don’t have a great deal of natural ‘padding’ and I knew straight away that I had to keep moving before my hip ceased up.  We were meeting Gary’s Dad at Highlow Hall, less than 2km away so we didn’t have far to go.

When he arrived, we had had a few moments for some peanuts and a coffee, and a chance to reflect on the day.  We had covered about 14 miles, further than I’d walked in a day for a very long time, and we felt thoroughly pleased.  We went back to the campsite, now populated by more young people on their DofE, relaxed and changed before going to Bakewell for dinner.  My hip was now starting to become more painful and the following morning after a decent night’s sleep, was no better.  I was very disappointed, but had to withdraw from the second day which would have taken us from Highlow Hall to Hathersage, out long Stanage Edge, then down to Ladybower Resevoir before culminating in the climb up Win Hill and down to the finish in Hope.  Such a nice day too, but I could barely move.  Gutted.

Gary was in good shape and he elected to take advantage of being in the Peak on a good day and continued along the route.  Having that day on his own would stand him in good stead for his big walk in August.  Good Luck Gary!

3 Peak Challenge Advice



This weekend will probably see a peak in the number of teams and groups raising much needed funds for very deserving causes on the National 3 Peak Challenge.  Having seen the weather forecast, I don’t envy anyone taking on this challenge over the weekend nearest to the summer solstace.

My advice to all this weekend is simple.  Be careful, be competant, be respectful, and leave no trace.  Challenge participants should consider the impact they have on the communities and environments they pass through, particularly in the Wasdale valley as they generally motor through villages and past farms at around 3am.  Here is an exerpt from an article published by the BMC:

“Residents of the Wasdale valley regularly have their summer nights disturbed by large Challenge groups whose conduct Richard described as ‘totally antisocial’. Nor does the Challenge have any positive effect upon the local economy. Challenge groups do not stay in local hotels or even buy drinks in local pubs, since they arrive in Wasdale in the middle of the night and leave in a hurry in their minibuses the following morning. Nor can the tourist infrastructure at Wasdale Head cope with the influx. There certainly aren’t enough toilets, car parking space is at a premium, and Mountain Rescue vehicles have been all but forced into the ditch by minibuses hurtling down the narrow road in the dead of night. Yet road widening and the building of facilities are not what nature lovers come to see.”

You can read the full article at http://www.thebmc.co.uk/three-peaks-challenge and I would also strongly advise all challengers to watch this short film by the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team – the unpaid volunteers who keep you safe and rescue you when you get lost or injured in the mountains.

Above all, I wish all challengers good luck and raise lots of money for your chosen charities.  Enjoy the event and come back to the mountains at a more leisurely pace.

Finally, remember what Edward Whymper taught us…

“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”

Wasdale



After a great Jubilee weekend spent in and around Wasdale Head in the Lake District, I wanted to share a few thoughts and reflections with you, dear reader.

The purpose of the trip was two-fold – firstly to get some training done for my forthcoming trip to Mt Elbrus, and then to give Pike the dog his first camping experience…  The campsite at the Head has been taken on by the hotel, and has some nice new showers and toilets, with a really good area for washing pots with hot and cold water – a far cry from the tap on the side of the shop and much more pleasant experience but for me the campsite will always be known as ‘Jims Field’…

Typical of Wasdale, the weather was somewhat mixed.  Saturday was baking hot, Sunday much cooler and windy.  I thought saturday, with the glorious weather, would make Scafell Pike rather popular and decided to seek out a bit more peace.  I had not climbed Pillar for a long time, so decided to head that way.

As Pike and I toiled our way up towards Black Sail Pass, I spotted the thinner track that would put us onto Looking Stead and took that.  Now the route got a little steeper and a little looser, and my balance is not the best in that situation.  Pike, off the lead would be fine, but connected to me with me slipping around, on steeper ground, he started to get a little nervous.  When we reached Looking Stead, and looked up at the next looser steeper scrambly section, and I looked at Pike and thought it best not to push it.  I had been with Pike heading up Devils Kitchen in Ogwen a couple of weeks before and he had been very anxious, so I guess I new what would probably happen.  So we took a nice long slow amble back down to Black Sail Pass, into Mosedale and back to Wasdale Head, by which time it most certainly was Beer O’clock…

By about 5pm, the weather was changing.  The temperature dropped, the wind picked up and the cloud came over.  I thought that might dissuade some people from heading to Scafell Pike on Sunday as that’s where I decided to head.  Pike and I rose and started to plod up Lingmell Gill the following day, meeting a number of 3-peakers on the way down.  An early highlight was watching the full size luxury coach, doubtless carrying a payload of 3-peakers, gingerly inching its way over the Down in the Dale Bridge… with the traffic building behind…

Quick rant.  One of the major reasons people love the Lake District, the mountains and the Wasdale valley in particular is it’s pristine beauty.  While I know 3-peakers are not the soul culprits for the litter debris left around the Green and on the mountain, there seems to be a definite increase in litter when there are more 3-peakers around.  Come on people, do better!!  The 3-Peak Challenge raises a huge amount of money for some terrific charities deserving of the funds, but at what cost?  Here’s a suggestion: All those major charities that benefit from the challenge, send just one person each to each mountain after the challenge ‘season’ and participate in a mass collective clean up.  Put something back in by taking the rubbish out.

Rant over…

Pike and I reached Lingmell col and the wind was whipping over.  People coming off the summit were reporting the wind was gusting a bit and making it difficult to stand.  So we went to Lingmell instead, sat on the top for a coffee and took a couple of snaps, and headed back down.

That evening I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening doing silly quizzes and talking about mountains with Richard Crabtree and Alison.  Their great blog talks about their day on the Needle Ridge on Great Gable the following day, well worth a read – http://www.campclimbcrag.co.uk/

 
// ]]>