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!