Walks collided these past few days with an already committed to walk clashing with a hastily arranged business networking walk, plus the usual Sunday jaunt with the boys too. I’m thinking of changing my name to Walky McWalkface! Good training though as the spectre of the National Three Peak Challenge looms large.
Walk One (Friday):
Kinder Scout, my ‘go to hill’ was the destination today (for a change!). I was out with Andy K, or at least I hoped I was. Nope, I’m not going crazy – Andy is a published non-fiction writer in his own right, but his first fiction novel is due out next month (May 28, 2016). It’s written under a pen name and his alter-ego has a ‘strange’ (cough!) tendency to suddenly take over ‘Stephen King/Dark Half styley’ when least expected. This alter-ego, whilst (I hope) isn’t as homicidal as SK’s invention, has had a seriously good flogging with the unpleasant/weird stick and is probably not the best person to be out and about with… alone in the wilds… next to steep cliff edges. Check out the promo vid for his book here.
After dropping both my boys off at school for the day, it was (phew!) Andy who hopped into the car early on Friday morning. His alter-ego is rarely seen not wearing his trademark dark suit and shades, so the sight of a walking-gear-clad elderly gentleman leaving the house was a relief. Andy celebrated a birthday recently, a really seriously BIG birthday!! and I half expected him to be carrying a zimmer-frame instead of pair of trekking poles. I am joking, Andy is as spritely a chap as you could ever meet and I knew he’d be striding up Jacob’s Ladder quicker than me later in the day. He’s a long stretch from becoming a ‘giffer’, as he calls it, but he can legitimately get a bus/train pass now.
Andy, a seasoned walker, had mentioned previously that he’d never climbed Kinder and seeing I was heading towards a half century of visits a trip was soon arranged.
I was on the clock today, having to do the walk in between morning and afternoon school runs. In a perfect world it should have been easy. I had the best part of 7 hours free, it was a hours journey (both ways) to Kinder and the walk would be around 3.5 hours. Simple you’d think? Not a chance!
The trip to Kinder was hampered by both a moody coffee machine at the Co-op and a diversion. The coffee machine had the one job to do, just one job – dispensing coffee of course – which it completely failed to do, wasting 10 minutes. Next was a diversion off Mortimer Road to the other side of the valley whilst they carried on turning the heavily-potholed route into something approaching drivable. The end result was us setting off from the car park at Edale about 30mins later than I was comfortable with meaning we’d have to make up the time whilst out on the hill.
The reason I was on the clock is that my wife, Debbie, wasn’t able to do the school runs (or much else) due to being bed-bound as a result of a yet-to-be defined injury. A number of diagnoses have suggested either a muscle pulled in the neck or top rib (back) or nerve damage somewhere in that area. Either way she has been in agony for a fortnight now with extreme shoulder and arm pain. Thankfully my coinciding period of unemployment means that I’ve been around to be both mum and dad around the house and kids. But don’t go thinking I’m Dr Evil for disappearing for 3 days and leaving her on her own! She’s sick to death of me fussing around her, so will be more than happy with Netflix and the sackful of foody treats I’ve bought her.
I actually got a text from Debbie half way around the walk with Andy saying and I quote ‘As we are a partnership, I’m relying on you to burn off the chocolate calories I’ve consumed!!!’ Jeez, I thought, no chance – I’m walking for 3 days not 300!
I’ve not even mentioned the weather yet. It looked extremely promising. I’d spent the best part of the week not being able to enjoy the excellent sunny spring weather due to being cramped over a laptop preparing for interviews or stuck in a car driving to and from an interview. Experience and the forecast was telling me pre-walk days = ‘great’, actual walkdays = ‘dogsh!t’… that’s a technical weather term btw – geography A’Level me!! There had even been ‘snow’ promised, although that was largely promised by a Daily Express front page headline. Chances are that if they run a fear-mongering and apocalyptic weather headline everyday they are bound to strike gold a couple of times a year. Just like a broken clock is correct twice a day. Equally they could just ring me up, see when I’m walking and just run it that day!
For the moment, setting out along The Pennine Way from Edale in mid-layer only, sleeves rolled up it looked great. Andy, however, had prepared for the worse with no less than four layers (four layers!!!) on and we had to stop a number of times on the way to Upper Booth for Andy to strip off an item of clothing.
As mentioned in a previous blog a trip to Kinder via Lea House isn’t complete without encountering the Kinder Kat. But Andy’s luck wasn’t in today, no sign of Mr Kat at all. He’d probably found a sunspot away from the madding crowd where he wasn’t going to be disturbed. It was weird though, as he’d normally turned out for first-time visitors in the past.
We stopped at the bottom of Jacob’s Ladder for a quick snack and drink, and for Andy to take yet another item of clothing. He was averaging an item of clothing each mile which was a worrying trend given we weren’t even half way around the planned route.
It was Andy’s first ascent of Jacob’s Ladder. ‘Crap name’, was his enlightened comment. I had thought it was named after some real-life person, but I guess it’s a biblical reference to the stairway to heaven (no… not the Led Zepellin song, although I’m sure I will be humming the intro the next time I’m there!) dreamt about by Jacob in the Book of Genesis.
So climb the stairway to heaven we did, with the spritely sexagenarian leading the way with barely a wheeze or an intake of breath. The views were pretty heavenly tbh. It had been a long time since I’d been on Kinder under a blazing(ish) sun with blue sky above and not a cloud in the sky. I was taking photos left, right and centre and getting a touch emotional.
We pressed on up the hill, past Edale Rocks, to the trig point at Kinder Low. Not the summit of Kinder as many people think – that lies off to the north-east awhile, hidden away amongst the peat gruffs. Andy was enjoying himself, admiring the awesome views back down the valley eastwards towards Edale, Rushup Edge as it moves towards Mam Tor and away to the west to Manchester. Andy even got a few ‘hellos’ from some kids in a DofE party, normally as difficult as getting blood from a stone!
We planned to traipse back to Edale Rocks for our lunch, but having gained a bit of lost time I decided to push on a little further and have lunch at Crowden Tower. I’d pointed out Noe Stool (Anvil Rock to me!) on the trip up Jacob’s Ladder and Andy wanted to take a closer look. Which he did, clambering up the side and adopting a strange but confident Wonder Woman pose! Not wanting to be outdone I soon followed.
The landscape turned considerably more lunar-like as we reached and then passed Pym’s Chair. The gritstone weather-formed rock formations here are incredible. Hundreds of them litter the landscape, all shapes and sizes. I usually play a game at this point and try and spot animals in the stones – today I bagged a chameleon and a rabbit. Andy suggested the game might be more easily played under the influence. One for another visit maybe?
Lunch was taken on Crowden Tower with spectacular views down a surprisingly dry, given the wet winter and early spring we’d had, Crowden Brook. Andy had forgotten the picnic blanket, but I decided not to throw him off the Tower for this unforgiveable act, for fear of reprisals from his alter-ego (a little) and his wife (a lot!). No whippet, pork scratching and black pudding sarnies for us Yorkshire fellas, out came advocado wraps, potato salad and southern fried chicken! Yum!
Only about a hour remained of the walk as we crossed Crowden Brook and moved on along the paved path towards the top of Grindsbrook Clough. I was hoping we’d have time to skirt the edge of the Kinder plateau around to Ringing Roger, but decided to skip it and instead headed over to the top of Grindslow Knoll to allow Andy to bag another decent-sized peak. We descended into Edale having managed to walk just under 10 miles in a touch over 3hrs… not bad going.
It also meant I had an easily do-able 1 hour and 20 mins journey back to Huddersfield to pick up Christian. You’d think? However, the diversion and two slow aggregate-loaded trucks on Mortimer Road ate into the time available. It then all went pear-shaped as we hit the back of a queue waiting to get past a road traffic accident. A poor woman had been knocked off her bike by someone in a car who’d then promptly fled the scene. A not very pleasant end to a great day out walking. I eventually made it to Christian’s school 5 mins late just as he was ringing me to find out where I was. Phew!
Walk Two (Saturday):
So I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘The Walking Dan’ is a bonafide walking weather jinx. Another walk without him and the spring sky was again a perfect hue of fresh blue, all contrary to the promise of snow and storms. I’ve just been online to check the odds with William Hill of my next walk with ‘The Walking Dan’ being in a hail/snow/rainstorm. Long odds on basically, lots of zeroes.
I’d binned a potential walk with ‘The Walking Dan’ (you should have heard him whinge… worse than one of my kids!!) to try out a networking walk with Freshwalks.co.uk, the brainchild of Michael Di Paola, brand agency founder and a leading light in the business community in the north west. A quick ‘big thanks’ here to Recruitment Guru ‘Peter Cobley’ for pointing me on their direction.
‘Freshwalks’ promised ‘Fresh Air, Fresh Perspectives and Fresh Connections’. All of which, for someone seeking a new career opportunity, sounded perfect. ‘Notworking’ meets ‘networking’ basically.
The advertised route, whilst starting from Edale again (twice in two days), headed off in the other direction with no overlap at all with my Kinder exertions the previous day. Predictably, as I wasn’t against the clock today, the coffee machine at the Co-op did it’s job expertly and not a sniff of a diversion on Mortimer Road, meaning I arrived at Edale’s car park well ahead of time. We were starting a little later than normally, so a few extra cars in there than I was used to, but plenty of spaces nonetheless.
The majority of the Freshwalks party were arriving on the train from Manchester, having met earlier at Carluccio’s in Piccadilly Station. I was one of a few people scheduled to meet them at Edale Station. I did consider getting the train from Sheffield to Manchester and back again, as I’ve often wondered what kind of a journey it would be – across a familiar landscape, but by a less energetic method. However, that would have meant getting up at silly-o’clock, so it’s a wish gone unfulfilled so far.
The first person I met, also waiting at the station, was Gareth – wrapped up against the expected elements in a snazzy bobble-hat. Gareth is a CTO-in-waiting, due to start his new job on the Monday after the walk. He’d done a few Freshwalks and gave a glowing account of what was to come.
The rest of the party duly arrived with Michael and his colleague Oliver, from Studio North, laughing in the face of the predicted cold snap by both wearing shorts. Now I’m no wimp when it comes to the cold, but it’s definitely not shorts weather, not yet. But fair do’s to them both for going for it.
Our starting party consisted of 14 humans (me, Michael, Chris, Kristian, Gareth, Oliver, James, Owain, Ilona, Tracey, Rachel, Nic, Roz and Catherine) plus two canine companions (Rocky and his girlfriend Poppy).
We set off, in bright sunshine, towards our first peak – Mam Tor. We were climbing it by a different route to what I was used to, which considering my usual route was partially through a field of ankle-deep cowshit was a total blessing. The route took us up Small Clough, bypassing Hardenclough Farm and onto Greenlands.
Spring had certainly sprung… gurgling cloughs, growing greenery and gambling lambs. Haha, I’ve left that typo in as it made me chuckle. I meant gamboling lambs of course. Imagine a party of lambs, puffing big fat cigars and playing poker. Winner avoids a date with some mint sauce on Sunday maybe? Clearly someone else has gone down this route as there’s plenty of poker-playing ickle lambs on Google.
I chatted to Kristian, Ilona, James and Roz on the way up to Mam Tor. Kristian is the founder of a IT Networking business, whilst Roz runs her own PR company. Ilona and James were one of two couples on the walk and co-incidentally are also in training to do the National 3 Peaks Challenge. They will be doing it one week before I do it, at the end of June.
We soon came to the popular stone steps that mark the start of the final climb to the top of Mam Tor, not far from the car park on Sheffield Road. It was only mid-morning, but there was already a decent-sized procession on the way up, one that we only added to.
Mam Tor appears to be a monster-sized lump of rock from a distance as it dominates the skyline at the western end of the Great Ridge, but it’s not even in the top ten of Peak District Peaks. Only just though, it’s 11th! It’s not likely to get any higher, although it could conceivably drop lower. Mam Tor is known as ‘Shivering Mountain’, not because you shiver from the cold and wind up there (albeit I have… and will surely do again) but because of the propensity of it’s lower layers to crumble. You can see Mam Tor’s spectacular exposed layers on it’s southern side, overlooking Castleton as well as what remains of the A625, lost to subsidence back in the late 1970’s.
On a good day the views from most parts of the Great Ridge are incredible and, arguably, none better than the 360 degree views from the top of Mam Tor, hence it’s popularity. Edale and Kinder to the north, Castleton and Winnett’s Pass to the South, Rushup Edge to the west, plus the Hope Valley and the ridge we were to follow off to the east.
A couple of drinks, snacks and the obligatory selfies later we were on our way. We’d been joined at the top by the final member of our party, Simon. He’d missed us at Edale and had run up to the summit via Hollin’s Cross. Running that would have near killed me, but he wasn’t even breathing heavily. His job? A personal fitness trainer. I should’ve guessed.
Stretching away into the distance was the Great Ridge, our challenge for the next part of our journey. It’s a rollercoaster of a route, firstly meandering down the gentle(ish!) slope to the crossroads at Hollins Cross. Left will take you down through the aforementioned field of cowdung and back to Edale, whilst right take you down towards Castleton. Onwards we marched to Back Tor, an extremely steep but short climb. From afar it looks a sheer and difficult climb, but up-close-and-personal it’s not so bad.
I also call Back Tor ‘One Tree Hill’, because sat right at the top, braving the elements, visible from all around is the solitary and much photographed ‘Lone Tree’. I don’t know it’s story and couldn’t find anything online, but it’s a striking image. I’ve often wondered if it’s the site of pagan festivals, with a coven of witches dancing around it after dark as there regularly seem to be offerings set at its foot.
From ‘One Tree Hill’ it’s onto Lose Hill, the 14th highest peak in the Peak District. It’s here I met the other ‘Owen’ on the trip, albeit spelt ‘Owain’ and his wife Nic. To avoid confusion we decided our new monikers would be ‘Big O’ (me) and ‘Little O’ (him). I latterly discovered he was a copywriter, a strange profession for someone who can’t spell his name properly… forgive me ‘Little O’, only kidding – I couldn’t resist that one! haha.
Lose Hill is another peak with special views, especially across the valley towards Win Hill. I’m now kicking myself having read up about Lose and Win Hill. I’ve somehow never connected the dots. Legend tells of a battle, in the 7th century, between forces on Lose Hill and forces on Win Hill. The defenders on Win Hill, despite having inferior numbers, apparently and victoriously rolled rocks and boulders down onto their attackers. Now if it was me on ‘Lose’ Hill, I might have thought twice about attacking ‘Win’ Hill. The clues are there, aren’t they? I’d have just renamed it ‘Annihilate Hill’ and proceeded with confidence.
Our path beyond Lose Hill onto Win Hill was another different route to the one I was used to and actually seemed a much more travelled route. It headed down Ladybrook Pasture, past Losehill Head until we reached the Edale Road. A few 100 metres down the road took us across Townend Bridge and up the small road towards Fulwood Farm. A hike diagonally up Hope Brink eventually took us to close to Wooller Knoll and the path to Win Hill.
Trekking upwards here I realised that Oliver was not only wearing shorts, but wasn’t wearing socks either, and had running shoes on not walking boots or approach shoes. Now this is something that on the hard trails we’d been on would have ripped my delicate feet to pieces. Oliver was clearly made of sterner stuff and said that running shoes were much better in these conditions than boots, which mirrored what ‘The Walking Dan’ had said about his walking adventures in much hotter climes. I also chatted to Tracey and Rachel, owners of Rocky and Poppy, finding out they were both in the medical insurance business.
I finally had a chance to briefly chat to Michael, Freshwalks founder, on the walk towards Win Hill. He was a little worried that we were running behind time and wouldn’t be able to do the section of the walk that took us down to the shore of Ladybower Reservoir without making us late back. I was looking forward to this stretch of the walk, having not done it before, so I impressed on Michael that we’d be fine for time and to go for it. As a newbie, I don’t think I convinced Michael much, but longtime Freshwalker Chris leapt in to add some more weight to the argument.
Setting the pace Nic, Simon and I forged ahead to the top of our final summit on a windy Win Hill. Patting the trig point for luck we were the first to take in the awesome views back towards the Kinder Plateau and Great Ridge, across Ladybower to Derwent Edge and then finally over Hathersage and Stanage Edge. The final view on the compass takes in Hope and the blot on the landscape that is Hope Quarry.
We broke for lunch on a less breeze affected side of Win Hill, much needed after 4 hours walking. I’d been day-dreaming about having a coffee since we skirted past Hope a few miles back. It’s here we said ‘goodbye’ to Tracey, Rachel, Rocky and Poppy who had decided to head back earlier to make sure they caught an earlier train back.
The next part of the walk was new territory for me as we descended down through Winhill and Wiseman Plantation to the banks of Ladybower Reservoir. We skirted the shoreline for a good mile or two, chatting in detail with Owain and Simon (as only blokes can) about random mafia and football hooligan movies. I still can’t believe someone signed off the money to film ‘Green Street 3’! Midway between a discussion of the merits of Godfather 3 we started the slog upwards again, through the towering pine trees of Woodland Valley until we reached a spot I recognised – Hope Cross.
Hope Cross is 7 foot high with a square stone block atop bearing the names of Edale, Glossop, Sheffield and Hope. It sits on a former roman road at the crossroads of an ancient route through the Peak District. I’d been here a few times before, once finding a rose wreath on top of the Cross.
From here the route back to Edale, once the walk down to Jagger’s Clough and up the other side was complete, was less taxing. I chatted to Catherine, a trainer, at this point completing my personal Freshwalk.com speed networking challenge. Hitting Nether Booth we took the much less scenic, and blister-inducing, Edale Road route back to Edale. At this point Owain and Oliver, putting the weary of us to shame, promptly decided to race the final few miles back.
We ended the 16 mile walk at the Rambler’s Inn, beside the station in Edale, for a few well earnt drinks before we all said our farewells, promising to meet again on future Freshwalk events.
All in all a perfect day’s hike. Great weather and great company, with new routes and new friends discovered. It’s networking, but not as you know it. And not a hint of the hard sell I half expected. I’m looking forward to the next walk. Well done and thanks to Michael and all at Freshwalks for organizing.
Walk Three (Sunday):
I woke on Sunday feeling surprisingly fresh and ache-free after the challenges of the previous few days. It was time to re-connect with the boys – and just the boys as Debbie was still, unfortunately, not able to join us on any kind of walk. So when my breakfast, washing-up, SundayBigShop and lunch chores were done, we were off.
Dove Stone Reservoir was our destination today. I’d promised Alex I’d take him up the waterfall at Briar Clough to walk along the valley ridge. So today seemed a good day to do it, as Debbie wouldn’t be around to tell me how dangerous she thought it was. Please don’t judge me everyone!
In any case, Dove Stone’s own micro-climate kicked in. The fantastic weather of the previous few days didn’t exist here – instead a biting chill wind and showers made an ascent to the ridge a risk I wasn’t going to take.
Alex took it well, erm… NOT!
Tantrum over, we headed off anti-clockwise around Dove Stone for a change. We normally go the other way. Walkers and bikers were out in force today, despite the weather.
We stopped for snack at the bottom of Ashway Gap. The team in charge of Dove Stones had been hard at work here over the winter and spring creating a new frog pond, a tree swing and a log-obstacles (logstacle?) course.
Tantrum No.2 hit as Chris did the obstacle course, without falling off, in about 30 seconds. 15 minutes later Alex was still try and failing to do it and it had started to rain. Chris wasn’t helping matter by pushing his brother off towards the end of the route.
The rain was cold, but fleeting and after a brief search for frogs in the adjacent water overflows we headed back towards the car park with the kids as usual taking the higher forest path back
Four miles altogether, which was pretty decent after the previous few days and the boys were glad to get out and about.
All in all, a great weekend.