Back on familiar pastures (the Hope Valley) this week after a Derwent Edge walk with ‘The Walking Dan’ last weekend. I was, once again, walking with the crowd from Freshwalks.co.uk. And what a crowd it was as almost 30-strong team of us set out from Edale on a beautiful Spring Friday morning.
This was my second outing with Freshwalks.co.uk having done a Saturday walk with them a few weeks ago (see the blog here). There were 15 of us then, but today it was double that. Freshwalks.co.uk is the brainchild of northwest-network-king Michael di Paola and promises networking of a different kind – an outdoor 15 mile walk kind! It also promised fresh air, fresh connections and fresh perspectives.
We left Edale Station and before too long began our ascent up towards Mam Tor, with a line of us soon stretching back a fair way. Michael was leading the way, whilst simultaneously texting a couple of people who’d missed the train back in Manchester due to one of their dog’s needing to answer a call of nature. They’d since jumped in the car and were heading towards Edale with some directions to meet us Hollin’s-Cross-way a little later on.
It was pretty damn warm, hazy but warm, even at 10am in the morning and we were soon stopping to allow a mass decloaking of layers and a mass sun-cream slap-on session.
Mam Tor is also known as Shivering Hill and Mother Hill, and in today’s heat the climb up was less of the ‘shivering’ and more of a ‘mother’, especially to some of the less experienced walkers of the party. As a result it took us a little longer than expected to reach the summit, but this did allow me to get something of a history/geographical lesson about the hill from Paul, a scientist. Apparently some of the ridges on Mam Tor aren’t natural, they are man-made, part of the hill defences from when it was inhabited way back in The Bronze Age. The curious dimples on the northern face of Mam Tor again aren’t sinkhole related as I thought, but are instead the remnants of the circular dwellings of these Bronze Age people.
One Peak Done. Many photos were taken on top, including a few group shots from John, who was properly channeling his inner wedding photographer! Our latecomers, with their dogs, soon arrived and we were off again along The Great Ridge, the spine of the Peak District, towards the Lonely Mountain that is Win Hill. There be dragons, or at the very least – lunch!
It was a real mixed bag of people on the trail today and the miles quickly passed as I chatted, amongst others, to a scientist, a solicitor, a fair few MDs, a bunch of IT geeks (their words, not mine!), a Brand Manager, Ops Manager and a recruitment agent.
We shot past Back Tor and hit the top of Lose Hill (not Loose Hill, as many think) around noon and had a couple of snacks before continuing our trek towards Win Hill. Two Peaks Done. A conversation with Jake, a solicitor, soon became walking-injury-oriented and he beat my dodgy back tale with an horrendous infected blister story (with accompanying pictures) that made me glad we’d not had that much food on Lose (your lunch?) Hill.
At the bottom of Hope Brink we bumped into a number of spritely septuagenarian WI-types that Michael soon started to chat up or sell them the services of his Marketing Agency, it was one of the two. They were very interested in what we were doing, en-masse, out an about and away from work on a Friday. After convincing them we weren’t an over-aged DofE group, they let us overtake them to make the slow march up one of the steepest sections of our walk.
The party split at the top to allow a few of the group, struggling with the pace and heat, to meet us a little way ahead, thus avoiding the journey up onto Win Hill. The majority of us pushed ourselves up to the top of our final peak for spectacular views across Ladybower Reservoir towards Derwent Edge in the north. Lunch was gratefully taken at this point, with our group covering pretty much every square centimetre at the top of Win Hill. Final Peak Done.
Refuelled and recharged we set off downwards into the pine tree plantations of the southern side of Ladybower. The walk through the woods was a relief for me, as the temperature dropped a touch once we were under the cover of the towering pine trees. The descent was a little challenging too as the paths were still very wet and muddy from the heavy rain and snow of the week before last.
I had a great chat with fellow blogger Katya as we skirted the southern edge of Ladybower Reservoir, picking up a few tips along the way, before heading back into the trees for a zig-zagging return to the top of Hope Brink and Hope Cross.
The other half of our party wasn’t where we expected them to be, by the Reservoir, so as we were running behind time we made a decision that they must have already headed back towards Edale. They hadn’t unfortunately, but they had a map and were able to find their way back safely, albeit a hour after everyone else.
The final hour and last few miles went quickly as is always the case when you are in good company. Our final stop was in the Rambler’s Inn in Edale for some well-earned drinks after 7 hours and 15 miles in the field.
Well done and thanks to Michael and Olly for organising and hosting again. I can wholeheartedly recommend a fresh walk to anyone looking to escape the stress and strains of everyday work life or to those looking to expand their business network. A shame I can’t make the next one due to a prior appointment watching England v Sri Lanka at Headingley.