Having been living in the beautiful county of Yorkshire (God’s own country, this atheist is frequently reminded), for a couple of weeks we were finally presented with our first opportunity to get out and explore. So for our first big walking adventure, we went to… Derbyshire. With good reason, I hasten to add. Our original plan of hitting the Yorkshire Dales was thwarted by the threat of high winds, so instead we headed an hour or so to the south to venture into the Peak District, and man, were we rewarded for the decision.
As soon as you breach the borders of the Peak District and start twisting and dipping through the slender lanes, you’re struck by the beauty of the huge hills of green and brown that rise as you approach, surrounding you, sloping up and away towards the sky.
Because we were so used to having the relatively level footpaths of Essex in recent times, we knew that despite only being around a nine-ish mile circular walk, the 636 metre above sea level plateau of Kinder Scout would provide a much different challenge. It’s the highest point in an area of many high points, and is also famous for being the scene of the mass trespass in 1932, where a group of ramblers clashed with gamekeepers over the right of access to open country. We owe these people a debt of gratitude, as it allows us mere peasants the right to trample over grounds formerly reserved for the rich to shoot out the brains of animals.
Upon our arrival we were met with an unwelcome site on the car park – lots of other people. I’d somewhat naively failed to consider the fact that this incredibly popular tourist spot may be busy on bank holiday weekend. Worse still, the solitary functioning pay and display machine accepted payment only in coins, something my wallet did not contain. My requests to change a tenner with anyone from the queuing throngs were met with scoffs and derision, so I set off (as I suspect many other fools have before me), into the local area in the pursuit of shrapnel. The National Trust shop was helpfully closed, there was no ticket office to be found at the train station, and no other sign of commercial activity nearby. A short walk up the road there was, however, a visitor centre with a gift shop. Now, I know that this shop has no duty whatsoever to provide change to car park users and they are well within their rights to refuse to do so. What they should not do though, is refuse to sell me a bottle of water when I try and pay with a ten pound note. The humourless retailer sneeringly informed me that they “need to save their change.”
Don’t get me wrong, neither I nor the retailer were under the illusion that I was there for any reason other than acquiring change, but still, I could have been dehydrated following a gruelling hike up a peak. The fact that I wasn’t, and both of us new it, is neither here nor there. After a very icy standoff I was forced to leave the shop, note in hand, tail between legs, while she ran out of the back and plunged Scrooge McDuck like into a vault of freshly minted pound coins.
We left and headed a short way down the road and thankfully found one space available on another, this time free, car park (which I then realised was actually the one from the OS map I’d originally planned to go to anyway). So we saved ourselves a fiver and the visitor centre lost out on 85p. The only issue there was a lack of toilets, which of course one of us now required. We decided to walk back to the first car park where they were located, and in doing so reversed the planned route we were about to take; something we later became very grateful for once we saw the path.
Finally we began the walk, a touch later than planned, but with the car suitably parked and all bodily functions taken care of. Heading north from Edale we began the steady climb along the path that parallels Grinds Brook. Sammy had recently purchased some very nice walking poles for such ascents, so it was to my surprise that when I turned to see how she was progressing with them, she was carrying them both under her arm, for the extremely sensible reason that she ‘didn’t want to get the bottoms muddy’. After receiving a proportionate amount of mockery, she started to use them as intended and they turned out to considerably improve her uphill experience.
The further we climbed, the more apparent it became that this route was going to be filled with awe inspiring views. Every now and then a turn of the head would reveal another vast panorama of hillside, another as yet unseen peak, and the increasingly daunting prospect of the hike required to reach Kinder Scout itself. As those dressed only in tracksuits and trainers began to turn around and give up, the path became less track, more boulder strewn stream. At this point I was glad we weren’t alone on the walk, as I would never have believed we were on the correct route were it not for the brightly coloured dots of walking gear in the distance limping from rock to rock towards the summit. The most successful boulder scrambler of the three of us was the six kilogram, tiny legged fur ball called Herbie, who amazed us with his ability to fly up the rocks. He did slip once bless him, and I did have to pick him up and lift him over some of the larger boulders and a particularly fast point in the stream when he refused to get his paws wet.
That was the moment we became glad of the direction we had taken, as to move down these slippery rocks rather than climb them would have been, I believe, quite petrifying. The reward for our efforts when we reached the top, was one of the most beautiful views imaginable. None of our photos, or any of my words can do it justice.
Having left the shelter of the valley below we were met with a much cooler and windier climate, so another layer was added beneath our coats, and my flat cap was swapped for my woolly Redskins hat, an item of clothing that became a talking point for a number of passing walkers. Even at the top of a peak in Derbyshire it seems there are people ready to pass comment on the state of the Washington Redskins’ offseason.
The next couple of miles took us across Edale Moor on the Kinder Scout plateau, a mixture of boggy peat and enormous natural rock sculptures, worn into bizarre and bewildering shapes by relentlessness of erosion and time. This path leads on to Kinder Downfall, a waterfall with the biggest drop in the Peak District at 30m, one of many falls passed on this route. We found ourselves a sheltered nook, and settled down to eat in front of by far the best lunchbreak view we’ve had on our travels.
Descending proved to be a much simpler affair than its reverse, as we joined a section of the Pennine Way trail – a well maintained and steady path that traces along the western and southern sides of Kinder Scout, down Jacobs Ladder (a path renovated in the eighties), which provided a comfortable end to the walk and more devastatingly beautiful views (have I mentioned the views?), enabling us to gawp at the peak and smugly boast, “We were just up there!”
This is a walk that I would highly recommend, but with a few provisos. Take change if you intend to park in Edale, get there early so you get a parking space, and never park anywhere but the allotted bays – we saw scores of ticketed cars as we left, none of whom we had any sympathy for. If you’re dumb enough to park in front of a No Stopping sign on a public highway you probably the kind of person who runs a shop that turns customers away if they don’t have precisely the right change. Take the Pennine Way trail up the west side if you want an easier route, returning back the same way you came (or be prepared for some challenging parts), and please go to the visitor centre and try and buy a pack of Polos with a fifty pound note, for me.