Friday, 15 May 2015

Pennine Way

When I first started looking into hiking in the Peak District, my first thought was to do the first leg of the 268 mile Pennine Way.  The high-level foorpath starts in Edale at the base of Kinderscout, goes through Yorkshire Moors, Northumberland before terminating just over the border in Scotland along the backbone of the Pennine hills.  It can be broken into pieces with the help of trains and buses, but from start to finish, it would take me about 3 weeks.  

The first day is especially brutal- it's near 17  really rough miles to your first overnight.  

Instead, I decided that a leisurely explore through the Peak District would be a better way to spend 3 or 4 days.  I was right!  Having the flexibility to get out of the rain and have a lazy morning indoors was much better than pushing through it to get to your end destination.  We did a good amount of walking anyway, and we took our time and went at a leisurely pace.   

The final day of our walk would take us to Hadfeild, where a train would take us to Manchester and another train would whisk us the two hours back to London.  It was 17 miles from Hayfield if we took the route I wanted:  back up Kinderscout and follow the Pennine Way across the empty moors before descending back down to civilization.  

So we woke up early.  It's not hard in May- the sun is up at 5:30 now and the birds will let you know even when the blinds are drawn.  I had told the pub landlord we'd be out before breakfast and to just leave us milk for coffee and cereal and we'd be out.   

I do love getting up with the lark.  Starting a walk on a beautiful early morning is really one of those times to love and appreciate life.   

Plus, the birdlife is astounding.  Curlews, grouse, skylarks, wrens, all letting you know they are alive before spending quiet afternoons tucked into the heather.

 Our path took us back to the shooting lodge, and then continuing up the Snake Path via William Clough, a steep and sometimes scrambley path that follows a rushing stream to the top of Kinder.

At one point, we lost the trail as we followed the stream a bit too closely, and ended up on a sheep-trail on a high ledge with wonderful views back down the valley.

It was rewarding to get to the top, where the summit of Kinderscout is there to greet you, and a nice stone-slab path takes you across the open expanse of Black Moor.

Red Grouse

For years, trail improvements have meant that as long as you stick to the trail, your feet will stay relatively dry.  The Peak District and all its streams was once the centre of the cotton textiles industry.  The dismantled factories now provided the paving stones to keep dry on your way across the moor.  While I normally prefer less pavement hiking, it was a real treat to not be sunk into the bog up to my armpits as legend has most ramblers doing.

We were up early enough to not have a soul on trail with us.  Most people start from Edale anyway and were probably just having breakfast by the time we got this 6-mile jump on them.

The north side of Kinderscout was a lovely way to view it.  It's not the tallest hill in the world, but the high moorland plateau on top is really a unique place.

The Peak District isn't as breathtaking as the Lake District, but it has a quiet emptiness to it that is beautiful in its own right.  

Without the stone slab trails, it would be really easy to get lost up here.  Everything in all directions looks the same.

Our first companions of the day:

Wander off the trail and you have this lovely to contend with:

We crossed the A57 at Snake Pass and continued on across Shelf Moor and Bleaklow.  This is where the paving slabs ended and you got a bit of bog walking in.  The trail twisted and turned and climbed and dipped, following a stream.  Sometimes, it was easier just to walk through the stream than sink in the mud.

The water flowing through peat bogs is quite tannic and takes on a yellow-brown color.

At the edge of Bleaklow, we stopped for a rest.  It was hard, challenging walking.  We had carried around a good deal of the bog with us.

Soon we were following the course of a stream down off the high moors down to Torside reservoir.  Despite exhaustion, I wasn't ready for the ramble to end.  A warm, sunny spring day is something I don't take for granted.

We parted ways with the Pennine Way and followed an abandoned railway track the three miles into Hadfield.

The ride back to London was rather lonely as I think we won the "High Stink" award.  The seats around us remained empty, with a lot of people taking a sniff and then backing away.  Despite trying to freshen up in the train station sink and changing shirts and socks, we were ripe in a way that needed a power-wash and industrial strength cleaner.

That was a lovely toe-dip into the Peak District.  I'm planning on going back- the two hour train ride makes it an easy weekend from London and there is plenty more to explore.

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