Sandwiched between Manchester and Sheffield is the UK’s oldest National Park: the Peak District. It’s a bit short on peaks (unless you class a plateau at 600-odd metres above sea level as a peak), but fortunately it more than compensates for that with its picture-perfect villages, adorable furry residents and heather-covered moorland.
Back in August, we decided to make the most of the long weekend and spend a weekend camping in the Dark Peaks. What should have been a four-hour or so journey door-to-door turned into double that due to a train strike, but I perked up in Castleton at the sight of Peveril Stores, which was conveniently located just across the road from the bus stop and had a windowful of sweet treats. Their scrumptious Maltesers slice really hit the spot – if I lived in the area, I’d be in danger of turning into one!
We’d planned to hit up Kinder Scout on our first day, but with the trains up the spout, we had to rejig our itinerary – and walk five miles to our campsite instead of five hundred-odd metres. Enter, Mam Tor, a ridge which straddles the Dark and White Peaks and has stellar views of Castleton, Edale and the Hope Valley.
Mam Tor’s eastern face has seen many a landslide over the years (one of which substantially damaged the A625), and owes its name – ‘mother hill’ – to the cluster of smaller hills its landslide-prone face has created.
After a snack and photo-stop at the summit, we made our way down the hillside to Edale. We pitched up at Fieldhead Campsite (£7pppn), unloaded our bags and – since the forecast was dire for the following two days – decided to head up to the Kinder Plateau for a late-afternoon walk.
At The Old Nag’s Head, we picked up the Grindsbrook Clough route to the plateau. Fringed with heather, the footpath took us past sheep posing by streams and up a rocky gorge to the plateau itself.
Kinder Scout may not be the most notable peak in the UK, but the 1932 Mass Trespass which took place on it has gone down in history as an event which paved the way for the formation of our National Parks. Back then, Kinder Scout was private land, and walkers didn’t have open access to it. Peaceful protesting led to a change in legislation, and much of the Kinder Plateau was designated as ‘Open Country’. Nigh on two decades later, on 17th April 1951, the Peak District – the first of the UK’s National Parks – was founded.
Skirting the edge of the plateau, we passed peat bogs, boulders (including one which had been reimagined as a chirpy canine) and a handful of other hikers. With the sun disappearing into the horizon and the hills bathed in golden light, we made our way down to the valley floor via Jacob’s Ladder.
On Sunday, we awoke to a fine drizzle . . . and fell asleep to the sound of raindrops hitting our tent. It rained. All. Day. Long. Needless to say, this wasn’t quite the weather we’d been hoping for. After layering up and donning our waterproofs, we set off for Castleton; we figured we’d check out the remains of the A625 en route, mooch around the village and do a walk later if the weather picked up (it didn’t).
The A625 was first constructed in 1819, to replace the older, steeper Winnats Pass route through the limestone gorge to the west of Mam Tor. A cycle of landslides and major repairs carried on for the best part of fifty years, and in 1979 the road was abandoned. These days, only walkers (and sheep) can access it, and the crumbling remains look rather atmospheric on gloomy days.
We holed up in The Castle for some much-needed pub grub, and made a return trip to Peveril Stores for afters. The rain subsided a little in the afternoon, so we decided to venture over to the nearby village of Hope (which incidentally was where I began my Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award practice expedition one snowy April several years ago). We passed on the Hope Valley Beer & Cider Festival which was in full flow, and after a quick scoot round the village, decided to catch a train back to Edale.
Monday rolled round all too soon, bringing more misty drizzle with it. Keen to make the most of what had become a decidedly wet weekend, we packed up the tent, hauled our rucksacks on and set off on foot for Bamford, via Ladybower Reservoir. Overcast skies and lingering mist seemed to have kept most visitors from venturing out, though we spotted more people as we approached the southern tip of Ladybower Reservoir. Before catching our train (or rather, the first of several) back to Cambridge, we stopped off for a drink at The Angler’s Rest, a community-run pub with a tempting menu full of local fare.
- The weather can (and does) turn quickly on and around the Kinder Plateau, so make sure you’re armed with a map (OS Map OL1) and compass, and know how to use them.
- Fieldhead Campsite has fields for backpackers and families, and is conveniently located between two pubs (perfect for warming up after a day walking). If you’re visiting on a bank holiday or during the summer months, it’s advisable to book ahead; more details can be found on their website.