Posted by Henry Barnes, Membershp and Support Officer on 31 March 2014
Our intrepid explorer, Henry Barnes of our helpline and membership, plots the course for our upcoming 25th Anniversary Walk at the end of May.
Day one - Monday, March 31 - Sheffield to Strines Inn
Our train pulled into Sheffield station at half past one this afternoon. Partly excited, partly nervous, we hopped in a taxi to take us to Loxley, on the outskirts of Sheffield, where our first day's walking would commence. Off with the comfy trainers, on with anti-blister socks and stiff, tight walking boots (as well as a bit of MRF purple!). Today's 10 mile walk skirted four reservoirs - Damflask, Agden, Dale Dike and Strines. En route we were lucky enough to see a field full of bleating spring lambs, pheasants darting between hedgerows, squirrels greedily munching on seeds and, as we looped around Agden Reservoir, hundreds of frogs jumping about with their young clinging to their backs. The humans we've encountered have been wonderful too - there's been a few gasps as we've told people what we're doing along the way (I've chosen to interpret these as sounds of admiration!).
Only a few droplets of rain meant that the way was generally dry but squishy enough that the occasional misplaced foot saw boots completely submerged! The weather has thus far defied all forecasts and has stayed largely dry - fingers crossed for the rest of the week (yes, yes, I realise that the April showers will probably be right on cue, but I'm trying to keep my hopes up!).
Setting off so late in the afternoon meant that we arrived at the Strines Inn, our home for the night, at around 7pm for a well deserved slap up dinner by the fireplace and a quick dunk in freezing cold water to soothe our aching muscles!
I'm beginning to think that we should have trained a little more...
Day two - Tuesday, April 1 - Strines Inn to Hope Valley
After an early alarm call from the resident peacocks of The Strines Inn, we set off on today's walk. Skirting another couple of reservoirs and climbing 3 big hills, day two was supposed to be challenging, but it turned out to be really tough going.
We began by climbing over an enormous, grouse covered hill towards Derwent Reservoir. If day one of our trek was the day of the frog, day two was the day of the grouse! Their cheery, clucking song spurred us along in high spirits as we descended towards the reservoir. After a brief stop for a lunch of pasties and potatoes amongst the many ducks of the Derwent visitor centre, we began our afternoon of punishment.
The first of the two afternoon hills was a doddle to climb and we did so in about half an hour. The descent, past Hagg Farm towards Snake Road, was uncomfortable; steep downhill with uneven rocks underfoot made for slow progress. After crossing the road at the bottom of the valley we began walking up Win Hill in similar conditions. The rocky roads, whilst beautiful, slowed us down by quite a way and we ended up exhausted, downtrodden and having a near total sense of humour failure near the top of Win Hill before descending (down an almost vertical hillside!) into Hope. Our mood was lifted on our descent as we took a moment to appreciate a truly magnificent view of the Hope Valley.
Weather-wise, we have again been lucky. Too lucky. In fact, so sure were we that bad weather would follow us around the Peak District that we neglected to pack sun cream. I am currently nursing blisters on my feet, aching shoulders as well as a pretty impressive sunburn!
After a gruelling afternoon, we were filled with an incredible sense of accomplishment. It might have been hard, but simply remembering the reason for our adventure is enough to keep us going.
Day three - Wednesday, April 2 - Hope Valley to Hathersage
We went to sleep in the beautifully clear, springtime village of Hope. We awoke in a deep mist on another planet altogether. Fog, thicker than I've ever seen before, obscured everything further than five metres away from us. Today felt a lot like we were negotiating the swamps of Dagobah as we searched for master Yoda who was to teach us the ways of the force. (For those of you that haven't watched Star Wars, Dagobah is a mist covered swamp planet).
We left our B&B early, legs aching from yesterday's long walk but in good spirits nonetheless. Today's route was supposed to take us from Hope to Hathersage taking he scenic route up Stannage Edge. The fog (and my inability to properly use a map and compass!) made finding the right paths in a labyrinth like maze near impossible. We struggled to find the foot of Stannage Edge for a couple of hours as we waded through marsh and moorland (mentally tallying rations in our minds lest we became stranded overnight!). Eventually (and a few tears later) we found our path. A couple of hours behind schedule, we decided to press on and made good time as we reached the top of Stannage Edge before descending into Hathersage for a well earned curry.
It's been tough going at times, but what's really lifted our spirits has been the friendliness of the people we've met. Whether walking their dogs, preparing our lunches, riding their mountain bikes or halfway up rocky cliff edges (hello Antoine, by the way) everyone's always had a kind word to say. We're excited for a lovely walk to Bakewell tomorrow where we will sample all of the tarts and puddings they have to offer.
Day four - Thursday, April 3 - Hathersage to Bakewell
We left the sleepy village of Hathersage with dry (ish) boots and high (ish) spirits. This morning's walk took us along the Derwent River to Grindleford before climbing onto the Froggat, Curbar and Baslow edges. We could only imagine the wonderful view from the top - yesterday's fog had returned with a vengeance and everything further than 5 metres from us was totally obscured by the thick, white mist. Despite this, and the freezing wind that accompanied it, we had a lovely walk, met some lovely people and ate some lovely sandwiches.
As we entered our 12th mile of walking and our second massive incline of the day we began to feel the fatigue of four days and 50 miles wash over us like a wave. Toes turned to lead, legs turned to jelly, feet began to throb and our senses of humour failed like an ancient car - spluttering at first, then stopping outright. We descended to Bakewell passing several pudding/tart shops before making our way to Haddon House Farm, our home for the night. We have been treated like royalty by our host, Marilyn; the warmth of her home and the love of her two Jack Russells has put a smile back on both of our faces and we feel ready, excited even, for tomorrow's walk. The Monsal Trail is said to be a gem of the Peak District and we're both looking forward to seeing it for ourselves.
Day five - Friday, April 4 - Bakewell to Monsal Trail
We set out from Bakewell along the Monsal Trail beneath ominous looking clouds. After yesterday's challenges we started our walk feeling a little fatigued but an hour or so into walking the (thankfully) flat trail we were soon moving at a real pace. Feeling good, we managed to walk a long way in a relatively short time - a total of 15 miles in around 5 hours. The weather held out and we (finally) got to see some of the amazing views of the Peaks.
The Monsal Trail is an homage to the industrial history of the North; bridges, tunnels, mills, quarries and mines - we've been treated to some awe inspiring sights along the way. The old railway has long since been dismantled, the machinery has been mostly removed and nature has been allowed to thrive once more - bustling warrens of rabbits at the side of the path, frogs quietly hopping about underfoot (almost literally sometimes!), kingfishers darting over the river in search of their next meal - today has been a real treat.
The path is a popular walking route and we've met lots of friendly people and lots of friendly dogs en route which has cheered us on as we walk. We finished the walk in the company of Dave the Border Terrier and his destroyed tennis ball - as animal lovers it always helps bolster our mood to have a four legged friend accompany us for a while. The real wind in our sails has been the donations steadily flowing in. Thank you to everyone that has sponsored us so far, and thank you to those that will sponsor us in the days to come. If you want to be one of those people then please visit www.justgiving.com/henryandstacey.
Day six - Saturday, April 5 - Peak Forest to Edale
We started out from Peak Forest and headed towards the Limestone Way under grey, leaking skies. Heading North towards Castleton and Edale, our spirits were high as we set out on our penultimate day of walking. A steady uphill over a few kilometres is a pretty unappealing prospect early in the morning, but as we crested the hill a view like no other met our eyes. The rocky path ahead sat deep between the great limestone cliffs on either side and snaked down the hill towards Castleton, our midway point of the day. Awestruck, we slowly picked our way down the steep and rocky path to a hot lunch of fish and chips. With more fuel in the tank, we left Castleton by the north road where I was chased a little way by an angry goose providing us with a little comic relief!
The afternoon's walk was more of a challenge as we headed up the steep path to the peak of Mam Tor. The view from the top made the breathless hike worthwhile. On one side of the Tor a view of the White Peak where we had come from, on the other side a glimpse at the challenge to come - across the Hope valley the infamous Kinder Scout, it's peak obscured by clouds. After taking in the view for a while we clambered down the Tor, the path beneath us a slowly flowing river of mud, towards our home for the night, Edale.
Day seven - Sunday, April 6 - Edale to Glossop
Having joked for many days that the biggest challenge was yet to come, day seven was finally upon us. As we awoke in Edale, the last day of walking stood before us like a troll guarding a bridge that none should pass. Nervous and tired we set out north, towards the enormous mass in front of us, the peak of which was lost in the clouds.
Our route took us up Kinder Scout by the side of a river which, as we ascended, steadily lessened in size. The meandering river slowly became a stream which in turn became a trickle as we neared the top. The final fifty metres of the path made us put away our walking poles and clamber over boulders dripping water down to the river behind us. Upon reaching the top of the path and the plateau of Kinder we turned to look at the way we we had come, not just this morning but the entire week. Pictures fail to capture it, words are unable to describe it - our view was quite simply breathtaking. The hills and dales of Derbyshire rolled on before us as if forever. The Hope valley, that seemed so expansive as we descended Win Hill on our second day, now a speck behind us we pressed on towards the finish line, Glossop.
Perhaps the scariest moment of today was the ill advised shortcut we took through the peat bog at the top of Kinder. Having made slow progress up the hill at the outset of the day, we found a path (marked on my map) which would lead us to the famous Pennine Way by a slightly shorter route. We picked our way up the path until it totally disappeared. We then had to jump from tussock to tussock to avoid sinking into the treacherous quicksand-like bog below. After a while of this, boots sopping wet and trousers filthy up to the waist, we stumbled across a D of E group that looked as though they has a better grasp of map reading than us! We followed Robin and co until we were once again on our beloved route and vowed not to leave it again. Needless to say, we will not be taking that shortcut again in May!Join Henry and other MRF staff, members and supporters on our 25th Anniversary Walk at the end of May