I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not traditionally a regular visitor to the Peak District National Park – supposedly the second most popular in the world.
Perhaps it’s because I’m only 35 minutes away by car (or 2 hours by train!) or maybe far flung places like Snowdonia and the Lake District seem more exotic. Either way, this national park is growing on me a great deal of late and is constantly throwing surprises at me with it’s scenic beauty.
It’s a place I’m certainly not going to take for granted anymore and will be planning some more adventures in the coming weeks and months.
All said and done, this trip was meant to be a relaxing and easy-going one for me and my wife. So, no long hikes or wild camps – just taking it easy with views, short walks and journey’s out in the car.
Saturday began with me leaving our campsite at about 6am. I was to walk the 2-3 miles to an area I’ve been itching to visit for some time. To be honest, I’m not sure what the area is called – Longnor? – but it has some cracking small peaks that seem to be out of place with the surrounding landscape.
Out of lush green arable lands towers several sharp peaks that form a long limestone ridge – it’s a sight to behold and want to savour – but their altitude is not much more than 1000 feet above sea level.
Parkhouse Hill and Chrome Hill appear at a glance to be much higher and once you’ve set foot on them they feel alot higher too!
Because of the surrounding flat lands you really do feel like you’re on top of the world (my tongue is firmly in cheek – but hey! You do get a buzz up there!). Care though must be taken as the steep drops are fatal in places and limestone is notoriously slippy underfoot. However, the best thing to do in such places is to take your time.
Going at a slower pace encourages you to take in the views more and notice the small details around you.
Once I reached the summit of Parkhouse Hill, I sat or wandered around the peak for at least an hour – and the time flew by. I noted not only the changing light and colours on the lowlands but the local flora and fauna.
I even came across several fossils while taking a seat on a boulder.
I was enjoying myself so much that I neglected to take in the neighbouring Chrome Hill. I did trudge up part of it but time was against me as I promised my wife that I’d meet her in The Quiet Woman pub in Earl Sterndale – she at least saw the funny side to that name.
But what a gem of an area this is! No clear paths per se – no crowds of daytrippers – no noise from any tourist traffic and so on. It’s clearly an area little visited. It’s a crime that is the case but I’m thankful for that as it would lose it’s charm otherwise.
I grudgingly took in some more local hills making my way over to Earl Sterndale where eventually I met my wife and where we the decided to visit the local spa town of Buxton.
Buxton has to be one of the most splendid towns in all of England.
It has a rich history going back to the Romans and beyond. And it shows.
Not only do you have ancient sites of interest and vast caves and tunnels but you can also wander amongst the magnificent buildings that form Buxton’s past as a spa town.
Be it springs and mineral baths – all the upper classes and other dignitaries descended on Buxton to enjoy it’s mineral wealth and supposed health benefits.
It’s nice to see in the present day that in some respects some things haven’t changed. Where as now it maybe more about tourism and the local scenery but also it’s fashionable again when it comes to spa treatments and the like. And Buxton appears to be grasping that opportunity again with both hands.
And deservedly so because it would be a shame to see so many lovely parks and buildings become a risk to neglect and decay.
After spending some time in Buxton we took a ride up to Britain’s second highest pub – The Cat and Fiddle.
The road to the high moors where the pub is located is infamous in Britain and Europe for it’s road deaths and casualties.
It’s peculiar to see why as the road is not the narrowest I’ve come across but at the same time I can see how – with the regular bends and drops by the road it’s a magnet to a large number of motorcyclists of which a few treat the road as a racetrack.
However, there are speed cameras in places now and so hopefully this should reduce the number of accidents.
Time went by – we took in the view out to the Cheshire Plain and Wales – and we set off back to the campsite where (again) I set off on foot eager to locate an ancient cypt.
Up on the moors above a delightful old village, is Five Wells Chamber. Reputed to be the highest megalithic tomb in Britain, Five Wells chambered cairn stands on the crest of a limestone plateau, 427m (1400ft) high on Taddington Moor.
Apparently the chambered cairn is now a shadow of its former self after the mound was removed by wall builders around 200 years ago and after extensive excavation by a local antiquarian. Only one of the chambers is still fully standing – nevertheless to my eyes it was impressive and as always with these sites in a spectacular location.