|A distant Crook Hill from High Neb|
All set on Twitter (and still getting to grips with it) proved to be a calm distraction on my journey to the Peak District National Park last Friday evening.
It was absolutely belting it down with rain, my train was late for departure and I began to feel apprehensive at the thought of a late arrival in Edale. I was not in the mood for a long night walk being tired from a busy days work – plus I wanted to get a few hours good sleep in preparation of an early start the following day.
Furthermore, I was taking a new tent up into the hills – and pitching it for only the second time in the dark could prove problematic and stressful.
Nevertheless, after a long sprint down platform three at Sheffield train station I just managed to plonk my rear on the connecting train as it’s doors closed for it’s ramble and rumble ahead.
Most Northern Trains are like tin boxes on wheels and are indeed not the ideal example to encourage folk to use public transport more. And with it being dark outside, there was not much to look at except all the dreary faces of passengers soaked to the bone from the horrendous rain. Windows steamed up, the smell of damp (and much else), tinny dance ‘toons’ blaring away bursting some young lads ear drums – aye, it can be an eclectic atmosphere on such trains.
All said and done, once I set foot on the platform at Edale – the weather had turned to something more amicable, though a tad too windy for my liking.
Even so, I made it to my pitch in a record time of 45 mins – I’ve pitched at this particular spot a few times as it gives a fantastic vantage point of the Edale valley with the sun rising up over the horizon. Normally, it takes me around an hour or so in the dark but perhaps my eagerness to hit bed early gave me that extra kick of stamina to persevere at speed on the rocky and eroded paths of Grindslow Knoll.
Once at my desired location it soon became apparent that it would be a little too exposed for testing out a single skin, A frame tent. Wind speeds were an average of 17mph but were gusting to 30mph at times – but alas I thought “sod it” and pitched it anyway.
The tent proved quick and easy to pitch despite the odd ferocious gust and in next to know time I was blowing into my NeoAir and setting up my home for the night.
Various friends will tell you I’m not afraid to push gear to their extremes – heck, my attitude is I’ll get to see it’s true worth. Lying in a tent in a storm bothers me not one jot. A bomb could go off and I’ll stay sound asleep. As long as I’m warm, dry and comfortable I don’t care if the tent collapses around me. I’m safer inside than out – though some could argue why be in that ‘out’ in the first place.
And so it proved as the night wore on – the winds picked up ever more speed and strength and lying there in my sleeping bag snug as a bug – I did begin to wonder if I may have put this LiteHouse Solo tent in a situation it may well not handle.
Sure, the tent flapped like a kite but come the morning it was still standing and all was well. I however wasn’t.
|Not a great start to the day|
Apart from the fact I woke to clag – which was not part of my plan (cheeky wink to some friends there) – I didn’t sleep very soundly at all.
And that was down to the fact of the flapping tent splattering me with condensation in fits and starts. Granted, it was something I foresaw but nevertheless, I didn’t figure it would be ‘that’ bad. Add on to that the wind changing it’s course in the night…..I was no happy bunny when I emerged in a daze looking like I’ve done ten rounds with Mohammed Ali come Saturday morning.
The date was proving to be luke warm so far – and perhaps I was being too judgemental on her – but the intial positive impact on me was now muted.
Not wanting to fanny about with breakfast at 5.45 in the morning, I promptly packed up and headed to the lower slopes of the moor hoping the weather would improve (which it did) and to find a little shelter to satisfy my hunger.
A Fuizion freeze dried All Day Breakfast was on the cards – I couldn’t wait to try it after munching away on previous excellent meals. So, while the meths stove was slowly bringing my water to the boil I took in some of the views that were now opening up all around. It was indeed lovely and the cloud breaking up gave a clue as to the fantastic weather I was to enjoy that day.
|Beef Bourguignon from Fuizion Freeze Dried Foods|
Now, I have to say – I was very disappointed with the All Day Breakfast. I had high hopes – and more so after thoroughly enjoying a Beef Bourguignon the previous evening. Proper big chunks of beef in that meal – I needed a toothpick afterwards!
But the breakfast? Bland, chalky and the consistency was not very pleasant. So, that dream of a perfect good ole English breakfast out on the hill is still on hold, I’m afraid. My first ‘not so great’ meal from Fuizion’s range. It had to happen I suppose – they can’t all be top drawer.
Heading back down to Edale for a train to Hathersage, I began to reminisce on the previous evenings views and hoping to see more of the same that evening. The sort of views you only get on a wild camp – up high looking out over dark moor and peak with the twinkling Christmas tree like lights of distant suburbs. And occasionally the odd stray beam from a car headlamp as it inadverdently focuses its gaze out into the dark masses.
Night time scenery can be just as atmospheric and scenic day and just as humbling.
The plan was to pitch somewhere along a famous gritstone edge that overlooks Hathersage (no need for me to say is there?) – I was seeking to capture this wonderful place light up like it had just risen from the bowels of the earth while the sun set. A potentially awesome sight and more so given the varying hues of brown that autumn brings.
In the meantime, I was to spend some hours exploring the lower levels taking in the local woodland and just generally capture on video the oncoming signs of the new season ahead.
I really enjoyed myself that afternoon – despite being of lesser altitude than the nearby moors and tors – it made for a heart-warming and pleasant experience. Us hillwalkers often forget such details, the contrasts that such landscapes afford – and in the Peak District this couldn’t be more apparent.
|Rainbow over Hurst Clough|
I wandered lonely through woods and dale, noting old farms and other splendid architectural delights (ever visited North lees Hall?) all the while lifting my gaze up and around to seem the spectacle that is Stanage Edge lording it over as master of all around.
It was while strolling through some woodland I chanced upon a stoat, and even a hare – a startled hare I have to add! It leapt out in front of me – clearly not expecting to see me there – darted about and around me as I too danced like a drunk endeavouring to give it a right of way!
|LiteHouse Solo tent|
My pace was slow and all was easy going and so I took some new directions out onto access land to find a little more solitude as more and more day visitors were heading my way. It was out on one moor noting the grey forbidding clouds ahead that I whipped out the video camera and pitched the LiteHouse Solo tent. Not for shelter but because I decided to make an impromptu video of this tent. Showing it’s space and detail. Give one the sort of views you’d like to see in a shop but not often see online in other media. More of that in another post…
The hours passed by and eventually I found myself on High Neb – the highest point on Stanage Edge with a bloody fantastic view south along the ridge. I noted potential camp spots on my way and was eager to make camp so I could relax and enjoy what was shaping up to be a fine sunset.
However, there were still many climbers and walkers about even though it was quite late in the day – reluctantly I established a vantage point with my tripod and camera and hit the record button.
|Last of the day’s climbers|
There really are not enough superlatives to describe the scenes that followed as I took in the changing colour and mood of the landscape as the sun set – not even the video could do it justice. It had to be one of the finest sights I’ve ever seen out on the hills. The pink and orange hues were everywhere! Crystallised pebbles in the gritstone were glistening away, dew covered heather caught the dimming light and molten lava formed out of small rock pools. It truly was an awesome sight!
This must have went on for nearly an hour and I was happy as a pig in mud – grinning from cheek to cheek and punching the air with explicatives – patience and perseverance was paying off indeed and I’ve got three more seasons of this to come. I’ll be back here in the winter make no doubt – I want to capture the same views but with snow.
Just as the sun had disappeared over the horizon, finally most folk had headed down home – and so I began setting up mine.
Sods law it started to rain – where the hell that came from, I’ll never know – but to coin a phrase, it’ hadn’t ‘pissed on my parade’. Oh no. Not at all. As you can probably tell, I was very content and quite excited at the prospect of a fine sunrise the following morning.
|View from High Neb|
In the main the clouds were clearing, the air was cooling fast, wind speed had dropped considerably – it had the makings of a cold still night, with gin clear air and perhaps some mist and fog in the valleys below.
So, tent up – food on the go, can of beer in hand, wrapped up in the Rab Infinity jacket – I enjoyed a lovely couple of hours as the orange glow of the sun vanished to be replaced by the smudged light pollution of a distant Manchester.
On a night like this the LiteHouse Solo proved it’s worth – it’s a light tent, packs tiny, easy to pitch and dealt with condensation extremely well. In fact, I was gobsmacked at how well it managed internal moisture.
I woke at about 1.30am due to a call of nature and apart from being memerised by the billions of stars above – I noted how the ‘lip’ design feature of the LiteHouse Solo was indeed performing as intended. Any beads of condensation that rolled down the inside of the flysheet, were caught on a lip of fabric which in turn disappeared over time through the raised internal mesh flap around the groundsheet. But more on the merits of this tent in another post – but my overall impression of this shelter was now much improved. I really like it.
Come 5.30am, my alarm rang out from within a internal pocket in my sleeping bag where I proceeded to lie there semi-concious before finally wrestling myself free and ready to pack up in the dark.
At around 6.30am the first light of dawn was beginning to push into the eastern sky and so I quickly set up my tripod and video camera and began to record the ensuing hour or two.
Just as hoped, frost had formed in the valleys below and the cold air was tapped by it’s lighter and warmer self above – fog and mist was seeping through trees while the pinks and purples of the oncoming light kissed the surrounding moors.
Stood there with a coffee in hand – it made me think how special such scenes and moments are when wild camping. It is quite simply a spiritual joy. Aye, you could see the same thing if you headed off from down below in the early hours – but having yourself up here already in comfort is even better. Your thoughts are more at ease and your limbs aren’t aching from a race up to the tops.
|Camping on the edge|
The sights that followed still bring a smile to my face and even now it already seems a lifetime ago. It’s times such as these that I find quite addictive. I want them to linger as it really can be the best you’ll ever see of any landscape. Haunting is a word that springs to mind.
But alas, time went by and it was soon the hour for me to pack up before I was seen and unfortunately head down for an early train to catch back home.
Though I took several hours to reach where I was situated from Hathersage the day before – the return leg took only 60 minutes.
It was while waiting for my train that I was asked to take a picture for a young lady from Los Angeles. She had just spent the week here in the UK backpacking and makes such trips as often as she can.
She’d been to the Lakes, York and now the Peak District but was now making her way back to London for a flight home. She commented on the landscapes close to her native California and how in some respects she much prefers the British hills. This took me by surprise as there are a great many places I’d like to visit over in the States. I concluded it’s more to do with how ‘artful’ our landscapes appear.
Not just picturesque but as in how man has shaped our lands over millennia. Our grubby finger prints are all over the place – some of which we find to be abhorrent. Places like the Peak District moors may seem wild and barren – they are after all the result of farming and clearances over thousands of years.
|Dawn near Curbar Edge|
It’s a place where man has held hand with nature and created something altogether different.
Over 70% of the worlds heather moorland lies within the UK – much of which can be found in the Peak Park. And this itself exists as only a consequence of our species actions.
Today, we find it wild and forbidding but at the same time beautiful to behold on our eyes. It is in some ways I think that ‘call of nature’ or the ‘wild’ that resides in all of us. A call to not forget where we come from and how it’s shaped our evolution.
For me, spending time out in such places brings a real sense of well-being. I feel more in tune with the world and myself. It’s invigorating and who could not be when experiencing sight’s I’ve such described and many others, too.
On reflection – my latest trip has made me realise not to be anxious about my forthcoming video epic covering the Peak District and it’s sights through all seasons – but to grasp it with both hands as an opportunity to not only learn more about myself but this small corner of England.
I’m guilty as much as the next person for rushing off to the bigger hills up north – but the Peak District on my doorstep has made me see some aspects of my world and it’s own in a totally new light.
Of which I’m only too pleased to continue sharing and will take great pleasure in presenting to you once the final product is complete.
And as for Twitter? Well, despite still getting to grips with it – it felt quite nice I could share some of my thoughts as the weekend went on. Whether anyone followed or not? Who knows? But it’s there as another extension of me sharing my experiences with folk who have an interest in such things.
I have tonnes of photo’s (freeze frame shots taken from my video recordings) concerning this trip of which I’ve been ruthlessly selective. Some of which I have to keep to myself as they will be used in a future feature.. Nevertheless, you can see a few more here: