Upper Derwent Valley revelation

Admiring the view from Derwent Edge

Last week I made my first long hike into the Upper Derwent Valley in the Peak District National Park – and what a revelation it was for me.

I’ve only ever explored small areas that nudge into the upper reaches of the valley – having always frowned upon the idea of hiking round conifer plantations and man made reservoirs.

Well, it just goes to show ignorance is not always bliss – in the Upper Derwent Valley I think I’ve discovered a new spiritual home.

I couldn’t believe what was on offer. Granted there was lots of plantations – but they were clearly well managed and considerate in their appearance. Heck, there were even copses of native trees thrown into the mix.

Sunlight sparkles on Howden reservoir

And the reservoirs themselves were very scenic – I can see why some folk call it the ‘Lake District of the Peak District’. With the large and tranquil expanses of water, coupled with towering uplands and forests – I honestly felt like I was Cumbria at times.

Up on the moors there were little paths, the views were fabulously far ranging and cloughs of varying depths cut into the uplands. Some see such heather clad moors as ‘bleak’ – not me. I thought they were some of the prettiest scenes I’ve ever seen up there – just as dramatic as any other area I’ve had the pleasure of hiking and camping amongst.

It’s worth remembering that most of the worlds surviving heather moorland is here in the UK – a great deal of which resides in the Peak District. They’re iconic!

“Are you looking at me?!”

It was while filming along the length of Derwent Edge that I got very lucky with capturing wildlife on film. Birds such as the curlew and grouse I managed to get up close to – but it was the mountain hares I encountered one evening and consequent morning that will live forever in my memory.

This will sound a little schmaltzy and romantic – but it’s exactly how things happened.

I was exploring a gritstone outcrop when I noted a number of grouse up ahead, so I flung out the tripod, lenses and camera and was about to hit the record button when a flash of white caught my eye in some nearby heather.

“Where’s the whisky?”

Lo and behold there was a group of mountain hares mucking about, relaxing and chewing on any grass they could find not 30 feet from me! I gently put down my pack, knelt to the ground and discreetly made my way towards them – just close enough to not rely on the optical zoom in my camera.

It was bloody windy up there (clocked 35mph average winds at one point on my Kestrel 3000) and so over the next 30 minutes or so I recorded the hares at play – most only just shedding their white winter coat.

The sun was beginning to sink and so I made my way to a large tor not far from Back Tor and spent a chilly though enjoyable evening taking in all the distant views. Thanks to the breeze the visibility was superb. I could see all the way over to Minninglow in the White Peak of the park, for example.

The following morning, I had just about packed up except for the tent when another mountain hare wandered nearby. Now, I have to mention this wee fella had been lingering around my camp the previous evening and over time came ever closer to me.

I thought nothing of it at first and assumed I was perhaps pitched near his nest – but come the morning, he was so relaxed in my company I was less than 20 feet from him at times with my camera out on the tripod.

It was bloody brilliant! Coffee in hand, nice views and this lovely creature chilling out in my presence!

Anyway, enough of that sentimentality – the rest of my trip consisted of long hikes, the odd bus journey, hooking up with Moonlightshadow and James Grant, drinking local ale in pubs, charging batteries, waiting and more waiting – the usual stuff, really.

Incidentally, Moonlightshadow has really come along with this wild camping malarkey – he makes me look a heavyweight nowadays! And James was out for his first night up on the tops hoping to catch a nice sunrise for his landscape photography – a good practice run for him and future trips.

There was one night I spent on some MOD moorland which overlooks the Roaches – that was a good camp, and though the views were very nice, I couldn’t really film anything as the light was very flat. So, instead I sat for a few hours enjoying a bottle of cheap sherry in the company of some noisey curlews and the odd sparrow hawk.

In fact, that whole area of the Peaks is well worth a visit if you’ve never been. The moorlands are not so expansive, high and ‘wild’ as their northern cousins but they do give an intimate view of the nearby dales which slice their way down into the limestone plateau of the White Peak.

I was round that neck of the woods to film the Mermaid Inn – well, I say ‘inn’ as it used to be one. Now, it’s been transformed into a self catering venue. The pub is still intact but closed to the public.

The previous owner (whom I’ve spoken to) said it was hard work bringing in trade to what was the 3rd highest pub in Britain. During the summer months they did a roaring trade but sadly come the winter, business would struggle – so much so that they’d forfeit any profit gained previously and consequently make a loss.

Heating bills on a large old building and lack of funds to incorporate a bunkhouse on site and more all contributed to it’s sad demise.

Nevertheless, the premises are still in use and the building has been tastefully refurbished and is sited in a helluva location. Despite some distant haze, I could just make out the hills of Wales in the west and clearly view the Wreakin in Shropshire while below you lies the Roaches.

Moonlightshadow enjoys sunrise from his camp

Come the weekend, I had made my way back to Edale by means of foot and bus to enjoy a wonderful couple of days in the area with the weather having much improved. In fact, it was so warm I wore my t-shirt most of the time – only covering up on occasion to prevent sunburn.

In Hope I met my wife and off we went to spend a night on a campsite near Longnor in the south of the park.

So, all in all – a very enjoyable and productive trip and one that has finally confirmed the arrival of spring. Leaves on trees sprouting, the birds and the bees are whizzing about and the nights are cool not cold. My Thai meal went down a treat, the Terra Nova Solar Competition tent has really grown on me and the gear from Rab performed brilliantly. Reviews of which I’ll submit shortly.

Oh, and thank goodness for Drinksafe Systems inline filter and Travel Tap! Having to source water from pools and trickling streams was no easy feat. Things are pretty dry up on the Peak’s tops at the moment. But I have to mention that when I got home, I set about cleaning my Platypus hydration bladder and noted a small amount of water left inside.

I chuckled to myself how I collected just the right amount for my last days hike when I noticed what appeared to be small specs of dirt floating around – upon closer inspection it turned out to be hundreds of bugs!!

Loads of em swimming around inside! Yuh!! I never noticed them when collecting water. So, thumbs up to Drinksafe Systems.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Jules says:

    Looks like you've been busy lately, Terry!

    Brilliant about the Mountain Hares – what a special experience. I've never (to my knowledge) seen them in the Peak District but am hoping to be lucky enough one day. We get quite a few of their lowland cousins round our way – they seem to like the agricultural land hereabouts. Fantastic to watch!


  2. terrybnd says:

    Hi Jules,

    Up on the eastern plateau of Kinder you often see lots of mountain hares at first light. I always come across them but they tend to shoot off at speed upon seeing you.

    Hence I felt very humbled to enjoy their company.

    Was bloody brill!


  3. Great stuff, Terry… I really love this part of the Peak. You have to pick your day carefully to avoid the crowds but it can be magic.


  4. terrybnd says:

    Thanks northernwalker – it really was an eye opener. Though to be honest, my goodness! It was tough going hiking round there in under 2 days! But the weather made it a joy.


  5. Jules says:

    Another point from your post – the Mermaid Inn. What a strange situation. I don't go past often but having been in once or twice, last time I went by it was closed. I would have bought a drink and some food if it was open – as it wasn't I sat on the bench outside, harming no one.

    The bloke came out and said in an agressive tone that they weren't open. I said I could see that. He challenged me again. I just said that as I was causing no harm or trouble I would move on when I was ready. He didn't like it, but had no choice.

    I won't have anything to do with the place if the same bloke is there.


  6. Great vid Terry your getting good at this comes with loads of practice, you have a good life 🙂


  7. GeoffC says:

    I can't believe you didn't thoroughly explore this area before, it's the one part of the Dark Peak we returned to time after time when we grew weary of the others.
    You are capturing some fine material of late, and what good luck with the hares. They are much easier to see at the tail end of winter when still white against the dark peat.


  8. I can finally get back on your site Terry, don't know what was happening but everytime I opened a page it would disapear after a few seconds. I think that is shocking that you have not visited this part of the peaks before! Get exploring, it is one of the best spots. I highly recommend Alport dale and Alport Castles – stunning spot.


  9. Just spotted Alport castles on the vid so I suppose you may have been there!


  10. terrybnd says:

    @James LOL I have been in places. I've just not been thorough. Been to the two bothies, for example and Alport Dale many many times – but you've guessed that now.

    I think you may have had problems viewing the pages because of your browser not being up to date?


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