Wandering around with a palace in the Peak

Video screen capture – View from Sir William Hill, Peak District National Park

It’s funny how some folk won’t head outdoors if the weather forecast seems somewhat unfavourable – granted, I’m a ‘pint’s half empty’ kind of guy but only when it comes to ale. As far as placing my feet out on rock and bog is concerned, I’m ever the optimist.

My recent soiree into the Peak District National Park was no exception to this rule – the weather looked like it was going to have a sulk and shed it’s tears on the limestone dales while mother nature would do her best to blow away lifes troubles with gusto up on the high bleak moors.

My coach pulled into Taddington and it was here I set off on a short walk for Monks Dale which lies just south of the beautiful village of Tideswell in the white peak. The aim was to spend the night there on pastures unexplored by myself and record on video as much wildlife as I could muster.

Room with a view – £1,000,000 night. Paying?

I read that this little visited limestone gorge was abundant in rare flora and fauna and consequently is a national nature reserve – so, with a spring in my step I marched past a scenic Priestcliffe and made my way to Millers Dale. The breeze was strong, dark clouds were looming in overhead and with the first drops of drizzle I made my way into the Anglers Rest pub.

A run of the mill rural pub at first glance, which sits by the River Wye and some pleasant waterfalls nestled in the bottom of a narrow limestone valley – however, never judge a book by it’s cover. The interior was warm an welcoming, the bar staff were friendly and the ale was tip top. I only intended to enjoy just one pint – but in the end I had three. All locally brewed beers, too!

The sun was finally back out to play and off I headed into the oasis of Monks Dale – and what a haven for wildlife it is.

Initially, you leave the road following a footpath behind a delightful church and enter what can best be described as a jungle. The river was dry (having altered it’s course underground for the season as is often the case in such geological areas), trees and their branches hang low to almost touch the floor – while you as an intrepid explorer carefully place your feet amongst the myriad of tree roots.

After a short time, you come into an open meadow with some marshes thrown into the mix – all of which is surrounded by steep, high limestone crags. Butterflies dance their merry way around in the breeze, birds are in full song and various flying insects zig zag their way to the many flowers that litter the area.

Now, you may be thinking why is this silly fool painting such a romantic picture of some random limestone dale? Well, quite simply – it’s because it isn’t and how I’ve described entering Monks Dale is true to the letter!

I was grinning from cheek to cheek, let me tell you.

After about an hour of plodding about, kneeling around, sinking my feet in bogs and swamps while filming all that could be seen – I noticed in the thick desiduous woodland up ahead a prominent cliff. It was screaming for my attention – demanding I come hither and “piiiiittttchhh your teeeennnnnt“.

Pitch in Monks Dale

So, onwards I went and carefully made my way up the steep slopes of grass and scree to answer the call and upon reaching the top? Well, the view was sublime – not far reaching by any means. But the prospect was heavenly, more so as the sun was now full ablaze on the lands below. In fact, it was really quite humid – and so the shirt came off (Woo hoo!) and I got to pitching the Terra Nova Voyager 2.2 tent I’m currently testing.

I’ll admit it was a little early in the day – well, about 3pm – but there was not another soul around, I was well off the beaten path and from most angles one couldn’t see my humble abode for the night.

And so time passed as I lounged around in the nearby trees, filming insects and various rare flowers. The sound and smell of the place will linger long in my memory and I suppose this blog post is proof of that. It all sounds very idyllic – and it was. I was in my own piece of heaven, to be honest.

Peace, solitude and almost at one with nature – OK, I mean that with my tongue firmly in cheek, but hey! I had my top off!

The following morning I awoke to what some may say is a horrendous noise or even nuisance. I think most would find it a joy depite the high decibel count – a spring morning birdsong chorus! Bloody marvellous! I didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag. Alas, I had a long hike ahead of me and the rising sun was warming me out of my slumber.

So, coffee drunk, tent and gear packed, video camera on standby – I made my way back down the slopes and headed for the upper reaches of this most delightfully romantic dale.

Now, ignoring the waxing lyrical about the place – though the rest of my trip had it’s moments, nothing ever came close to visiting Monks Dale. Do visit the place – it be a crime not to. You get this picture in your mind that if it were not for ‘man and beast’, most of the landscape hereabouts would all look like this. There are certainly no sheep in the area – well, on the other side of nearby farmland stone walls, yeah. But these munch anything buggers are kept out – and it shows!

From the dale to Tideswell, then Litton Edge, Foolow, Great Hucklow I eventually made it to the Barrel Inn at Bretton. The highest pub in all of Derbyshire.

Always busy that place – even on weekdays. Never eaten there but the food does look good. The ales well kept and the view outside looking over the south of the national park is a must see.

I would’ve happily spent the rest of my day there but time was getting on and I had to make my way onto Eyam Moor – and in the rain I have to add. Yep. This trip was constant sunshine, wind and showers. Sometimes all at once!

Video screen capture – Looking over to Abney from Eyam Moor

After plodding about in knee high heather on Eyam Moor seeking stone circles and other such ancient sites I eventually chose somewhere to carefully camp for the night. And just at the right time, too. By now the sun was totally blanketed out by thick dark cloud and it absolutely chucked it down.

I sat in the tent for a while cursing the weather and how it had ruined my plan to film a nice sunset from Sir William Hill nearby and so spent some time talking to folk on Twitter.

It was around 8pm and a few cans of beer later that I was about to get cooking some dinner on my meths stove when a wee shaft of sunlight shone through a vent in my tent door. Hooray! The rain had stopped!

I tripped and tumbled my way out of the Voyager 2.2 (now cursing I drank a couple of beers) and popped my head over some rocks which were sheltering my tent from the strong westerly winds – and knock me down with a feather, the sun was sinking in the west with all the fronts of cloud breaking up around.

It really was quite a sight, even if the wind chill was about 3c – nevertheless, video camera was frantically got hold of and the tripod set steady and low to the ground and I began to film all that I saw.

Some incredible scenes unfolded in front of me the likes of which us hikers and walkers only ever see – shafts of sunlight breaching the thick, dark clouds – those ‘Gods Glory’ moments I say to friends. The various hues of which you don’t ever see in a rainbow spilled out onto the lands below. Distant hills and moors silhoutted amongst the enchanting folds of the limestone valleys marked with their higglety pigglety stone walls.

Aye, I was a very content man all wrapped up in down and with a big smile on my face.

I carved the rock myself – so someone said – for this pitch

The next morning I awoke to the cackle of grouse and sunshine beaming over the eastern moors onto my dew laden tent. Reluctantly, I packed up and was off by 7.30am snaking my way back over the edges of Eyam Moor en route to Hathersage.

From Hathersage I then visited some nearby forests and eventually ended up on Dennis Knoll which lies at the footsteps of the famous Stanage Edge.

It was in this area I then lingered for around 2 hours – observing and filming Lapwings, Curlew and more. Their distincitive calls rising above the bleats of nearby sheep and their spritely lambs. Again, time flew by – which got me thinking a couple of things as I made my way to Bamford Edge to find a pitch for the night.

The first one being, if you or anyone told me on any given day to sit in a field not wandering more than a few yards for 2 hours or more – I’d politely tell you to get off where the sun don’t shine! There’s no way on earth I’d want to do that out of choice or even enjoy it. No way!

But out on the hills and moors? Oh aye! I’d do it anytime I was asked. It’s a joy. Funny old world, eh? Of course, I know there’s more to it than that – but my point is…explain that to those who don’t venture in to the great outdoors. They’d think you were (or I in this case) a bloody loon! They’d have no conception of why we do what we do and how such joys come about.

The second thing is I was thinking about fellow bloggers on their way to begin the TGO Challenge up in Scotland (a backpacking event whereby you cross from the west coast of Scotland to the east). Also, tt was just over a year ago I did my alternative to Alfred Wainwrights Coast to Coast walk, raising money for Mountain Rescue England and Wales. Feeling quite envious and looking back on my own crossing with rose tinted lenses – I began to dream up the idea of combining the joy of walking a long distance route with work.

So, I came up with the not so original idea of making my very own long distance walk in the Peak District. Now, I’m well aware of the Limestone Way and others – but I’m not aware of any long distance route that takes one through the Peak District National Park showcasing all it has to offer.

Such a route would zig zag quite a bit – and to be fair that aint much fun, more so if you have to go back on yourself at some points.

But I reckon I’ve come up with a route that would snake through the Peak Park and give anyone of us a fine flavour of what Britains most popular national park has to offer. And I can bet there are places on my route that most folk have never set foot upon.

‘Palace of the Peak’ – mine at least

So, as a taster – my route would begin in Ashbourne in the south of the park where there are good transport links, facilities and so on. And the route would eventually finish in Bakewell. Roughly calculating the mileage, one could use B&B’s, hotels, campsites, bunkhouses or even wild camp this route I’ve mustered.

Would anyone find it of interest? Who knows? But the prospect of taking this journey on excites me. I reckon it’s a winner – for me at least, because I could combine work with play.

Anyway, enough of all that…..

An enjoyable camp was had up on the moors on the Friday night and errrr…..well, that’s it really. Because the next day I went off for a shoot by the Ladybower Reservoir and then headed home!

I’d like to add actually – that I’ve found my ‘Palace of the Peak’. No, not Chatsworth House. My Palace!

It is the Terra Nova Voyager 2.2. I’d normally leave such remarks for the final review of the tent – but I have to admit I’ve become smitten with this backpacking shelter already.

I’m used to small, cramped spaces in one man shelters – namely cause their lightweight and pack down small. And though the Voyager 2.2 isn’t ‘lightweight’ per se – it’s still reasonable enough for one person to carry at 2.4kg’s. Aye, it’s a 2 person shelter – but for me it’s a bloody palace!

The tent packs down nice and flat in the bottom of your rucksack (ditch the stuffsack, it makes it way too bulky) and gives you loads of headroom, tow porches of which one is particularly large. You lie parallel to the tents sides – so you can not only sit up and potter about in your porch but you can lie on either side of your body and do the same. Great if you’re all relaxed and casual like me – otherwise known as lazy. But it’s ideal for in winter when you want to be cooped up in your sleeping bag and comfortably mess about cooking etc in your porch.

I’d go on – but I just wanted to say, I really like it.

I tried using the Podsacs Poos bags – but decided to use them as rubbish bags, and my wife would tell you not only am I a waste of space but the litter I leave about the house is hazardous – so they got some handy use in the end.

The Chocolate Fish merino baselayer was put through it’s paces under a Rab Nimbus windshirt – they performed in perfect harmony

And the few Look What We Found meals I tried were bloody spot on the money – well, one was wonderful but needed mash with it really. But the risotto was simply sublime!

And upon my return I was kindly informed by a gentleman on Twitter that this very blog was listed in “6 OF THE BEST OUTDOORS BLOGS” in the latest Trail Magazine. Well, I’m flattered and humbled but I’m not too sure what to make of that or what others will in all honesty! Ole Nick at Livesey on Britain’s mountains is the list, too. A worthy listing. Go check his blog out – it’s a good’un. There’s loads out there – heck, they’re in the blog roll on the right of this page.

Anyway, I shall stop waffling now and leave you all be. Until next time…..

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11 Comments Add yours

  1. Jules says:

    Hi Terry

    I see you've been busy again!

    I am, sort of, in the process of compiling a “round the PDNP” walk of my own. So far I've done 3 days last year from the edge of Derby to Hulme End via Ashbourne and Hartington. Most of it was really good, although there are possibly a couple of minor improvements that could be made. (Details on my blog). I am hoping to add to the route later this year.

    As for the Limestone Way – tis a bit odd really. I have looked at it split into a 3 day and a 4 day (with added atuff) but I find the logisitcs – either B&B (which I prefer) or linking with public transport (particularly at weekends) abysmal. And it's not as though it is especially remote as a walk!

    One B&B I contacted wanted minimum 2 nights for 2 people, even though I explained I was on a solo through-walk! And these people advertised on a Limestone Way-related website. Numpties!

    Anyway, I digress. The burning question arising from your trip report – what was the beer at the Anglers Rest!

    Cheers for now

    Jules

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  2. We're not worthy, we're not worthy

    ;o)

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  3. terrybnd says:

    @Jules – I know what you mean about some aspects of public transport in areas along the Limestone Way. Found the same myself. However, considering the park as a whole – it's defo one of the better ones for public transport.

    Your long distance walk sounds much longer than what I have in mind. Will take a look at your blog actually 🙂

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  4. terrybnd says:

    @blogpackinglight – LOL Yeah, I know. It's all fun and games LOL 🙂

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  5. GeoffC says:

    You're certainly finding inspirational ways of backpacking the White Peak, an area I've daywalked to death but never considered as really suitable for good pitching (nearly all farmland, loads of people, often impossible to get above the farms etc.). I looked at a couple of longish distance walks a few years back but never walked them (The Peak District High Level Route and the Peakland Way).
    Great pictures there, the changeable conditions of sun and showers are ripe with opportunity.
    I must say it beats me how anyone can drink like that on a backpack!.

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  6. terrybnd says:

    Hi Geoff, LOL Well, it may appear I drink a fair bit but it's only the odd pint and can. Helps me relax the mind from it buzzing all the time as I film.

    I really could do with a normal backpack to switch off from video etc. Toying with nipping to the Dales or Lakes next month as a treat.

    The Peakland Way, not heard of that one (well, it doesn't spring to mind). Will look into that one. Thanks for mentioning it.

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  7. Jules says:

    Re: Public Transport / Limestone Way.

    Yes, I suppose it's better catered for than some areas. I was looking at it from the perspective of doing it from the Derby end of things, and times and routes don't seem to come together too well. It's perhaps better if you use a different base.

    But really it was the B&B situation that scuppered it. I suppose providers on “bigger” or “higher profile” LDPs might be more used to one-nighters. Some of those I tried just didn't seem that interested, a bit odd considering they were advertising on sites geared to walking and/or the Limestone Way. Each to their own, I suppose. 🙂

    However, on a wider point, transport might be something for the PDNP authorities to look at. Especially in terms of a more integrated service between, say, trains, buses and weekend shuttles (particularly when it comes to Sunday buses).

    Anyway, it won't put me off going. I'll just walk a different part of the PD, and make more use of my car! 😉

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  8. terrybnd says:

    Jules, agree with you wholeheartedly. You should voice your concerns to the PDNPA. They have that consultation at the moment. Public transport is one area being looked at for planning.

    The Monsal Trail tunnels re-opening is part of that plan, too. So, goes to show they're doing something about it all.

    But you're right at about accommodation – that's something I could look at with Let's Stay Peak District actually 😉 Hmmmmm……I smell a money spinning idea here! LOL

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  9. Jules says:

    Moneymaking, hmmmm? A small commission will suffice, and you won't even have to denigrate yourself in front of the Dragon's, either! 😉

    I'll have another look at the consultation. TBH I did look when first announced, only I didn't have time to read all the bumf as we were very busy with walking projects at the time. There seemed to be quite a lot to go through before the consultation questionnaire made any real sense. I know the PDNPA is trying to do quite a lot, especially with a reducing budget.

    With my Peak District LDP/circuit (which is definitely a work in progress – don't hold your breath!) I have tried to design it (so far, so good) so that public transport and accommodation can play a part, mostly for my own benefit as it's a solo effort, but also that if anyone has an inclination to do some of it, it is fairly accessible from all corners of the park and that the overnight stops work as well.

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  10. terrybnd says:

    Well, I'm thinking of other ways to generate revenue with the videos ya see. I'd like to do a few things to be honest 😉 But needs time and funds.

    Your thinking on the LDP is same as mine. Easy access etc. Keep at it! We can compare our routes!

    I'm gonna finalise mine in the next few weeks and hopefully walk it in August

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  11. Jules says:

    On the LDP front, I have another 2-4 days available later in the year to walk/research another section.

    I'm looking forward to this very much – by the time I've done that it should be about two thirds done, then there'll be a bit of snagging to do/improvements to make before publishing the route as “complete”. So, at my current rate, that'll be about 2013. :))

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