|Manchester cityscape from Shining Tor camp|
Dave Mycroft, Editor of My Outdoors UK joked with me the other day saying, “The way the sun follows you around, you would have been burnt at the stake not so long ago!”. Aye, he’s probably right! I get called many things in day to day life (some I can’t repeat on here) and one of them is “…lucky bugger”.
|View west from High Wheeldon last week – a scene I never tire of|
When it comes to the weather I have to admit I’m a bit of a geek – I study weather charts like a hawk, double check pressure readings, observe wind speeds and note humidity levels. And to a large degree I have to. How else can I not endure a wasted trip out filming?
Some of it’s luck, no doubt about that – but more often than not I go where the weather tells me to go. Not where I want to place my feet and consequently hope for the best. This is often the mistake many people make. Their hearts are set on a hike or camp in a particular area but fail to note the weather and how it may well be better for them to visit somewhere else – often only 20 miles or so down the road.
|Remnants of a cloud inversion begins to disperse|
I’ve planned to go filming and hiking in the Dark Peak on many occasions and at the last minute have altered my plans to ignore the uplands and instead visit the south of the Peak District National Park. Consequently, I not only am I able to continue working but also enjoy sunshine and blue skies. Often I’ll step upon a limestone summit and note dark and forbidding clouds to the north where I could’ve been camping.
|A stealthy bivouac in Monsal Dale mid July|
The following day, I’ll then make my to the high moorlands and find the weather conditions have improved immensely.
Visiting a particular area frequently, you’ll begin to note it’s quirks with particular weather systems but it pays to take the time and talk with locals in the area, too. Often they’ll be happy to share with you how the weather plays within their vicinity and as a result the information proves extremely useful.
And so, last Friday I found myself in the west of the Peak Park having arranged to meet Dave Mycroft for a wild camp on the moors. I’d just spent a day or so in the east and made my way via foot and bus to the Cat and Fiddle pub (the second highest such premises in Britain). From here we tramped the moors and visited Three Shires Head. A wonderfully scenic area with an ancient packhorse bridge and numerous pools and waterfalls.
|Bed for the night on Stanage Edge early July|
Alas, we didn’t stick around for long as it turned out to be midge hell!
Back by the Cat and Fiddle, Dave was suffering a little from a long term injury and sensibly decided to head on home leaving me to enjoy a pint in the pub and stroll along the moors to spend the night atop Shining Tor.
|A fine view of Shuttlingsloe from Shining Tor last Saturday morning|
The afternoon had been a mix of warm temperatures, prolonged spells of rain and drizzle along with broken cloud and sunshine. It was really quite humid, too – so the Rab Neoshell© jacket I’m testing got a thorough test. Such conditions make membrane fabrics struggle to breathe when your marching along up and down hills. And I have to say, I’m bloody impressed thus far with it’s performance! But that’s for another blog post in the coming weeks.By the time I reached the pleasant summit of Shining Tor the sky was clear and the sun was shining and a gentle breeze helped alleviate any gripes I had with the humid air around – something I should have seriously took note of.
After about an hour, I had set up my tent for the night and observed how the distant city of Manchester and it’s larger conurbation was engulfed by lightning and thick black storm clouds. It really was quite an awesome sight and I felt pleased with myself that I was situated in an area of fine conditions! Mother Nature was looking down kindly on me it seems.
|View from tent towards Manchester|
I sat by a wall near the trig point enjoying a beer and the far reaching views which stretched as far as Snowdonia in Wales. The views from Shining Tor are really quite impressive. Getting up to grab something I left behind in my tent I noted the wind speed had picked up somewhat and seconds later – all hell broke loose!
Yikes!!!!! And that’s putting it mildly! Within minutes there was an inch of water surrounding my tent which itself was toing and froing violently while lightning began to strike nearby on the moors.
|The storm passes overhead out west|
Now wind, rain and snow don’t bother me in the slightest on camps (as some of you can testify). To me it’s all about understanding the limits of your kit and of course your own mindset to such conditions. But lightning?
Geez! I did become a little anxious I have to admit. It was bloody awful! The noise was horrendous and in complete stark contrast to what I was only minutes ago enjoying. The whole episode caught me by surprise – I hadn’t spotted any change in wind direction or the oncoming storm clouds.
Even so, I chose to sit it out anyway – fancying my chances that I wouldn’t be struck by lightning and hoping it would all disappear as rapidly as it arrived.
And sure enough, the lightning faded away, the wind eased and eventually the rain stopped to leave clear skies above.
How thrilling, eh? Daft maybe but the scenes that ensued as the clouds raced east to Wales and the Irish Sea were quite something. The word ‘moody’ or ‘atmospheric’ don’t even begin to best describe such scenes.
So, after that bit of fun for the evening I settled down for the night – and come dawn I got another surprise.
I woke to a sea of cloud as far as the eye could see with only the highest peaks rising above – of which I was camped on one.
As the sun rose in the east the cloud slowly began to lift and break morphing into a beautiful sunny day for all – at any level of the lands.
I’ve enjoyed some fab trips out of late and though we’re having an ‘average’ summer here in the UK – it’s worth bearing in mind that no matter where you are or what the conditions are like – use your nose and common sense and you can still have a fab time out in the great outdoors….