Pride of the PeakIt was pitch dark- all we could see was a little circle of ground a few inches in front of our feet, partially obscured by the persistent rain drops lit by the beams of our head torches as we trudged uphill through the mud. We had no idea what time it was, but we knew it was late… and getting home depended on reaching the exact spot where there was a gate through the woods- not easy when you are in a meadow a couple of miles wide…

Helen and I had decided that we needed a big walk as the culmination of our training for our Cornish Challenge in three week’s time. I had planned to enter us into the 26 mile Bassetlaw Bash, but decided that we needed to up the ante a little and do something tougher…

So I raided my walking books and found the 30 mile Pride of the Peak walk that I had done with mum and my two sisters several years ago… the difference was that then we walked it over three days, not one!

We set off from Bakewell (last time I did the walk we met Bill Maynard, AKA Claude Greengrass, in the village centre- he was lovely and posed for photos with the original Alfred). The walk climbs out of the town across fields where navigation was, erm, interesting in parts. At one point I realised my rucksack felt decidedly damp. I thought I’d put it down in wet grass during an early pee stop, but soon realised that the rest of me was becoming rather damp too. When I realised I could actually wring out my trousers I thought it may be time to investigate. A quick check revealed the cause to be the result of me not tightening one of the connections on my new bladder hose so I was unfortunately wearing a litre of my water supply- ah well…

We climbed up through Dirtlow Farm, where we lost the path before hearing a voice from a barn give us instructions- a rather spooky experience as all we could see through the wooden slats were sheep!

Sheldon

Sheldon

The sun broke through as we walked through Sheldon and dropped down into Deepdale, but not for long sadly. The route seems to climb up to Monsal Head and back down to the viaduct just for the sake of it, so we decided to miss this out and continue to the viaduct instead- as the sun had been replaced by swirling grey cloud there wouldn‘t have been much of a view anyway.

Monsal Dale

Monsal Dale

Dropping down off the trail towards the delightfully named Water-cum-Jolly Dale, we passed an array of colourful climbers just as it started to rain, and the temperature dropped noticeably. We decided to stop for lunch at the picnic area at Tideswell Dale, where we ate in the rain, stared at by a kid who seemed fascinated by us and referred to us as ‘those guys’.

Water-cum-Jolly Dale

Water-cum-Jolly Dale

Unfortunately we were both freezing cold when we set off towards Litton, and trudged along in silent misery until we warmed up. I had to don my gloves, which is almost unheard of for me as I am usually Miss Warm! I was really feeling the weight of my pack too- possibly around 12 kilos- it is surprising what difference it makes to the leg muscles.

We ‘cheated’ a little here, as we followed the road through the village rather than cutting across the fields as the route suggested, but the walk was taking us a lot longer than we thought. We dropped down towards the stunning Cressbook Dale, chatting to a lovely elderly lady walking her dog, who told us she walks every day, despite waiting for a replacement knee operation. There was a party of walkers up ahead, one of who was bizarrely holding an open umbrella, despite the fact that it had stopped raining. We were determined to overtake them just for this crime against ‘proper‘ walking, but they continued along the dale whilst we climbed steeply out of it towards Wardlow.

I really enjoyed the next part of the route, which involved an ascent of the wild and remote Longstone Moor- I love this area, plus there were stunning views off Longstone Edge towards the villages of Great and Little Longstone. A stretch of road walking along the edge brought more sweeping views (and rather worryingly several little roadside memorials which suggested that the views may have proved an unwelcome distraction for more than one hapless motorist), but unfortunately things became complicated here as we were having difficulty reconciling the route description off the edge with a network of several interlinking paths. We ended up heading towards the Longstone villages instead of Rowland, and managed to get back on track by crawling under electric fences and following the road past Rowland into Hassop, where I was mightily cheered to spot that the Eyre Arms pub was open for business.

Helen remarked ‘I wonder how posh the pub is’ to which I replied ‘I don’t care- we’re going in!’ It is amazing how fortified you feel after a latte, packet of crisps, warm sit down and a comfortable loo!!

Time was unfortunately against us and we pushed on- along a delightful but mostly uphill path through woodland and rhododendron bushes to Calver, where we negotiated some busy roads towards another lovely path by the Derwent to Froggat Bridge. We were now faced with the steepest climb of the day- the rocky pull up onto Froggatt and Curbar Edges, where we were treated to the sight of a deer herd grazing at the top. My feet were aching by now, and the tongue of my left walking shoe was rubbing the top of my foot, but I couldn’t be bothered to stop and dress it.

As we skirted Baslow and trudged towards Chatsworth House, the last of the daylight faded and we scrabbled for our head torches. It also started raining again, and it was when we reached Edensor that we realised that we had the huge expense of uphill to cross towards the crucial gate. As we couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead, we followed Helen’s GPS which fortunately took us straight to it. Unfortunately following the GPS and walking in the dark slowed us up even more and we still had the ‘meadow’ near Calton Lees to cross, before a very steep descent through woods towards the golf course and the car at Bakewell.

We could see the lights of Bakewell glisten tantalisingly below us, but we had the woods to negotiate first which were made more treacherous by the now much heavier rain. Helen slipped and fell on her knee, which immediately swelled, but luckily it seems to be more surface damage then anything internal. This was the real low point for us both, especially so when Helen realised she had several missed calls from her partner. When she rang him he informed us it was 11:45pm, not around 10pm as we had thought, and so he had been getting rather concerned!

Luckily we were only a few minutes away from the car at this point, but we were both rather knackered and sore. It was good experience though- it is the often epic outings that build strength and endurance… when things don’t go according to plan, when every step becomes an ordeal, and when the odds seem stacked against you and you don’t think you are going to be able to finish. I think we both learnt a lot, which will stand us in good stead for our challenge.

Unfortunately WordPress has decided not to let me upload any more photos so I apologise for the boring and text laden second half!!

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