White Peak WalkI like the White Peak Walk for a number of reasons- great scenery, lovely food at the end and nice friendly people- but one of its main attractions is the civilised starting time of 10am. This means I don’t have to prise myself out of bed when it’s still dark after a few snatched hours sleep, but can actually enjoy a leisurely breakfast and set off in daylight. Heck, I even had time to stop for petrol.

The WPW is unique in that there is no set route description, just a number of checkpoints which must be visited in order. Although routes are suggested these can be open to interpretation.

After grabbing a coffee and lathering myself in sunscreen I saw Ross, and we walked together for the day. The suggested route to the first checkpoint goes through fields, and as things can become pretty congested at the stiles we decided to take the road round by Taddington to the first checkpoint at the Waterloo Hotel. Judging by the amount of people coming in to the checkpoint from the ‘suggested’ route, ours may have been a little shorter… still, we made up for that later on…

Taddington

Taddington

It was hot and sunny, although we did have some welcome cloud cover later- not as hot as last year’s heat wave but still hot enough to drain the energy and sap the legs as the day wore on. After a brief stop at the second checkpoint it was time to push on towards Monsal viaduct, passing some awesome views along the way.

Approaching Monsal Viaduct

Approaching Monsal Viaduct

The valley from Monsal Viaduct

The valley from Monsal Viaduct

Now that the Headstone Tunnel has been opened up, it does mean we missed out on the iconic view from Monsal Head, but the tunnel is an experience in itself; an impressive feat of engineering completed in 1860, much of it carved out the bare rock using just hand tools. It’s good to see it’s still getting plenty of use as a cycle and walking trail- feels as though the labourers’ efforts were not lost after the railway was disbanded.

Headstone Tunnel

Headstone Tunnel

The walk along the Monsal Trail dragged a little and it was a relief to turn off onto a bridleway which descended to the next checkpoint at Bakewell where there were biscuits… mmm… one custard cream left. There isn’t much food provided on this event, as I found out last year, so I had come better prepared this time.

After passing through Bakewell with its pretty stone bridge, we were faced with a really steep climb through Manners Wood. It felt unbelievably tough, I was absolutely soaked with sweat and puffing like a steam engine when we finally reached the top. Luckily we had a fairly gently downhill stretch to Carlton Lees and a few minutes rest at the checkpoint.

Approaching Carlton Lees

Approaching Carlton Lees

Walking through a gentle valley towards Rowsley we took advantage of the village shop to buy essential supplies- feast ice lollies- and collapsed at the checkpoint with a welcome coffee. I can honestly say that the next stretch to Birchover was the lowest point for us both. As I forced myself to my feet to leave Rowsley I felt dreadful- completely drained of energy, and my stomach couldn’t quite decide on whether to digest the ice lolly and biscuits I had eaten or reject them at the side of the road…

It was a real effort to keep going for both of us and we decided to take the road rather than the climb over Nine Ladies Moor… not that it was a particularly easy option as the road climbed relentlessly towards the village for what seemed like miles. I actually felt myself swaying and honestly entertained the thought of quitting the walk but decided I couldn’t let Ross down… he later confided to thinking exactly the same!

The human body is amazingly resilient though and it’s amazing what a loo stop, a sit down in a camping chair, a couple of custard creams and an isotonic drink can do, and I left the checkpoint feeling as though I could actually finish.

Robin Hood Stride

Robin Hood Stride

There was another killer slog up to Robin Hoods Stride before a gentle descent through fields into Youlgreave. Unfortunately the only way out of Youlgreave is up… a long descent by road followed by a lung busting climb up to the last checkpoint. My legs were struggling to keep going uphill at this point and I was lagging behind.

We had a couple of showers as we negotiated the last few miles, which were actually quite refreshing, but they soon blew over. I could feel the end of one of my toes rubbing but just couldn’t be bothered to stop and see to it- I just wanted to finish. Ross suggested using a different route which went into Lathkill Dale rather than along the endless stony lanes of the suggested route into Monyash so we decided to give it a try…

Nearing the end... or so we thought!

Nearing the end… or so we thought!

Unfortunately our path into the Dale was blocked by some rather mean looking cows with young calves so we decided to discreetly find another way through… which took a while and a lot of wandering up and down as the local farmer had been quite prolific with the barbed wire. We eventually found a way into Lathkill Dale only to encounter more cows, who decided it would be great fun to mock charge us… god I hate cows sometimes! I thought for a second I was going to have to scale the sheer rocky side of the dale!

It was a relief to finish and receive a lovely round of applause from everyone, and the home made homity pie was to die for… we finished in 10 hours 14 minutes and we were told they had another 50 walkers to come in after us.

A long and tough day out but better for having some company… think I have some work to do for the Gritstone Grind though!

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