Wednesday, 13 July 2011


We're doing something very sensible for this walk, although we tend to consider it a bit of a cheat. We meet up at the base of Winnats Pass, abandon one car, transfer rucksacks, walking gear and bodies (ours) into the other car, then drive to Hope where we park and get ready to walk.

We start off along Edale Road which is narrow enough to provide some close encounters with a few passing vehicles, but it's the kind of easy, level walking that's just right for warming up the muscles.

Just before we reach Townhead Bridge we take the left hand track which leads, not surprisingly, to Townhead and, ultimately, Lose Hill. We pause to admire a garden's flourishing patch of Bears Britches (Acanthus spinosus) before pressing on up the gentle incline. As we come to a fork in the track, and knowing we need the left hand path, we see a group of half a dozen teenage lads sorting out their gear. On seeing us they hurry up and continue on their way, no doubt expecting to outstrip us easily. We expect them to outstrip us easily too.

We pause to remove a layer, it is warm and despite a few smatterings of rain we don't want to don waterproofs, then continue up hill. A short while later - and it is a short while - we reach the stile which takes us onto an enclosed track. The stile is decorated with half a dozen resting teenagers. We can almost hear their groans of horror as they pick up their rucksacks and stagger over the stile as we wait for them to get a move on.

We give them a couple of minutes start before we follow. The track feels very old, hollowed out by the passage of many feet with banks at either side and arching trees meeting overhead like the soaring columns of a natural cathedral. We have splendid views across the valley and can clearly see the line of the old Roman Road on the opposite hill.

It's a steady pull up this track and we pause a number of times to admire the view - and to let the boys ahead get out of the way. They are really very slow.

Eventually we see the top of the track where, once through a gate, the path emerges onto open moorland in the final pull up to Lose Hill. When we pass through the narrow gate we find the boys laid out on the damp grass looking rather the worse for wear. We, naturally, nimbly skip past them and power up the next patch of ground, just to show them how it should be done.

We pause to admire a stand of foxgloves (yes, and to get our breath back, we're not made for power-walking) then continue to meander up the very steep hill. We're above the trees here and the views are extensive, reaching all the way along the first loop of the Edale valley. We do keep looking back, still no sign of the boys.

Naturally, we have a few pauses on the way uphill, no point in rushing and missing the view. After a while the boys come into range again, only for them to all collapse in a heap once more. This sorry sight is repeated a few times on the way up. They obviously didn't have their Weetabix for breakfast!

We, on the other hand, are making excellent time, so we decide to stop and have a drink and a bun. Ah yes, it's turned into a double bun day purely by accident. It's PCs turn for coffee, but she wasn't sure so brought buns as well - just in case. Being my turn for buns I'd brought buns and had also remembered to fill the secret flask (with the last of the Ramblers Restorative, I must make some more). So we sit and enjoy a nip from the flask, some coffee and a fresh cream scone.

(Whilst doing so the boys - after another rest 20 yards south of us - manage to stagger past us to rest, again, 20 yards north of us. They eat lunch in almost total silence, the lack of noise suggesting they have little breath left for talking.)

Dark clouds are looming so we decide to press on - having ascertained that the boys have already gone before and have a good enough lead for us not to catch up with them again. It was beginning to get embarrassing - for them!

As we reach the final stile on the route to the summit we do the sensible thing and pull on our waterproofs. The wind is starting to make itself felt and the dark clouds are racing across the sky. It all looks very dramatic.

Sure enough, the heavens open, but not for long. We could have managed without the waterproofs, but now they're on we'll leave them for a while. The sky hasn't cleared and we could be in for more rain.

By the time we reach the summit of Lose Hill we have a magnificent 360 degree view around us, including of Win Hill, the Great Ridge and Mam Tor, Castleton, and the less than impressive cement works. And the sun is shining too. This is what walking is all about.

Descending from the summit is quite direct and height is lost quickly. The path is fenced in by post and wire on one side and a semi-dilapidated stone wall on the other. For some odd reason there are large way-marking cairns at the side of the path, pretty pointless as it would be almost impossible to lose your way on this part.

As we cross the ridge we can see the dark clouds gathering again at the head of Edale and the telltale signs of rainfall at Grindsbrook. Then it all turns very eerie. As the rain starts to sweep down the valley the cloud drops and everything is completely obscured behind a sheet of white.

Its like looking through a fog, or a blizzard, but turning eyes right we can still see bright sunshine at the other end of the valley.

Then the rain hits us. Wow, it really means it. Thank goodness we'd kept out wet-weather gear on as we definitely need it. It's still pouring as we start our decent of Back Tor but thankfully it starts to ease off as we pick our way down the rocky hill being especially careful now that it's turned slippery.

By the time we reach the bottom the rain has stopped and we climb over the stile as the sun breaks out again. And when the sun shines it really is warm, and a bit steamy too.

It's been a while since the bun stop so we find a good place for lunch using some flat stones on top of the dry stone wall. It's very comfortable with a good view down to Castleton, although it isn't that easy to pick out the castle. After sandwiches, though, we decide to carry on before having coffee and second buns (do we sound like Hobbits?) so we walk to Hollins Cross narrowly missing a group of teenagers (no, not the same ones - they've disappeared off the face of the earth) then take the path down towards the base of Mam Tor.

Eventually we find a comfortable mound to sit on where we while away the time drinking coffee and eating fresh cream chocolate muffins. We feel as though we deserve them. In the distance we see yet more school groups enjoying the great outdoors and down on the Castleton Road, there are at least half a dozen coaches parked, with probably more in the main car park. It seems as though every school trip, Duke of Edinburgh outing and groups of Lost Boys has congregated here today.

We check our watches and realise that we need to get a move on. We dispense with the waterproofs, the sun is out and everything has warmed up dramatically, and we make our way over a couple of boggy patches to the remains of the old road, most of which has been destroyed by the Shivering Mountain.

As we walk down the road to car number one (narrowly avoiding being run over by a coach) we start to sniff. Not because we have a cold, or hayfever, but because there is a wonderful, sweet smell. We study the hedgerows, peer over walls - nothing. Then inspiration strikes. Plucking a clover flower we discover the source of the perfume. Red and white clover on the sparse grass verges are almost impossibly fragrant. Neither of us have ever been aware of the sweet smell of this common weed.

All too soon we're back in the car and driving through the heaving main road of Castleton towards Hope where we're reunited with car number two. It's been an excellent walk and it's been a good way of doing it. We'll have to cheat a little more often.

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