There are numerous ways to test the resilience of your limbs in Edale.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting outside the Ramblers Inn enjoying the sun’s last rays, you’ll have witnessed folk with pained expressions seeking the solace of their cars after battling with the tops for a day.
Some will have slightly incredulous looks on their faces that the last descent had been so tough, some will be tip-toeing on ruined feet, as if creeping around the house after a night on the beer so not to wake the better half.
Two ‘classics’ have to be the complete circuit of the Vale of Edale – taking on the Mam Tor Ridge and the southern Edge of Kinder Scout – and the complete circuit of the Kinder plateau itself. I had unfinished business with the latter, and had a crack during the first weekend of April, when spring should have sprung.
Whenever possible, I try to use public transport on walking trips, and Edale has the advantage of lying on the Sheffield to Manchester cross Pennine route. This turns it into a fleshpot in the summer months, putting it within easy reach of two major conurbations.
Off-season, things are quieter and it means that people who like to leave the car at home have relatively easy access.The train deposited me at Edale station in sunshine. The cliffs of the plateau looked enticing and I walked north through the village admiring well-tended gardens filled with daffodils. A reminder that work needed doing on my own meagre patch at home.
Passing the Nags Head and several walking parties about to embark, I headed for Grindsbrook Clough but veered right as I fancied a bit of low key scrambling on the rocky spine of Ringing Roger. Following the path as it contoured up the side of The Nab, low cloud suddenly spilled over Grindslow Knoll and hail peppered my jacket. Hood up, the hail turned into an exhilarating snowstorm.
April showers to the power ten? Perhaps… but I shouldn’t have really been a surprise. The weather systems were due to come from the north all day, promising an interesting cocktail of conditions.Visibility was now 25 yards and the clumps of heather that I could see were sugar frosted with snow.
With gritted teeth, I pressed onto the foot of Ringing Roger and started to climb. This lumpy outcrop of gritstone provides easy scrambling although the swirling clouds of snow injected a frisson of excitement.
Passing cairns north of the I realised that the weather could ruin my plans for the day. After all, I could see nothing, save for the white noise of a badly tuned television framed by my jacket hood and the vague outline of a path.
I poked around in the snow for a while until I found the edge path heading east. I would carry on but remained focussed on the map waiting for stream beds indicated by the Ordnance Survey to appear under my feet. I continued this way until reaching Madwoman’s Stones, slightly off the edge to be fair.
The ominous name of this outcrop was qualified by a bizarre becalming of the conditions. Suddenly, an eerie stillness fell on the plateau and I had the quite sublime sensation of being completely alone.
A golden pool of light then revealed the northern slopes of the Woodlands Valley as the hole opened in the heavy, dirty cloud. It expanded and migrated toward me, causing frosty heather tips to sparkle. The unpredictable weather, however troublesome, was not going to spoil this outing, only enrich it.
The wind retuned and served as a weather vane as I headed east, the compass and map now holstered in my pack side pocket.
Kinder’s northerly rim feels that bit wilder than its southern counterpart, despite the A57 suggesting the proximity of civilisation and safety. The edge is dotted with grit outcrops that preside over the Woodlands Valley, grim faced against the wind. Progress along this side is also complicated by the deep ravines of numerous cloughs and brooks which drain some of the water from the peat.
Once the view along the edge became clearer as the cloud continued to dissolve, what appeared to be moderate distances were doubled by the need to switch back up these clefts. And although relatively flat, this section of the route should not be underestimated as it requires walkers to wade though peat paths and jump from tussock to tussock. Views to the north are worth the protracted toil, though.
I found a comfortable outcrop on Seal Edge, refuelled and watched a team of fell runners making good progress from the Snake Road, their spindly limbs making easy work of brown hillside. They were to be only people I would see on the northern edge of Kinder on this changeable day.
Perfectly on cue, hail stung the side of me face again and then turned to snow. Time to press on.
The rockiness of the landscape increased as I passed Fairbrook Naze and worked my way long The Edge. I opted for stone over peat wherever possible – an admittedly small gesture to contain the footpath erosion along this stretch.
All too soon, people became a feature of the landscape again as I reached the junction with the Pennine Way, a route travelled in the other direction on my Long Walk Home.
A procession of pedestrians plodded to Kinder Down Fall and found sheltered spots amid the rocks to munch on sandwiches and gaze out towards Hayfield. Determined to follow the true edge of Kinder Scout, I resisted the temptation to stride across the plateau on a boggy path to Crowden Tower, instead taking the long way via Kinder Low and Edale Rocks.
Here, I headed due east again and entered the rock gardens of Woolpacks, a natural adventure playground for kids (and adults, maybe) who enjoy clambering over and conquering these outcrops.
Crowden Tower and the mouth of Crowden Brook soon passed and after another half a mile or so I cheated a bit. Rather than taking the track off the hill at Grindslow Knoll, I fancied completing my circumnavigation with a bit more excitement by way of a scramble down Grindsbrook Clough.
The rim of this ravine looked suitably intimidating, the ground rubbed to bare earth as thousands of walkers pause to weigh up the route’s steepness.
I made my way tentatively down and, not wishing to trouble the ever- patient folk of Edale Mountain Rescue, placed feet and hands very carefully. Once past the initial drop, things become much easier and you can appreciate the fine views to the Vale of Edale, framed dramatically by a solitary tree.
At the base, I followed the path through woodland and back to the starting point. With the sun high and warm again, I made for the grassy front lawn of the Ramblers Inn and sat alone as diners and drinkers cheered at noisy televisions showing the Grand National.
Then it started to snow…