Early morning ECR

I’m not really a fan of loading the bike in the car and driving somewhere to ride… seems kinda’ counter intuitive for this rider.

However, I succumbed at the weekend. Recovering from manflu, I didn’t think it would be the best idea to pedal over the Snake Pass (and back) from Glossop to the Upper Derwent Valley where I fancied a pootle on the Monster Truck (read: Surly ECR). So I loaded the bike in the back of the van and let internal combustion take the strain.

I left early and found sublime conditions in the Upper Derwent. It may have been chilly, but I enjoyed the best of this lovely valley and made good my escape before the crowds descended.


A perfect Peak District wild camp – Going up west

The aim of a wild camp is, surely, to find somewhere remote, allowing the participant to connect with their surroundings. On our relatively crowded islands, and certainly south of the border, this requires backpackers to aim high and increasingly off the beaten track.

A wild camp spot on the banks of the West End River, Derwent ValleyHowever, factors governing the remoteness of a particular spot are not confined to location. This Easter, the unseasonable Arctic air stream which has dumped considerable snow on our usually wet land has had the advantage rendering the accessible inaccessible… inaccessible for those unprepared to put in a bit of effort.

On the week leading into Easter, I’d been keeping in touch with conditions in the Derwent Valley, that busiest of Dark Peak attractions. The snowfall had been so extensive, even the Fairholmes visitor centre was closed. With the cold persisting, my hope was that conditions would be tricky further up the valley and that my planned camp spot – the forested valley of the West End river -would be at peace. Continue reading

Going up for air

Times are tough and so is work. So tough, in fact, that gloomy thoughts of the future are hard to shake at the moment.

I needed to go for a walk… to clear my head… to get some air.

The weather was fine and I headed over the Snake to the Derwent Valley.

Derwent EdgeThis is a justifiably popular area of the Peak, a stark counterpoint to the dark cites of the north.

It’s a gratifying landscape of water, woodland and high moorland. The dam walls of the reservoirs are to be admired, too, for their solid engineering and architectural grandeur.

My route was straightforward: I’d follow the sinuous banks of the Derwent reservoir to the Abbey Tip Plantation and head up to the grit stone edges and weather carved ‘pepper pots’ of the moor. This area is well known for its families of rock sculptures, and all manner of ‘anvils’, slab reefs and contorted Dali-esque heads thrust head and shoulders above the peat.

I followed the forest track along Derwent and my mood lightened. The conifer plantations were shimmering reflection in the glassy surface of the reservoir while, up high, a farmer noisily gathered his flocks with a flurry of whistles and cries, alongside intermittent barking from his team of tireless Border Collies.

I skirted the reservoir and took a track east. Bearing right, I climbed steadily along the side of a valley. Crossing the head of the declivity, the high ground came into view.Derwent Dam

It was later September and an indefinable blue haze hung in the air. The heather was on the turn and the sun, on breaking through banks of cloud, set the ruddy hillsides aflame.

I crossed blank moorland and headed to the clear summit of Lost Lad. My route south and then east lay before me, a clear line of flags joining a series of small rock gardens. The path was deserted.

I pressed on, enjoying wide-ranging views of the Derwent Valley and the bowl of the Vale of Edale in the distance. I traced the classic line from Lose Hill over Mam Tor, along Rushup Edge and round to the mass of Kinder. From this aspect, though, the valley seemed deceptively shallow, a green saucer amid bruised, brown tops.

I had planned to drop down the bridleway to regain the eastern banks of the reservoir, but I had made good progress so pressed on to The Ladybower Inn for a pint of Peak Ales Bakewell Best.

I regained the track with a slight alcoholic fug – not eating enough again – and joined the trail alongside the reservoir after Ashopton. I watched anglers expertly cast their flies from a boat but no fish were rising in their range.

Absorbed by the rhythm of their casting, my Zen was disturbed by two Tornadoes screaming down the valley. I clamped my hands over my ears.

The route back to the Fairholmes café was over all too soon. I dropped down to the reservoir banks and watched the shadows lengthen as evening descended, delaying the journey home for as long as possible.

A(nother) postcard from the edge

More edges? Well this is the Peak District… and it is well know for its gritstone.

Sunday was spent in a new neck of the woods. I drove to Hathersage and parked at the National Trust Longshaw estate.

I followed the network of trails through ancient woods and jumbles of rocks to the start of Froggatt Edge and kept on trudging in the rain until I ran out of rock at the Robin Hood Pub near Baslow.

I walked back admiring the edges from a different angle from the shelter of the Derwent Valley. The weather was pretty miserable all told, but this would be a fantastic trip in the summer, with plenty of opportunity for the odd scramble.

Here’s to longer and, hopefully, drier days.