So far I’ve only written about the 2 hiking adventures I’ve had in the Lake District. The most recent on this blog, and my first ever by hijacking @hillplodder’s blog (thanks, Matt!) The Peaks, however are much closer to home. I’ve not managed to venture Peakwards since meeting my brother and his dragon in Eyam last September, so a visit was long overdue. After a glance at the weather forecast for Saturday & Sunday, the former threatening rain and wind, albeit slightly less than Friday, whilst Sunday seemed a positive oasis of calm in comparison. So I decided to see if I could work on Saturday morning while it rained. A deal was struck with work, and the weather very kindly obliged.
I was woken in the night on Saturday by aching knees (not a good sign, pre walk) and by the sound of rain splattering noisily against the windows. Maybe a walk today wasn’t such a bright idea after all. However as dawn broke over Staffordshire, golden skies and just a hint of a breeze indicated that I might be in luck on this occasion.
Lunch was packed, drinks & snacks organised and 2 reluctant males (one sniffly, bordering on manflu & one small and unenthusiastic) were persuaded to pile into the car. 40 minutes later we were whizzing up through Flash towards Pym Chair car park. One slight detour later, due to a strange one way single track road arrangement, we’d arrived. I was immediately dragged up the car park by the small one needing to avail himself of the toilet facilities. In this case the hedge. Once the car induced nausea had abated a picnic was had, (egg and haslet sandwich, anyone?) and we were ready for the off. The plan was to walk up to Cats Tor, and if sniffly and small weren’t too ill or bored by this point to continue along the ridge to Shining Tor. I’d been up on a previous trip, but then simply by walking directly up to it from the Cat & Fiddle Inn.
As we ascended the gentle slope up to Cats Tor I became more aware of my surroundings. The wiry green and brown shaded grass bent by the wind and cropped low by sheep. The greens, greys & browns of near and distant hills. Harsh grey stone walls cutting across the landscape and the blackness of peat and brown swathes of dying heather. Looking up I could see the limitless expanse of blue dotted with perfect white cotton wool clouds. Every pond, puddle and miniature tarn reflected the brilliant cobalt blue of the sky. I gazed at all this around me whilst greedily gulping lungfuls of sweet unpolluted air.
The colours here were different to those just a few weeks ago in the Lake District, which ranged from the almost ‘chocolate box’ views, around Windermere & Grasmere, in contrast to the cold misty isolation I’d felt up at Scandale tarn. It feels really wild up here in the Peaks, yet it’s not all that remote, you can see the urban jungle that is Manchester, and the distant white dishes of the radio telescopes at Jodrell Bank. Also I suppose that although I’m from the south, I’ve lived up here for 22 years or so & being up here in the Peak District gives me a warm sense of familiarity. I certainly feel more at home here these days than in the faceless suburban sprawl of north west London.
Cats Tor at 522 metres was rather an anticlimax, especially as I failed to locate the cairn, and don’t yet possess the technology to locate the highest point. However photos were taken and my male companions decided they were feeling well and engaged enough respectively to continue along to Shining Tor. At this point the path seemed to dramatically improve as well. Although surrounded by black evil man eating peat hags a clean line of what could almost be described as pavement flags wound its way up in the direction of Shining Tor.
Tantalising glimpses of familiar looking hills appeared as we plodded on up the gentle gradient, including my favourite Peak District hill so far. The tree lined slopes of the Macclesfield forest to the right, and to the left an unfolding vista over Fernilee and Errwood reservoirs. Eventually we saw the familiar gate and white trig point indicating the summit of Shining Tor, so more photos and just a long lingering look at the breathtaking views all around us.
I would have loved to have stayed up here in this beautiful place all evening and watched the sun slowly slide behind the darkening hills, but the small one was becoming restless at the prospect of the promised tea & cake. I toyed briefly with the idea of a leisurely stroll down to the Cat and Fiddle for a pint, while the others went back to the car. Cruel fate then intervened to remind me that I’d forgotten my purse, so another plan was scuppered.
Our descent was uneventful, except for the small one slipping on a wet flag on his headlong pelt down the path and making sudden contact with the cold unyielding stone. The landscape slowly softened as we neared Pym Chair again, wiry grass and trees twisted by the wind giving way to the uniform conifers of the Goyt forest ahead.
It was decided that Buxton was best avoided at 3.30 on a Sunday afternoon, so we headed back towards Newcastle on the A53 with the intention of a visit to Flash Bar Stores, the highest village shop in the UK. I’d been past many times both on the bus (Buxton Flyer) and in the car, but had never visited.
Flash Bar Stores is compact & bijou but you can sit down and rest your legs whilst enjoying a piping hot pot of tea with home made treacle and coconut tart (yum). Small and suddenly more enthusiastic devoured a huge home made chocolate brownie made only that morning. I’ve made a mental note for potential future camping excursions that they also do a very respectable sounding all day breakfast.
Although I’m always sad to return from the hills, coming back from the Peaks is never quite so bad, as you know it’s so tantalisingly close that it probably won’t be too long before you visit again. I feel fortunate to live so close to such an amazing place, but because it’s more familiar it doesn’t quite give me that feeling of excitement in the pit of my stomach that I’ve felt on trips to the Lake District.