3 Day Solo in the Peak District: Part 2

19th December 2015

A continuation of my Trip Report, spurred on by some nice comments here and via PM on Facebook and Twitter. You know who you are! In fact as I am writing I have just received another comment from Peter Dixon who has apparently just read through my posts. Thanks Peter. Here is a man I admire for his generous spirit and his dedication to pursuing what he and I share in common: a love for the hills and wild camping.

Anyway back to day two of this trip report.

Thursday May 28th 2015

I have an admirable ability to fall asleep easily and stay asleep through most things. Whenever and wherever I sleep outdoors I sleep very well indeed. Not that I can sleep through a storm you understand but if I hear one i will be able to wake up and ensure my shelter is stable before getting back in my bag and falling back to sleep again in moments.

Luckily the night before had merely been a bit blustery and there were intermittent rain showers until a couple of hours before dawn when I awoke to the sound of the constant pitter-patter of a steady rain on the silnylon fly.

It was still raining when grey first light had me fumbling for my phone in the darkness of my tent in an effort to mute the alarm I had set to wake me for sunrise. A vain hope of getting some decent photos this morning. I set my phone to searching for a connection to MWIS to check the weather forecast but I was asleep again before a connection was made. When I resurfaced a short time later the rain was still engaged in a relentless assault upon the fly and the connection to MWIS had timed out.

Over a breakfast of granola – Jordans Super berry if I recall correctly. If not then it should have been as it is by far my favourite breakfast the morning after a night outdoors – short of a bacon butty that is. Not only is the Jordan’s high in calories and carbs but it is very tasty – and a cup of tea i managed to get the forecast up. Rain was forecast until atleast 10am. A phone call to Izzy confirmed it.

Decisions, decisions.

Did I break camp and follow my original plan along the Edge and onto the Pennine Way over to Bleaklow with a view to camping up there? Or did i succumb to the desire to slob in the tent until the rain abated and choose a different route? My plan was to finish where I had started in Bamford, catching a mid-afternoon train back home on the Saturday.

Stuff it, I was out there to enjoy myself and as much as I do enjoy a good walk in the rain it was going to be in for a few hours yet. I had a warm dry tent and a good book on the Kindle App of my Z3 so I settled back down into my bag to read.

The hills weren’t going anywhere.

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About 1030 the rain stopped. I’d already packed up most of my kit and was ready to get out of Dodge. A half-hour over the map had a route laid out in mind – Bleaklow was certainly do-able but would leave me with a big walk out the following morning, which I’d known before of course but my lazy start this morning had convinced me to take a more leisurely approach. So, down to Alport Bridge, up over Alport Castles, down to Fairholmes and Derwent Dam and from there up onto Derwent Edge with a pitch somewhere along the top there that would leave me with an easy wander to Bamford on the morrow.

The paths had become channels of water and running rivulets, the saturated spongy ground refusing to soak up any more of the downpour of the previous few hours. My socks were sodden in moments and would remain so for the majority of the morning but hey ho that is what you expect from non-lined trail runners. I’d rubbed some Gehwol Balm into my wrinkly feet before bed last night and some Gehwol Extra Care into them before donning my socks this morning so my feet were prepped for the damp conditions. Anyway its not so bad as many of you might think. Try it. Keep an open mind and don’t be negative 😉 To my mind its preferable to have slightly damp feet at the end of a long hike in the hills than dry, tired and aching feet from having worn heavy lined boots.

Anyway that’s a discussion for another day on another platform.

The wind was blowing steadily and carrying occasional, brief squalls. the grey clouds were scudding steadily eastward. The sky to the west carried a distinct threat of further rain throughout the morning as I descended below Crookstone Knoll along an intermittent track that faded out long before I reached the poor track up from Alport Bridge.

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Reaching the track I removed my waterproofs. I was at risk of getting damp more from perspiration than the little rain that was falling with the current temperature and energy I was expending on the descent. Two mud-spattered MTB’ers passed me by as I paused to have a quick drink, slowly threading their way down the slippery ,muddy track. They were the first people I had seen all morning.

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The heavens opened again within a half-hour prompting me to once again don my waterproof jacket. That is the way of it in the hills of the UK sometimes, a lot of time actually. The conditions can be such that it is too warm or too energy intensive to wear a shell despite the rain but so long as it isn’t too heavy you can get away without the shell but then it will get heavier. Warm and damp with sweat or cool and damp with rain?

At Alport Bridge I stopped for a cold lunch and a drink beside the river. Those high concentrate Robinsons squeezy bottles are great as a change from good old boring water. Sure they are likely filled with E numbers and sugar galore but they taste good.

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The sun came out for a brief but pleasurable few minutes.

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There were more breaks in the monotone cloud showing blue sky, allowing more brief spells of sunshine through but there was little doubt that the unsettled weather was in for a time yet. The wind was blowing fairly strong and cool with occasional showers as I made my way along Alport Valley to Alport Castles Farm.

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The climb up to Alport Castles was a steep one but i was enjoying it. For me the conditions were perfect. i was thriving on the unsettled conditions. It always seems somehow more satisfying being out in less than clement weather. It may have something to do with there being less people about, particularly in the ever popular Peak District. It also has something to do with feeling prepared and self-sufficient I think. Few of the mod-cons, the four-walled security and comfort around you.

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The landslide that is Alport Castles is always impressive. It is thought to be the largest landslip in the UK at about half a mile long. It is impressive in its setting from most angles I find.

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The wind was much stronger on the top. The sun came out to play for a longer stretch but that was followed by the fiercest sleet downpour so far.

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It came up behind me with little warning, pushing me along with jaunty steps for a few dozens of yards. I stopped for a moment to watch another sleety squall envelop Woodlands Valley to the west, sweeping along and passed me to the south. The fringes of this spat on me in passing.

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I was glad that I had re-proofed my jacket before this trip.

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From this point onward the weather was more settled. Still blowy but fresh and clear with a largely blue sky and no further rain. I stopped briefly to chat with a guy from Rotherham about the weather forecast as he was obviously out for a day hike and would likely have a good idea of what was in store. Loaded down with camera gear he was walking out to the Trig Point on Westend Moor to get some photographs of Bleaklow from there.

I got a good stride on from then on. Down beneath Lockerbrook Heights, passed Lockerbrook Farm and into Nabs Wood. The woods are a fine place to be on any day but particularly on a windy unsettled day such as today and a welcome contrast from the open moorlands. Everything seemed vibrant and alive.

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The descent to Fairholmes Visitor Centre was soon over. i unloaded 2 days of rubbish from my pack and indulged in that most welcome fixture of civilisation that I greatly miss when out on the hill: the toilet.

There were a few people about but not feeling sociable or willing to part with the best part of a fiver for a hot drink and a cake I moved quickly on toward Derwent Dam and the eastern bank of Ladybower. It was a pleasingly easy and peaceful walk a mile or so south along the access road to Wellhead where the track I sought took me up in to Dovestone Clough.

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It was a fairly steep ascent to start with but the views were well worth the effort.

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After gaining some height the track leveled out and Dovestone Clough came into view. Despite a good tally of ups and downs today the Clough beckoned enticingly. I relished the thought of ascending to Derwent Edge from a totally different direction to the usual.

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Far Deep Clough looked like a worthy route for another trip.

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I crossed Mill Brook and followed the steep path up into Dovestone Clough. The way was fairly distinct at first but soon grew less apparent and narrow, more like a sheep track than a footpath. It led ever onward and upward however. About two thirds of the way up I stopped to fill my water bladders for the evening and following morning.

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The Clough leveled out near the 370m mark and it was here that I met my first real obstacle: a barbed wire fence across the head of the clough. It didn’t present too much difficulty once I’d managed to actually get level with it.

It was late in the afternoon now with several hours daylight remaining. I was slightly tired but still thoroughly enjoying the trip. The good weather held and the views above me and into the valley below me and away into the distance certainly helped me upward and onward.

Derwent Edge and Dovestone Tor loomed above me.

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The last stretch to the top was pathless. A tussocky heather slope littered with boulders. Not the easiest ground on the ankles and legs particularly when carrying an extra 3 kilograms of water.

I startled a mountain hare who made traversing the rough ground look as easy as the walk along the Access Road had been for me earlier.

Yet again I came across a foil balloon stranded in the heather, just as I had on my January trip not far to the north. A blight in the landscape. At least it wasn’t a McDonalds wrapper or carton. But these are a danger to wildlife not simply an unsightly annoyance.

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It was with some relief that I reached Derwent Edge. I decided that Cakes of Bread was too tempting and so made my camp there for the night. There was an hour or so of daylight remaining and there was not a soul about. I’d pitched here before and now as then the wind was blowing steadily and gusting quite strongly at times.

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The Stones offered a measure of protection in their lee for which I was grateful. In no time I was setup and had water brewing for my evening meal of macaroni pasta, olives, roasted peppers and kabanos sausage.

I ventured out into the windy evening as the stove did its work.

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My tired body felt the chill bite of the wind more acutely since stopping and getting inside the Stratospire. Admittedly the temperature had dropped a few degrees as the sun lowered in the sky.

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I watched the sunset for as long as I could bear the chill before getting inside for the evening. It wasn’t the finest sunset but I felt fortunate to be able to see it in this setting and after the weather of the previous evening and that morning.

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It had been a fine couple of days so far, with just a few miles to walk out tomorrow. First though I had another good meal and night under canvas to look forward to.

To be continued…

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