James got off the train at Belper and was immediately greeted by Pebbles launching herself at him and walloping him in The Privates. She was very pleased to see him.
Geoff had driven me down to this far away land of south east Derbyshire, so that I could join James on his final training walk before he jets off to Colorado. Four tough days lay ahead. He had planned as many PUDS (Pointless Up And Downs) as is humanly possible for each day, whilst also covering a decent mileage.
He also had new trail shoes to try out before his long hike, and it would similarly be a good try out for my relatively new Altberg boots, before Geoff and I fly off to Arctic Sweden in a few weeks time.
Day One – 13.4 miles
The weather was pleasantly warm, but grey, as we left Belper, initially following the River Derwent.
It didn’t stay dry for long. By the time we’d reached Shining Cliff Woods, we’d donned waterproof jackets and it wasn’t too long after, that we gave in and over trousers were reluctantly put on. This set the pattern for the next few hours – waterproofs on, waterproofs off – as the rain came and went, and we slowly melted in the warmth of gear we didn’t really want to wear.
We bagged the trig point above Black Rock, on Cromford Moor, before descending to an unexpected little cafe. My cheese and tomato toastie was quickly demolished.
The sun put in an appearance again for the last few miles, as did the contours, on our way to the first night’s camp, near Brassington.
Day Two – 15.4 miles
An unbelievably warm and muggy night’s sleep was had, punctuated occasionally by the mating call of some rhea birds in the field next to us. They are apparently related to emus and ostriches.
The site was also home to alpacas, donkeys, Bernese Mountain dogs and Pugs.
Well, the weather was already damp when we set off this morning and the forecast a bit dire, with heavy showers promised for most of the day.
Thankfully, it never quite got that bad. We had plenty of mizzle and drizzle, and waterproofs were once again constantly on and off, but we missed the heavy rain.
We passed by Bonsall Moor, Elton and Robins Hood’s Stride, before walking the length of Lathkill Dale.
A rather pleasant lunch was had at a pub in Youlgreave, where I ordered a packet of crisps and a coke. However, on seeing James’ pannini and chips, I couldn’t stand the strain and had to give in and order pannini and chips for myself, too.
Once again, the weather dried up for the last few miles, but it felt like a very, long day.
We pitched up for the night at a nice farm site in Flagg, where we were the only tents amongst half a dozen caravans and motorhomes, and this was where a lovely helping of Trail Magic reared its head.
As we were sorting our tents, the lady from the nearest caravan came over offering us tea and coffee. Heaven! A big mug of sweet tea perked me up nicely. And a couple of hours later, as we were finishing dinner, the lady came back with two big slices of delicious, home-made chocolate cake! I was tempted to eat them both, but James had already seen them, so I had to share.
Day Three – 15.4 miles
We were looking forward to a change in the weather today. Sure enough, it might have started grey, but it was warm and dry.
Earl Sterndale (and the pub there) was visited, then we passed Parkhouse and Chrome Hills, before moving onto Hollinsclough Moor.
And I’m not quite sure how it happened, but we somehow seemed to end up at a second pub, in Flash – one of several villages which claims to be the highest in England.
It was to be another long day. This time made a touch more challenging by the heat.
After going by Dane Bower Quarry and the Cat and Fiddle (closed, or no doubt we’d have stopped again) we dropped down to an idyllic little campsite near Bottom-of-the-Oven.
The forecast for the next day was to be even hotter. I slept really well, looking forward to a sunny morning, eating breakfast al fresco, instead of in the tent.
Day Four – not sure how many miles
Well. We awoke to fog. No al fresco breakfast, but instead an absolutely dripping wet fly sheet, which stood no chance of drying out before striking camp.
By the time we were packed and ready for the off, the rain had also started.
We had a mile walk back up the road to start with, to access the route to Shining Tor and it was an absolute nightmare in the rain and thick fog, with rush hour traffic skimming past us. It was a relief as we finally picked up the path across the moors.
We felt slightly cheated by the Met Office as well as sopping wet again with sweat, having to wear waterproofs all along the ridge from Shining Tor to Pym Chair. (Not the one on Kinder, the one above Goyt Valley.)
Arriving at the car park there, I gave Geoff a ring to let him know we’d soon be finishing and dropping down to Kettleshulme, and would he please be so kind as to pick us up…?
He did. We tried to give the pub there some business while we waited for him, but they were having none of it, keeping their doors firmly locked. Still, it gave James a chance to have a good sniff of his Trail Shoes.