Re-resolving

First off, before we start, we all have to agree to not notice it’s already nearly March. OK? OK…

In 2016 I set myself a New Year’s Resolution – to do 1000 active miles throughout the year (but, cheating a touch, I included indoor miles in the gym…). I managed to keep up the activity all the way through the year and met my goal, to my own surprise, let alone other people’s (my wife was fairly suspicious I’d been replaced with some kind of replicant – a suspicion only given up when she realised I was still serving no purpose, useful or malign).

I lost some weight. I definitely got much fitter (which had been the goal). But the real bonus was the experiences I had in the great outdoors while clocking up some extra miles. There are are some photos below of some of the sights I would have completely missed out on if I hadn’t shaken myself into the habit of finding extra opportunities to get out and about for a walk, kayak, cycle ride or (and this was the shock) a run.

So, cut to the chase, I’ve set myself the same target for 2017 – but now all the miles have to be outdoors! So, 1000 miles, in any activity, all outdoors. To help me along, I’ve set up 12 challenges to clock up some of these miles – roughly one per month (we’re still all ignoring it’s nearly March right?). If anyone would like to join me on any of these please let me know – though beware, I am a slow coach, especially on a bike!

  1. A competitive canoe/kayak event
  2. Dawn to Dusk walk (December, on the equinox?)
  3. 10km run – anywhere, anyhow!
  4. An overnight canoe/camping trip
  5. Coast to Coast cycle route (in 2-3days)
  6. Do basic climbing course
  7. 100m bike ride (in one day)
  8. Three Lakes Challenge (not in 24 hours mind!)
  9. Striding Edge & Swirrel Edge – something to challenge my fear of heights!
  10. Moorgreen Duathlon – it’s less than a mile away, seems rude not to?
  11. Get onto moving water in a kayak – another challenging the fear one!
  12. 50 hills in a year (based on the UK Hill Bagging site)
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#EssentialPeak – A Bagging list for the Peak

What would your ideal Peak District tick list look like? Anything like this?

Everybody loves a good bagging list right? Even if you have no intention of completing them all, they give you a chance to pour over the lists, making plans for future trips. The range of lists is huge – from those based on set, immovable physical criteria, such as the County Tops, listing highest points in our counties to the Munros, detailing the Scottish hills with peaks over 3000ft in height. Then there are the more subjective lists, most famously Wainwright’s ‘love letter to the fells’ covered by the 217 fells in his pictorial guides. The Trail 100 is another example – being Trail Magazine’s list of the ‘top 100’ mountains for walkers in the UK.

I’ve always loved the idea of developing a bagging list for the Peak District. But the problem is the reliance most bagging lists have on ‘hills’. Although the Peak is blessed with many fantastic hills, it’s not an easy area to translate into a bagging list consisting of high points only. For a start, some of it’s highlights don’t involve you going up hill, but down dale – what self-respecting list could miss off Dove Dale or Lathkill Dale? Even up on the hills, the summits often aren’t the greatest attraction in the Peak District. Kinder must surely have the lowest proportion of walkers reaching it’s ‘true’ summit than any other popular mountain. It’s a special sort that braves the bogs to test their skills at ascertaining which of a multitude of rough peat mounds is 10cm higher than the rest. While they do, most sensible folk are at the trig, or the waterfall, or scrambling any of the fantastic rock formations instead. Then there are the edges – a defining feature of the Peak District landscape that set it apart from other upland areas across the country. Again many would be missed by a traditional hill list.

We like to think of bagging lists as an exact science – the heighest of hills, the most prominent peaks. But very often personal opinion and preferences sneak in. No more so than on Wainwright’s epic list (if there is a better hill bagging list I’d love to see it). As two examples how did Walla Crag (sublime) and Mungrisdale Common end up on the list? Walla Crag is just a stumpy ridge/cliff (OK, so an amazing stumpy ridge/cliff!) on the route up to Bleaberry Fell. It’s long been suspected AW included Mungrisdale Common simply to use up space – it’s barely even raised ground, with a prominence of just 1 meter, and barely a redeeming feature about it! And quite right too. Walking is about more than writing off a hill because it’s prominence from the next is too small – it’s about the journey, and the view when you get there!

Even those lists that are based on a set formula don’t necessarily give the best walking experiences. Take the county tops – the highest point in Nottinghamshire is, technically, a trig point, lost behind fencing in a fard yard, with no public acces, right by the M1 motorway. There are plenty of other hills in the county which make for a much more enjoyable walk, and are within a few meters of the actual county top – but rules is rules. Any bagger just sticking to the county tops must visit Nottinghamshire and make a mental note never to darken the county’s footpaths again!

All of the above is essentially me stating my case for casting aside any pretense at making a bagging list for the Peak based on any scientific formula. There are just three rules for each entry on the list:

  1. It must be at it’s best on foot. Or, ideally, at it’s best if you arrive there by foot too. So Crich Stand is in despite it having a car park right by it – because it’s far more special to walk up to it from the canal below.
  2. It must add to the story of what makes the Peak District such a special place. Be that human history, geology, or nature. So Bugsworth Basin, Magpie Mine and High Peak Junction are all in – they tell the human story of the Peak, and they certainly fit Rule 1.
  3. It must be a defined point. The essential part of that location, rather than a line or area to dip in and out of. I’ve tried to include the famous trails in the Peak – the Pennine Way, our first National Trail, and the Monsal Trail. But I’ve chosen key points, rather than including the whole trail. That way anarchy lies!

My list therefore places each point into at least one (often more) of eight themes: Water, Hills, Edges, Dales, Human History, Natural History, Resources (quarrying, mining etc) and Trails. My aim is that anyone who has ticked off each entry on the list will have experienced something from all the stories the Peak has to tell. It’s a grand aim maybe, but one I’m having fun honing down!

The next key decision to make was on the geographical extent of ‘the Peak District’. Often publications stick fairly slavishly to the boundaries of the National Park. I didn’t want to take that approach. It’s boundary is set not by any natural limits, but by political, social and economic considerations. I know from living outside Nottingham that there are many places outside the park boundary to the South-East that are quintessentially Peak in character, and key to the story of the region. Leaving them out wasn’t an option.

Instead I decided to focus on the two key geological characteristics of the Peak – the limestone bedrock of the White Peak, and the darker, more brooding aspects of the sandstone Dark Peak. But even here drawing a line wan’t easy. I used the fantastic mapping resource from the British Geological Survey to try to draw a line around my ‘Great Peak District’ The areas I knew in the South-East, around Matlock especially, had a fairly clear boundary around them. But to the north the Dark Peak simply carries on as the Pennies stretch North through Yorkshire and Lancashire. In the South and West it was hard to decide upon a cut off too. Eventually I decided upon six core sections to base the list, which you can see in the map below. After setting upon these sections I remembered about Natural England’s National Character Areas. These break England down into distinct areas based not on political or cultural boundaries, but by factors dictated by the geography and character of the environment. I was pretty pleased to see my area match up pretty well with the various character areas on Natural England’s list relating to the Peak District!

And now, we really get right down to the nitty-gritty – what are the locations that should be included in the Essential Peak Bagging List? As you can see on the map below (and the spreadsheet below the map), I’ve tried to identify the places I think no list of Peak walking spots should be without. But I need some help! I’d love to hear views from anyone about the list – especially on places I’ve missed, or points that aren’t quite as essential as I thought! I don’t want a list ‘designed by committee’ – but I would like to know what people think!

Some particular issues – partly caused by rejecting the need to go simply for peaks or high points – were:

    • At some locations, what should be the absolute key spot to include – for example at Long Dale.
    • On some hills, Kinder especially, I’ve included more than one point where I think places are too important to miss, for example Kinder Downfall. Are there others that merit being a star in themselves, rather than being a sub-feature

So please – let me know what you think to the map above and list below, either by commenting, tweeting me @Peakrills or by email via Peakrills@gmail.com.

Area Name
Dark Peak Alport Castles
Dark Peak Back Tor
Dark Peak Bleaklow
Dark Peak Brown Knoll
Dark Peak Coombs Rock
Dark Peak Crook Hill
Dark Peak Crowden Tower
Dark Peak Crowstones Edge
Dark Peak Derwent Edge
Dark Peak Featherbed Top
Dark Peak Grindslow Knoll
Dark Peak Higher Shelf Stones
Dark Peak Howden Edge
Dark Peak Kinder Downfall
Dark Peak Kinder Low
Dark Peak Kinder Trespass – William Clough
Dark Peak Ladybower
Dark Peak Langsett
Dark Peak Lantern Pike
Dark Peak Lord’s Seat
Dark Peak Margery Hill
Dark Peak Mount Famine
Dark Peak Outer Edge
Dark Peak Ox Stones (Burbage Moor)
Dark Peak Pike Lowe
Dark Peak Stanedge Pole
Eastern Moors Baslow Edge
Eastern Moors Beeley Moor
Eastern Moors Big Moor – White Edge
Eastern Moors Birchen Edge
Eastern Moors Chatsworth Park
Eastern Moors Curbar Edge
Eastern Moors Eyam Moor
Eastern Moors Froggatt Edge
Eastern Moors Gardom’s Edge
Eastern Moors Matlock Moor Trig
Eastern Moors Padley Gorge
Eastern Moors Sir William Hill
Eastern Moors Totley Moor
Eastern Peak Fringe Alport Heights
Eastern Peak Fringe Black Rocks
Eastern Peak Fringe Carsington Water
Eastern Peak Fringe Crich Stand
Eastern Peak Fringe Harboro Rocks
Eastern Peak Fringe Heights of Abraham
Eastern Peak Fringe High Tor
Eastern Peak Fringe Lovers Walk
Eastern Peak Fringe Lumsdale Falls
Eastern Peak Fringe Middleton Top
Eastern Peak Fringe National Stone Centre
Eastern Peak Fringe Robin Hoods Stride
Eastern Peak Fringe Stanton Moor
Hope Valley Abney Moor/Shatton Edge
Hope Valley Bamford Edge
Hope Valley Burbage Rocks
Hope Valley Carl Wark
Hope Valley Cave Dale
Hope Valley Higger Tor
Hope Valley High Neb
Hope Valley Lose Hill
Hope Valley Mam Tor
Hope Valley Millstone Edge
Hope Valley Navio Fort
Hope Valley Stanage Edge
Hope Valley The Ridge
Hope Valley Win Hill
Hope Valley Winnats Pass
Northern Moors Alderman’s Hill
Northern Moors Black Hill
Northern Moors Dead Edge End
Northern Moors Dove Stones
Northern Moors Featherbed Moss
Northern Moors Hoarstone Edge
Northern Moors Rollick Stones
Northern Moors West Nab
Northern Moors Wild Bank Hill
Western Moors Axe Edge Moor
Western Moors Black Edge
Western Moors High Peak Canal
Western Moors Burbage Edge
Western Moors Cats Tor
Western Moors Chinley Churn
Western Moors Combs Moss
Western Moors Eccles Pike
Western Moors Castle Naze
Western Moors Goyt Valley Reservoirs
Western Moors Gun
Western Moors Hen Cloud
Western Moors Kerridge Hill / White Nancy
Western Moors Lud’s Church
Western Moors Ramshaw Rocks
Western Moors Shining Tor
Western Moors Shutlingslow
Western Moors Sponds Hill
Western Moors Tegg’s Nose
Western Moors The Cloud
Western Moors The Roaches
Western Moors Whalley Moor
Western Moors Windgather Rocks
Western Moors Cheeks Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Biggin Dale
Western White Peak Fringe Bunster Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Carder Low
Western White Peak Fringe Cauldon Lowe
Western White Peak Fringe Chrome Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Dove Dale
Western White Peak Fringe Ecton Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Gratton Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Grindon Moor
Western White Peak Fringe High Wheeldon
Western White Peak Fringe Hitter Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Hollins Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Milldale Bridge
Western White Peak Fringe Narrowdale Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Ossoms Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Parkhouse Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Pilsbury Castle Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Sheen Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Solomon’s Temple
Western White Peak Fringe Thirklow Rocks
Western White Peak Fringe Thor’s Cave
Western White Peak Fringe Thorpe Cloud
Western White Peak Fringe Weaver Hills
Western White Peak Fringe Wetton Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Wolfscote Dale
Western White Peak Fringe Wolfscote Hill
White Peak Plateau Arbor Low
White Peak Plateau Bradford Dale
White Peak Plateau Chee Dale
White Peak Plateau Chelmorton Low
White Peak Plateau Coombs Dale
White Peak Plateau Deep Dale
White Peak Plateau Deep Dale (Topley)
White Peak Plateau Eldon Hill
White Peak Plateau Fin Cop
White Peak Plateau Lathkill Dale
White Peak Plateau Long Dale
White Peak Plateau Magpie Mine
White Peak Plateau Miller’s Dale Viaducts
White Peak Plateau Minninglow Hill
White Peak Plateau Monks Dale
White Peak Plateau Monsal Dale
White Peak Plateau Monsal Head
White Peak Plateau Peters Stone – Cressbrook Dale
White Peak Plateau Slitherstone Hill
White Peak Plateau Sough Top
White Peak Plateau Wardlow Hay Cop
White Peak Plateau Longstone Edge

Yorkshire 3 Peaks

 

Reaching the summit of Ingleborough, we stumbled around, not knowing where to aim for the final trig point on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. The bodies appearing out of the mist provided little in the way of help. The scene resembled an apocalyptic zombie film, with saturated, bedraggled and utterly exhausted bodies appearing out of the gloom from seemingly random directions. It was hard to tell if they were also searching out the elusive trig point or on their way back down. It seemed everyone’s internal compass was on the blink, from a combination of low batteries or water damage! Eventually the shelter appeared from the fog and, just beyond it, the trig. The last summit was done – it was all downhill from here. The hard work was over. Little did I know the remaining five miles would be some of the hardest on the route for me…

If Eskimos have 100 words for snow, on the walk that day we needed nearly as many to describe the murk we had to plod through. Fog, mist, cloud, gloo

Pen-Y-Ghent, really trying its best

m – none of them particularly enticing terms for a walk in the country. Especially a 24 mile one. The nearest we got to dramatic views was at the start on the climb up Pen-Y-Ghent. The summit did its level best to fight through the wall of grey, managing for a few brief minutes to provide a dramatic target for that first steep climb. It lost the battle fairly quickly however, and we were in the pea-soup for several hours before we dropped out of the bottom of it near Ribblehead.

Once the rain set in at the 10 mile mark it never really let up. It simply cycled between nasty drizzle and horrendous downpour for the rest of the afternoon. It put in a rousing crescendo on the last drag up Ingleborough, with hail and strong winds doing their level best to sap any remaining reserves of energy.

The last section of the route back to Horton goes through what I’m sure are, on any other day, stunning sections of limestone pavement. Today, the rain had conspired to combine wet slippery rock with even wetter, more slippery mud, to make it a real test – especially for my knees. My right knee (not the one I usually struggle with) took a beating, and was in considerable pain by now. However I was far too tired, wet and close to finishing to put on the knee support which had sat in my bag all day. So I just stomped onwards. If the zombie apocalypse really had occurred on Ingleborough, I’m pretty sure the good townsfolk of Horton would have gone for removing my head believing there was a better-than-average chance I was the infected rather than the heroic survivor I thought I was.

In the end we got round in 10 hours 15 minutes. Which I was pretty pleased with. If the knee hadn’t been playing up I may have ducked under 10 hours. Maybe if the really steep sections of ascent/descent were a touch less under water I’d have skipped over them a bit quicker too. But then, maybe if they were I’d also have taken more time to enjoy the views and had less resolve to get back as fast as was humanly (or zombily) possible. Who knows. I do know that despite the challenges I really enjoyed the walk. It’s a great blend of testing climbs and long sections where you can really get a head of steam up. I’d love to come back again – not with any aim of beating my time. In fact, quite the opposite. I’d much prefer to come back on a dryer, clearer day and take longer so I could really enjoy it.

Walk this route:

routemapThe route for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks is pretty self explanatory – there is now really good waymarking and finger posts on the route itself. There’s also a pretty constant stream of fellow hikers to follow if all else fails. Don’t be put of by that though – I thought it was good to be sharing a trail with so many others, especially one where you are all challenging yourselves – we spoke to a fair few others on the route, sharing experiences of this and other walks.

I’ve converted my Yorkshire 3 Peaks track on Viewranger so it can be downloaded as a route – I got wet, very wet, but we never diverted from ‘the’ route (mostly to avoid any extra time getting wet!), so it does follow the correct path. There are a few other links here too, all with descriptions and maps of the route:

The Yorkshire Dales website also has details of an app for the trail, an online store for souvenirs (the medals being recommended by me – they are copies of the waymarkers seen on posts around the route) and details of how you can contribute to keeping the route in good nick for future walkers too.

Eastwood Round

eastwoodroundcoverWhile looking through some ideas for routes to add to this site I found the draft for a route I’ve walked many times. I first wrote this up nearly 3 years ago, but I last walked it in May. The only bit of the route I had to change was were a ‘ramshackle old barn’ on the hill between Awsworth and Kimberley is now completely gone!

Eastwood is one of those towns on the edge – too rural to be seen as part of any city, but far too urban to be seen as rural. The second of these two is the most unfair. Despite growing hugely in the last 100 years, the town is still surrounded by some gorgeous countryside. 2009 Erewash Valley 008.JPGIt’s great walking territory . But I would say that, as it’s my home town? Well, this 16.5 mile route takes in a pretty wide variety of landcspaes to say you are never more than a mile from a decent sized town. There are green fields aplenty, with paths crossing lovely low hillsides with great views. There’s parkland to start and finish. There’ no shortage of waterside walking, with nature reserves following the ‘flashes’ (large ponds created by open cast working) at Brinsley (great for wildife); three rural canals (in various states of being!) and two rivers/streams. There’s also woodland at various points along the route. Despite it’s length it’s an easy walk too – with much of it along the canals being flat, and low gradients to the hills.

This area of the world isn’t lacking in heritage interest either. The town of Eastwood is very closely associated with DH Lawrence. The writer hated the town, but loved the countryside around it, with many of the locations around the walk being very recognisable in Lawrence’s books. The route also passes the sites of at least eight old collieries too – but you would never guess it now. All that remains are either deliberate reminders, like coal-trucks at Collier’s Wood or the the headstocks at Brinsley, or hints in the landscape which has almost completly returned to green countryside.

The one part I was never quite happy with was the small urban section through Langley Mill. Nothing against Langley Mill, but a busy road isn’t Giltbrook-Greasley 4.11 006.JPGwhat I wanted in the walk. But using the Cromford Canal would still have left road walking and cut out the lovely countryside around Brinsley, while taking the route out past Heanor would have made it a touch too long, and detracted from it being a circular around Eastwood. So, for that mile you’ll have to bear with it – but I promise the rest of it is gold. And you can at least use it to stock up on food and drink in the shops along the high street. Or have a MaccyDs. No-ones judging here.

There’s a map of the route below. But you can also:

  • Access an interactive, zoomable version of the Eastwood Round through Viewranger.
  • Download the PDF version, with full route instructions and information about the points of interest on the route via this Eastwood Round PDF link – or click the cover image above!
  • Download a GPX file – click the Viewranger link above, and download it from the sharing options on there (in the ‘menu’ section – you may need to sign up with Viewranger to access the GPX).

7 Summits for 2016?

7peakschallengeIf anyone out there is still looking for inspiration for a challenge or resolution for 2016, Trail Magazine may have the thing for you. They have just launched their ‘One Year, Seven Summits‘ challenge, making an achievable goal for anyone’s year to come.

Now, I know the Peak isn’t, somewhat ironically, loaded with England’s highest summits. However, we think you can still craft a great list for the year from the region’s hills. I’ve suggested some themes below, and a hill for each theme – I’d love to add to these with your ideas. Add them in the comments below, or email them over.

1 – The hill less traveled – the hills we do have in the Peak District tend to attract more than their fair share of walkers of all descriptions. There are still some hidden corners however, which are more than worthy of adding to your lists.

high wheeldon summit - George WolfHigh Wheeldon – great views of the coral-reef hills of Chrome and Parkhouse Hills, and a stout little summit. You can make the route up very short, or into a decent hike!

 

2 – A new way up – even those hills that do get the footfall have some quieter ways up, allowing you to avoid the crowds.

parkin clough - dave wildWinn Hill via Parkin Clough – The direct route! A steep climb, best avoided in very wet weather, but it’s a rewarding way up this popular hill. Park alongside Ladybower.

 

3 – A head for heights – One of my aims for the year is to tackle my fear of heights – and there are some great places in the Peak to do this without needing the levels of exposure on a scramble like the Lakes classic Jake’s Rake.

parkhouseParkhouse Hill – a dragon’s-back hill, with a steep, but rewarding hike to the summit. The slopes aren’t sheer, but they are enough to give you goosepimples if your height for heights isn’t fully attuned!

 

4 – The classic – They maybe busy, but they are busy for a reason, with some of the Peak’s best views and climbs, along with easy accessibility.

mam torMam Tor & the Great Ridge – Hard to choose just one for my recommended list, but I just can’t look past Mam Tor. You can be up and down in an hour, or turn it into a nine mile circular hike you’ll never get bored of, with the Great Ridge and a bonus summit at Lose Hill.

5 – One on the fringe – The boundaries of the national park are more than just lines on a map – they suck people into the hills, dales and lakes of the Peak Park. Often this is to the exclusion of some great countryside outside it’s borders, with just as great a claim to call itself the Peak District.

crich standCrich Stand – the stand is the monument on the top of the hill (open to the public), a memorial to the Sherwood Foresters regiment. It’s visible for many miles around, especially from the east, where it represents the first decent sized hill of the Peak. on a good day you’ll see Nottingham and beyond from the top of the hill. You can cheat and drive all the way up – but I’d recommend walking up through the woods from the Cromford Canal / River Derwent and round the back of the quarry. The view will not disappoint.

6 – One in the Dark Peak – The Dark Peak’s hills are often left aside in favour of the limestone ridges of the White Peak, Kinder being the exception, but as the highest peak in the region is has it’s own pulling power to hikers. They are of a different character, often more desolate and windswept, and without the show-stopping views from the peaks. But personally I love a day on the moors – its a special atmosphere, and often much quieter and peaceful. You still get the views too, with views of the valleys and reservoirs sneaking out from the flanks.

black hill cairn - alex pepperhillBlack Hillthis hill can be walked from various start points. It can be very boggy in wet weather, but it’s all access land, so you can find your own way up if you are confident with navigation. Alternatively, chose a route taking in the Pennine Way and the flagged surface will take you right to the summit with your boots barely getting mucky!

7 – One elsewhere – We could fill the list with hills from the Peak, but it’s nice to fly the nest every now-and-again. So, as a gesture to the rest of the UK, I’ve included a free for all category. You could go literally anywhere, but my recommendation for just a single hill elsewhere would be:

crib goch - rockabilly girlSnowden – it might be as busy as Piccadilly Junction, or as quiet as a remote island (occasionally, maybe!). But it is the hill that offers everything – a gentle climb for most walkers, strenuous hikes and the airy thrills of Crib Goch* (pictured).

 

IMG_20160106_174354105An expedition – so many to choose from in the Peak! You can find many multi-day hikes on the Long Distance Walking website. But I think you should go for the 7 day tour in this website’s first post – if only so you can see how it fares in the modern walking world and feed back!

 

 

*Considering I think Parkhouse Hill is a test of my head for heights, you can guess my views on Crib Goch!

Picture credits: