Darren and I had set aside a long weekend in November to spend together some months ago, eventually deciding to spend a couple of days walking in the Peak District, fortuitous then that a few days before we were due to go my doctor recommended “more exercise”. This trip away to indulge in some serious ‘us time’ had suddenly become quite literally just what the doctor ordered!
We set off on Friday morning after dropping the girls at school, heading for Castleton where we would be staying for two nights at Ye Olde Nags Head, a pub/hotel that Darren had enjoyed a pint and lunch in during his walk up the country last year. Darren was utterly convinced he had forgotten something vital, but an hour into the journey and it turned out to be me who had left something behind; my tops for wearing out in the evening were still hanging on my wardrobe door. This was stress I certainly didn’t need, but disaster was averted by a quick-thinking Darren who decided on a lunch stop/shopping trip in Buxton and without delay two new tops were purchased. (Thank you, honey.)
So tops purchased and sandwiches consumed we jumped back in the car for the final and most picturesque leg of the journey. Or at least it should have been picturesque were it not for the fog that clung to every field making it impossible to truly enjoy the scenery. We drove into Castleton through what should have been a stunning gorge and started to wonder if we were actually going to see any of the Peaks that weekend! Still undeterred and determined to enjoy our time away we located our lodgings and checked in to our four poster room (lovely).
Keen to stretch our legs after three and half hours in the car we pulled on our walking boots, strapped on our packs and headed straight back out the door again and into the fog. Have a look at the first few pictures to see just how foggy it was on that Friday; we quite literally could not see the other side of the fields we were walking through! The planned walk from Castleton to the top of Kinder Scout was going to be interesting if the fog continued on into Saturday and Darren was beginning to worry that I wouldn’t see the true beauty of the area he had enjoyed so much last year. After an hour and a half of walking the light was beginning to fade so we made our way back to the pub and rewarded our efforts with a couple of pints.
All cleaned up and girls spoken to, we headed back downstairs for what turned out to be an enormous meal! Both feeling rather full we decided the only cure would be some fresh air and a walk. Stepping outside we realised it had started raining, which didn’t put us off our little stroll (to another nearby pub!) and turned out to be a very good thing…
…because it cleared the fog and we awoke the next morning to glorious sunshine. Rucksacks packed for the day with waterproofs, supplies and numerous other useful things (including the cameras, of course!), we headed downstairs for a hearty breakfast in front of a roaring fire. Tempting as it was to stay and relax for the day in front of that fire, by 9.30am our boots were on and we were on our way. Darren had planned a 14.5 mile route that would take us from Castleton over the hill to Edale and from there on to Jacob’s Ladder for the climb up to Kinder Scout (oh and then back again!) with a total climb over the route of 3,000 ft.
I have to say I was a little nervous as we set off; an asthmatic who completed each Duke of Edinburgh level but hated every moment, I wasn’t entirely sure that I would manage to complete the day. Obviously I was slightly reassured by our successful 18 mile charity Chilterns Three Peaks walk back in September, but the hills had been nowhere near as big! Still, with a smile on my face I headed out into the day determined to give it my best shot. The first real glimpse of the Peaks as we rounded the corner of our pub/hotel was breathtaking. After the fog of the day before, it was as if the sun drenched hills had literally sprung up out of nowhere. And walking down the same lane we had taken the previous afternoon, I found it impossible to recognise my surroundings.
It wasn’t long before we reached the start of our first real climb, and looking back my concerns were far worse than the reality. In the end it really is one foot in front of the other, there was no rush, and with a couple of pauses for breath, we were soon at the top drinking in the views. Darren pointed out where we were headed (which was slightly concerning, especially knowing that once we got there, we would still have to come back!) and off we went again. The next few miles were really quite straight forward, and the morning passed quickly with easy chat and photography taking away any concern over the big climb that was still to come.
Arriving at the foot of Jacob ’s Ladder I knew the next hour or so was going to be painful! But I also knew that I would be damn proud of myself if I reached the top, and also how much it meant to Darren to be retracing the steps he had taken over a year previously. By far the worst thing about the path is its winding nature, every time you think you’re nearing the top you round the corner and there’s the path stretching up and away from you still. We were afforded a little rest part way up some utterly mad mountain bikers descending – gobsmacked and slightly concerned about being bowled over we stepped aside to watch them pass.
Reaching the peak was an amazing feeling, and just the tonic I needed for the past few week’s stresses. It was made all the better by being there to share in Darren’s memories (and the huge proud hug he gave me for making it up there was pretty damn good to!). After a rather hot and sweaty walk, it was strange to find the top of Kinder Scout quite considerably colder; out came scarves, hats, jumpers and coats before we tucked into our lunch of sandwiches, chocolate and a small bottle of red wine (courtesy of our hotel). Then it was time for the journey back.
Walking back down Jacob’s Ladder posed its own challenges; nowhere near as painful but certainly slow going and rather hairy in places (and to think some crazies go down it on bikes!). And the descent really took its toll on Darren’s knee. The return walk to Edale was again fairly straightforward, although with Darren now in pain (but still smiling) there were a few choice words at times! We made it back to Edale and the foot of our final climb with just enough time to get up and over before the light faded too badly. We decided on the steeper but shorter climb; it hurt, I swore (a lot) but I made it! And felt jolly proud of myself for the second time that day.
Apart from a small tumble (which I’ll gloss over), we made it back to our pub/hotel seven hours after we left it, a little sore but in one piece and in desperate need of a chair and a pint. A really great day! You can check out our route here.
I know Darren is concerned that I follow him on these crazy adventures to keep him happy when really I would rather be anywhere else doing anything else… But I have to say nothing could be further from the truth and I really surprised myself at just what I could achieve if I put my mind to it and just kept one foot moving in front of the other!
Sunday morning came around and the Peaks were once again shrouded in fog. What luck we had had on Saturday! With only the morning at our disposal before we needed to head home for my girls, we decided to explore a couple of the caverns: Peak (known as the Devil’s Arse) and Speedwell. They were certainly interesting, (made even more so by two guides who certainly loved their jobs!) and we were both glad we’d been, but both agreed that it wasn’t something we would pay to see again.
Sunday evening was spent back at my house with my girls, chilling out in front of the TV before collapsing in bed. Monday, school run completed and cars dropped at Darren’s house, we grabbed our cameras and headed into London. The final day of our long weekend together was spent indulging our love of photography in a very foggy London. We started off with a trip to the graffiti tunnel near Waterloo that we had first visited back in June and were amazed to see just how much had changed in that time. Although we were disappointed to find no real outstanding pieces there this time, and the few good pieces that were in evidence had been destroyed by taggers. We then took an unhurried and enjoyable stroll from Waterloo, via Tower Bridge to Brick Lane and discovered some new art work had sprung up there since our last visit, the best piece being a pair of snow leopards – stunning!
Feet and legs beginning to scream at us after days of abuse we took a much needed pint stop, followed by dinner at the tried and tested Wagamamas! And then it was off to take our final photos of the day: night shots of the London Eye, Houses of Parliament and River Thames. I had been carrying the tripod around on my back all day, and these shots made it all worthwhile!
All in all it was a truly exceptional weekend that came just at the right time. I can’t thank Darren enough for taking me away and for sharing his trip down memory lane with me. Also for allowing me to start to discover just what I am capable of and maybe, just maybe, to believe in myself a little more.