“Castleton and Mam Tor, Peak District, England”
10 minute read
One Sunday morning, just a couple of weeks ago, I woke up with the overwhelming desire to climb up a big hill. And so that’s exactly what I did.
I’m still not quite sure where that sudden need came from; maybe it was a craving for the exercise, maybe it was an appetite to conquer something, or maybe it was the sight of clear blue skies and the sun in the sky that drew me away from my house. Maybe it was all three.
At this point I’m going to put on my ‘typical Englishman’ hat for a moment and complain about the weather, because that’s what we do in this country. It’s in our blood to bitch and complain about the fact that it’s too hot or too cold, or too wet or too windy. And the reason for that is because the weather system in this part of the world is so unpredictable that you never know what you’re going to get from one minute to the next. In many ways it reminds me of an ex-girlfriend of mine. She was the same.
But in all fairness we do have reason to have a good moan this year because in all honesty the weather has been nothing short of rubbish. From about the second week of June onwards and up until the day I’m writing this in July, the norm so far this summer has been to have an almost constant veil of grey skies and to be persistently bombarded with rain. In between all that we’ve had the occasional ray of sunshine which has felt so rare that it’s almost led to people spontaneously taking off all their clothes in public, just so the moment can be enjoyed to its fullest.
According to one weather website, the rainfall in June was 144% of average, with some places in England and Wales experiencing twice their average expected rainfall. And with regards to that big grey blanket of misery in the sky, England and Wales experienced only 74% of its average sunshine for this time of year.
With the country currently being in a state of uncertainty following the result of the EU Referendum, the country having no Prime Minister (although this is likely to have changed by the time I publish this), both the Labour and Conservative parties in disarray, and not to mention the shambles of the England football team exiting Euro 2016 and there now being no England manager; the only consistent thing in England right now is the bad weather.
So when I woke up on this Sunday morning in June to be greeted by a beautiful summers day, I was up and out the door before I even had chance to finish doing up my trousers.
I had no real plan, but as I drove up the M1 northbound, I got to thinking about Castleton; a beautiful little village in the Peak District which is nestled on the western side of Hope Valley. It had been a number of years since I last went walking in this area, and so I felt it was long overdue a visit. I left the motorway and drove into Chesterfield, and then through Barlow and Hathersage, and on towards Hope Valley. When I finally arrived in Castleton, I parked the car, put on my walking boots, and then set off.
From the A6187 main road I turned off and cut through Millbridge, enjoying the sights of the beautiful barn conversions along the way. I continued straight over the bridge onto Hollowford Road, and then I followed this for some distance before reaching a T-junction where I turned right and then climbed over a stile and into the fields. Then the adventure really began.
There’s an incredible feeling of freedom that comes from rambling through the countryside, and I wonder if maybe that comes from mankind having evolved through thousands of years of living with the land and surviving alongside nature. It’s like whenever we see fire, it seems to connect with our inner caveman. When you think that the modern form of humans, as we think of them, evolved some 200,000 years ago, yet living in a civilised society has only really been the way for a tiny fraction of that time. Therefore does it not make sense for us to still have all those baser instincts within us? Very often we sit at home and we forget about these things when we’re all warm and cosy and watching the latest box set that’s on offer. But whenever we get out amongst nature and get physically active, those most base instincts kick in once again.
It’s a fascinating subject to consider, and this is exactly what was on my mind as I walked across the first field. Unfortunately though I was so caught up in my thoughts that I failed to see the huge pile of cow shit in front of me, and before I knew it I slipped and skidded a couple of feet, leaving a huge brown trail behind me. Thankfully I managed to keep my balance and as I looked up, panting, a sheep stood on the other side of the fence, staring at me while he grazed on a mouthful of grass. His expression was completely blank as his jaws opened and closed and moved in a circular motion.
“Hello” I said to the sheep.
And then the sheep turned around and walked off, shaking its big woolly arse at me. No doubt he had gone off to tell his friends all about that stupid human who just slipped in a big pile of cow shit. I swear that as I left the field I could hear an entire flock of sheep laughing at me.
After this first field I then started to cut uphill and past an old stone cottage. This then took me into a second field which posed a steep hillside which was filled with more sheep. There was no real clear path, and so I had to try to strategically move in amongst my new woolly friends in a way that wasn’t threatening and which wouldn’t result in me being charged down. Believe me, sheep may look cute and cuddly, but they’re not actually all that nice when they get defensive and decide to charge. I should know. I had it happen to me a couple of years ago, and it wasn’t pleasant. But that’s a story for another time.
As I crept up through the field I got to thinking about how I might incorporate a day like this into the website. I decided to sit down and think it through, and so I positioned myself away from any nearby sheep and looked out over the Hope Valley.
And then it hit me.
For anybody that’s been reading Lossul.com for a while you’ll know that one of its biggest concepts is to make the best of whatever time we have, despite having certain limitations in our lives (money, time, full-time jobs, responsibilities, etc). I’ve also written that adventures can be found right on our doorsteps and that with the right shift in mindset, we can find excitement and meaning all around us, every single day. Since I don’t envision there being a big trip abroad in 2016, what I now intend to do this year is to spend more time discovering what is right on my own doorstep and within the UK mainland (while highlighting key elements such as time and budget for reference purposes). It would also be nice to be able to encourage others to do the same, wherever you’re based, and to also promote what we have to offer here for anybody visiting from outside of the UK.
For many years I’d looked out into the distance for adventure without stopping to look at what was around me.
I looked up and noticed that a sheep had started to approach me and was standing maybe ten feet away. But this one seemed to have a little smile on its face.
I decided to try to talk to the sheep in its own language.
“Meeeeeeeeeeeeer” I attempted.
But now the sheep just stared at me with a confused expression before turning around and running off.
As I finished walking up the hill and up onto the ridge at the very top, I felt invigorated by this additional angle for the website and had dozens of ideas running through my mind. A side of Lossul.com that I’d like to become more and more prevalent is a sense of community and interaction. I never intended for the site to become something where I write and you read and never-the-twain-shall-meet. Your involvement with social media, your comments left on the site, and the messages that you’ve sent me privately are absolutely invaluable. With regards to this article and the angle for the site, if you have any suggestions of places I could visit in the UK and feature on this site then please do either leave a comment at the bottom of this article, or send me a message via my contact page. Wherever I publish anything on the back of a suggestion, I will always give credit to those involved.
I was now standing on the Great Ridge and could see Mam Tor (The Mother Hill) ahead of me, but before continuing on to The Mother Hill I decided to turn a full 180 degrees and take a detour.
Walking up the steep and rocky embankment, I finally found myself a ledge that jutted out and enjoyed views out and over towards Edale. The view was spectacular, and I settled down on the rocky ledge and dozed in the sunshine for a while.
Feeling rejuvenated I then descended this part of the hillside and made my way steadily along The Great Ridge and over towards Mam Tor. The well trodden route had now started to get quite busy with fellow hill-walkers, but the views were spectacular and I enjoyed the 20 minute walk just lost in my own thoughts.
After completing the final ascent to the summit of Mam Tor, I stepped away from the crowds and over towards the cliff edge overlooking Castleton. It felt great. I’d woken up that morning in desperate need of a break, a change of scenery, and a little adventure of my own. Now I’d done it. I settled back into the grass, dangling my feet over the cliff edge and out into nothingness as I looked up towards the sky and watched the birds gliding against the backdrop of a bright blue sky and fluffy white clouds.
A little while later I decided to descend Mam Tor via the steep grassy embankment which led towards Blue John Cavern. Once the descent was complete, I then made my way back up to the main road and stood for a moment to get my bearings. The scenery was incredible, even down at ground level, and The Mother Hill (Mam Tor) towered above. I smiled and then turned around and set off east towards Castleton.
The walk back was incredible and took me through the impressive Winnats Pass. The roadway cuts between two steep-sided limestone cliffs which apparently were created when an underground cave system was slowly eroded by water which led to the entire cavern eventually collapsing.
Walking between these two emerald green giants made me feel so insignificant, and as I continued down the hill I just seemed to be getting smaller and smaller. I was in complete awe of this natural wonder, and I felt more and more motivated to get out and discover everything that this beautiful country has to offer.
Without wanting to start complaining about the weather again, I can’t help but conclude that the unpredictable weather really is the biggest letdown that we have here when it comes to discovering more of the country. There’s no doubt that weather makes all the difference, no matter where you are in the world, and England is no different. Harsh weather can present a welcome physical and mental challenge (check out this article – Ben Nevis), but sometimes all you want is some sunshine, a clear sky, and a steady breeze. It makes everything feel right in the world.
And with this in mind I took a final stop at the Speedwell Cavern shop and bought myself an ice cream and a coffee. Sitting at the side of the road, I bathed in the sunshine as I enjoyed my celebratory refreshments, and I then I stood up, stretched, and then set off back towards Castleton.
When I returned to my car I checked the time and my schedule had gone perfectly. I was now heading off to a birthday barbeque with two of my best friends, and as I pulled out of the car park I put on the Bruce Springsteen album, The Rising.
By the time I began to drive back up the hills and out of the Hope Valley, Bruce was singing about Waitin’ on a Sunny Day. That’s exactly what I’d been doing this summer, and when that day arrived, I’d certainly made the best of it.
Total duration (including driving time): 5 hours
Total spend: £3.00 car parking, £2.50 ice cream, £2.00 coffee, plus petrol
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