Happy hiking holiday (25.2021)

I’ve been on holiday this past week, so have been engaged more in doing than thinking (which is probably a good thing).

Monday: Having given my blistered foot a few days of rest with some gentle walking, and with the pain in my foot now all gone, it was time to put it to the test with some serious walking. We headed off to walk the Monsal Trail, getting off a bus at the side of a field and following a small trail down the hill and then up the other side to join the trail. The Monsal Trail is a long but easy walk following the path of a former railway line. It’s popular with hikers and bikers and it was what lured us to Bakewell in the first place, for the opportunity to walk across the viaduct and through the tunnels.

Once this was a railway line

Having once been a railway line that served industry, the Monsal Trail is typical of the area in that the industrial past is now jumbled up with an area of natural beauty. The old station houses are now popular cafes. The huge lime kiln that must have belched out all manner of foul smoke is now a home to nesting birds. Former mills can be seen from the path, including one that used to employ orphans from the nearby town. (There’s a story in that – either a kindly mill owner wanted to take this children from institutions in the city and give them employment and a chance at a better life in the country; or an evil mill owner saw an opportunity to use these children as a cheap and disposable resource because no-one would miss them if anything should happen to them.)

Walking through old railway tunnels was fun. Just watch out for high speed cyclists.

Walking through the railway tunnels gave me a chance to use the fine acoustics to entertain Husband with excerpts from the rousing final number from Starlight Express, “Light at the End of the Tunnel”. (Are you not familiar with Starlight Express? The musical about trains? Performed on roller skates? Tsk!)

Tuesday: We headed out of Bakewell and across some fields to walk the last little bit of the Monsal trail we missed, from its start (in the middle of nowhere) back to Bakewell station. After that, we spent the day looking around Bakewell – taking some refreshment including a cream tea at the Tiroler Stuberl and dinner at The Manners pub, literally next door to our Airbnb.

We took a look around All Saints church, which is on the Peak Pilgrimage route – something I’d never heard of before. There were some old carved stones in the church, apparently “early Christian”. Hmm. I would guess from the symbols carved on the stones that they were pre-Christian. But maybe the early Christian church ‘borrowed’ some pagan symbolism in an attempt to convert people. (As well as building early Christian churches on pagan sites of worship – taking the idea of “if you build it, they will come”).

All Saints Church, Bakewell

There was a stained glass window with several saints depicted. I recognised St Catherine of Alexandria because she’s always depicted with the wheel on which she was tortured. It’s quite grim that saints are often depicted with the objects that were used to torture of kill them. It’s even more grim that an object of torture is now an object of fun – the firework display, the Catherine Wheel.

Wednesday Today we made the transfer from Bakewell to Castleton on a small bus that took us on a pretty and scenic route through many small villages. On arrival at Castleton we packed up ready to go straight out for a walk as we’d seen the weather for the rest of the week was not looking great. Our main reason for coming to Castleton was to do the Mam Tor ridge walk so that’s where we headed. Like so many walks we’d done, it involved a long walk up, and up, and up, and then one last steep up before we reached the summit and could enjoy the easy walk along the ridge before heading down through fields to come out on Castleton’s main road, conveniently opposite the pub Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, where we ate dinner, all shops in Castleton being shut by now.

Mam Tor ridge walk – such a nice easy path! (once you get up there)
Crude indication of where we started the ridge walk. It looks far, but once we were up, it was an easy walk.
A pint well earned

Thursday: The weather was not as bad as we’d expected, so we decided to walk to Hope, the next village over from Castleton. The path took us by a stream, through some woodland, and across fields of sheep with fine views of the nearby concrete factory. Hope turned out to be just as small as Castleton, with not much to do, so we dined at the Hope Cheshire Cheese pub (it’s a popular pub name in these parts). We had a Ploughman’s between us which was good but not great (the bread and the pickle was fine, but for me a good Ploughmans should have three cheeses plus some fruit – apples or grapes – and a pickled onion). We purchased some food supplies at Watson’s farm shop and walked back through the fields to Castleton.

Of course the weather picked up late in the afternoon, and so we went for a walk around Castleton, which didn’t take too long, but we did come up with a plan of one more walk we could do.

On the outskirts of Castleton – looking at Mam Tor ridge – we walked from the V on the left to the double bump on the right.

Friday: A drizzly day of wet air, the rain can’t even be bothered to rain properly today. Rather than do hiking in this weather (we are not adherents to the adage ‘no bad weather only bad clothing’) we decide to take a day trip to Sheffield. What we didn’t consider in this plan was taking the train to Sheffield meant walking back to Hope to the railway station there. And once we were in Sheffield we walked around the city a little bit lost. In the mizzle. The highlight of the whole excursion was finding a Vietnamese café where we stopped for lunch. Vietnamese food was just the thing for such a grey day – light and fragrant and tasty and for just a little while transporting me to a sunnier place. It was Friday night and we had planned to get fish and chips from the Castleton fish and chip shop for dinner but instead we decided not to go out again and to stay in and eat the last of our Watsons Farm Shop supplies instead.

Signage in Sheffield

Saturday: An awkward weather day – warm and humid but also overcast and windy in parts. Difficult to know how to dress or what was appropriate especially when hiking up from the valley (humid) through Winnats Pass (windy with lots of body heat as – no surprise – we had another long uphill slog) before coming out at Rushup Edge (cool name, also cool and breezy until the sun came out). We enjoyed some walking on the ridge before heading down into Edale. The plan was to walk back to Castleton from here – up over the Mam Tor ridge we’d already walked on Wednesday. But then we remembered Edale has a train station, so we could take a train back to Hope instead.

Rushup Edge

While waiting for the train we picked up some supplies at the Penny Pot cafe. This included a slice of the most decadent cake/pudding/dessert I’ve ever seen – Kinder Cookie Pie. Part biscuit, part chocolate, part heart attack in slice form, oh my word it was good! It made me understand why all those phone boxes around the villages had been re-equipped with defibrillators. We had to walk back to Castleton from Hope station. Again. But at least this time it was through the fields and not along the road. Once back in Castleton we followed the streets up to Cave Dale and followed it along until it became The Limestone Way.

Cave Dale

Cave Dale was pretty but tough walking as the path was a lot of loose rocks – the kind where you have to place your feet carefully and stay vigilant to avoid twisting an ankle as a rock moves unexpectedly from under your foot. Once out of the dale, the land around the path flattened out and we were in more open territory surrounded by sheep and cows. We took a pause for a late lunch – a not-very-country meal of falafel and hummus roll from the Penny Pot, and some miso soup that we brought in our flask.

Viewpoint with sheep – Rushup Edge, Winnats Pass and the start of the Mam Tor ridge.

We headed back down to Castleton but of course the path down went uphill before it went down. However at the top of this hill we had a wonderful view of walks past and present – Mam Tor, Winnats Pass and Rushup Edge from this trip; and Bamford Edge, Stanage Edge and Kinder Scout from last year’s trip. I don’t know I’ve ever been able to look at such an expanse and think, “I’ve been there; and I’ve been there…”

In the evening we went to fetch fish and chips from the Castleton fish and chip shop but – No! We got the opening hours wrong. Fish and chips are available Friday night only. If you want fish and chips on the weekend they’re available between 12pm and 4pm only. This is small town life, very different from the big city life we’re used to. So – back to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for dinner again. (There were other pubs in Castleton – perhaps another four or so – but YOCC had the best menu.)

Sunday We packed up, cleaned up and headed out to take our bus back to Sheffield to catch our train home. It was a lovely trip, again passing through places we knew, like Hope (eye roll); and Hathersage where we stayed last year (I waved to the fake sheep who were still there, standing outside our window at the George Hotel); and up past Higger Tor, our very first Peak District walk. It was also an anxious trip though, as we had very few minutes to get off the bus and get onto our train. If we missed the connection, we had an hour sitting in Sheffield station waiting for the next train. Luckily we made it with four minutes to spare.

Headed home

It felt a little surreal, to wake up looking out at the countryside of Castleton and then a few hours later, to be back in our own home in London. I still haven’t quite adjusted.

We don’t have broadcast TV at home, so having access to regular TV programming for the past week, we’ve got very much engaged with British TV detective dramas. Lewis, Vera, Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War… we were sitting up until midnight most nights watching these shows. We may have got a little bit addicted. Which makes me wonder… hiking holiday, TV detective shows… are we middle aged?

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