A Search for Solitude – Part 2

Sheffield is the gateway. Here, other outdoor wanders begin to gather, ready to strike out into the Peaks. It usually feels nice to be surrounded by so many like minded people, but unfortunately there was a cricket match on in Manchester, and so the platform was also filled with men talking about cricket.

There is one thing, dear reader, that is more boring that watching cricket, and that is talking about it. I did my best to lose myself in a book, but the journey still felt like it took a very long time…

The line that travels through the Hope valley is a very interesting one, it hides its true nature for a good while but then you eventually enter a tunnel. Not some rubbish, ducking under a road kind of tunnel you understand, this is a proper, pitch black, “oh my goodness will we ever get out”, kind of tunnel. Just when you have begun to resign yourself to the reality that you are to become some kind of human-mole, destined to live forever underground, the train bursts out of the darkness and propels you, wide eyed and wondrous, into the Peak District. At least it did to me, but that may have been the strong cheese I had the night before.

With excitement building, I began to count down the stations. Unusually for me, I had decided to alight at Hope instead of Edale like I normally do. I had a burning need to really cover some distance despite my heavy pack (as much as I ought to on these trips, I find it impossible to leave my camera behind, so my pack was really far too heavy), so that when I finally reached a place where I decided to spend the night, I would feel like I had earned it. The journey is as much the adventure as the destination, and the physical challenge was very welcome. I am the fittest I have been for a very long time, and was determined to make the most of it!

The plan then, as much as I had one, was to leave Hope and climb onto Lose hill, then walk the ridge over to Mam Tor and down into Edale for lunch. From Edale I would climb onto Kinder Scout following the Pennine way, until I found the place I was looking for. I had no idea where that would be, sometimes you have to just leave this kind of thing to instinct. I would know it when I found it.

The steady climb on to Lose hill was a real challenge, the weight of the pack was taking its toll on my legs, and the heat was making every step even more exhausting, but I relished the physicality of it. I had stress to burn off and this climb through open farmland had the effect of an industrial stress-incinerator! Around me sheep were casually going about their day, so used to seeing hikers that they barely moved away from the path. Insects filled the air and the not quite so subtle fragrance of livestock was all around. The path was steep enough to force me to take several breaks, but the view was so spectacular that I could pretend to any passers by that I was just stopping to admire it – A handy tip here; always carry a camera! That way, if you’re desperate for a rest but want to save face, you can pretend to be deeply absorbed in your photography while secretly recovering, ready to push on… Reaching the summit, I found my self uncontrollably drawn to the trig point, I had to touch it, I couldn’t resist! Laying my hands on the sun-warmed metal, I turned to take in the view of the valley properly. There are some things that words are simply not adequate enough to describe, and the view across this valley that has become so significant to me is certainly one of them.

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A warm breeze was blowing, but compared to the heat of the sun in the valley it felt like air conditioning. I waited until the other groups had passed me by on the summit then set out alone towards the peak of Mam Tor in the distance. I have seen it so many times, but still find it so impressive. With the first of my two major ascents completed, I was able to enjoy my walk along the ridge between the two valleys, and carry on my journey.

I was well underway now.

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