Derbyshire, a county in the East Midlands, is a popular retreat for all lovers of the English countryside. The Peak District National Park occupies a large portion of Derbyshire and is known for its idyllic rivers, Swiss cottages, limestone valleys and ridges. Bakewell, a small market town, is famous for its pudding and is often linked to the setting of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Lambeth. The historic village of Eyam was victim to the Great Plague that broke out in the year 1665, claiming the lives of 260 villagers. Interestingly, the nursery rhyme Ring a Ring o’ Roses had originated in Eyam; it’s underlying meaning resonates the gruesome past that befell the villagers. Hathersage, a village in the Hope valley, was home to an Eyre family who were the source of inspiration for Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Known for its literary associations and stunning scenery, the Peak District is a must visit for those travelling to Britain.
Edale, a village in the Hope valley of Peak District, was my place of stay for the next couple of days. It marks the beginning or the end of the Pennine way – a national walking trail that runs for 267 miles all the way up to Northumberland in the north. Kinder Scout, a moorland plateau and the highest point in the national park, is a short walk away from the village. The Hope valley is home to a large number of shepherd’s booths and the village surrounding the central booth is called Edale. The Grinds brook glides through the spectacular surroundings of the Dark Peak area, past Edale village and towards the Hope village on the south-east.
I was staying at YHA Edale, a good twenty minutes walk from the Edale station. YHA Edale has to be one of the prettiest youth hostels in England. The Lady Booth brook flows past it and the hostel’s backyard opens into the open moorland. Once I settled myself in the cosy room, I decided to go for a walk and explore the Edale landscape. I crossed a pretty cobblestoned church, the moorland centre, the Old Nag’s Head arms and arrived at the entrance to the Pennine Way.
A stony path cuts through private farms and goes past charming farmhouses, trickling streams and rolling hills. Unlike the moors in the southern part of the national park, the ridges in the North are rugged, barren and dark. When the skies are overcast, an impending gloom enshrouds the valley and the series of low-lying ranges assume a greyish-black colour. Edale and other northern villages are located in the Dark Peak area.
It was a lovely walk through the valley. A lone tree stood on the sloping hills and the sweeping ranges could be seen for miles into the distance. It had rained a while back and the grass blades were covered with newly formed rain drops. How green was my valley!
It was October and the leaves were starting to change colour. Autumn berries were beginning to ripen and dry masses of wild heather added a brown tinge to the surrounding landscape. When it was time for sunset, a golden hue spread across the sky and I followed the sunlit roads back to the hostel.
The next day, I decided to take the Kinder Plateau moorland walk. Kinder scout is well known for the mass tress-pass that took place on April 24, 1932. The tress-pass was organised to meet the demands of the working class people who wanted unhampered access to open moorland areas. When I started my walk, it was drizzling, the clouds were low and the winds were bitter. On the Pennine way, I went past the Upper Booth farm, along River Noe and up the Jacob’s ladder. The Jacob’s ladder is a steep climb and for amateurs such as myself, it took thirty minutes to scramble along the rocky terrain and reach the top. Closer to the top, one can get breathtaking views of the Hope valley and the desolate moors.
It was misty and a thick roll of clouds had descended on the moorland. The surroundings were hidden from view and I was walking into nothingness. The outline of various rock formations appeared from nowhere; it was eerie and daunting.
In the fall season, the grass turns red. Vast stretches of reddish-brown grassland creates an other-worldly atmosphere on the moors. I had transported into a red-planet.
The frequent showers had formed little pools of water in the uplands. Gullies paved their way through eroded lands and small, greyish-black gravel lay all over the well-trodden path.
At Kinder Low, I took a right and followed the path that descended to the brook. I stopped at the sight of red coloured water that looked like a stream of fresh blood ! Little bubbles formed on the surface; It looked like a witches’ bubbling cauldron. The sandstones underneath gives the water its characteristic red colour.
The trail crosses over wooden bridges, narrow steps, along the Grinds brook and through oak forests before joining the main road that leads to the Edale village.
The next day, it was pouring. My visit to the Castleton village was delayed. It was mid-day when the rain had finally stopped. The footpath that joins Edale and Castleton was boggy and I had a hard time avoiding the morasses and puddles on my way. The path slowly goes uphill and I received fantastic views of Edale and the surrounding valley. Sunlight streamed in from the passing clouds and lit up the dales.
At Hope Cross, I took a right and went towards the summit of Mam Tor. Also known as Mother Hill, the Mam Tor reaches a height of 517 metres and overlooks the Castleton village to the south-east. It was a gentle stroll along the well-laid stony path with wonderful views of the Winnat’s mountain pass.
My walking trail in and around Kinder Scout and Mam Tor can be traced in the interactive map below.
In October, the days are short and I had aimed to reached my hostel before sunset. Fall had painted the craggy hills in brown and yellow. From a distance, YHA Edale looked buried in oak-brown forests and featureless slopes.
From the red grassland to the berry red streams, Peak District is filled with delightful surprises! To those on a walking holiday in Britain, Peak District has a lot to offer. Given my love for the English moorland and fell walking, I look forward to visiting the White Peak area – the next time I am in Peak District.