I used to be involved with a Staff Association whilst at work and thoroughly enjoyed the challenges it brought me over the last 3 years. I took early retirement at the end of February this year, and was invited back to the Annual Conference held at the Palace Hotel in Buxton last week. It had always looked to be set in a beautiful part of our country, but due to being so busy when we were there, I just never seemed to have enough time to get some decent walking in. My wife Arlene had also been invited to come along to the conference dinner, so we promised ourselves we would take our walking gear and take in some of the scenery in the area. The forecast had been a little foreboding at the beginning of the week, but Wednesday looked as if it would be the best day for a good hike, so I had bought a map and planned something for us that would be around 8.5 to 9 miles in length and would take in some hills, valleys and a large reservoir, should be a very nice day out, we thought?
We left the hotel at around 10:00am and after hanging a right at the mini roundabout, started up an incline on the A5004 that took us out of Buxton towards where we were to pick up the start of an old Roman Road. It was overcast, but dry, so as we started to leave the buildings of Buxton behind the countryside started to open up on our left hand side. You could see along the valley and some of the property’s had a nice view across the golf course. A little further up the hill on our left, we passed the first of two outdoor centres we would come across that day. There were a group of participants waiting eagerly by some buses, ready to whisk them away to their challenges of the day.
Around a mile after we left the hotel, we found where the Roman Road forked off the A5004 and so we left the majority of civilisation behind us, taking a steep gradient up into the ‘Dales’. It was steep indeed and narrow, but still a Tarmac covered road, which surprised me as the map showed it merely as a track. We did come across one property a little further up which may have been the reason the road was kept in such good condition. Not long after this ‘House in the Woods’ the road turned into a real track, and we were still heading upwards! The water ‘run off’ from the surrounding hills gurgled down through the marshy ground and the ditches along the sides of the track, some of it being caught in a small man made reservoir near the house we had just passed. As we approached the summit more of the Peaks started to come into view, and so did the ripples in the puddles along the track where the rain was starting to fall. It was slow at first, but was being whipped by the winds that were becoming stronger all the time. The track took a downward slope not long after this point, and we came across a couple walking some dogs, whom we could only assume had come from a dog kennels we had seen earlier judging by the amount of dogs they had with them. About 15 minutes later we came to a walled property, the sign notifying us that this was also an outdoor centre. It was in the middle of nowhere, Canadian Canoes of varying sizes on trailers, mini buses and other equipment in the yard, but devoid of people. I attempted to have a decent look at the map at this point as the track split into two, but the wind and the rain made this very difficult, however the track became Tarmac covered at this point again so that should be the ‘Well Defined’ route the map showed, right? On we went, down across the next little valley and up the other side, diagonally across the side of the next valley, where by my calculations we should be looking at the centre crossing point of the Fernilee Reservior. In the haste to look at the map and get a quick position fix back at the outdoor centre, in the wind and rain with steamed up reading glasses, in trying to protect the map from the rain, I had not orientated it correctly, so had taken the wrong route. Still, we were only about a mile off course and in an easily recoverable position. We backtracked along the road in the bottom of the Goyt Valley, took the road down to the Fernilee end of the reservoir, and in stead of following the old train track out in the open we crossed the reservoir, and took the other track through the woods. It was really beautiful in there, but the rain still managed to get to us, dripping down through the branches helped by the wind that was shaking the water from them. It was getting heavier now, so much so the over trousers we extracted from the rucksack and donned. It was a lovely walk through the woods however, and on exiting them at the other end the track took us back across the valley bottom to meet up with the road at the other side. The road, being the old railway line, had followed the opposite bank to the woods and where we met it, it now took a steep route up the hill. Those trains must have been something to get up that hill, that’s all I can say! By the time this little road joined the A5004 at the top of the hill, we had about a mile and a half to run on our hike, and it was all down hill!
Once the rain had started that morning it never gave up, and it was as if it was determined to dampen our spirits to the point where we would crumble and give up. Arlene and I had chatted as we had gone along, only stopping on a couple of occasions for Arlene to retie her boots or when we put the over trousers on. I checked on her as often as I could without making it too obvious, I’ll admit it, I was a little concerned at times. She may have looked like a drowned rat, but she plodded on up that last hill from the reservoir like a true Trooper, which would have been a soul crusher for some people, and never made a moan or had a single whinge throughout the whole experience that day. I was so proud.
Note from Arlene: The day we drove up to Buxton started out with beautiful sunshine and the further north we went, the cloudier it got, but it didn’t rain on our whole journey. We had a lovely stroll around the town and The Pavilion Gardens before meeting up with some of Bob’s colleagues for dinner.
The weather was rather disappointing on the day of our walk. It was grey and overcast, but at least it wasn’t raining. And it wasn’t really cold either. We saw some lovely houses on our way out of the town. We turned off one of the many cycle routes around the country, route 68, The Pennine Cycleway. Fortunately, the route was paved most of the way except for a very small section. Apart from one cyclist speeding along and a pair of dog walkers, we were the only ones walking along this small road.
When we got to the top of our first hill, I took some photos with my phone as someone forgot to bring the camera. (Actually, it is already packed for our Latin American Adventure.) The mist on the hills gave the whole scene an ethereal moodiness. Even without sunshine, the place is beautiful. There are numerous dry stone walls in the area, some with stepping stones built in to climb over easily.
Once we got to the top of the hill, the mist turned into a gentle rain. By the time we got to the reservoir, it was raining quite steadily and we thought we would fair better by walking in the woods under the protection of the trees. Ha! The trees can only deflect so much water before it eventually has to come down, and I am sure the wind didn’t help, but the walk in the forest was beautiful just the same.
Just to be perfectly clear, I am a fair weather walker. If it was pissing with rain from the beginning, there is no way I would have attempted a hike in the hills. As it happened, the rain came AFTER we started on our walk and by that time we might as well have finished what we have started. Bob is more like a spaniel in that he will go out in all weather, rain or shine. Since there wasn’t anything I could do about the rain except put on waterproofs, I just got on with the walk and tried to enjoy the moment and for much of it I did.
What killed me was the last leg up to the main road. The road was steep, it was pissing down with rain, and the wind was up, and I was starting to get cold. I had so many layers on that I couldn’t take long strides. To top it all off, I was having hot flushes every half hour or so. One minute I was sweating like the clappers and the next I was cold. Moving steadily was the only option. Slow and steady. I was like The Little Engine that Could. ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can just about get up this bloody hill!’ When we finally reached the top of the road, we found a shrine! Probably put there for the one’s that didn’t manage to get up the hill. At this stage I was wondering if we were going to make it to our dinner in time. My legs were killing me and I was getting cold, but Bob assured me that we were nearly home and it was all downhill from here. It was, until we had to take the steps up to the hotel!
Final thoughts: I am glad I did the walk. The hills around Buxton are beautiful, regardless of the weather. Some parts of the walk were better than others. Bearing in mind that we didn’t stop for any kind of a break at all as there were no pubs (poor planning on Bob’s part) and it was chucking it down, we ambled most of the way which wasn’t too stressful on our bodies. However, I was relieved when it was over. Fortunately we got back with plenty of time for me to lie down and recover before dinner. 🙂