Sunday, 24 August 2014

Day 1 - Arrival

I'm sitting in my tent on the first night of my camping adventure. Fortunately, it's not too cold -I think about 10 or 11 degrees Celsius, maybe 12. It feels toasty warm in my tent anyway. I've had a very pleasant day. I made my way here after 4 O'clock, with a suitcase and bicycle in tow (crazy I know, but how else was I going to carry all my stuff?) This would by my heavy(ish) mountain bike to boot. Still, I figured when I got here and set up, I won't have to lug anything about for a few days, or so I hoped. The weather's not looking too bad, at least until Sunday night when the heavens are due to open.

It took around 15-20 minutes to get my tent up - not long at all really, but it took around an hour to get everything set up properly and stored away inside. First task was to get a cup of tea, as I was pretty thirsty after lugging my suitcase up the hill to where I would pitch my tent. Luckily, the wind wasn't so fast that it blew out the gas on my stove, so I had a cup of tea ready within 5 minutes, which I drank whilst savouring the view over the Edale valley.

After this, my first priority was getting some food, as my belly was starting to rumble. I headed down to the Old Nags Head inn, the oldest pub in the village (there's only 2), and dating back to 1577. The front room was open inside, which is not always, but is a rare treat when it is. Open plan and reaching up to the full height of the building, it feels all of it's almost 500 years. Incredibly, the inn now has a carvery, which is very welcoming as an opening night meal, as I couldn't be bothered to cook and there is limited choice in the village shop anyway (which was closed, since I got there after 5pm). The carvery complements the made to order dishes of yore, which are OK, but not as good value. Although still available, any hungry sailor (or cyclist, hiker, whatever) worth his salt would be hard pressed to resist this fine selection of foods, of which i had plenty, washed down by a pleasant local(ish) cider on draught. It was easy, sitting there in the old room with my food and drink, to imagine I was in one of the many fantasy novels I've read set in such medieval places, and I felt quite content at the notion of being in such surroundings.

After this, I walked the food off before heading back for another pint of cider, before returning tentward to contemplate tomorrow's agenda. Most likely I'll be cycling, but this depends what I feel like in the morning. Now it's time to go to sleep listening to the sound of wood fires crackling and sheep bleating. Good night!

Link to day 2:

Day 2 - Cycling (or rather hikling) up Jacob's ladder

Woke up very early this morning, about 5:30am, due to not having a very good night's sleep thanks to the rain. I got up and went to the toilet before heading back for a couple more hours sleep. As I was coming back from the toilet block however, the grey of early morning sky suddenly changed hue from grey to faint yellow - it was the sun rising. This was one of very few times I have seen such a thing occur (the other time was in the Świętokrzykie mountains in Central Poland), but none-the-less the effect is quite magical. The transformation is quite sudden, but the effect is spell-binding and almost miraculous.

After getting up properly just before 9am, I went down to the shop for some supplies (juice, breakfast items, cookise etc.). Although often in places such as this, where supply is often limited, most items are pretty expensive. However, in the general store in Edale you can get some very reasonably priced items for considerably less than a pound - cookies, flapjacks, toffees, beans, juice, energy drinks, especially if you buy the own brand products, which come highly recommended. In total, I spent less than £5 for everything I would need to snack and drink on.

Anyway, after a 'hearty' breakfast of sausages, beans and bacon (plus a few mushrooms) I set about getting ready for today's bike ride, which would take me from Edale to Hayfield, where the current TV series The Village is set. The ride would take me up Jacob's Ladder, a snaking route that literally seems to climb up to the heavens when seen face on. It's very steep in parts, and turned out to be most definitely not rideable, so my day's ride ended up becoming more of a hike with a bike as I pushed my +13kg mountain bike up and over the top. Admittedly, I was riding a rigid, but even with full suspension you'd need to have legs of steel to have any chance of cycling over such rough, steep terrain.

The route is so steep and rocky for most of the way that I must have spent 4 or 5 miles walking and pushing the bike uphill. None-the-less, some of the views are tremendous. The going did not get any easier as I reached the crest of the hill, as the path downwards seemed to consist of nothing but huge, freshly laid stones, making even walking difficult and uncomfortable. Still, I arrived in Hayfield in good time, sufficiently to have a look around some of the village.

The village really is like a step back in time, containing a butchers, greengrocers, cafe and various other stores. the greengrocers is even done out in authentic 1920's style, complete with stuffed animals hanging outside (presumably for filming). Anyway, I bought some nice sausages, fresh potatoes, a yoghurt and some beans, so knew I could look forward to a hearty dinner when I got back tonight. Even better, the whole lot came to under £3.

My dilemma now was the best way to get back to Edale. If I went back the way I came, I would face even more hills and rocky paths, and if I took the main road, the distance would be twice as long and probably be very busy with traffic (not really what you want when you come away to the country for a few days). So I opted instead to cycle along the Sett Valley Trail, a pleasant and traffic free woodland route passing through nature reserved and pleasant forested area, which would bring me out at New Mills Central train station - I had decided to take the train back. The hills and rough surface had beaten me after only 12 miles (it felt like 112).

Once back at the campsite I had a much needed shower, followed by a brief downpour, and then set about preparing my dinner. It's no mean feat cooking potatoes, sausages and beans with only one gas ring, but I did and this is proof that you don't need all the modern conveniences we have in our homes these days - my gas stove only measures around 30 x 45cm! Still, I probably couldn't do this every day - otherwise where would the fun in that be? Now all that remained to do was choosing whether to go for a guided night time walk in search of bats, or to view a local art exhibition in the church later in the evening.

Link to day 3:

Full route details:

Day 3 - A short (but steep) walk and home

I decided not to do the bat walk last night, as when I arrived at the visitor centre about 7:30pm, it was full of parents with their children (as I should have expected). As I was tired from the day's adventure on the hiking trails with the bike, I took the easy option and went to the pub for another drinks - in the Old Nags Head of course. There's nothing wrong with the other pub, it's just a bit more modern and not quite as cosy - and the food is not as good. Still, it's worth a try if you haven't been before! Anyway, back to today.

I slept much better this time, as there was no heavy rain in the night and I was asleep almost instantly from the day's exertions, so I got up about 8:30am to a cup of tea and a breakfast of the the beans I hadn't eaten the night before - waste not want not! The plan for today was to do a bit of a walk that would take me up above the Edale valley looking down, nothing too long and arduous, but something that would stretch the legs.

Before setting out however, I cycled down to the visitor centre and left my bike there to collect on the way down later - rather than walk back down with a suitcase and bike in tow, I would only have half as far to walk with both things, so figured this made sense. Inside the visitor centre I picked up a book of walks around Edale. I know most of them already, having been coming here some years, but I figured there may be something new in there I haven't done before, such as a new route, and I simply couldn't resist the colour coded map in the back showing all the routes over-traced on a pristine white section of Ordnance Survey map.

After finishing at the visitor centre I turned right onto the road and right again to cross the little river that passes Fieldhead campsite - a truly wonderful spot which never fails to inspire me with it's grassy glade next to the running of the stream. I headed out across the field towards Ollerbrook farm, before turning right then left again into open counry - this was a gentle but continuous ascent towards Ollerbrook Clough and Blackwell Plantation. However, I made a left turn through the heather-strewn field towards The Nab, which crests a ridge with fantastic views over the Edale valley and Heardman's plantation.

The switchback of the usual descent brings you back out at Grindsbrook Booth and Grindslow House. However, I took the alternate route which is a bit more direct and involves scrambling down a very steep banked pathway back down into the heart of the valley where Edale Village resides. Once again, the views from up here are sensational, and it's important to have both hands free as you slide down the bushy slope. Still, it's well worth it for the view it affords over the other walkers making the more traditional way up towards The Nab. Still, you'd be very hard pressed to ascend this way, as it's tough going and even on the way down gravity is always threatening to pull you down to ground level. Still, it makes for a fascinating and thrilling downhill run.

Once back down in the heart of the valley, I descended the steps crossing the stream and climbed back out the other side to Grindslow House before heading back to the campsite. I borrowed a tin opener for a third time from a third person in order to cook the soup I'd bought yesterday, rather than eat out or leave food here that I didn't want to carry. I decided to cut my losses and go home early, as all the signs from the weather forecast seemed to suggest that by early evening and tomorrow morning the rain would really be hammering down. I was taking no chances and decided to pack up before nightfall so as not to be packing everything up in the rain. Fortunately I packed up in good time and had time for a nice milky latte at the little cafe by the station before catching the train home. It should be noted here that the cafe near Edale station is nice and pleasant, but has now been taken over by the National Trust. It used to be owned by a woman and her dog who used to cook things from the menu or anything else you may fancy - whilst the choices from the menu are still good, it seems to have lost that 'one-of-a-kind' and homely feel it had before.

Still, nothing stays the same forever, but fortunately the village itself and most of the things that make it appealing haven't changed in the least. The village shop still has products in it that look like they've been on sale since the early 1990's, and the visitor centre still has videos to watch (if not still in the same format as they were when I was a kid). All in all, this has been a fantastic trip and somewhat different to the usual caravan adventures, where I'm almost always accompanied by family or friends. It had been nice just to be on my own doing things in my own way, living an independent yet simple life even if only for a few days. And best of all, I still have the Bank Holiday off tomorrow! Rejoice.

Full route details: