I became enamoured of the Peak District the first time I visited England, almost two years ago. Edward took me for a surprise weekend in Baslow and we stayed in a beautiful hotel on the Chatsworth House estate. The landscape was stunning with its rolling hills covered in purple bushes and the occasional mountains with rocky faces. There was something so peaceful about the whole place, I couldn’t help but fall in love. I often tease Edward by saying it was his plan all along to get me to move over here!
Fast forward to February last year, I am newly expat in the UK and missing the Canadian landscape… I have always been a keen hiker – when I was a kid, my stepdad owned a cabin in Charlevoix and hiking was a regular family thing – so after a few months in flat Lincolnshire, I was longing for some hills.
The Peak District is easily accessible and boasts some of the best walking routes in the UK, so it became our go-to place when ‘the mountains are calling’. We hiked there countless times in the past year and are especially fond of the areas around Kinder Scout, Mam Tor, Lose Hill and the Great Ridge but last weekend, we wanted something a bit different. After browsing The Walking Englishman‘s website, we chose a 12-mile walk across Roaches, Hen Cloud and Lud’s Church.
We pulled in Gradbach car park around 8.30AM and immediately set off. The walk started on a path through Gradbach Wood and 2K in, we encountered what was supposed to be a small stream but looked more like a proper river. We walked along it for a while but couldn’t find a bridge so we decided to cross by jumping from rock to rock. Edward miraculously managed to do so without falling; I didn’t have the same luck. I was worried I’d get water in my boots and I didn’t want to spend the whole day with wet feet, so I went the ‘Canadian way’ by taking them off, rolling my trousers up and crossing in the water. It sounds like a good idea, but not so much… My shoes made it to the shore relatively dry but I stumbled and got my jeans and socks (I was holding them in my hands) soaked. It’s obviously only after I changed socks and put my boots back on that we noticed a bridge in the distance…
The path took us deeper in the woods following the river. Birds were singing, water was flowing softly nearby and the scenery was absolutely bucolic – in my opinion, there’s no better way to spend a Sunday.
The further we walked, the more we were reminded of our first hike together in Québec. The English mountains often offer a barren, rocky landscape but La Belle Province is renowned for its lush forests. The path later took us through more ‘characteristic’ parts of the British countryside but for a few minutes there, our surroundings felt familiar to me.
We came to a fork in the road and, as usual, took the wrong way. Taking the wrong path has somehow become an habit of ours… It sometimes makes the adventure more adventurous, as it was the case last Sunday. I headed right as I was told to by Edward and found myself on an ever-narrowing path, which soon transformed into a tiny slippery ledge over a ravine with nothing to hang on to but a few plants. Looking back, there was probably no danger. It was small dip and the ground was soft but at the time, I felt a little nervous. There was no way we could walk back, so we had to keep going. We finally reached a field and were able to rejoin the original path.
From there, the route was pretty straightforward and it took us only a few minutes to make it to the first rocky range, starting at the Hanging Stone and crossing over the Roaches. The view from the top of the stone is absolutely worth the climb. We walked all the way across the ridge, stopping only to dig some apples from our backpacks.
After coming down from the Roaches, we crossed yet another muddy field before reaching the second range of hills. Edward threw himself on the first available rock, mumbling and grunting. It seemed like an appropriate moment to suggest a halt… We found a nook away from the wind and refuelled on homemade croissant sandwiches, carrots and a handful of peanut M&Ms – a favourite when hiking.
We hit 14K just before starting the climb to Hen Cloud. The summit was blanketed in a cold, thick mist and I was glad I had put on an extra layer during our break. After a few minutes on the ridge, the wind rose and uncovered the fields below. I have visited the Peak District many times already but I don’t think I’ll ever tire of a view like that…
After Hen Cloud, the route took us along an unnamed road. We had planned to climb a third range of hills but decided against it and cut short around it instead (I say we ‘cut short’ but it actually added a good three miles to our walk). We walked a couple more miles on a farm track before reaching what we thought would be the last climb of the day. I literally ran up the hill; I was impatient to get back on the road and assess where we were.
The tarmac was a nice change from muddy fields but it didn’t last long as we had to turn onto another, ever muddier field. The difficult terrain slowed us down but we made it back to Gradbach just before hitting 21K.
We were faced with the actual last climb of this hike, and that’s when the second mishap of the day happened… As I reached the top, my laces got caught in thorns and I fell into some spiky bushes. I hopefully was able to turn ‘in flight’ and landed on my butt instead of my face. Edward even commented that I did so gracefully, toes pointed and all!
We finally reached the car – with sights of relief – and my FitBit informed me that we had walked a total of 24K, taken 33,370 steps and that I had burned 1841 calories in the process.
I like the tiredness that comes after a good hike; feeling drained but recharged at the same time. What is even better is going home to a hot shower, comfy PJs, delicious food, a cosy sofa and several episodes of House of Cards to binge-watch… Truly the best way to spend a Sunday.
* I apologise for the quality of the images. I am switching from a DSLR to a mirrorless system (more about that in a future post) and currently in-between two cameras, so I only had my iPhone on me. But ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’, right?