For a long time I’ve been umming and ahhing about taking Toby into the hills. Aside from a few small festivals when he was a baby and toddler and being strapped onto a back carrier for a few short hikes round exmoor, Toby hasn’t really had much of an introduction to the great outdoors. Topping the list headed “arguments against” is the fact that our 10 minute walk to school has on occasion broken down into an unprecendented display of stubborness and rebellion (not from me I might add). Do I really want to be dealing with stressful tantrums and strops in my fortress of solitude!!?? In spite of these fears, it was half term and I asked Toby if he fancied a ‘picnic up a mountain’ which he took me up on straight away. I felt an inbuilt resistance to take the kids to the usual, flat low level and ice cream van laden “family friendly” walks, heading off the beaten tracks held more appeal. It’s been a few years since I had headed up Kinder and a fine looking day forecast for the end of the week got me thinking that the combination of heather, peat, autumn leaves and blue skies might be just the ticket to show young Tobes the virtues of time spent outdoors trudging about.
We set out from Nottingham just before 10:00 with Toby in the front seat in charge of music and sausage roll distribution. After leaving Chesterfield we found an unexpected carpet of mist covering the Derbyshire Dales, the point of this escapade had been about stunning views to make the lad’s jaw drop, not a dim wall of chilly grey fog. A quick stop off was taken in Hathersage to treat the young man to a proper pair of comfy walking socks and a toasted teacake in the cafe (where said socks had water spilt on them). By the time we left, the mist was lifting and unveiling a perfect autumnal coloured dark peak. Within 20 minutes we had parked up at Edale paid for four hours parking and began heading up towards the head of the village.
The plan was to take the footpath towards Grindsbrook Clough and to veer off to climb up to The Nab and Ringing Roger. Depending on how Toby managed that first climb would dictate whether it was to be a swift return back the way we came or for us to continue along West to the edge of the plateau and descending one of the cloughs back to Edale. Apart from the occasional request to be carried, Toby trotted along with a spring in his step.
One of the best things about walking with a young child is their fascination with details, wanting to stop to look at a spider, asking why and how running water makes a sound, picking up leaves and conkers and making me carry them.
Toby didn’t seem too bothered about storming up the hill and was refreshingly easy going about where we went and how quick we got there (and I genuinely don’t know about the running water question). So far so good.
Keeping things sweet with regular stops, snacks and stories seemed to keep Toby in pretty good spirits and before long we were sat amongst the cluster of weathered eerie stones that guard the edge of Kinder. We tucked into our sausage rolls, crisps, nanas and malt loaf and took in the views. If this was all we were to manage today then I felt the trip had been successful.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so quick to assume the day was over, being around these rocks Toby became possessed by the spirit of a mountain goat around the rocks and was scrambling up and down with a big smile on his face. After a spot of lunch, we decided that we definitely weren’t ready to go back home yet and after much more scrambling we headed west along the ridge.
After a few more frequent rest stops we were racking up some proper mileage under our boots, we took the time to jump around on a few more rocks and made each other giggle with some weird and wonderful punishments for kicking rocks on the path “if you kick that rock your bum will fall off”, “if you kick that rock your head will explode” etc etc. Every cairn we passed had to be further adorned with more stones and rocks, we talked about why heather gets burnt on the moors and whys its not a bad thing to stomp through puddles.
By late afternoon the wind had slghtly picked up and the bright sunshine was no longer reaching us, I coudl see that Toby was getting tired and not in the mood to go much further. In retrospect it would have been more sensible to have turned around at some point and found an alternative route back, but I am a fool with a bad memory and had convinced myself that pushing onto Grindsbrook for a descent was perfectly realistic option for a 5 year old who had already been walking for three hours. I’ve been up and down Grindsbook a few times, though apparently not enough to remember that it can get quite tricky and scrambly even for adult limbs. When we got to the point where the clough meets the ridge I realised this was not going to happen and was far too riskly and reckless to attempt with a young un. Feeling foolish and a bit guilty I told Tobes we had to double back the way we had just come, he wasn’t having any of it, his little legs had walked all they could walk for one day.
It was only just shy of 4pm but is felt like the light was beginning to dwindle and the wind was carrying a bite that made me think it was time to get out of Dodge. I wanted him to fall in love with these hills not feel scared of them. It was decided that Toby could have the luxury of being hoisted upon my shoulders and I legged it back towards the path of our ascent. I asked him if he was okay/warm enough/hungry/thirsty every five seconds, feeling guilty for any minor level of discomfort he was experiencing. Giving someone a piggyback and moving at a pace is hard work but it keeps you very toasty.
Within the hour we were on the familiar track down to Edale, chatting about the highlights of the mini-adventure and making firm plans to get fish and chips at the next available opportunity. My spirits were further lifted by the absence of a parking charge, despite being over an hour late. Result.
Surprisingly Toby stayed awake for the whole journey home where we discussed future plans for walking camping and climbing. Toby told me that when he grows up he wants to be an ‘army man’, though this then shifted to a doctor, then to a fireman and finally a treeman. We were back in the ‘ham by 6 and headed straight to the chippy and home where Elvis the cat gave us (and our food) a warm welcome.
I never would have guessed that walking with Toby on what was in hindsight a challenging route would have been so much fun. We made each other laugh out loud by beng silly and telling stories whilst we walked. He didn’t moan or complain at any point like I’d expected, and it was fascinating to get a five year olds perspective on a landscape more wild than they had been exposed to before. We’ve both agreed to a few more day walks in the winter and a wild camp next spring.