A childcare mix up meant that I had no other option but to take the day off work to look after Toby last week. Thanks Toby! The timing couldn’t have been better, I’ve done virtually no hill walking for the last two months due to running out of annual leave and having various festive and non-festive bits and bobs to do at home. It’s not all been slovenly sofa dwelling though, I’ve been keeping myself chipper by getting back into running and heading out for 8 mile jaunts about twice a week around Nottingham and have been flung about in my white pyjamas as much as possible at aikido (got my 5th kyu in November!). As much as running and aikido stop me going completely mental in the chilly months and have been doing a good job of keeping me busy (and a bit bruised) I’ve been missing a good stomp on the hills, I guess the views of Nottingham at night don’t really stand up too well in the grand scheme of things. For example, here’s a shot of Woodthorpe Park I took on new years eve during one of my thrilling jogging adventures.
Running at night is great, it keeps you warm and well, but the views are rubbish.
The weather had been wild over the first week of 2012, there were reports of 90-100mph winds in parts of Scotland and it was pretty blowy everywhere else. The standard news footage of uprooted trees, swollen rivers and wheelie bins flying down suburban streets put a bit of doubt in my mind about whether it would wise to head up and out with young Tobias.
Deciding I could do without another housebound day of Wii and dvds I decided to take Tobes up Mam Tor, taking a gentle path up from Castleton and over the summit. We set off later than planned as the weather remained pretty dubious with regular heavy showers and strong winds. The forecast of sunshine and showers proved accurate with the skies shifting from bright blue to gloomy grey about every five minutes. Taking his place in the front seat Toby took on his now regular role as DJ Ford Focus (he chose Nick Drake; Pink Moon and The Pixies: Doolittle) and the resident photographer trying to catch the odd rainbow as we left Chesterfield. He managed to accurately capture the shifts in the weather as it went from this……..
We rewarded ourselves with a quick stop at the Outside shop in Hathersage where I tortured myself by looking at lots of shiny new gear I can’t justify buying (i was eyeing up fell running shoes and down jackets). Some pricey cheese toasties and a hot chocolate later and we set off for Castleton. The weather seemed to have settled, it was still blowing a gale but was now fairly bright and seemed set to stay that way.
We parked up at the end of the defunct A625 at the end of Castleton and wrapped up warm. A couple of cyclists were setting out at the same time, they looked absolutely freezing with the icy wind whipping their legs and seemed to be struggling to manage to move through even the paved sections of road. A gently inclined path took us round the back of Mam Farm, the muddy track made it necessary to get out that most serious piece of alpine winter kit, the spiderman wellies.
Patience is the name of the game when out with a young un, tiny legs only go so fast and the need for regular stops means that progress can be on the slow side.
Several mini picnics were consumed on the way up, bringing as much comfort food as possible works wonders with kids. The mysterious magic of the Lidl chocolate and hazelnut bars soon restored the spring in our steps. Someone recently told me that the concept of a ‘sugar rush’ was a myth and the effect of sugar on behaviour was pure placebo? Maybe I can enjoy guilt free dairy milk at breakfast from now.
We were quite well sheltered from the wind at this stage, though the clouds above looked like they were being speeded up with a time lapse effect and the accompanying howls gave an indication of what was up on the ridge. In the meantime we were treated with some golden light from up above.
Before long we reached the site of Hollins Cross giving views of the Vale of Edale, Kinder and the stones that sit on the edge of Bleaklow. Visibility was good but the wind made short work of sight-seeing, as soon as we were on the ridge we were hit with full force. Toby gave a quick and precarious pose on the monument and we stomped off towards the summit.
The only other people we saw on the hill that day were a group of seven or so men flying some massive radio controlled planes. It looked like they’d been standing up there for a good few hours and were prepared to remain for a few hours more, it didn’t look warm, or much fun. Then again being blasted in the face with icy wind and being deafened by the sound of your jacket being whipped by the wind probably doesn’t register as fun to most people.
On a calmer day this route would probably be very manageable with a young child, it’s not very long, there’s decent paths and the climbing is fairly easy going. Still not sure what the wind speed was up top but at a guess it may have topped 50mph as we got to the summit. For about 10 minutes there were such epic blasts from the North that I was struggling to stand up. We decided to push on by crouching and shuffling and holding hands very tight to the Trig Point. The lack of photo of this point hopefully demonstrates that it was too windy to stop and take a shot.
It was a relief to drop down a few feet and get away from the deafening gales, we could finally hear each other. We agreed that we had had enough wind for today and carried on with our wet blustery descent. The promise of more chocolate once we got to the car keeping both of our moods buoyant.
Our path home crossed with the visitor centre for Blue John Cavern, it bore a very close resemblance to the local shop from Royston Vasey and we stopped off for a look inside. I didn’t feel like parting with £13 to look around the cave today, but I happily went for a pair of Chupa Chups for 20p, he had orange, I went for strawberry.
It was now just a case of heading down the ghostly and now abandoned A625 road. There’s a post apocalyptic feel to this place, it almost looks like a disused set for a fim about an earthquake, parts of the road had just dropped off and crumbled down the hillside, elsewhere there giant deep cracks tearing through it. Toby was more apprehensive about navigating this creepy section of road than he was at any other point today. There’s a few pics of it here if you’re into looking at mashed up bits of road?
Within 5 minutes we were heading back home and planning our now routine stop off at Nottingham’s Captain Cod for fish and chips. Toby in charge of the music once more, we had a bit of Black Sabbath to nod to as we exchanged our ideas for our next epic adventure. It was great to get out, even just for a few hours in wild windy weather. At the end of January I’m plannig on spending a few days and nights in the Howgill Fells, whatever the weather does I’ll be looking forward to a few nights out and getting some decent miles under my feet.