A night camped out on the lonely grassy moors around Bleaklow almost feels like returning home after a longer trip. Having nearly dried out from a spectacular backpack in the northwest highlands a few weeks had passed, which is just long enough for itchy feet to be setting in, a simple night on the hills was needed. Only an hour away by car, familiar enough to head out to without constant map checking, the upper derwent valley still feels like a wild and wonderful place to be. I’ve lost count of the nights I’ve spent up here, then each time I return I’m reminded why this is a place worth returning to.
The walk in was warm and hazy, following an easy path that passed through the tall grass up to higher ground approaching the crumpled mass of the Alport Castles landslide. The broad silhouette of the Kinder plateau rose above everything as the sun inched further along downwards into the west. The path faded away at the same time as the light, slowing the pace by meandering around the endless dark peat groughs and bogs. This isn’t a place to rush around too much, there’s no real summits to tick off a list, everything about these moors tells you to slow down for a while. The landscape feels stretched too, endless moors make time seem to pass more slowly. The only exception to the sedentary pace are the large mountain hares that dash back and forth, half white with winter coats and the grouse that burst from the ground when you unknowingly get too close. Between two springs was a patch of short grass that was just about flat enough and dry enough to call a bedroom for the night. Overhead jetstreams of planes heading in and out of Manchester crosshatched the sky as the sun went down and the first stars appeared. Some would say that this place is featureless and bleak, I find myself thinking bleak is beautiful. The tranquility didn’t last so long, strong gusts of wind howled across the moors all night and the rain lashed down for hours. At dawn the temperature dropped sharply, the rain turned to hail and ice began to collect on the tent before thick flurries of snow began to fall. Within the hour sunlight broke through and patches of blue appeared overhead, by morning any idea of snowfall became unimaginable.
The walk back over the moors was bright and sun soaked, though a bracing cold northerly was a constant reminder that it was more winter than spring. A night up in the Upper Derwent Valley has become a ritual trip that never gets tired, the simple pleasure of heading somewhere remote with a light pack and no agenda other than walking for a few hours and sleeping out tucked away in the creases of the moorland.