Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Devil's in the Dark Peak

The Dark Peak isn't sure it likes us. This was our 3rd visit, having previously done Lord's Seat and Kinder Scout. Reaching Lord's Seat in January we experienced near gale force winds and poor visibility and I said how nice it would be to return in the summer weather for a different experience. Kinder Scout in February saw -3 degrees on the summit at midday. So when we arrived on Friday we were amazed to find it bathed in sunshine. Would it last? No such luck!

Descending into the valley past Mam Tor we'd forgotten how magnificent that first sight is and how it continues to wow you right up until you go home. We'd picked out the Greenacres camp site at the opposite end of the valley to our previous trips. Nestled underneath Back Tor, it was a great location for our walk. We had a few fellow campers on Saturday night but it was still peaceful and private and great value.
Friday afternoon we just had time to get down into Castleton and catch the last tour of the Peak Cavern. Also known as the Devil's Arse, for the noises made by the water in the cave, it has the largest cave entrance in Britain. Until the mid 20th century it was used by ropemakers and one of their cottages can still be seen. I think I'd rather stick to the tent and my Pacific Outdoor sleeping mat any day!

The tour guide was brilliant and really made the tour. The Peak Cavern used to be at the heart of industry with rich folk coming for the tour, including Queen Victoria. They would be lucky to see much, often not having more than a candle for light. They had to enter the main cavern laying in a coffin shaped boat. They were then carried over the wet cave floor by the ropemakers before being “sung” to in the dark by the children hiding overhead. All in all they thought they were descending into the depths of hell.

Saturday morning (after breakfast of course!) we set out along the road towards Edale and then headed up Back Tor lane, past the farm. The hedgerows provided a delicious mid morning snack of wild raspberries, smaller but so much tastier than the raspberries from the supermarket. Up on the top the wind picked up and I can tell you I didn't stand on the rock for too long looking at the view before relievedly getting back down!

We continued on along to Lose Hill which has views of Hope and across towards the Ladybower reservoir. As we turned back the storm, that had been threatening all morning, broke and we sheltered at the edge of Back Wood, under an umbrella, eating cheese and marmite and Pringle sandwiches.

On along the top to Mam Tor, the site of an Iron Age fort and should you want a longer walk you could continue on along Rushup Edge and Lord's Seat. We turned back and headed down Hollins Cross towards home.

Once again, we had a fantastic weekend. One final thing...don't miss a drive through Winnats Pass, a steep sided craggy valley where you can imagine bandits holding you up as you pass through.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Peak Park To Revise 4x4 Strategy.

Peak Park Authority reviewing its policy on 4x4s and trail bikes using unsurfaced roads in the Park.

The Peak District National Park Authority has announced that it will update its strategy on managing 4x4 and trail bike use on unsurfaced tracks to help prevent routes being damaged.

At a recent Park Authority committee meeting, the decision was taken to reconsider park policy following concern from local residents and interest groups about 'impact being caused by 4x4s and trail bikes on the tranquillity of the national park and on the condition of unsurfaced routes'.

The end result is that the members of the relevant committee will work with officers to prepare a revised strategy and policy which will be considered by the full authority on 2 December, 2011.

In the mean time, there will be meetings with senior police officers and councillors from highways authorities covering the National Park 'and see if more can be done' it says here.

There's also going to be a new consultative group involving organisations, user groups and interest groups which will meet in early September and look at practical measures which could be implemented.

Protest Rally
The decision is likely to be hailed as a small victory by the charity Friends of the Peak District which held a rally at Stanage Pole a week ago calling for the Park Authority to 'get tough on off-roading'.

The group says around 100 people including mountain bikers, families with children and walkers joined the protest walk along Long Causeway, though horse riders were forced to turn back

The group, in essence, wants the Peak Park Authority to ban off-roading in sensitive areas completely rather than managing damage.

Anne Robinson, Chair of the Campaign for National Parks put it like this at the rally:

"Get tough! Just managing the damage caused by off-roading is not good enough - we don’t want the damage in the first place! We want a pro-active approach not a reactive one. Use all your powers from a total ban to limited access by permit. Stop off-roading on all the routes that can’t sustain use by 4x4 and trail bikes whether or not they are damaged. And you can start with Long Causeway and the Roych.”

Use of lanes which are currently classified as roads, including Long Causeway, by recreational motor vehicles is legal at present – the Peak Park Authority has identified 24 tracks – out of 180 non-classified highways – as 'priority routes where action was needed' and has banned traffic from one of those routes using a Traffic Regulation Order with public consultations on three other Orders.

In addition, the authority has taken steps to carry out improvements at a wide range of sites – more about them at

It's an interesting dilemma. Despite the views of many other Peak District users who'd happily see all off-roaders banned, they do have a legal right to use unsurfaced highways and preventing them from doing so, isn't an easy process.

That may frustrate the anti off-roading lobby, but then we live in a country where legal rights are generally protected. In other words, even if you not unreasonably detest off-road recreational vehicles, you need to be aware of the benefits of our legal system as well as the downsides.

More about the Friends of the Peak 'Take Back The Tracks' campaign at

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Sunday, 10 July 2011

Wild Caravanning?

It's been a long time since my last blog; too long. But now its time to pick myself up and start writing again. We've not done much hiking so far this year, but I do have a few places to tell you about.

Right the way back in March, a very long time ago we took the tent and went to explore the top of the Manifold, camping on the only site that seemed open; Endon Cottage Caravan Site at Hulme End. I just wrote half a blog about sheep and village shops and turkey eggs before I remembered that was actually Biggin. So...Hulme End and the Manifold...

The site was mainly filled with caravans but served its purpose giving us somewhere to camp before the season really got started. There was a lovely site down the road, next to the river which looked peaceful and something a bit special, so if I went again, I'd check out whether that was busy. The walk was nice, but overall not a stand out walk. The bit I do remember is bird watching with the park warden; we stood for ages watching a number of buzzards and kestrels flying over the fields searching for food and calling to their young.

On the Sunday we drove over to Sheen to check out a random patch on the map before heading home and found the most glorious wild camping spot, up through the woods looking out over the vista with Hartington to the right. I could have sat up there for hours.

And then in May, Phil dropped a bombshell - he'd bought a caravan. “A caravan?!” I said, imagining Jeremy Clarkson turning up at the door to share his thoughts on such monstrosities. Aren't caravans for old people, and you just drink tea and empty the toilet? Well I've kind of been converted I'm afraid. Only for the right situation of course, there is still nothing that can beat wild camping in Wales when that is what you need to do. But sometimes, when you've been working all week and you've only got a short weekend before it all starts again, it's quite nice to take some decent food, a bottle of cider and a guitar and still be out in the countryside but just be a bit more chilled out. Plus neither of us for various reasons have really been in the right state of health for tough weekends walking and camping.

And so since then we've had a couple of great weekends in the caravan. But don't stop reading here, we've not just been to any old caravan site, a big square field where people keep their home away from home. Oh no, we've been to two wonderful sites.

The first was at Eastnor Castle, in the Malverns. There are no facilities, simple, just the way we like it. Camping on the castle estate, in the deer park, with the castle looking down on you from the hillside it really is a fantastic location. And within a couple of paces we'd found our own private little walk amongst the wildlife. Head up to the Obelisk and the Malvern Hills stretch out invitingly to the left and right. We had a great time hunting the elusive deer in the park, not one was seen! Ledbury, the nearest town is also well worth a visit, with some great shops and an art gallery and there we found ourselves a rabbit for a delicious rabbit stew.

The next site was a real last minute plan. The idea was to head to Wales but the weather came in and it looked like it was going to be a truly awful and potentially dangerous weekend to be up in the hills. So we headed over to nearby Cannock Chase. My preconceptions weren't that I was going to be impressed. However I'm so glad we went. Cannock Chase is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and even in the rain it truly is. The area we went to was mile upon mile of forest, like you've never seen. The caravan site is owned by the Forestry Commission and you pitch your tent in amongst the trees in way that almost feels like wild caravanning! And I honestly think, even on a perfect weekend, if you picked your route carefully, you could walk through the forest for quite some time without seeing a soul. Oh and we finally found those deer (or maybe they found us?), as they crossed the path in front of us and then froze among the trees whilst we stood watching them until finally moving on.

That's it for now, but the idea is to get some walking in next weekend, so I'll try not to leave it months before sharing it. I'm off to make some plans...the Dark Peak perhaps?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Hiking to hidden places.

We have taken a slightly different approach over our past few hikes. 

We were concerned that always looking for mountains, wilderness and all the other usual haunts, how many other great places are we missing out on?

So our last couple of outings have taken us to The Malvern’s ( ok they are hills), Eastnor Castle/Dear park near Ledbury lovely places.

Also to Cannock Chase in the Heart of the country, wow what a discovery, miles and miles of forest, woodlands and open heath jam packed with all sorts of wild life. 

View Larger Map

We even bumped into wild deer walking along the same secluded path as us. Look out for pictures and full write-ups coming soon.


As part of our “Discover Britain” walks we came across this structure. 

Go on! show us how knowledgeable you are ....... WHERE IS IT!

NO PRIZES, just the amazing pleasure of rubbing our noses in it by knowing ...ha ha.

Go on ..... 


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