An autumnal return to Derbyshire’s Great Ridge3rd March 2020
Late last year, I got to reading Tim Flannery’s Europe: The First 100 Million Years. While this mainly is a palaeontological tale, it also features geological facets too and it fascinates me that Europe is in essence built from an island archipelago. Putting all that together probably gave us the hills and mountains that we enjoy today and I am left wondering if there are echoes of those former islands in the diversity of nations that exist throughout history and into our own time. The latter story leads to the politics of preceding and current ages of which I was reminded while reading Simon Jenkins’ A Short History of Europe: From Pericles to Putin. That was another of my recent reads though I do limit my exposure to news of current developments since they tend to hurt just a bit.
It is not the latter that cause me to recount my recent reading but the book that I mentioned at the beginning. After all, I am recalling a hike from October 2017 that took in an area with limestone formations laid down by undersea creatures when it was in the tropics, such is the rearranging work of plate tectonics. Yorkshire may be better known for such things but Derbyshire has its share too.
The autumn of 2017 was for me a time for recuperation and recovery and there were sunnier slots that lured me out and about. In contrast, its counterpart in 2019 was filled with near-continual wet weather, uncertainty and some big career decisions. 2020 has seen much of the same kind of weather already but the work conundrum is on its way to getting resolved so I can look ahead a little more.
All of that lay in the future on the sunny Sunday in 2017 when I travelled to Hope after having whetted my appetite for hill wandering around Calderdale. Naturally, the weather lured others out and about too with some being less prepared with knowledge than was ideal. Hearing the questions of some, it was if they were destined for a self-contained spot like Lyme Park rather than the more open country around the Hope Valley. Still, they made their own way after some guidance from others and our paths crossed later in the day.
My destination was somewhere that I reckon I had not trodden since a wet weather outing in December 2009: Derbyshire’s Great Ridge. This time, I walked it in the opposite direction from the two other occasions that I recall walking it; in addition to the 2009 encounter, there was a sunnier Sunday traverse earlier that decade (perhaps in 2002) and that took me over Win Hill too if I remember correctly.
In some ways, it was that first ever trip that lured me back again. Then, film photography was my means of recording any sights that I witnessed along the way and I fancied seeing what I could do with digital image capture. That was more than enough encouragement for the initial ascent of Lose Hill. Getting there from Hope train station took me around by Aston, Farfield Farm, Kirkhill Bridge and Losehill Farm. Sunny skies were my lot all the while though greater cloudiness was to intrude later in the hike.
Once up on Lose Hill, I could see a lot more of what surrounded me with Hope village and Win Hill being among these. The Great Ridge is a popular place to hike too so I needed o share the way with others as far as Win Hill when I took a quieter route on the way to Castleton. There still were plenty of moments of solitude though so the trail did feel too crowded.
An easy to follow trail carried me along the undulating ridge and the pleasing sights in the autumn sunshine were to continue in spite of all the clouds in the sky. Views were there to take my eyes back along where I had come as well as peering where I had not been. Hope Valley and Edale were there to be surveyed as much as the hills the surrounded them. While there was much that was familiar, there also were a multitude of new sights to savour just as well.
Mam Tor was a busy place as it so often is and it was not solely foot travellers who had found their way there but paragliders also were about in numbers. As is often the case with honeypots, it takes going a little distance away to regain added solitude. Unusually, this act took me downhill instead of gaining some height as is so often the case.
By now, I was en route towards Castleton as the sun declined ever more in the sky. The day was nearing its end but the scenery was not to be plunged into darkness so quickly. My route was to take me over Windy Knoll and past Rowter Farm as I traipsed towards a rendez-vous with the Limestone Trail for the last stretch of my outdoor strolling for the day.
It was to address a missing section of a hike from Buxton to Castleton of a summer’s day that lost the route of the Limestone Trail somewhere near Peak Forest. Getting the rest of the way took a spot of muddled navigation with general positioning being evident but greater precision was lost to me at the time. Still, I got to where I wanted to be albeit with a sense of dissatisfaction at its execution.
Even with declining light, there was none of that imprecision this time around and I dropped down into Cave Dale as intended. What slowed things was the need for careful progress along a track over limestone paving. That took its toll on already fatigued limbs but I got to Castleton without any sense of mishap. From there, a mix of bus and rail travel was to get me home again after a more than decent day out.
Return train journey between Macclesfield and Hope with a change in Manchester Piccadilly. Bus journey from Castleton to Hope.