Since our walk in the Derbyshire Dales back in July, I’ve been trying to get out again with Graham, my friend and former colleague. We finally managed to find a mutually convenient day when neither of us had any pressing work to do so arranged to meet up for another walk in the Peak District.
Daylight hours are limited during December and I didn’t fancy fighting my way through the rush hour traffic on the M61 and M60 so took a chance and caught the train to Stockport. I was lucky – my trains weren’t cancelled (a later one was) and they ran more or less on time. Graham picked me up at the station and then we drove over to his mother in law’s house to pick up Toby – her dog – who we were taking with us. Then we drove over to Castleton where we’d decided to set off for a walk up Cave Dale. We’d then see how things went before deciding on the rest of the route while we were on the hoof.
A few miles from Castleton we were treated to the sight of a temperature inversion in the Hope Valley.
We parked up on the road just outside the village. Given the time of year and that it wasn’t the weekend we didn’t have any trouble finding a space. We booted up, got Toby into his harness and set off through the village heading towards Cave Dale.
Cave Dale is a narrow, dry gorge climbing (quite steeply at one point) between limestone cliffs. It was probably originally created by glacial meltwater, being deepened later due to the collapse of underground caverns.
I’d walked through the Dale before, a couple of times, but previously from the oppostie direction – coming down into Castleton.
Looking back as we climbed, Peveril Castle could be seen looming over and dominating the dale.
At the top of the Dale we turned off the Limestone Trail taking the path towards Mam Tor. We decided that we’d climb the “Mother Hill” and then carry on along the “Great Ridge” to Lose Hill.
The summit of Mam Tor was now covered in mist as the cloud base had lifted.
On the way up we started chatting with a couple of older men carrying large, heavy packs. They were paragliders and had decided conditions were improving and would be suitable for launching themselves off the summit. We found quite a bit about their hobby during the short walk to the summit.
Mam Tor means “Mother Mountain” and humans have lived around here for thousands of years. It’s the site of a prehistoric hill fort, and remnants of the fortifications – ditches and ramparts – are clearly visible running around the summit. also known as the Shivering Mountain due to it’s unstable nature which has resulted in a number of slow moving landslips caused by its geology – unstable lower layers of shale overlain by sandstone. There’s good view from the top, but not this time!
As the ridge is easily accessible from Manchester and Sheffield, it’s usually busy with walkers and despite it being a cold Friday afternoon in early December there were a number making their way towards Mam Tor, and a few others besides us heading towards Lose Hill . At the summit we stopped for a while chatting with a party of 5 – a family who were on an annual break in Edale celebrating the birthday of the pater familias!
As we descended off Mam Tor we came out of the cloud and had a good view along the rest of the ridge towards Black Tor and Lose Hill.
After a short steep climb we stopped at the top of Black Tor for a bite to eat.
After a short rest we set back off on towards the final summit of the day – Lose Hill. The hill is also known as “Ward’s Piece”, named in 1945 after W H B Ward, Socialist and founder of the Sheffield Ramblers in 1926 and, before that, in 1900, the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers.
We made our way back down towards Castleton via the path that ran down diagnolly down the side of the ridge
Reaching the bottom, looking up towards Mam Tor I could see a good number of paragliders in the sky. Our two aquatancies had been joined by other enthusiasts taking advantage of thermals that must have developed during the afternoon.
We were back in the village by about 3 o’clock. I’d never seen it so quiet. We made our way back to the car and set off and drove back to Graham’s Mother in Law’s house to drop Toby off for a bath and to cadge a brew! Then it was back tot he station where I had a short wait for the train. It arrived on time but had to stop outside Stockport Station for 25 or 20 minutes as there was another train on the platform waiting for the crew to arrive1 I was worried I might miss my connection at Piccadily but made it with a few minutes to spare – luckily it was sitting at the adjacent platform when we arrived at the station. It was an express train and so I was back at Wigan North Western, the first stop, in 35 minutes.