The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes. MARCEL PROUST

Thursday, 26 June 2014

A Walk In The Dark Peak

Old Meg she was a Gipsy,
       And liv'd upon the Moors:
Her bed it was the brown heath turf,
       And her house was out of doors.

Her apples were swart blackberries,
       Her currants pods o' broom;
Her wine was dew of the wild white rose,
       Her book a churchyard tomb.

Her Brothers were the craggy hills,
       Her Sisters larchen trees —
Alone with her great family
       She liv'd as she did please.

JOHN KEATS Meg Merrilies

Yesterday it took me two hours to drive to the Peak District — England's first National Park and my nearest National Park. In the past it used to take me an hour and a half. Now there seems to be twice as much traffic on the road. But that's progress for you. Well, no, not progress in an a temporal or kinetic sense. More a sort of dubious, materialistic progress — the kind of progress where every family now has not one car, but two, three or four, and the kind of progress where Internet shopping has flooded even the country by-roads with trucks and delivery vehicles to saturation point. In a bid to escape the traffic queues, the noise, the pollution, the CCTV cameras, the adverts, the signage, the street furniture, any old goddam furniture, Wimbledon and the World CupI parked my car with relief near Birchen Clough on the Snake Road and tumbled out and down into the cool woodland below. Now I could breathe again, though I could still hear the rumble of lorries and roar of motor bikes coming from the road above . . . 


Here, in Lady Clough, the only 'furniture' was tree trunk, grassy bank and mossy stone...


. . . with the occasional simple and functional (and beautiful) man-made footbridge.



I relaxed, took stock — and realised with a gasp I'd have to gain the heights on the right . . .


But first here's the low-lying river Ashop . . .


. . . and here are some lovely and practical stone sheepfolds . . .


. . . which I passed before taking the steepening path along Fair Brook to the northern edge of the Kinder plateau. This was a magical valley of oak and rowan, heather and bracken, waterfall and rock.


The walking was tough, but the views made it all worthwhile.


The stream dried up when squeezed between ever-narrower and more contorted slabby outcrops . . .


I finally arrived at Fairbrook Naze (note the two ravens in the photo — a happy accident) . . .


. . .  where the moorland prospect was just awe-inspiring. This was the view from my lunchtime picnic spot. Was there ever a better one? A little wild and desolate, perhaps — but, my God, no cars, no litter, no factories, no chimneys, no wind farms, no pylons, no people, no obvious wars and conflicts. And I'd even turned my phone off, so social media were history.  


The gritstone rocks and boulders along this lofty edge had been worn into some fantastical shapes.


Before climbing down to join the Snake Path (which led me, interminably and sometimes soggily, from the source of the river Ashop back to my car), I took one last look back at the high-level, rocky route I'd just traversed . . .

22 comments:

Arija said...

Thank you a thousand fold for your wonderful pictures of this magical region, the folded hills, rock formations and views. It is good to know and see that there still are places in so small a country that one can get away from it all and not be overshadowed by the man-made or generated noise.
I fully understand your quest for pristine nature as respite from the mad clatter and rush of these modern times.

Ruth Mowry said...

Me too. Thank you. Your words and photos, your tough walking, in response to your intention to get away provide a getaway of sorts for me too. This is really exquisite, and I feel happy in the privilege of it, for you, for us.

To have this within a couple of hours, what a gift. But then, I realize that I, too, have wonders within a couple hours drive (though nothing like this). Now I'm inspired to go there in my vacation week. Thanks.

Sabine said...

Stunning pictures, thank you. I pinched one for my desktop background today.

catharus said...

Fantastic! 'How wonderful!

Nick said...

Beautiful pictures, a fantastic walk, I think, through the landscape you've shown us. But you can't really (can you?) bleat about the traffic you encountered getting there when you were in fact part of that traffic. Or are you the exception that proves the rule? (I know I am!)

sackerson said...

I used to walk round Kinder so much - I reckon there's only two or three photos there where I've not stood and admired the view.

The Northern edge is magnificent. I love the names of the places on the plateau - Madwoman's Stones, Ringing Rodger, etc. They just seem to fit with the otherworldly nature of the place. What other Pennine hill can boast a Mermaid's Pool with a real mermaid?

My favourite place for strange gritstone shapes is on the Southern edge - known to climbers as "Whipsnade" (that dates those who named it!) on account of the resemblance of the stones to fantastical animals. Then there's The Pagoda, Noe Stool, Pym Chair, Kinder Gates, I could go on...

To the groughs! To the groughs!

am said...

Thank you for bringing us along on this walk. My favorite photo is the third one from the top. I've never been anywhere that looked quite like that, but I can feel myself walking there. Maybe my English ancestors walked there.

sackerson said...

Have you heard Granville Bantock's setting of that poem?


http://youtu.be/RZTzdDjCMNI

Bouncing Bertie said...

This brought back some of the happiest memories of childhood and of my father, who died in March this year. Come high days and holidays the family would load into the Austin Maxi, having consulted one of several 'Walks in Derbyshire' books the night before, and escape the 'furniture' of the city (Nottingham) and Dad, OS map and compass in hand, would leads us on a day long walk through the stunning landscapes of the Peak District. This was where I first experienced wild landscapes and it still amazes me that the area has maintained the sense of wildness despite being sandwiched between so many industrial (or post-industrial) cities.
In July I am meeting some friends in Hathersage for a long weekend of Peak District walking and am looking forward to it even more having just read this post.
Thanks you!
Gail.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for you comment, Arija. The Kinder plateau is an extraordinary place, and I've been there quite a few times. There's always something new to discover. You walk (sometimes scramble) up by a stream bed, then emerge on a huge and desolate and plateau criss-crossed by water channels cut into the peat (called 'groughs'). It's a confusing place, and you've got to know what you're doing with map and compass if you strike for the interior, particularly in bad weather. People have died of exposure there. Most walkers follow the Pennine Way long-distance footpath or stick to the clear path along the perimeter — which passes some spectacular rock formations and has great views from the edge.

The Solitary Walker said...

I'm glad this walk inspired you, Ruth! Looking forward to reading about your own vacation adventures...

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks Sabine and Catharus.

Nick — in my defence, we only have one car in a family of four, and that one is fairly small and economical. Also I use public transport wherever possible.

The Solitary Walker said...

Sackerson (Dominic) — I like your enthusiasm! How about meeting up for a walk on Kinder one fine weekend? Like you, I love the names (the 'Rocking Stone' really does rock) and, you're right, it is 'otherworldly'. Nowhere else quite like it.

As for those gritstone outcrops, the shapes can be unbelievable. Two days ago I named one the 'Tortoise' as it looked just like one of those huge Galapagos beasts.

And I know Kinder Gates, just a little way up river from Kinder Downfall. I rested there once on a warm and sunny day, and was amazed at the clear stony stream bed and the sparkling silver sand. Pristine. Wouldn't like to be there in really wet weather, though.

The Solitary Walker said...

Bouncing Bertie (Gail) — thanks so much for sharing this family memory with us. I drove through Hathersage en route to the start of my walk at Birchen Clough. There are many really great walks using Hathersage as a base, so I'm sure you'll have a lovely time.

Am: glad you enjoyed the walk, and Dominic (again): no, I don't know that musical setting, but will check it out.

John Pendrey said...

Thanks for sharing. On a small island we have the same problems of too much traffic, but it's still easy to find a deserted beach. Next year perhaps not. Tourism has rapidly become our biggest industry. I say hello to some but often they ignore me. They consume my world. I withdraw.

Cris M said...

I am happy -if the word is valid- for not being the one who complains about the traffic in the terms you have done...
Thank you for sharing this spot of the world. I am more and more convinced I want some walking holidays in the UK sometime...

Warm hugs (actually, cold ones, Winter has arrived here!)
Cris M

The Solitary Walker said...

Glad you enjoyed this, Cris M!

K Samulis said...

Wow. Just wanted to crawl into the pictures, along with my own luch, and sit there for an hour or two! Thanks for posting this.

The Solitary Walker said...

Nice to see you, Karin!

dritanje said...

Such images of these wondrous contorted and sculpted rock shapes. Aren't we lucky to live not so very far from such places. I did like your list of things you were trying to get away from! Did wonder a bit though about 'street furniture' - I know I don't inhabit the urban world of most people, and I do indeed see some street furniture when I go into the city, fairly regularly, but it tends to be quite enjoyable for me. Perhaps in some parts there's just too much of it? Must be that.

The Solitary Walker said...

I think I was on a rant 'n' roll and went over the top, Dritanje..! Seeing one double yellow line and Give Way sign and boring bus shelter too many... Street furniture is, of course, necessary and often enjoyable, fun(ny), and even well designed. What bugs me is an over proliferation.

The Solitary Walker said...

Sorry, thanks too , John P. Forgot to include you!