PXR001: There And Back Again: A Circular Route From Edale


"A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to"
- J. R. R. Tolkien
 A little later than I would have liked, perhaps - but true to my word regardless. Here we are at the start of the first post expedition review, or PXR. What will follow is to include an account of the trip as well as the important but oft overlooked aspect of planning considerations. Should you get to the end of the post and find yourself in a position to recreate what we did a few weeks ago, well, my writing has served its purpose.

Of course, it is wonderful to wax lyrical about what happened and it's certainly important that this is done, but don't forget that this is but one cog in a much bigger machine. Without considering the logistics of travel, accommodation, and booze, of water, food, and fuel, of weather, route, and going... Well, there'd be no adventure in the first place. Without further ado, here we go.

The View From Our Campsite
Aims
To successfully complete a 21km circular route from Fieldhead Campsite in Edale covering Mam Tor, Lose Hill, Win Hill, Wooler Knoll, and Jaggers Clough with a total ascent of 950m.

Team

The group was three strong and had qualifications and experience equivocal to the challenge of the route (mountain leader, team medic, etc.).

Introduction

Our intent was primarily to reunify; to get away from "built up" areas and complete a 21km circular walking route. Edale provided a convenient place for this, being roughly half way between where we are all located during the week and inside Dark Peaks area which would provide easy access to rambles. In addition, pubs were closely located to the camping ground which proved crucial in the decision-making process.

The route was settled on as a means of being a steady tour of the area. Not so much a challenge as an experience of the Peak District. The length was perhaps the most demanding aspect, with the concentrated ascents pre-Mam Tor and pre-Win Hill being somewhat testing but relatively easy going. Nav was not a challenge to anyone with even relatively limited experience. An edict that is seldom broke on this route is "if you turn right, you are doing something wrong".

From The Trail

Preparation

The trip was organised a month plus in advance of launch. This was necessary only due to logistics (campsite availability) and not due to route selection. The route was, however, finalized roughly around the same time. There is good access to almost the entire Dark Peak area from Edale, and so a group more familiar with the location would almost certainly be able to arrange a course of action the night before based on the conditions of the ground. We consciously omitted Kielder Scout from this outing as it will be returned for later.

Timings and Travel

It was decided that three days were required in order to complete the trip. Day One was a case of getting there and becoming familiar with the plan while on the ground. Day Two began at 0800, leaving the site and beginning the walk at 0900. A half hour break for lunch was factored in along the way, and camp was returned to by 1400. The Rambler (pub) remains open until 2300, and the campsite was quiet enough to continue festivities afterward. The following day started around 0800 and the return leg began in earnest come 1000.

Travel included, for us, a three hour drive there to- and back from The Peaks. This was notionally three hours but took much longer inbound due to weekend traffic. This is important: for me, it took five or maybe six hours. As my friends were delayed as well and we were losing light, I was then to put the tent up on my tod. Not a huge issue, but one to consider if you are bringing one of those outrageously big, never-really-needed monstrosities that seem to appear everywhere these days [a tent’s already too much of a creature comfort – editorial note]. The return journey was fine but be aware of your alcohol consumption the day prior.

The route traveled, showing our start/finish point in Edale
Diary

Day One: Arrival and Setup

The first period was devoted to arrival and having the time to discuss the plan itself (i.e. legs, nav, medplan, etc.). This is an overlooked aspect of any outdoor activity that people tend to turn a blind eye toward. The journey into Edale is across some lovely roads that a driver can take great enjoyment on. Though delayed along major roads and motorways, once the minor roads (aka: the fun ones) are hit it's comparatively easy-going.

On arrival at Fieldhead Campsite, I put the tent up and waited out for the other two at The Rambler. Can highly recommend the Mam Tor burger! After uniting, we returned to the campsite, unpacked their car and reviewed the plan for the following day. Probably the most important part of this were the actions on. These are the things to do should a certain condition be met, for example: actions on major/minor injury, actions on lost. They are so important because by discussing it everybody is on the same page. Should the worst happen, you are all ready to effect a solution, and less time is spent discussing what the plan should be. If you are all singing from the same hymn sheet, you are more capable of getting the job done. No later than midnight, we got our big fat heads down and slept.

Day Two: The Ramble and The Rambler; The Old Nags Head

Launching relatively early provided enough time on the afternoon to become familiar with the local area on our return. Take from that what you will, and factor accordingly your timetable. On setting off for the walk, the majorly traversed areas were easy-going but the paths less traveled were still boggy from the rains in the days preceding the walk

Looking Back From The Path To Mam Tor

Travelling south meant we were to ascend Mam Tor and join the Great Ridge. As conditions were good, we were treated to displays from gliders on the approach from Harden Clough. There was relatively little traffic along the Great Ridge, which we covered along Mam Tor, Hollins Cross, and Lose Hill. The views are spectacular, but unbeatable is looking toward where you’re headed from the start or, from the end, back at where you’ve came from. Personally, heading up to the top of Lose Hill was the highlight of this leg as it had the most cross-country feel and marked your success along the ridgeline.

We can just call it a detour... right? Yellow denotes THE WRONG WAY.

From there, the descent passed Losehill Farm had us take a slightly wrong turning and the desire to go always forward, never backward, meant that we were to rejoin the route via Castleton Road and heading due east through Hope. Though the option presented itself, we pushed through the town without stopping, beginning up Win Hill by travelling through a railway bridge toward Aston. Veering north, we then ascended onto the ridgeline and climbed up onto Win Hill Pike. We were met here by a fantastic view of Ladybower Reservoir, which is where we were to stop for half an hour to eat. There were substantially more people by this point, so we would hurry off on our way after soaking in the view. 

A Final Push Up To Winhill Pike

In hindsight, this is perhaps the only part of the route I would have changed. Instead of veering North at Aston, it would have been possible to continue east for 1km then north for 1.5km to see the dam and weir. This would have added a more difficult ascent, too. It is a relatively minor issue, but a possible variation to our route that you could, if you fancy it, try out.

Possible route variation that incorporates the dam

From Winhill Pike we continued North-Westerly to Wooler Knoll and joined the Roman Road. This area was the only part I had earmarked for making a mistake in nav. You’re well over half way, a little tired, and so, at pace, more open to mistakes than normal. As the next marker was a track junction at crossroads, I felt it would have been easy to overshoot and start heading toward Blackley Clough. If anything though I was over-cautious, and it was a non-issue. From there, we hit Jaggers Clough which was the prettiest part of the ramble. A quick recce shows that the path beginning at Jaggers Clough is still in relatively good condition, and so were you wishing to use this to head toward the Kinder area I’d highly recommend it. I’ll certainly be back to try it!

The View At Jaggers Clough

From there it’s a relatively simple walk. At one of the farms there was a large bonfire which carried the pleasant smell of burning wood through the air. It was pretty and easy-going back into the Vale of Edale, and from there back to Fieldhead. As we had begun the journey at a reasonable time it was still early doors, and the good weather conditions meant we were able to capitalise on the presence of a beer garden. A few pints were to follow, and we took dinner at The Rambler. Crucially though, they were lacking port and so we laced our boots and headed up to The Old Nags Head. We finished their bottle, then decided it was time to begin work on our own stash. It was quite big before we started and a quite small by the time we’d finished. Go figure.

Day Three: Washup and Walkout

The final day had us a little murky headed. My friends were kind enough to take the tent down while I squared away some other things – and miraculously, they’d managed to fit it back into its packaging. I’m never able to do this...

Looking Up At, And Forward To, Lose Hill
Recommendations For Future Excursions
If your group is experienced, I would highly recommend considering the approach from Yorkshire Bridge to Winhill Pike that was discussed above. This would incorporate a scenic view of the dam and a tougher approach to the summit.

We are all jointly agreed that we can recommend Fieldhead Campsite. The site was nicely kept and the facilities clean. The owner was nice enough, but very preoccupied with a large group of Duke of Edinburgh kids he had in over the weekend. It’d be good to have a better chat with him next time we’re there.

Admittedly, we’d no need for any kind of shop and so can’t vouch for them, but both pubs we tried (The Rambler, The Old Nags Head) were good. Prices are reasonable, but err on the more expensive side. I’d recommend bringing your own supplies and using these places as for dinner.

Looking Out Over The Great Ridge
Expenses
Assuming you have all your own gear, the only expense we faced was the campsite. This came in at £7.50 per adult/per night and £3.50 per car/per night. This was roughly speaking £60 total, with a time-bootout of 1000 on the last day. Naturally, if you don’t have any gear you will need to buy the essentials (sleeping bag, rollmat, tent, socks, boots) and this will come in around £200. Of course your mileage may vary, but always remember: buy cheap, buy twice. I’d be happy to talk more about this in a different post.

Closing Words

“I feel the hike was [a] gateway to [other] trips that we will do together. It was a way to keep the memories of our friendship fresh, to be able to create new ones and reminisce away from the stress of life”
– Bod Number 1
“I feel like we walked a certain distance and got to the top of some nice hills”
– Bod Number 2
It was important to me that I got the chance to include the thoughts of others in here somewhere, and they seem best suited to here. Ultimately, I agree. The idea in this wasn’t to discover the undiscovered, nor to break any records in speed and/or the consumption of alcohol (though in the latter, we tried). The purpose of this was to do something and to really exist beyond routine. 

There is a whole world out there that feels as if it is becoming an inconvenience instead of an opportunity. The generations before ours were forced into trespass to experience the great outdoors, the generation below them hitchhiked just to get to a National Park. How many of us own cars and haven’t visited even a place of outstanding natural beauty? Even public transport is so much more capable these days; Edale is easily accessible by train. 

Personally, I worry that inconvenience breeds uncertainty, and uncertainty breeds fear. So much so that it could become the case that people don’t trust themselves to go exploring. Hopefully what we’ve discussed here is that this isn’t the case. It is entirely within the abilities of everyone to adventure, to get outside and escape the discomforts and ennui bred by merely existing. There is fascination to be found in everything, and it is through experience that we find it. Prana. In Walden, Thoreau writes that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. That’s as true then as it is now.  Don’t die with your song still inside you.
“It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- J. R. R. Tolkien


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