You all know by now that I like nothing more than being able to take a day off work and heading off into the countryside for a day hike. Having worked a number of Saturdays recently, and missing out on much needed time outdoors as a result, last week I was able to take Wednesday off the day job and took myself up Mam Tor and along the Great Ridge for a short hike. It was drizzly, the cloud was a bit low, cold and very windy, but it was just what the doctor ordered.
Mam Tor Trig Point, 517m.
There is something about hiking that really makes me feel alive. I wrote about it a couple of years ago after Sophie Radcliffe asked me the question, she encouraged me to rekindle my love for random hill walks for no reason other than to get to the top and see what I can see when I get there. Every now and again I need to make sure I fuel that feeling and just head off, on my own, breathe in the fresh air, exercise my legs and lungs, and give my eyes, mind and soul something to look at.
For my soul feeding this time I headed over to Derbyshire, to the Dark Peak area of the Peak District to see what all the fuss is about at Mam Tor. Lots of people I know talk about how beautiful it is up there, and I had planned to go back in February but snow and storms decided to make an appearance and while I’m a fairly experienced hill walker, I have no intention of putting myself at risk and walking an unknown route alone in that kind of weather. I jumped in my car and drove the couple of hours into the middle of the country; I’m a huge advocate of exploring the trails close to your own front door, but sometimes there is nothing nicer than heading somewhere else for a change.
Flagstone steps on the way up to Mam Tor from Mam Nick Car Park (in the trees).
Mam Tor, an old Iron Age fort, stands at 517 metres above sea level close to Castleton. I parked my car at Mam Nick Car Park, a National Trust managed car park at the foot of the hill, between it and Rushup Edge. This location is the next valley along to Edale, somewhere I’ve been a number of times and also somewhere I can get there and back in a day with enough time for a decent hike in the middle. The car park is easy to find and well looked after (although no toilets, the nearest are in Castleton) – pay and display costs £3 for the day (cards only, no cash), I have no problem paying a few quid for a nice day out and would much rather leave my car off the road in a car park than along the verge.
The path from Mam Tor towards Lose Hill.
The route I took is a very popular one, a “there and back” five miles along the summit of these hills. I walked up to Mam Tor summit straight away, along a flagstone path (nice work National Trust) and some easy going steps that certainly get the legs and lungs working. While the weather was drizzly and the sky hazy, it was still beautiful scenery from the moment I left the car, and especially from the top. When I reached the top there was a School group having a geography lesson – it reminded me of hiking with School when I was young and living in Devonport, Plymouth. We would head on to Dartmoor and explore and I LOVED it. Anyway, I digress.
Sneaky summit selfie on Mam Tor.
Mam Tor itself is apparently quite unstable. In fact you can see it – from the top you can spot a winding road that used to take people over the top of Mam Tor from one valley to the next. This is now slipped and slid down the side of the hill, now unrepairable in the eyes of highways. Instead there is the beautiful Winnets Pass that takes you through the gorge between the hills, apparently a collapsed cave in the limestone, which you can also see from the top. It’s an understandably very popular hill walk because you can reach the top in just a few minutes, making it perfect for families who want to drag their kids to the top with the promise of ice cream later (I heard this very thing, something I know I’ve head before myself!).
Once at the top there’s a simple to navigate path that takes you along the Great Ridge, a pointed hilltop ridge that offers superb views in both directions even with low cloud. I stood and watched a rescue helicopter fly a round and land ahead of me, hoping it was training and not anything serious, and passed numerous other walkers coming in the other direction (those who got up earlier than I did). The well maintained flagstones continue almost all the way to Hollins Cross, a crossroads in the footpath where a memorial stands – in this direction you turn left for Edale and right for Castleton. I was heading straight on for Back Tor and Lose Hill.
The old “looking into the distance” selfie… showing off that new Buff hat.
While I’m here I need to mention my fab new hat. Actually not that new any more, I received this as a gift from Buff a good few weeks ago, and it’s proved itself very useful since. I love my beanie hats! It made it straight into my monthly favourites (currently loving for March). Hats are a new venture for Buff, the company very well known for its versatile neck tubes (of which I have several). They’ve hit the ground running and have come up with a great range of beanies, bobble hats, knitted hats and microfibre thermal hats. This one is the Margo in Orange, a unisex offering that is big and so cosy. Designed to keep your head warm down to minus many degrees, it has a comfortable fleecy band around the inside so there’s no itching from the wool, and the rest is a thick knit. Like?
Anyway, back to the walking.
Of course I had to have a seat on the edge.
The most impressive bit of the walk for me was the climb up Back Tor, a less easy going bit of the path that was SO worth the hike. There were some really awesome views towards Castleton on one side and Edale on the other even in the haze. From here I could easily make out the campsite we used for the first Outdoor Bloggers weekend last year. I hope you’ll join us next time – Jenni and I are looking to hold take two in the Autumn. More on that soon. Once at the top of Back Tor, and having attempted a few selfies of me sitting on the edge, I continued along the ridge to Lose Hill, which sits just below Mam Tor at 476 metres. On a clear sunny day this would be such an amazing view, and even today I was able to see all the way back along the ridge to Mam Tor, across to Kinder Scout and beyond. THIS is why I climb hills.
Nether Booth from Back Tor.
The path all along the ridge is undulating but easy going (except the climb up Back Tor, and of course the climb down again which if it’s damp needs to be taken carefully, this is not somewhere to roll down!), and the there and back route I took takes no particular navigational skill to keep on the right path. Simple terrain doesn’t make it any less of a hike or hill walk, though, it’s just perfect for a couple of hours out in the fresh air and makes for an excellent way to build up an appetite for a pub lunch in Castleton, where there are a large number of eateries to choose from. Remember when hill walking the weather can descend with no notice, so go prepared with your map and compass, waterproof gear, and some snacks (read my guide to your day hike pack).
The path between Hollins Cross and Back Tor.
It was the perfect way for me to spend my day off. You can see some footage in my weekly vlog – like this blog but with moving pictures!
When did you last walk up a hill just for the sake of it? Which one was it? Are there any other must-walk routes in Derbyshire I should do next time?
Thanks to Buff for sending me over one of their new hats. There’s a whole load on the KitShack website. It’s good to have nice kit in my collection! As usual, all photos are taken on my phone – make sure you follow me on instagram for more photos.