I took advantage of the quiet Easter vacation whilst the undergraduates were away to have a few days off and get a little fresh air into my lungs. One of the many great things about living in Manchester is its proximity and good transport links to great countryside, particularly the Peak District. Just a 45 minute train journey from Piccadilly is the village of Edale, which is nestled in the Vale of Edale between the vast expanse of Kinder Scout to the north and the pyramidal peak of Mam Tor to the south.
I set up camp, the only tent in the field, at a basic but very cheap site (amenities being a toilet. At a farmhouse. Ten minutes’ walk from the field) and set off towards the foot of Jacob’s Ladder. The ‘ladder’ is a 100 or so metre climb up steep stone steps laid into the old portage way which linked the northern and central peak district for centuries, apparently named after the farmer who first cut the path into the steep hillside leading up onto Kinder Scout.
The views back across Edale once up on the moor were grand, despite the mist and haze which hung around the valley. Despite it being almost April there were large pockets of snow still defying the spring thaw in the higher areas and despite the sweat I’d worked up on the trek from the valley bottom, I had to quickly fasten on multiple layers of clothing to stave off the chill breeze.
Whilst the valley had been pleasant and green, with some pockets of woodland, the burbling of the River Noe, and the chirruping of songbirds, the moor was windswept and frosty, dotted with large boulders and bare black patches of eroded or cut away peat. For the first half an hour or so of walking on the tops, as the cloud gathered close around and obscured any view other than the barren expanse of the moors, it was almost possible to imagine oneself as being on another planet. I found a nook amongst a large rock formation and devoured my now well-earned packed lunch of cheese, onion, and salt and vinegar crisp sandwiches.
Three hours of rambling through the heather, egged on by the occasional chorus of clucking from a disturbed grouse or two brought me to the head of Grindsbrook Clough, a steep ravine cut by the brook, which required some agile scrambling skills to get down in one piece without ending upside down in a muddy heap. The steep descent took a lot longer to complete than I expected from looking down from the moor, but I had the incentive of knowing that once back down into the valley, there were two great pubs just itching for my custom, so I forged on bravely.
I washed down a large plate of fish and chips at The Old Nags Head with a couple of pleasant golden ales before heading further into to village to The Rambler Inn. It just so happened that that evening the ‘Folk Train’ was coming to the Rambler. Every few weeks the folk band and their ale drinking followers spend a night hopping on and off the train from Manchester to Sheffield and back, playing, singing, and boozing as they go. I was excited at the potential of being caught up in the musical frenzy, but after just one pint I could feel my eyelids sagging and my legs heavying, so made the wise decision to instead trudge slowly back to the tent whilst I still could.