Cath’s (@wellycath) been wanting to get a group together for a camp around her birthday for a couple of years now, and finally managed to seize her chance last year when Team Social Hiking decided not to contest the 5-in-5/10-in-10 this year, and instead to try to get together socially sometime in June. This also brought it into the range of my personal festivities and so it came to pass that this year my Official Annual Birthday Camp would be in the company of friends rather than hiding away solo and forlornly at the edge of a field in Kent.
Various people had fallen by the wayside in the lead up to the meet, and a depleted squad assembled at the Monsal Head campsite. It’s a good choice of site as it has everything a Social Hiker could wish for – a short walk to the pub and a decent start point for the hike itself, but really it’s mainly about the pub. The only slight flaw was that we had to drive to the cafe for a fry up, but I suppose you can’t have everything.
Saturday – Hi Dale!
We were in said cafe engaged in the sport of competitive cooked breakfast eating waiting for Mr Flint (@FlintyRich) to turn up, some members of the party keen to start the walk, others (ie ME) quite happy just to chill and take it as it comes. Eventually, we gave up and returned to the campsite and Rich arrived shortly after. We set off on the walk
We dropped down into Monsal Dale and then moved over to High Dale, prompting Dale (@dribelad) to respond with a cheery “Hi!” whenever the place was mentioned. He’s lucky to have survived the weekend. A lunch stop was taken at the Anglers’ Rest in Miller’s Dale, a place where apparently you’re not allowed to fish. We were very good Social Hikers and adhered closely to rule 427-08-C: namely “If thou shalt pause thy walk at a tavern, thou shalt remain outside to consume all victuals.” Our esteemed (but absent) leader approved strongly of our behavior, ascribing it to the positive influence of Mr Flint, who was present on the day that rule 427-08C was handed down on a tablet of stone.
By the time we got to Tideswell, memories of a nice tea shop there encountered last September had surfaced, but it wasn’t to be. Our late start meant we had to push on. Similarly when we got near to Wardlow and the Three Stags Heads, made all the worse by people walking the other way raving about the beer there. With dissent in the ranks we turned into Cressbrook Dale and eventually were back in Monsal Dale.
Sunday – Kill Dale!
However, next morning Cath dropped the bombshell that her back wasn’t up to sleeping on the ground another night, and so it was to be a solo affair. But not before the day’s walk was done with. A repeat visit to the Yonderman to plan the walk, and while we were there we also took the opportunity to have a rematch of competitive breakfast eating. Naturally, the winner was never in doubt. Well, when one of the party has the nickname Two Dinners…
As we had to strike camp and drive individually to the start of the walk, not surprisingly this turned into a bit of a shambles. My car clearly objected to me going on the walk and decided to give me duff directions. Rich felt the need to check his car was locked 16 times. And then to walk back to the car after we’d started to check he’d Paid and Displayed. I’m convinced he was just doing this to burn a few extra calories to make room for Two Lunches.
Lathkill Dale was interesting and the group descended an old mine shaft before following the river. Groups of kids in full DofE mode streamed past, and swarmed up the hill behind us as we climbed out of the dale to join the Limestone Way. Dale was still taking every opportunity to exploit every occurrence of the word “Dale” in the places we were walking through. Eventually, a subtle message had to be sent that enough was enough.
We headed for Youlgreave and took the long way around which involved a suspicious amount of going down and hence an equally suspicious amount of going up to compensate. This is what happens when you let the fittest member of the party lead the walk. We rolled up the hill to the Bull’s Head in Youlgreave, milled around a bit while we tried to work out where said fittest member of the party had got to, and then went inside for a beer. Being a Sunday, this also brought the risk of Sunday Lunch, and Rich soon succumbed. As we’d been feeling rebellious what with all the down and up, we deliberately contravened rule 427-08-C and stayed inside. Tim (@ukjeeper) turned up and looked as though he was about to shop us to the Dear Leader, prompting the 4 miscreants to take pre-emptive action and frantically post belligerent updates proclaiming our transgression.
With Rich’s reputation for being a good influence now in tatters, the group dispersed. Dale had to go early for a family thing, and I was conscious that I still had another walk to do later in the afternoon. I cried off the remainder of the Official Route, and made a beeline along the lanes for Over Haddon.
Sunday-Monday: No Dale
A bit later I was parking up near Chrissie and Geoff’s house and being greeted by the latter asking me if I was in a hurry. “…Er, no ?” I replied cautiously, getting a response “Do you fancy some company ?” Clearly Geoff had heard that I had whisky. Either that or he’d heard about the earlier rule breaking and felt I was in need of an escort. Whatever, Chrissie fed me tea and biscuits, while the dogs tried to feed me to themselves and Geoff tried to feed his gear into his pack.
We finally set off, and headed up towards our planned camp spot. It’s always good walking with someone who knows the patch well, as it completely takes away the pressure to navigate. I could simply enjoy the surroundings and the walk and try to avoid tripping over Islay (@IslayAdvDog).
We pitched up and got on with dinner before getting stuck into the beer that Geoff had brought and my whisky. The usual tales of exploits and comparisons of gear before we’d both had enough and needed our sleep.
I woke to the sound of rain falling on the tent. That wasn’t in the plan. This must be Geoff’s fault. He is clearly a jinx. What other explanation can there be?
The rain eased and we packed up and got on our way, me expecting this to be a nice short stroll out to the car, but no Geoff somehow contrived a return leg that’s longer than the outward. And it has some up in it too. Git. In truth it’s easy walking and soon we arrived back to be greeted with tea and toast, before I had to saddle up for the long drive home.
Thanks to Geoff for accompanying me on the wild camp, Chrissie for letting Geoff out to play, and to Cath, Dale, Rich and Tim for the weekend generally. It seems that every time I go to the Peak District now, I’m discovering new hidden corners, especially in the White Peak, and what I’d largely written off as not that interesting, actually is. Indeed, I think I’m starting to prefer the White Peak and its secret dales over the Dark Peak.