Jan 28 2012

Walk 41: The Badgers on Tor

Mam Tor

route: Mam Tor & Lord’s Seat (Rushup Edge) from Castleton
28th january 2012
distance: 6.1 miles
ascent: 1,405 feet
time: 4 hrs 05 mins
walkers: Dave, Graham, Jane, Janet, Katie, Leanne, Lucy, Sandra & Simon

This was our third walk since we signed up to do Oxfam’s Trailtrekker and the third walk in which all of the team weren’t in attendance. It was the first time in a while that Sherpa G String had managed to attend, in fact it was his first expedition into the Peak District, and he was greeted with the glorious sight of snow covered tops as we readied ourselves at the pay and display (or not as the case may be) car park in Castleton. It was our biggest turn out for a while in fact, with 9 hardy souls braving the sub zero temperatures for what we expected to be a chilly affair. As such I readied myself by wearing my new thermal socks, the thicker of my two fleeces and my gloves…oh and my shorts too!

The pre walk photograph ritual was extended slightly by the team receiving their Badgers badges from Lucy, and this seemed to please everyone immensely, as I think a few people had been jealous that I received one last time (I don’t actually know if this is true, but I do know everybody wanted one) but now we all had one and the parity of the Badgers was restored.

We left Castleton heading west along the main road where we could clearly see snow covered tops ahead of us. It had been a little while since we last walked in snow, nearly two years in fact, not since the Badgers formed and we undertook our first three walks had we experienced the crunch of compacting snow underfoot. We had a little while until we got to experience that though as we were still on the pavement, but we soon spotted our fingerpost and turned to squeeze between two walls as if we were walking into someone’s back garden. This turned out not to be the case and we entered a field that was half frozen and half soggy underfoot. This combination was both reassuring and worrying as I couldn’t quite work out if the half frozen part was going to hold or the soggy would win and I would end up squelching around in the mud. This was made worse by the few little horses/ponies that had churned up the ground allowing the water to get in easier.

As we made our way from field to field the path began to get slowly wetter and it seemed like the stream away to our right has recently overflowed, which seemed to please half a dozen ducks that sat there floating away. It was almost as if they were waiting for the next flood so they could rejoin the stream but under no circumstances were they going to get up and walk across which brought a smile to my face as I strolled by a few yards behind Beaky and G.

A particularly wet field caused us all to spread out as each person searched for the route they found most appealing. It reminded me of the scene in Kelly’s Heroes where they walk into the mine field and all make their way towards a fixed point with the person who started at that point marking the way out. The importance of the route was a little less threatening for us, although having said that, they were only acting and not in a real minefield, but I digress. The edge of this field brought us out at a small track that ran across our path. We crossed it before ignoring the interestingly named “Dirty Lane” and instead taking the other finger post and continuing along our intended route as Mam Tor sat waiting for us.

We followed the path through a group of sheep that just stared at us as we approached, no doubt wondering why anyone was out in these temperatures unless they had to be. I don’t know what they were doing but they all just stood facing in the same direction staring. They may have been trying to catch some of the winter sun or maybe they were just waiting for the ground to thaw out so they could get back to the only pastime that sheep have, eating! Shortly after we turned northwards and began to ascend an exposed field as we chatted about Trailtrekker and what it entailed. Jane was asking a few questions and for a minute I thought she wanted in on the team but it was all just English pleasantries and she soon distanced herself from such a crazy idea, half hinting that some of the longer practice walks could be on her radar, if Katie came along, but Katie stayed silent. Behind the main conversation, Beaky walked slightly ahead of L’Autobus who were no doubt planning their check stop routing as if it was a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Wu Tang would like to add “We were actually checking the map as we were on direction duty” Sir Edmund then added “Surely directional duty needs you to be at the front!”

After this field there was a change in the terrain and it felt a little less farmed and a little more rugged but the path could still be seen even though we were now on the edge of the snow line and we continued to climb higher which offered more fantastic views of Mam Tor.

By now I was now in no-man’s land with the lead group walking away from me as I was taking it steady with a dodgy knee and L’Autobus somewhere behind me probably discussing how quickly they could change our boots at each check point. Ahead I could see the others were waiting as is the norm and I slowly made my way towards them unaware that they weren’t just waiting to allow us all to regroup, they were in fact waiting to bombard me with snowballs!. I managed to get one blurred shot as I had my camera switched on to snap the scenery but you can see a snowball just at the top of shot.

After avoiding the snowballs I managed to fire a few back without any success before waiting for L’Autobus and chucking a few in their direction again without luck. With my hands getting cold I put my gloves back on and completed the final strides up to Hollins Cross where we finally re-grouped and took in the surrounding scenery. The view was pretty impressive from here with the snow covered tops gradually blending into the green valley below. In the distance we could make out Win Hill which we visited over Christmas and in between that and us was Lose Hill which isn’t on our tick list but will no doubt become a Badgers conquest at some point due to the location and the point profile which will make for a decent view from the top. To the north west there was a peak very much on our list, the biggest the Peak District has to offer and one I will look forward to completing due to me having the nickname Kinder since I was 13, Kinder Scout.

After ten minutes we began to feel the cold and took a few snaps at Hollins Cross before we began to climb the gradual ridge up to the trig point on Mam Tor. To our left we could see almost the full length of the Hope Valley and it was absolutely stunning. There is a different look and feel to the Peak District when compared to the Yorkshire Dales but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. I am sure over time the differences will make themselves more obvious but it doesn’t really matter as they are both beautiful.

As we neared the top we could see a few paragliders away to our right floating around above Rushup Edge which certainly caught our attention. I once saw a few people doing the same thing from the top of Whernside but I haven’t seen it anywhere else. Wu Tang veered off the trodden path to take a couple of snaps and as she returned she decided to run the through the snow, that got deeper and deeper until she couldn’t get her legs out quick enough and fell flat on her face. I have to say that my first concern was her wellbeing but the split second she raised her head out of the snow and had a smile I burst out laughing. It made a pleasant change for someone else to be picking themselves up as it is usually me or at least it had been recently.

We reached the top of Mam Tor and could still see the faint outlines of the paragliders over Rushup Edge away to our right. It was only at this point that we actually realised that it was in fact Rushup Edge and we would be walking right by them to enable us to have a close up view.

We didn’t really hang around at the trig on Mam Tor for too long as it was cold and being only just after ten we decided against getting the sarnies out, choosing instead to make our way down the steps and into the oncoming hoards who had parked up nearby and chosen the short route up (why didn’t we think of that?). At one point a bearded bloke stared at me as he approached and I wondered what I had done wrong until he said “shorts, in this weather…what a bloke!” and started chucking to himself, as I did the same. I don’t intentionally wear shorts for effect and if I felt cold I would wear my trousers and do carry them in my bag should I feel the need to change but today was all good on the temperature front.

Eventually we reached the little road that runs between our two targets for the day and crossed it before we began the climb up towards Lord’s Seat on Rushup Edge.

Once we had gained the majority of the height we had a ridge to walk along and we could now see the men and their flying machines in front of us as they hovered high above us. It certainly seemed to catch our attention and we all seemed mesmerised by them.

After stood watching things fly about above our head for quarter of an hour we had to get moving once again and soon found ourselves at Lord’s Seat where we did crack out the lunch. Janet was desperate to powder her nose (I put that politely because she certainly didn’t) and nipped off behind a nearby wall. The old adage of never eat yellow snow had more than one mention as we nibbled on our sandwiches and myself, Sherpa and Ramblo shared the hip flask containing Port.

With lunch consumed and the warm glow of Port warming my cockles (maybe I should have worn my trousers after all) we headed back along the ridge once again pausing to watch someone trying to take off, only to go into somebody else on the ground and nearly rip his canopy in half. Fortunately nobody was injured and the guy did manage to get off the ground.

From here on it was all downhill and we chose to go right to the end of the ridge rather than follow our earlier path. This caused a brief moment of confusion when the path suddenly stopped but we soon found a way back to the road and in turn across the open fields towards Winnats Pass

I have to say that I was surprised at how many people were about considering the weather but I got the impression that Mam Tor is busy at all times and it isn’t hard to see why. For not a lot of effort (if you park up on the road) you have fabulous views of a large area when the visibility is good as it was today. Sometimes I prefer to be somewhere other people don’t go but today it seemed to complement the walk. As we said goodbye to the crowds we were confronted by a few horses who were interested in us and they came over to say hello. At first this was nice as we stroked them and enjoyed the experience but when they started chewing bags and a couple more came over I began to get a little nervous. I love horses as I do all animals, but horses are bigger than me so they can make me a little on edge at times.

With the horses behind us we encountered a group of sheep who paid us little attention as we strolled by on the homeward leg of our journey. Soon after this we descended slightly towards the road and it was here more than anywhere I noticed the benefit of my new boots. Normally I would have been ultra careful as my old boots had started to lose the tread on the soles but with these new boots I could place my feet down with more confidence whilst still taking care. I wish I’d have splashed out sooner and I intend to buy a second pair to have as back up.

The road was soon upon us and we turned left and began to descend through Winnats Pass which is a fabulous gorge of limestone that snakes downwards towards Castleton. It was impossible not to keep the neck cranked up to survey the numerous crags and rocks above. I noticed a couple of what seemed to be cave entrances as we reached the bottom and I could see myself having a good explore around here on another day.

Upon reaching the bottom we could see the village of Castleton ahead of us and after passing the entrance to the underground boat trip we had a mini team meeting. This reason was the intended route veered off to the right following a footpath the half a mile or so back to the car, whereas the more direct route was along the roadside. The question was asked but before everyone had time to answer Janet had decided for us by uttering some expletive about the footpath being longer before setting off along the road. Decision made then and we trundled into Castleton to complete a fabulous walk.

We changed and headed to the pub for a nice refreshing beer and wonderful company. I really enjoyed the Peak District once again and would like to come back and do this walk again or a similar walk in the area another time. That would have to wait for a while though as the planning for Trailtrekker was now beginning to tie up most of our time. Not that I am complaining as it will all be beneficial on the big day, a day that was less than 4 months away now…

Sir Edmund


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