This weekend I travelled to Ilam in the Peak District with friend, R. I hadn’t been on a walking trip since September, and as expected it was good to get out into the hills again.
I started the day running packing and sorting out everything we would need for the trip. I had to get the bus to Cheltenham from Oxford at 12.45, which put me under a bit of pressure. We were intending to cook most of our meals in the hostel, so I had to run around Sainsburys with my rucksack before making it onto the bus.
I am always struck, more or less every time I travel into Gloucestershire, by how much friendlier people are than in Oxford or London. I struck up a conversation with two ladies waiting for the bus, and while waiting in a café in Cheltenham for R to get out of work an older man started up a conversation with me, curious about my OS map.
When R finished work we went to his house for some final packing before setting off in the car for Ilam, a journey which took around 2.5 hours. It was dark by the time we arrived, driving down a pitch black hill to our hostel with ABBA blasting on the CD player.
We were up early on Saturday morning for a 10-mile walk in the Manifold Valley and Dovedale.
The scenery was bleak, almost medieval, but also beautiful. I had been walking in the Peak District once before, back in May 2015 when I went to the Roaches with the Oxford University Walking Club. I was nervous about the prospect of navigating a walk by myself (something I’ve only really done round Oxford and in the Chilterns), but my fears were baseless. As R and I are fairly quick walkers we finished around 2pm, so we headed back to our hostel to change before heading into Derby, where we had a look at a gallery and the Cathedral, which was impressive in the understated way low-Anglican Cathedrals often are. We finished the night with a game of scrabble and a few beers back in the hostel, which brought a calm end to the day.
Our walk yesterday was a bit shorter (7 miles), starting from the village of Wetton which we drove to after checking out. Although our walk today was shorter, it involved about 600m of ascent, as it included a climb up to Thor’s Cave, and Wetton hill, the top of which offered fantastic views.
We had a well-earned lunch in the pub in Wetton before beginning the drive back. Unfortunately, the satnav packed itself in so we had to resort to the A-Z Road Atlas, which extended the journey back a little bit longer than we had intended. Our soundtrack choices were a bit different this time.