Peak District in the snow

Winter is just rubbish this season in the Peak District National Park. Too warm, too wet underfoot and calamities of calamities not enough snow, any snow, snow that stays around for days and weeks, not just a few hours creating mayhem then slinking away like an errant child.

I have had some wonderful winters in the Peak District. Proper winters, with cold and snow and the Snake, Woodhead and Cat and Fiddle closed and blocked with stranded vehicles. Winters where you have to pinch yourself because you are the first person, ever to walk into Dovedale went it is covered in snow from the previous days snowstorm. All the snow just drapes across the trees and the walls and the fields, great billows of cotton. And not a single foot print in sight save for those of birds and sheep.

Walking around the Upper Derwent Valley and having to post hole for 9 miles, wishing you’d brought a slower companion. Cant he stop and look at the scenery, its magnificent. The groins paid for it after though. A full six months before I could walk normally again.

Sitting in Grindle Barn and just looking at the scenery down the Upper Derwent Valley. Snow covering Bamford Edge and Win Hill. Snow in all the fields, right down to the reservoir edge. Drinking spiced Bovril from the flask and thinking last time you did this was in the bird hide at Ditch Clough I gave my Ranger mentor for the day a cup because she loved the smell.

Walking along the pastures below Rocher Edge and seeing a truly gift card scene. A monochrome landscape in perfect balance. Nothing out of place at all. Later the dogs getting snow balled up as they dived in and out of the snow.

Ice crystals at Kinder Downfall, but far too soon for any ice climbers. A day on Kinder in the winter, planning a walk that was far too long for some and using the short cut to get back on track. Then into the Snake Inn and meeting friends old and new, all having had a great time in the Dark Peak snow.

How the wind blows snow against the walls and leaves the opposite side clear. Great drifts forming where the wind packs the snow. Suddenly having to navigate without walls and fields and boundaries for reference because there aren’t any, they are all under great big piles of washing. Bright white, a brilliant blue white like in the washing powder commercials.

Thinking, next year I am going to get snow shoes or learn to ski. And next year comes and will there be snow this year, perhaps not, so don’t waste my money. Then I remember the time I nearly got stuck on the Snake, but managed to make it back to Glossop and a 8 hour round trip via the M62 to get home.

I love winter and I have missed it this year.

Winter on Hathersage Moor

Monty and Olly on Hathersage Moor, Peak District National Park
Monty and Olly on Hathersage Moor

As I look out of the window a few flakes of snow are drifting around, the first real snow flakes this year and the only second lot of snow this winter. Walking in the Peak District National Park when there is snow on the ground is a real joy. Care has to be taken as the weather often changes quickly from a nice winter scene to one of life threatening survival.

I have a friend out on Kinder Scout today, running the Kinder Dozen, a gruelling route up and down the flanks of the plateau. In winter conditions this is one serious undertaking, but well prepared can be a fine way of spending a day out on the high moors.

Some of the best days out walking have been in winter. Back in 2013 I was leading a group of walkers around the White Peak. It snowed heavily in the night, fifteen foot snow drifts were not unusual, so there was no use of the car. We elected to walk from the hotel down in to Dovedale and follow it up to Milldale. We were the first people in the dale. All was white and quiet, and curves. Not a single footprint existed, the land was formed by white billows of snow, obliterating walls and footpaths. It was like walking into Narnia. We all walked without talking, just enjoying the surreal experience.

The picture above was taken a few years ago on Hathersage Moor. When we set out it was just a normal winter day, no snow, but a heavy sky. By mid afternoon it had all changed and as we dropped down from Higger Tor the scene changed to a complete whiteout, unusual in the Peak District. We were heading for the enclosure but that had disappeared. Walking on a bearing we found the walls and then on to Mother Cap. At all times, literally just a few hundred meters away from a road, but we might as well have been in the middle of Bleaklow for all we could see.

Monty and Olly enjoyed it hugely and collected huge great balls of snow on their coats. A day never to forget. Getting out there is what makes the memories.

Hathersage Moor appears on Walk No.5 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press

Winter

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Below Rocher Edge. Peak District National Park

What on earth has happened to winter. Last weekend I was reclining in several inches of snow waiting to be found by a SARDA dog on their assessment. Driving home from the Chew Valley Sunday lunchtime all you could see was white. People keep posting images on FB of their adventures in Snowdonia, Scotland and the Lakes. Here on the north eastern edge of the Peak District we have had a snap of cold yesterday, now the rain has returned to mush the paths back in to slurry.

The picture above was taken 21st January 2015. That was a real winter, last winter. The snow stayed for ages. I had many adventures in the Peak and a great weekend guiding guests down in Dovedale. We walked in to Dovedale on the Saturday morning and we were the first people there. It was like stepping in to Narnia. Snow muffled sound so we walked along in a sort of funereal procession, all quiet and reverent. The snow blanketed everything, smoothing edges, lots of soft curves. It was deep too. Deep enough for walls to disappear, making navigation over the hills interesting. Take away features and you are left with the contours and nav becomes a whole lot simpler. You had to watch for the drifts of course, some of which were up to fifteen feet deep. Something to remember that weekend.

Now it’s just grey rain, not even cold. Saved a fortune on gas but the electric is higher. A good time to knock off some more of the book, get some more walks written up and the layout sorted.

Tomorrow I am off in to the Dark Peak.