Normally I’m a meticulously organised, over-prepared person when it comes to just about anything. I like to think I’m a model student with my use of lists and pre-trip research – but for some reason I got a bit slack with my planning when James and I embarked on a hike last month.
To celebrate (or commiserate, depending on which way you want to look at it) my 25th birthday, James and I took a trip to the Peak District.
This is an area of England that I’ve only visited once before, when I was a grumpy teen on my Duke of Edinburgh expedition, of which all I can remember is a lot of fields, sheep, and that horrible ill-fitting rucksack. That was 10 years ago (wow, where does the time go?!) and things have changed since then. Since moving to New Zealand, I decided I love hiking. So a weekend in the hills was the perfect way to see me into my twenty-fifth year on the planet.
Perhaps because I’m so accustomed to seeing orange triangular markers on the walking tracks in New Zealand, I figured a map wouldn’t be necessary. Why spend extra money on something you don’t need, right? WRONG. Apparently I forgot that walking tracks in England don’t have those welcoming green signs at the start of them to advise the distance, difficultly and time you’ll need to complete them, like they do in NZ. All we have here are wooden stumps named “public footpath”.
All was not lost, I assured myself. The track itself would be well-trodden, so I thought it would be quite difficult to lose our way – and besides, lots of people would be on the tracks given it was such a lovely, sunny day.
Still, I did some frantic research on my sketchy 3G as we drove to the start of the walk, print-screening some information online, confident that we would know the way to go.
Rather, this post covers a 3-4 hour walk for those who, like us, forget to take a map and compass with them. It’s ideal for dog walkers and younger walkers too.
My route begins in Edale, crosses the fields to Upper Booth, climbs Jacob’s Ladder, reaching Edale Rocks and Pym Chair before descending along Crowden Brook and looping back to Edale.
The black dotted line on the map below shows what we attempted to do. This post describes the route I advise you to take (purple line), including an optional side trip to Kinder Downfall if you fancy it! Original map courtesy of Happy Hiker whose post I referenced throughout our walk.
We parked up at the car park in Edale; it’s a short walk from the pub but is the only place to park while you’re out. There are toilets here.
The Old Nags Head Pub symbolises the start (and finish) of the walk; yep, a pint is the holy grail at the end of a long, sweaty day.
As you approach the Old Nag’s Head, there is a turning to the left named Pennine Way. Follow this route, continuing over the stiles and through the gates across the fields. Follow the main path; don’t turn right up the hill.
The track continues to some farm buildings and there’s a small cafe here too. Head through the farm, past the red post box in the wall, and turn right at the red telephone box.
The road goes over a small bridge and continues left (don’t take the little gate on your right). Stay on this track until you reach Lee Farm, where you’ll pass through the buildings, closing the gate behind you.
Jacob’s Ladder will soon come into view, with the Packhorse Bridge at the foot of it. The steps are names after Jacob Marshall, a farmer from the 1700s who created this staircase to make it easier to climb. It’s steep but not too tough and the view by the cairn at the top is gorgeous.
The next stop is Edale Rocks; huge boulders in the middle of the plateau. We stopped here for a sandwich here before getting completely lost.
From here you can either:
Of course we wanted to do the first option, but instead of checking where we were going when we left Edale Rocks, we followed the crowd. We soon found ourselves at Pym Chair, meaning we had cut out Kinder Downfall and Kinder Scout from our route.
Instead of doing what sensible people do and retracing our footsteps, we decided to cut across the plateau in the direction (or so we thought) of Kinder Downfall. Bad idea. Once you lose the path, you’re pretty screwed. The ground is really annoying to walk on too, because it’s basically a load of dried-up waterways, meaning you’re going up and down over these hills and dips without seeming to get anywhere.
Perhaps 15 minutes into our adventure we met another hiker who had come from the waterfall. He explained he was aiming to reach Kinder Scout but had lost his way and ended up cutting it from his route. I felt a little smug. We weren’t gonna get lost too. We carried on.
Frustrations aside, we saw many mountain hares and a red grouse, and eventually we found the track. Spotting a small waterfall, we thought we had found Kinder Downfall… in fact it was just a little stream, so we continued along the path. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t walked far enough; already I felt as though we had walked the length of the entire National Park on the plateau.
We eventually reached Kinder Downfall – a sight which wasn’t as impressive as I had hoped, but nonetheless confirmed we were back en route. It is an unnoticeable sight though: a huge cleft in the side of the cliff, with the water trickling over it. I expect after the rain it would be much more impressive. Armed with my print-screened instructions, we set off for the summit.
Unfortunately, luck was not on our side. The track East from Kinder Downfall becomes boggy and difficult to find, dipping in and out of the river. You are supposed to follow the stream until you reach Kinder Scout. We ended up veering off onto the plateau again, and many people seemed to be doing the same at different stages along the long-lost-track.
My confidence was fading; before we knew it we were back amid the ups-and-downs of the godforsaken plateau without a clue which direction to go in. Without a map or compass, we had to rely on common sense (not my forté I must admit). I spotted a rock in the distance, which I was confident would be Pym Chair, so we spent a good 30 minutes walking towards it – and found ourselves back at Edale Rocks.
I couldn’t understand how we had managed to veer so far in the wrong direction; we had added so much longer to our route and after walking up and over all those dips and hills I was feeling shattered. I sat down on a rock.
“Should we just go back down Jacob’s Ladder?” James asked. We had come all this way to do this walk – there was no way I was turning back on myself. “No, let’s keep going,” I said.
From Edale Rocks, we followed the path we had taken earlier to Pym Chair once more. We continued along the edge of the hill, past the many rocks scattered across the landscape, an image of fallen confetti from giants. There are many tracks at this point within a few hundred meters of each other but all continue the same way, before reaching a clear fork in the path.
At the fork, you can either descend the steep track beside Crowden Brook and retrace your steps along Pennine Way, or continue the less steep descent along Grinds Brook back to Edale.
We chose to follow Crowden Brook on our quest to rediscover civilisation. The decent is very steep and hard on your knees, though I saw people of all ages doing it so I think you’ll be fine if you take your time and step carefully. The brook is picturesque too.
Before we knew it, we were back at the little farm. Remember that little gate I told you not to take on the way there? That’s where you’ll come out of on the way back. The café at the farm was open for hikers to enjoy a cold drink or an ice cream. We stopped by a nearby fence and fed some long grass to the lambs and almost took one home with us.
The rest of the track follows Pennine Way the way you came, back across the fields of sheep, through the gates and over the stile, to the heaven that is the Old Nags Head.
Beers were promptly ordered.
To avoid making the same mistake on your hike from Edale to Kinder Scout, I advise you to come prepared!
If you don’t take a map and compass with you, follow the route outlined in this post until you reach Edale Rocks. Take an optional side trip to Kinder Downfall and retrace your steps to Edale Rocks, before following the track East to the scattered rocks on the edge of the plateau. Follow the track to the fork and head down Crowden Brook.
If it’s raining or visibility is poor, make sure you take the right clothing and equipment if you decide to embark on the hike. It’s easy to get lost on the plateau even in good weather.
This hike begins and ends in Edale, a small village in the middle of nowhere.
Shop my essential hiking gear to ensure you’re prepared for your day in the hills. There’s little phone coverage in the Peak District so advise someone of your intentions before you set off.
Forever counting our pennies, James and I modelled our accommodation choice on our experience in New Zealand. We chose to take our tent and go camping! Luckily the weather was good all weekend. We camped at Eden Tree Caravan Park in Bradwell, a 20 minute drive from Edale. It cost £16 per night.
Thanks for reading and happy hiking!
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