I never need much of an excuse to go away and get muddy for a couple of days. My delightful girlfriend can however be a little more reluctant, especially when the weather forecast makes out like the apocalypse is just about to strike during the only two free days we have. She’d been banging on about wanting a new coat for ages and with Christmas coming up I thought some technical outdoor clothing would be the perfect present. I thought there could be two great outcomes from me buying her such a gift. Firstly she would be tricked into believing that I was the normal type of boyfriend who bought thoughtful Christmas presents and secondly I would probably get to go on a two day backpacking trip even though it was my designated don’t-go-away-on-one-of-your-adventures-because-you-need-to-spend-more-time-with-me time. It was worth a try!
Well it worked. We booked a room at the Hartington YHA, parked in Thorpe and set off. It would be about eleven hilly miles there and then nine or so gentle miles back the next day. Like a Sherpa I’d carry most of our stuff and she’d have her little bag with her phone, tissues, a large scarf and other girl stuff. Underfoot it was very muddy and very slippery and occasionally foot-suckingly deep. Overhead it was grey, windy and constantly wet. We didn’t see anyone else out walking and even the sheep looked pissed off. The kind of conditions that would usually result in a nice big why-the-hell-do-you-bring-me-to-these-horrible-places argument but not this time – there was a nice new purple coat and it kept everyone happy.
To escape the rain we lunched in Thor’s cave where the thousands of years of grateful feet have smoothed and polished the limestone. A thin layer of mud, lubricated by the drizzle which was being blown by the swirling wind in vast waves made entering the cave treacherous. Sarah’s new coat became a lot less new.
After lunch I popped my headtorch on and went up the back of the cave to have a look around. There is definitely room for three, maybe four to sleep in there. The porous rock was seeping and small intermittent drips caught me by surprise. I think you’d need to bring a bivvy bag and ground sheet to stay any less wet than damp, and probably some firewood too. I think that I’ll be back one night next summer.
As the blue wisps dancing above the orange-red coal in the pub fireplace indicated, the following day was crystal clear and cold. We had a shorter walk back to the car and took the classic stroll down Dovedale. The lighting was delightful, the white rock formations stood tall, resembling underwater coral structures but on a more massive scale. Beautiful and unique landscapes have different effects on different people. Some landscapes have a vibrancy or energy in them, where movement and life can be felt if not seen. Some landscapes have a spirituality about them, places for contemplation, places that inspire pilgrimages rather than adventures. Dovedale is not in the slightest a spiritual place, nor is it a place of life. In the shadows it is cool, its history is not measured in terms of human lives but geological epochs. It is a perfect example of the destructive and creative power of water. Playful scrambling on the rocks reveals to the tendons an incredible, immovable hardness yet a quick glance around shows how temporary the existence of this hulking mass of limestone really is. From the smallest fossils to the darkest cracks, every viewpoint in Dovedale points to a cold landscape carved over millennia. Earth was probably not created in seven days.
Another lovely walk in the Peaks. If you too have someone important in your life that you would love to share the outdoors with – buy them a new coat!
We stayed in Hartington Hall YHA – We had an en suite room for three and breakfast for £59.00 (It would take more than a new coat to get Sarah to try sleeping in separate dorms).
We had an excellent dinner in the Devonshire Arms. More expensive than my usual microwaveable lasagne for one but this was date night. The beer was superb, the food was even better and the brandy went perfectly with the open fire and friendly chit chat.
The car park cost £2.50. It’s right at the bottom of Thorpe Cloud and there are toilets there.
Oh and the coat was a Paramo Alta II. It stood up to an entire day of rain, and Sarah just kept on smiling feeling rather smug, protected by storm flaps and deep pockets. She ate up the miles and I never once heard the question every map reader dreads – ‘how much further is it?’. It wasn’t cheap and if I include the cost here (if I am to stick the ethics of this blog then I really should) then this two day walking trip comes close to the price of an entire week in Welsh bothies! But to have Sarah there and smiling; I think it was worth every penny.