Backpeaking by Mark Cook

This year, Jeremy’s ever-popular backpacking weekend headed out of Yorkshire for what I think is the first time. No less that 14 members had signed up for the trip; a new record for this type of weekend. However, the number of starters was pared down to 11 due to another miscalculation as to when one of Peter’s offspring was descending from the other side of the world and, at the last minute, Helen not feeling well enough for the trip. Hopefully she’s fully recovered now.

Not Oceans 11 but the Dry Land 11 met at York station and headed south; first to Sheffield on a fairly normal train and then onwards from there on a much-maligned rail vehicle (“a cross between a bus and a lorry on rails” according to one of our knowledgable railway trio) which we were forewarned would not be comfortable and, slightly more worrying, with a dubious safety record. Maybe this was why it departed from a somewhat hidden platform on Sheffield station. Fortunately we were only on it for 2 stops and we arrived in one piece at Grindleford for the start of the walk.

The station appeared not to have any facilities at all and somebody piped up “Where’s the cafe?”. At that moment, I suddenly realised that I’d been here before and that, just at the top of the hill was not only a cafe but a damn fine one at that. As Jeremy said there was no hurry, we immediately all entered said cafe and bacon butties and beveridges were ordered. Patricia was slightly surprised when she ordered a coffee to be asked “Do you want a pint?”.

On leaving the cafe, Jane feared that she’d left her rain jacket on the train. However, a piece of cunning detective work by Sue (ex Intelligence Corps!) suggested that we should inspect the photo taken when embarking from the train to see if Jane was wearing it at the time. Viewing the photo did indeed prove that she had been wearing the coat when she got off the train and a more thorough search of where she had been sitting in the cafe revealed the coat and a relieved Jane set off with the rest of us; no longer in fear of rain.

The walk and scenery of the White Peak were lovely as we headed first south and then west to Stony Middleton. This was followed by a steep climb before we descended into the next valley where lunch was taken. Onwards to the next village of Great Longstone where an enticing pub caused another unscheduled stop. Unfortunately for those who fancied a cider, the pub and it’s staff, one of whom it was definitely his first day, seemed to encounter all sorts of problems. Surprisingly, a similar problem with the cider re-occurred at the pub later that evening but it was dealt with much more swiftly and efficiently. After the cider drinkers had eventually finished their drinks, we were off again. The final part of the days walk was along the Monsal Trail, the route of the old St Pancras to Manchester railway line, I was informed by one of the railway three, so progress was swift. Interestingly, we walked through no les than 3 quite long tunnels. Finally, we turned off the Monsal Trail, crossed the valley and entered the grounds of Ravenstor Youth Hostel by a slightly obscure entrance. As I remembered, it is indeed a lovely building.

The hostel reception had only been open for 10 minutes but unluckily for us, a very large group of cyclists from Beeston had snuck in just before us so there was a bit of a lengthy wait before we could check in. I blame them for the fact that most of the hot water had run out before I got a shower. However, the member of staff on the desk in compensation, waived the fee for those who hired towels. Not the last generous deed by him; of which more later.

It was a fairly quick turnaround as dinner had been booked at the nearby Anglers Retreat at 7.00 so we soon headed a mile down the road to the hostelry. The pub proved an excellent choice of eatery as most of us had a very nice meal of good proportions at a reasonable price. As there were a few tired legs, we didn’t tarry long after the meal before heading back to the hostel by a much quieter road. Most people headed off to bed quite early but those of us who stayed up to watch Glastonbury on the T.V. were rewarded when the same staff member asked if we wanted to eat the remains of the home-baked Apple Pie which consisted of the dessert of that night’s hostel meal.How could we refuse? A second pudding of the night for some of us. No names mentioned! Very nice it was too. Eventually we decided that we couldn’t manage to stay up to see the Foo Fighters finish their set and headed off to bed ourselves.

After a good nights sleep, we were ready for the second leg of the weekend walk. We even got a bit of a lie-in as we’d agreed to let the cyclists have breakfast first although they were a bit late so there was some overlap. The weather wasn’t quite as good as the previous day and we set off in a slight drizzle. Some of the hardier still persisted in wearing shorts whilst others donned waterproof trousers; in Dave’s case, Helen’s waterproof trousers which he’d brought accidentally.

The first part of todays walk was along the bottom of a long, deep dale which was quite primordial at times. Also, for some reason, it kept changing it’s name. First it was Monk’s dale, then Peter’s Dale (although no sign of Peter!), then Hay dale and finally, Dam Dale, before eventually flattening out into more open country. At the lunch stop, Patricia finally explained the origin of the term ‘Lucky Knickers’ which she’d mentioned the previous day and was being teased about. Suffice to say, it’s not what you may think!

The final section of the walk headed for the Dark Peak and, having seen very few other walkers apart from a few Duke of Edinburgh groups, we were slighly overwhelmed by the crowds on Mam Tor which is clearly a very popular spot for a Sunday stroll. Finally, we left the madding crowd for the descent into Edale where we managed to locate a National park centre where tea and Ice Cream was procured before catching the train home. Another great YOG weekend. Thanks to Jeremy; not in the least for the amount of food he carried for Sunday’s packed lunch; along with his superb Ginger Chocolate Flapjack. Must get the recipe sometime.

Wherever next years backpacking trip takes us, you can be sure it will be a good one.

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