Prose from the Peak District

My fourth installment of “Letters from London”, snippets of emails which I’ve sent to Beth (because I’ve lacked the time to both blog and email about my adventures). Enjoy!

***

Eugene and I have been getting on very well! We understand each other in a way almost no one else does. We appreciate the little things that every one else overlooks (with the only exception being you- you understand me better than he does). For instance, we spent a good deal of time talking about Skyrim over dinner, or when our conversations lull any mention of Game of Thrones will put it right back on track. Most of the conversations we had were not at all strained or affected by tiredness and grumpiness. I would have thought that I’d be sick of his company after so much time together, but it’s not like that at all. However little I see him, I think we’ll always remain somewhat close, which is surprising to me. The way that he handled my decision to go on the ghost walk is particularly impressive. (He does get pretty cranky with the relatives and can be generally unpleasant to be with sometimes, but for the most part it’s quite understandable.)

***

Merry Christmas darling! That snuck up quickly! Eugene and I left York this morning (having a delicious home-cooked breakfast and picking up two more copies of Mortal Kombat before we did so) for the mountainous Peak District. I’m finding it hard to concentrate with the TV on for “background noise” which Eugene needs but I find distracting. The pith of it is, we arrived around lunchtime, relaxed for an hour and then (after Eugene had napped) set out for a walk around 3:30. If you’ll recall, the sun sets around 4pm here, and so as we were leaving the barkeep warned us it would be dark within half an hour. He inquired where we were heading, and Eugene answered we didn’t know, just out for a stroll to climb any mountain we felt like. I was worried it might be the last they heard of us.

As it turned out, we sloshed through the mud (due to a light but persistent drizzle), through farmland and along the road in a big circle. We walked with sheep, saw the barn where Eugene slept last time he was here, and generally walked around in the rain. It was a little uncomfortable for me, but also fun. I’m finding it too difficult to concentrate, so perhaps the attachments will better sum it up.

Tomorrow we plan to set out for a breathtaking (and probably swollen) waterfall 10km away. It’ll probably be an all-day hike in the rain, but I’m still looking forward to it. I’ll be packing everything in plastic bags to avoid them getting too wet. Ily!! I hope you have a wonderful day <3

***

Eugene and I had a pretty big and challenging day. Breakfast at 8 (though we were still tired) and a delayed hike starting at 9:50 or so. Our plan was to walk up to Kinderscout, the mountain several miles away, scale the peak to see the waterfall (which we expected to be pouring because of the persistent rain) and circle round the long way to get back. It was planned to be approximately six or seven hours long, and with us we brought food, water and a small stove for heating soup and water.

In essence, the trip started out great. The weather was cold but sunny, our walk was brisk and kept us warm (I even ran the last section of Jacob’s Ladder) and we had a great time climbing turnstiles and practicing our “fainting goat” technique on innocent sheep. Eugene had predicted we’d be the only ones mad enough to go hiking on Christmas day, but we ended up seeing perhaps seven different groups of people throughout the day, including a very lovely couple in their late forties who were very well-equipped and made the climb every year. With them came a strong mist down the mountainside, and with a word of caution (and admonition for failing to bring a compass), they pointed out the trail to us.

We strode into the fog confident and cheerful, but it was not long before the constant cold and wetness got us down. It became hard to see more than twenty metres ahead; look closely at the pictures I’ll attach and see if you can spot Eugene in one of the landscape ones. Even with the occasional cairn (pile of rocks) marking the trail, it was not always easy to see where we were going, and without knowing our bearings, the map was of little use. We started drawing arrows in the dirt to find our way back if we needed to return the way we came for some inexplicable reason. We progressed over mountains, past rocks, through swampy peat bogs and over rivers, and in the many places where there was no visible path, we made our best guess until we became quite thoroughly lost. My hands, in spite of my snowgloves, got so cold that I could not feel or move them very much at all. The pain was so intense I genuinely believed the lack of circulation was causing my hand to die, so I pulled my glove off and struggled to unzip my jacket so that I could warm it slightly under my armpit. After a few minutes I had enough feeling back to flex my fingers, so they went back into the muddy glove. Things looked bleak.

Very fortunately, we found a lone traveller who had just been to the waterfall to take pictures, though after half an hour of waiting it was still to foggy and he had given up. He pointed the way, and gratefully we set out on the new path we found, marking our way constantly as we did. We did eventually stumble across the waterfall, though we could see little and the bitter cold and rain made it most uncomfortable to linger. A small cave (with the curious presence of sheep droppings – how did they get so high up the mountain? Or was it a mountain hair of some kind?) afforded us some meagre shelter from the wind, but Eugene didn’t want to stop to eat or drink, though I’d been hungry for hours and rather desperately wanted some mead to warm me. So we pressed on.

There were many paths to take, and we got quite lost again. Another traveller gave us some unhelpful advice, and at my urging, we decided not to go on the circle route and just head back the way we came.

But even that was not so easy. Tired, soaked, cold and desperate, we decided to try a path paved in stones rather than slushing it through the mud. The immediate comfort and ease of the surface seemed so appealing, so with barely any hesitation we blundered down it. But when it ended suddenly at a fence, we were uncertain what to do. We identified a potential spot onthe map where we might have been using a big rock formation as a waypoint, and by our estimate, following the wall would lead us back to the path.

It didn’t. It led us to two more fences and a muddy road that looked like a car had driven through it. But Eugene found a place where three fences intersected, and nearby we found a medieval cross relic which we assumed was the “Edale Cross”, and thus we had a good idea of where we were on the map. And with reasonable confidence Eugene pointed out where he thought we should go. I thought we should have gone the other way, but I trusted his sense of directions above mine.

The path we took got us lost once again, and we were seriously wondering if we’d get back. Sunset was two hours away, and it had taken us twice as long to get to where we were. We had food and water enough for a day or two, my headlamp to guide us in the dark and my small multitool, but we certainly wouldn’t have much warmth if sun set. We hadn’t even stopped for food or to relieve ourselves because it was too cold.

To my great relief, and a lucky guess or two, we found the path we had come from that lead us back to Jacob’s Ladder. Unfortunately, after that we diverged from our original path and took another unfamiliar route. It was a tad risky, but we were walking through towns and there were signs, so even though we hadn’t come that way before, we hoped it would lead us back to Edale.

And at last, it did. We got back, exhausted cold and hungry around 3:30. We asked for food, asked how to get the shower working, then set about getting into some cleaner, warmer clothes, and having some long-overdue food. I also managed to open the can of soup with my tiny bottle-opener. It was very painful and took a long time, but I managed to slice about a third of the can open so it could be poured.

We watched movies, played a little game, and now it’s past 11. To think we nearly went to sleep at 6. I’d better go, Eugene is trying to sleep despite the light.

Ily honey. Might go for a less challenging walk to the forest and lake tomorrow, though I’m not too keen on heading out into the rain again if it can be avoided. I’ll let you know how it goes. Talk to you soon <3

***

Today Eugene and I did not feel like going out in the slightest. Although the sun appeared to be visible in the sky, the forecast suggested rain, and I had not so quickly forgotten this pain in my knee, the biting cold and the aching tiredness. It filled me with fear to think of going out, so we decided to have a day in and see how we felt later on. We stayed in the room and played retro games on the emulator he downloaded (specifically The Itchy and Scratchy Game from our childhood, which was so crazy hard that we couldn’t pass it without cheating. It seems that even fifteen years down the track we maintain the same level of skill), enjoying the warmth and comfort.

However, this was not to last. When we finally pulled back the curtains, the sun had risen in a clear sky, and we were wasting a beautiful day. I wanted to take the long path to to the forest and lakes while the weather was good, but Eugene wanted to take the short path up the nearest mountain so that we’d at least have a view and not just mist and rain from the top. Fortunately we ended up climbing Mam Tor (mother hill), which took about three hours there and back.

At first the weather was beautiful, and I quickly overheated and stripped off layers. But soon enough my knee remembered its ache and my ankle began to strain. The path became more mud than stone in many places, and I sunk to my ankle within a few minutes of the climb. But we persisted, trying hard to keep spirited as we scaled the popular paved spine of mountains. Mam Tor might refer to a specific mountain, but it’s commonly used to describe a string of mountains all next to each other, and you can walk along the top of them quite comfortably. There wasn’t much shelter from the wind though, and when we stopped for lunch, it grew bitterly cold. We had to lay our outer jackets on the grass to avoid our pants getting wet, and it was only a minute or two before my fingers went numb, and then started to hurt. It wasn’t a particularly comfortable meal, though we enjoyed the elderflower and apple jelly I had bought from a Christmas market. I hope you and your parents enjoy it too!

It started to rain not too long after that, so after climbing a few more mountains and peering over a cliffside, we decided to head back. Fortunately the wind was quite low so we were able to use our map without fear of it being ripped to pieces, and it wasn’t so cold that we couldn’t stop to deliberate. We found a promising path, slushing through mud and slipping on grass, until we got back to the main road and followed it to the inn. Part of our journey took us within a metre of a heavily pregnant cow, and a number of bulls that eyed us worryingly. It was almost as exciting as seeing the panda-coloured herry coos yesterday! And also a little dangerous.

Once back at the inn, we showered, cleaned our boots (though they’ll take ages to dry) and settled down to watch Ace Ventura 2. Comfortable days inside really are a pleasure.

***

I only really have two days left in London, and I can’t wait to leave! I love England, I do, but the thrill of winter only lasts so long, and it’s expensive to be on holidays! I only have £45 left, largely because I’ve been paying for Eugene and I in entry costs and food, but I’ll have to be careful how I spend the last of my cash. It looks like I’ll be wracking up a sizable credit card bill meanwhile! [In fact, I just cut down on spending and borrowed money from Eugene. Huzzah!]

***

Eugene and I left Edale today. It was the tiny mountain town we were based in while we explored and hiked and trekked. We had a rather leisurely morning in our room, caught the train to Sheffield then deposited our luggage in lockers while we went to pass the time. We chose to do this by seeing The Hobbit, which was excellent, though it meant missing lunch. We had an early dinner at a pub (which was surprisingly lovely) and then realised that Eugene had thrown his ticket out. When we talked to the ticket booth, they would not replace it, so he bought another one for £44.55 (~$70).

I’m really looking forward to returning to London and getting into clothes that don’t have mud on them!

***

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One thought on “Prose from the Peak District

  1. […] are the belated holiday photos I promised from my recent adventures in London, York, Yorkshire, the Peak District, Singapore (parts 1 and 2), Penang and Ipoh. The formatting isn’t great, and captions make […]

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