I felt a little over-citied last week. Don’t get me wrong, Chester was lovely, the football match in Manchester the weekend before was memorable, and there’s always something to do in Liverpool’s City Centre, but I’m really a country girl at heart. I knew that moving to a lively city would be a change from the fresh air, golden fields, and quiet woods of home. As I’d told my flatmates too many times to count, I just wanted to see the countryside. So, when (most) of my classes were canceled on Friday, I decided to take the advice of a Scouse Uber driver who told me, “If you want to see somewhere really pretty, get outside of Liverpool.”
One of the places on my UK bucket list was Peak District National Park in Derbyshire. Friday seemed like the perfect day for an excursion. Bleary eyed from not enough sleep, I took the 7:01 train from Liverpool to Manchester where I switched lines to take the slow “stopper” train through the Peak District. I’d planned for a day of hiking in Edale, a village near Hope Valley in the Peak District, Derbyshire, about two hours east of Liverpool. The train wound through the countryside as I alternatively read and gazed, oogle-eyed, out the window. My tourist status became quite apparent to my fellow travelers, who dozed or stared tiredly at the seats in front of them, their eyes immune to the splendor of the scenery. Sloping green pastures criss-crossed by stone walls swept down to small villages nestled in the valley.
From the train station in Edale, I walked through the village along a narrow country lane towards the base of the rolling hills. My hike started along the Pennine Way, a National Trail in England that stretches 268 miles from Edale, through the Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland National Park, and ends just inside the Scottish borders. The flagstone footpath crossed through pastures of grazing sheep, past stone barns, and through a rustic farmyard. The scenery reminded me overwhelming of All Creatures Great and Small (the classic books and the delightful show) which recount the adventures of the Yorkshire’s beloved country vet, James Harriet.
After I crossed a packhorse bridge that arched over a tumbling brook, the trail veered sharply to the left. This marked the beginning of Jacob’s ladder which ascends towards Kinder Scout, the highest point in the national park. The sun was shining but it was misting slightly as I scrambled upwards. Grateful for the excuse to stop climbing and catch my breath, I watched as a perfect rainbow formed through the valley. The views from the plateau at top of Jacob’s ladder were breathtaking.
Scenes from my favorite movies came to mind as I imagined Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice in the Liz on Top of the World Scene which was filmed in the Peak District just a few miles from where I was hiking.
From Kinder Low, I hiked through the gritstone rocks known as the “woolpacks.” Tracing the trail through the striking rocks and loamy soil proved to be difficult. Referencing a screenshot of the trail map, I figured as long as I continued in a general easterly direction, I would end up in the right area. As I picked my way through the mud and heather around the scattering of giant boulders, I thought how my little brothers would have felt the need to climb every rock and run to every precipice. Except for the occasional diversion, I resisted such temptations.
I passed several hikers and trail runners headed both directions which helped to affirm that I wasn’t too far off the path. I’m still unsure of how to properly respond to the British greeting “Ya ‘right?” so I opted for a smile and a “ya thanks” trying to make it sound as non-American as possible.
To my left, the moors stretched on in shades of brown and burgundy while the views from Crowden Clough across the valley to the right were unceasingly beautiful. The sound of water tumbling over rocks into the ravine swirled with the winds sweeping across the moors. Distant conversations of other hikers echoed across the valley and the bleating of sheep drifted upwards from the hillsides.
For several hours, I hiked the rim of the plateau under the ever-shifting blanket of slate-grey clouds, stopping to enjoy my packed lunch from the edge of Grindslow Knoll. More than once, the thought crossed my mind, I could live here.
Rather than descending back into the valley, I continued along the plateau with the intention of taking an alternative route, Ringing Roger, on the opposite ridge. The weather changed often: moody grey clouds and sprinkles of rain chased away by occasional snatches of bright sunshine. The air was damp and smelled of earth and rain while the breeze carried the faintest promise of spring.
As I hiked on, the rugged heath reminded me of Wuthering Heights and this scene from Jane Eyre. There were no trail signs, only footpaths that criss-crossed through the health and wound around eye-catching rock formations. All the while, the valley swept down to the right. Sometimes, I just stopped and stared.
My good intentions went awry when I missed the turnoff down Ringer Roger into Edale and ended up hiking an extra mile along the plateau before backtracking to find a switchback trail that led back towards the village. In the process, I was followed by a squawking moor grouse, angry at my intrusion.
The descent across a stream, through the heather, and down a winding dirt footpath was far easier than the climb up Jacob’s ladder. I let myself through several sets of gates and strolled into the lower pastures where sheep grazed quietly. After almost seven hours of hiking, I wandered back through Edale, reluctant to leave the peace of the narrow country lanes, the wild solitude of the moors, and quaint beauty of rustic cottages that were untouched by the hurry of 21st century life. Dusk gathered in the valley, the greens shifting to murky purple and deep grey as the last of the light slipped behind the hills. My soul was full.
New Scouse/British Word: “Hot Squash.” Hannah, a girl I’ve met through the Christian Union (CU) at Hope, was talking at a society meeting on Tuesday about how much she loved the “hot squash” she was drinking and asked me if I’d like one. The look on my face alerted her to the fact that I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Turns out “squash” is used to refer to juice concentrate and a “hot squash” is the concentrate diluted in hot water. Pretty tasty.
Kodak Moment: The Peak District, just all of it.
Someone new I met: Last weekend, I went to a new church with some of the students from the CU. After church, we all walked to a lovely couple’s house where I had the most delicious home cooked meal, seconds, followed up by “afters” of tea and biscuits. There were lots of new faces and names but I was reminded of the blessing of being together with other believers.
Word(s) of the week: Joy.