Walking with (and being taught by); Neil
Two very varied days, one a very gentle meander from Disley to Furness Vale along the Peak Forest canal followed by a fascinating and informative day of navigation training with Neil from Peak Mountaineering on the moors above Strines.
I left the attractive centre of Disley and was soon picking my way through the thick undergrowth swamping an obviously little used right of way leading to the Golf course. I was surprised to find Heather coming into bloom and Bilberries fruiting already and grabbed a quick snack before making my way across the manicured fairways and then via another very overgrown path skirting Stanley Hall woods to the canal. There were Jays on patrol and Jackdaws in the fields and the sun even started to put in the odd appearance.
The canal was fully opened in 1800 and was mainly used to transport lime from the Bugsworth Basin, nowadays it is the domain of narrow boats and families of ducks with adorable fluffy ducklings in tow! I passed fishing herons, narrowboaters drinking cups of tea and touching up their paintwork, fishermen and at New Mills, the Swizzels sweet factory. This is not a walk of wilderness and solitude but it is pleasant and undemanding and the kind of walk where just putting one foot in front of the other with no real agenda seems to be a commendable end in itself. Tempted as I was by the Furness Vale chippy I stayed strong and climbed out onto the ridge above the valley and followed the path through hay meadows with views to New Mills before a gentle descent took me back into the desirable fringes of Disley village. This was a walk containing no challenges, little navigation and no discernible elements of danger or excitement and it was all the better for it!
Thursday was a very different experience. In order to improve my chances of eventually passing my Mountain Leader training I was aware I needed to further develop my navigation skills and pick up hints and tips from those already amongst the hallowed ranks, Neil from Peak Mountaineering is such a hilltop God! We spent a fascinating and enlightening day on the hills above Ladybower taking in the delights of Strines Moor, Derwent Edge, Dovestone Tor, the Gusset, Back Tor and Broggig Moss. I searched for boulders hidden amidst the heather, located Springs, identified re-entrants, startled Grouse and Curlews and finally, perhaps, began to understand how contours on the land are accurately depicted on a map. I learned about slope aspect, resections, collecting features and relocating myself when we got (deliberately) lost. The difference between reading a book and then trying out exercises and having a real, live expert to consult and learn from is inestimable and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the experience was of real benefit and my confidence has grown. Now I just have to get back out on the hill and put it in to practice without having somebody to hold my hand!! No photos from Day 2, too busy concentrating!