This week’s column sees us enjoying the Summer heather on Will Hill in the heart of the Peak District.
Much of the best walking in the Peak District begins in the Hope valley, and the ascent of the delightfully named Win Hill is one of the best ways of attaining a bird’s eye view of both the valley and the iconic Great Ridge. At 462 metres Win Hill is not a giant but the panorama from the summit is one of the finest views this side of the Lake District. It is not, however, a view earned without a little effort. Legend has it that the hill is named as it was the site defended by a victorious Northumbrian army in a battle against the forces of Wessex and Mercia, but there are no contemporary records of such a battle and it is probably better to treat this story as a myth.
Leaving the village of Hope I make my way down ever narrowing lanes flanked by green trees that form a canopy overhead. The air is alive with birdsong as I pass under the railway line and starting the steep climb up the driveway of Twitchill Farm. Passing through the farm buildings I continue up the steep grassy slope before resting and admiring the view back towards the Iron Age hill fort of Mam Tor. The path continues upwards and I soon find myself climbing a stile and emerging out on to open moorland. It’s a wonderful place to visit in the Summer and the Heather has turned vast swathes of the hillside purple. I watch a hunting Kestrel as he hangs high above the moor searching for a small mammal to turn into lunch. Eventually I attain the ridge and head East to the distinctive, jumbled rock peak of Win Hill. The views from here are the equal of many far more lofty hills. Ahead of me to the North; the magnificent Ladybower Reservoir ; to the West Kinder broods grim and foreboding; and to the East Stanage, beloved of local rock climbers, sits proud.
It is West I head along the obvious path running across the broad, airy ridge. As I amble onwards a couple of Red Grouse break cover and scud low over the Heather in front of me, their wings whirring mechanically. The Grouse are a common sight up here and it’s rare you can walk for long without hearing their distinctive cry of alarm as they take flight and head deeper into the brush. Whilst I am tempted to continue along the ridge and out onto the dark, peaty expanse of the Kinder plateau I leave the ridgeline and drop South back towards the valley floor. It isn’t long before I reach the shady, tree overhung lane and follow it back under the railway bridge towards Hope once more.
I very much hope that you enjoy reading about my walks as much as I enjoy undertaking them. If you have any questions or enquiries about either my articles or guided walking in the UK please feel free to visit my webpage at www.comewalkwithmeuk.co.uk or e-mail me at Ian@comewalkwithmeuk.co.uk . Liking my facebook page or following me on twitter @cwwmuk will help you keep up to date with all my latest walks and general outdoor news. In the meantime, enjoy the ramblings of a rambler…