I love exploring and adventuring, the buzz of going somewhere new and seeing things for the first time is one of my main drivers to travel and find lesser known trails to walk on but, the reality for me at least, is this isn’t something I can do all the time. Living a peripatetic life for much of the year I value the period from November to February when I am able to stay at home, to spend more time with my wife, see friends at weekends and generally have a routine that involved sleeping in my bed and watching Netflix of an evening. Even so, the urge to keep the miles in my legs, to get out into the countryside and to breathe in the clean, crisp country air means I need to get out once in a while. January 2024 saw me laid low with a bout of Covid which hit me a lot more savagely than the first time and whilst I was keen to get moving again, my energy levels were reduced and I didn’t want to stray too far from home in case it all went horribly wrong….so inevitably I fell back on a couple of local and very familiar routes.
When I first moved to Manchester the area I initially explored was the Dark Peak around Edale and Hope. I didn’t have a car and the villages were accessible by train. I spent time tramping on Kinder and along sections of the Pennine Way but the walk that really inspired me was along the Great Ridge from Mam Tor to Lose Hill. It is a spectacular walk, a real “bang for your buck” effort especially if accessed from the handy parking at the Mam Tor end. At 517 metres Mam Tor is no giant but it is prominent and affords views in all directions. It is these features that seem likely to have led to it being used as a fortified site in both the Bronze and Iron ages, indeed ramparts and defensive ditches remain clear to this day on the slopes beneath the summit. The ridgeline dips and rises past Back Tor with it’s signature lone pine until it reaches Lose Hill at the far end of this beautiful ridge. I walked it twice this January both times on glorious, crisp, blue sky days with great views. Once Stephanie from Philadelphia accompanied me, once I was on my own, though on this popular walk you are unlikely to ever be alone. If you walk this walk in the Summer the slopes of Kinder and the surrounding hills are daubed purple with Heather, in January the landscape is less spectacular but watching a beautiful Kestrel hanging in the wind above the Mam Tor summit was a moment of wonder. Whichever way you choose to walk it the route can be made circular by following the footpaths that lead from Hope to Castleton along the valley floor. There are plenty of hostelries and shops to refresh you on this section of the walk. I can recommend “The Old Hall” in Hope and “The George” in Castleton. The latter had a real fire burning on both occasions I visited this month! Perfect for a Wintery day.
The other familiar walk I have undertaken twice this January is from Disley around the grounds of Lyme Park in the middle of which sits the magnificent 16th Century hall which became famous as the filming venue for the BBC’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Disley sits on the edge of the Peak District and the area is famous for the herd of Red Deer which can often be seen roaming the grounds. Walking with a group from Didsbury TOC H rugby club we also came across a herd of Longhorn/Highland Cattle, magnificent creatures with a docile nature far removed from their fearsome appearance! The views of the countryside as far as Manchester and beyond to the hills of the Welsh borders from the folly called The Cage is magnificent and there is always the bonus of a cup of coffee and a cheese scone at the National Trust cafe. It’s a lovely walk and one that can be fitted in as a last minute thought, which is exactly how a local favourite walk should be.
So, some of the benefits of a local walk like this; There’s no need for a map. I like seeing the same landscape at different times of the year and seeing how it changes. It’s handy, not time consuming and doesn’t impact so much on my carbon footprint. Local walks are cheap but the local community can be supported by using local businesses like The George in Castleton or the excellent Malt Disley in the eponymous village! It means even if you can’t get up to the Scottish Highlands or the Lake District or somewhere even more exotic you can still have an adventure on your doorstep!