Me and a friend, Anna, planned a 50km route earlier this year in the Peak District, with the aim of making an easy-to-follow map with photos for our work’s charity challenge to raise money for Alder Hey Children’s hospital. We took the weekend to plan the route, allowing ourselves to get lost, take our time and enjoy the weekend together. For it to be a true challenge, we wanted everyone to complete it all in one go! In the end, we decided the route may be too much for everyone to get involved and, coupled with not many people signing up, the event was cancelled. However, we still wanted to complete the challenge ourselves and revisit the beautiful rolling hills of the Peak District.
We arrived in Castleton on Friday evening and stayed overnight so we could start our journey at 6:30am. The route started along the Limestone Way in Castleton, then continued southwards through Hay Dale, Peter Dale (crazy muddiness) and Monk’s Dale. We arrived at Miller’s Dale Car park and continued on the Monsal Trail south eastward towards Bakewell. At Bakewell station, we started heading northeast towards Chatsworth house. From there, we followed the River Derwent northwards, swapping sides of the river occasionally, and finished at Grindleford station. Our grand total walked was 49km, but we’re not too bothered to admit that and we could have easily done an extra 1km if the time/daylight permitted.
We originally planned to finish in Hathersage, like we did first time, but by the time we reached Grindleford, it was getting late and dark. We happily took the train from Grindleford to Hope. I think we trusted our memories would guide us, but due to chatting away, hiding our faces from the rain and not looking at our maps enough, we ended up taking a lengthy detour and then walking through Monk’s Dale rather than above it (a narrow rocky, slippery, muddy route that makes for slow, careful walking). In fact the first time we took this route, we walked above Monk’s Dale, and back then we agreed it was a good decision not to go through what looked to be a tangled forest below us!
So how did I fuel myself? All food was prepared either on the Thursday night or Friday before we left work for the train at 4pm.
- Baked sweet potatoes – stab with a fork a few times and microwave for around 6 minutes until soft when poked. Then allow to cool and put in a bag/tin-foil/container! Will last for 2-3 days if cool/shaded and with unbroken skin. Super simple, sweet tasty pockets of energy! I had 3
- Overnight oats – porridge oats with any added boosts like chia seeds, milled seed mix, nuts, dried fruits. Light to travel with then just add water/milk at bed-time to eat for breakfast or at the beginning of your journey to eat for later in the day. Add the water/milk so it just covers the oats.
- Couscous and veggies – again, take dry and add whatever you fancy like roasted veggies, toms, cucumber, seeds, spices, touch of oil and simply add water before you set off! Perfect lunch, snack or evening meal. This was Anna’s idea!
- Roasted chickpeas – either tinned chick peas (save that aquafaba for ice-cream), or dried chickpeas soaked overnight and boiled till soft. Bake at 200oC for around 40 mins and add any kind of spices, seasoning, or herbs you enjoy. I love the simplicity of salt and pepper.
- Rice crackers and olives – something I really personally enjoy. Nibbling at an olive then taking a bite of cracker. Crackers are really light weight but can be bulky, so only take these if you can manage the space.
- Other on the go foods included mixed nuts and seeds, carrots and fruits (bananas for sure!).
All super cheap, easy to make and will keep for a few days after preparing. Some people may look at this list and think it’s not much, but I’ve always managed to stay active on very few calories. This is just an example of some vegan hiking foods to give you ideas!
On the train there, a man gets chatting to Anna about what she does. He starts saying her parents must be very proud of her. He begins to feel proud too. And with a tear in his eye, he also says that he is proud of Anna. Anna, every night before that man falls asleep, he thinks of you and feels an overwhelming proudness for you. Aren’t you lucky!!
We met a herd of young cows who followed us for a while, intently staring as us when we looked back, which was very cute. Sorry, we didn’t have food for you, or could take you with us! Cows are my favourite animals. Their big brown eyes and thick, straight lashes. So mesmerising.
Anna was wearing a big, black, one-size-fits-all poncho that, once over herself and backpack, made her look like a very large, strange creature. She terrified the sheep, especially with the loud noise it also made from the strong winds. To top off the look, she had hiking sticks so we named her Voldemort. I think we confused Lucius Malfoy’s cane as one of the dark lord’s accessories.
The poncho was also very handy for weeing! Just crouch down and all your parts are sheltered and not on show. Well, when Anna did this, she looked pretty hilarious. At one point she was crouched down at a level lower than the small path we were taking. With the hood up and looking down to the ground, she looked like something you’d see in a nightmare, only for it to notice you and chase after you. If I had seen her, down a rainy, narrow path, with no exit but the one I came from and the one ahead, some 2 miles away, dream or not, I’d have ran in the opposite direction!! From then on, she was called the rock. Creepy rock.
Along Monk’s Dale, a man started talking to us. He was going to a festival that day and was looked for herbs. We wondered what ‘herbs’ a man who was going to a festival may want. Turned out nothing psychedelic, just something you can dry and hang in your house as an air freshener and a plant similar to a clover, which had a very nice lemony taste. I wonder why he was taking those herbs to a festival. Maybe a meeting of rocker herbalists? The bizarre thing was that it was raining and it was a muddy route, yet his shiny red boots were clean, maybe even dry?! In fact, he was super clean in jeans and shirt like he was definitely not down some dale, especially considering me and Anna were all muddied up! Maybe there was something in that little plant after all…
I picked 2 wild blackberries for the first time ever near the end of the hike. I saw it as nature’s treat to me for completing the walk
At Grindleford station, we had an hour wait for the train, so we enjoyed the well deserved rest, listening to the nature around us whilst eating what was left of our food. Another one of nature’s treats after a great hike!
On our way back to the hotel from Hope station, Anna was very happy she got to use her head-torch for the first time after buying it last year. In darkness, oncoming walkers could only see the sharp LED light, especially dressed in that black poncho! One dog in particular freaked out at the sight of a floating light coming towards it. The owner also had a pug who was, like many pugs, blissfully unaware of anything going on and plodded along with no worries like a brainless potato.
Wow, just look at that distance! Incredible really. Overall, the route consisted of 2 steep sections, but the rest included long, shallow inclines and declines and the Monsal trail is completely flat the whole way! I need to explore more of the Peak District for sure!