In May, Rob and I were planning on a kayak and bivi on the Norfolk coast, but a force 5 wind conspired to put that idea out of reach. Instead, we resurrected an idea we had previously had to walk the ‘Edale Skyline’, a walk that unsurprisingly follows the hills all the way around the Edale valley. This is a challenging walk of about 20 miles (we ended up covering 23 in total) and we decided to camp in a campsite on the Saturday night, so that we could get up early and complete the walk with a day pack instead of trying to carry wild camping gear. This also gave me a chance to try out my new Hilleberg Keron 3 tent, which I had waited for almost 14 months for (lead times being very long at the moment).
We chose to start the walk in Hope, specifically at the Hardhurst Farm campsite. This is very well located for the walk, although the facilities are a bit basic and we discovered after pitching our tents that the railway line is so close that our tents were blowing in the wind as they passed! (they don’t run overnight so only a bother in the evening). It was great to see a lot of children doing their Duke of Edinburgh awards also staying at the campsite. A lot of bad press about the ‘youth of today’, but they were all loving being outdoors, cooking and putting up their tents. I don’t think things have changed quite as much as the press would have us believe – some things are certainly still the same if you allow them to be.
We were soon pitched up, in the rather long grass. So long in fact that children playing hide and seek were lying down in it just metres away and became invisible. We lit a BBQ, a far cry from our usual wild camping experience, and were soon enjoying burgers washed down with some Malbec. This was the kind of walk I could grow to enjoy!
We turned in as darkness fell and enjoyed a reasonable night’s sleep. We planned an early start as the walk takes between 8 and 10 hours. It was Sunday and I needed to get back to my home in Chichester on the south coast after the walk, so we resolved to start at 8am.
We rose early, cooked some breakfast and packed our day packs. The campsite kindly allowed us to park our car all day so we put all our camping gear in the boot and set off.
From the campsite, there is a short walk up the road past a farm to join the route ‘proper’. We chose an anti-clockwise route because this would put the two steep climbs out of the way right at the start when legs are fresh. I found the climbs harder than I expected, and was soon puffing up Win Hill. It’s only 462 metres but there are some quite steep sections. However the view from the top was fantastic. You could see down to Ladybower reservoir as well as out to Kinder Scout. In fact you could see the entire route we were about to walk. And it looked a very long way!
From Win Hill the route heads North West heading steeply up onto the Kinder Scout plateau via Crookstone Hill. After a bit of puffing we made it up onto the plateau and enjoyed panoramic views across Edale, really quite stunning. Along the plateau there are lots of rock formations very similar to those on Dartmoor, and we were very fortunate with the weather.
The route does not take in the summit of Kinder Scout itself, but continues down to Crowden, where there is a waterfall that on our visit was no more than a trickle. We spent some time there taking in some calories and some water before continuing up the steep path ahead back onto the plateau.
Shortly after this we entered the other-worldly part of the walk known as the ‘Woolpacks’, a strange collection of sandstone rocks which felt a bit like being on the surface of the moon. It was slow going picking routes around them, especially as there were some quite boggy peat areas that we tried to avoid. It really is quite a special place and well worth visiting if you haven’t already.
Soon after this you’ll reach a small outcrop called ‘Noe Stool’. Again loads of young walkers were here, laughing and enjoying their time outdoors, which was great to see. What wasn’t so great was the next section, heading South towards Brown Knoll. Brown Knoll is a highly appropriate name (dull as ditchwater) and the walk towards it was featureless and without views, although on an excellent flagstone surface that meant we could make up time given the slow progress on some of the earlier sections.
The path continues to be boring for a few kilometres until it turns up to the East towards Lord’s seat. Finally, with aching legs we were heading back towards Hope. The path up to Lord’s seat is not particularly steep but it does go on for a while and we were grateful to reach the summit. However, we could see just how much walking we still had to do. We could see all the way ahead to Lose Hill, our final summit of the day, but we had Mam Tor and a couple of minor summits to complete first.
By now we were both feeling pretty exhausted and legs were tired, even though we were only carrying day packs. We trudged our way down the path towards Mam Tor. Towards the end there is a steep and slippery route down to the road, and then an equally steep set of steps up to the summit. The area was very busy as there is easy parking here and you can be on the summit relatively quickly from the road. Unless you’d already walked 16 miles, in which case you might go a bit less quickly! From there, we had a surprisingly steep minor summit to climb, before we could see our final prize of Lose Hill.
By now we were both hobbling a bit, but we managed to struggle over it and head off towards Lose Hill. We knew this was our final summit, but by now the descents were almost as challenging on the knees as the uphills were on the thighs. Slowly we made our way to the summit of Lose Hill, and enjoyed a short break there taking in the views, taking on some calories and glugging some water. Oh – and picking up an empty water bottle that had been wedged under a rock, because obviously an empty plastic bottle is quite heavy to carry off isn’t it? We were nearly there!
Except that we weren’t. We were still nearly three miles away from the car, and soon were enduring a long descent through the trees (which had various dog poo bags hanging from the branches, a vile, selfish practise I will never understand). Once onto the road, we were 1.5 miles away. My feet were aching, skin was chafed, legs on autopilot. Then we came to a pub, with people enjoying cold beer outside. We had to walk past! It was torture, but not as much as when we had to walk past the second one.
Finally, 10 hours, 23 miles and 52000 steps after setting off, we limped back into the campsite. We had done it, but we were broken. We drove home, stopping for a victory KFC, and when I finally walked through the front door at 11pm I felt I had made the very most of my weekend. I slept well.
This is a fantastic walk. It is fairly busy with walkers, which you may or may not enjoy, and it is challenging. You do need a degree of fitness for it, and if you don’t have that then you need to be stubborn. If you are neither fit nor stubborn, maybe tackle a shorter stretch of it and see how you go. If you do complete the whole thing, you’ll have had a truly memorable walk. Highly recommended.
I used the excellent Harvey British Mountain Maps Dark Peak map for this walk.