Pulling out of Manchester Piccadilly, it occurred to me; I had lived on-and-off in the northwest of England for five years and not once had I set foot in the Peak District National Park.
As the city disappeared behind us, a green landscape gently began to come into focus and roll past the windows. Buildings and fences turned to stone, the surrounding land peaked and dipped and before I knew it, we were in Edale.
Edale is a village best known to outdoor enthusiasts as the start (or finish) of the Pennine Way; a 265 mile walk along the ‘backbone of England’. A short stroll from the train station into the centre of the village brought us to the Nags Head pub, the official starting point for this walk and a section of which we would be walking today.
From the get-go, the scenery was something to behold and the terrain was varied and exciting. We ambled alongside a streambed enclosed by trees, over crooked wooden stiles, across lush green fields scattered with nonchalant cows and sheep, through farm yards and past quaint stone cottages.
The path underfoot ranged from flagstone, to dirt, to road, to grass, giving the mind and body an excellent workout.
Views across the dale to Mam Tor and Lose Hill encouraged us to slow our pace and absorb every last drop of this beautiful place.
The foxgloves were out in full force, bringing cheery pops of pink to a land heavily saturated in shades of green.
At the base of Jacobs Ladder, we crossed the river Noe over a beautiful grade 2 listed packhorse bridge. Jacobs Ladder got its name from Jacob Marshall, a man who helped see the construction of the steep, stepped path in the 18th century. The ruins of his old farm still cling to the hillside, where he once provided a respite for the jaggers (packhorse drivers) passing through.
The climb was incredibly uneven and steep, but the views over Edale were the perfect excuse to stop and catch a breath every couple of minutes.
Once at the top, we perched on Edale Rocks for a lunch spot with a view. The sheep in this area are notoriously unfazed by visitors and it wasn’t log before one had caught wind of our sandwiches and joined us for a snack.
After gaining our breath and levelling our blood sugars, we made the decision to carry on across the peat moorland of Kinder Low, as far as Kinder Downfall. The ground was much flatter up here but involved a great deal of concentration when hopping between boulders and slabs.
Dropping 30 metres, Kinder Downfall is the highest waterfall in the Peak District. In the height of summer, it trickled lazily over the edge, but in the colder seasons, it is famous for blowing back on itself in high winds and showering passers-by with freezing spray. It also completely freezes over, providing a playground for ice climbers.
Just short of the waterfall, we stopped on a ledge overlooking Kinder Reservoir for yet more snacks, before slowly heading back the way we came.
| Distance and difficulty | The return walk from the start of the Pennine Way to Kinder Downfall is roughly 10 miles in length. There are also many alternative routes and the option to make this walk circular. I would recommend good fitness if attempting this walk.
| Getting here | Trains from Manchester and Sheffield stop at Edale Station via the Hope Valley line. It is roughly 45 minutes by car to Edale village from the centre of these cities.
| Come prepared | Bring plenty of snacks and water for this hike. The weather in the Peaks is unpredictable, so bring sensible clothes and good, supportive footwear is important.