Going solo

(Stealing the post title from Roald Dahl’s book but of course, my little journey of the day is nothing compared to his. :P)

November had been an awfully hectic month with coursework deadlines piled up, draining out every ounce of energy in me by 30th Nov morning. Last major deadline was 12 noon on that day – and I celebrated by sleeping from 2pm to 8.30pm, 51 hours since I last slept on my bed. My usual hangout friends had all sorted out long ago a weekend trip  to London the next day for the Harry Potter studio, musicals and duck rice but I backed out as my interest in the HP studio  is lower than the ticket price and I’d like to spend a longer time exploring London if  I were to buy train tickets there.

To make my weekend no less exciting, I had the brilliant idea of wandering out into the countryside. Needa get away from computers, from uni and from the city for a break! So there I was, checking routes online at 2am on Saturday (1st Dec) and buying a train ticket to Peak District.

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Signboard for Hope on the hills.

8.45 a.m; 1st day of the last month in 2012 – I was on board the train heading for Hope. Yes, there is a place called Hope here! The only ‘Hope’ I knew was the town depicted in Lee Child’s ‘Nothing to Lose’ where there is a ‘Despair’ town too, both in Colorado – but truthfully neither exists and there is only a ‘Hope’ in Indiana. Anyway, I could tell the weather was great on the 50 minutes train ride with the sunshine flooding the carriage. It was a short 2-carriage train because it only goes to the little places so there were not many people aboard. Some had hiking gear with them, some with thermo flasks, some reading books and one guy with a really obedient Golden Retriever. The beauty of peace extended out of the windows – Patches of morning mist were hovering low in some of the moorland, yet to disperse; Sheep grazing on the greens like there is nothing better to do (kinda true for them I guess =/ ). I finally started munching my donuts after all that staring.

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9.40 a.m; The bus schedule told me there are no bus to my destination Castleton until 10.45a.m. My mind told me I’m not going to wait at the bus stop for an hour so my legs started walking the 2 miles to Castleton. The road took me through the little village of Hope where there are only a few rows of shops along the same street, some inns and a church apart from the houses. Perhaps because it was early Saturday morning, the place looked rather empty.

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10.10 a.m; Castleton came into view and immediately my fondness for it sprouted. I just fall for typical traditional English villages – and Castleton is one of them! This is the only one I have come across besides the lovely villages of Bibury and Bourton-on-the-Water in Cotswolds so I felt really happy. :) 5 mins into the village and the owner of a fudge shop was shouting “Good morning!” at me across the street as he stepped out to arrange something. So loving the friendly spirit in the village!

10.35 a.m; I’ve got a map from the tourist information centre and began my hike! Dainty shops were just opening and I promised myself I’m coming back to explore the place thoroughly later. My journey began with a narrow lane round one of the shops, passing by a canal with mallard ducks floating around. Round another corner and I found myself climbing uphill on an usual leaves-covered track. It didn’t take very long before the open greenery and hills rolled out around me.

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11.30 a.m; I am surprised by Winnats Pass as I was just expecting the usual hills and fields but here is a narrow limestone gorge with the road snaking through it at a 20% gradient. There are several caverns underground nearby where mining of stones and minerals, the Blue John Stone being a famous one. And here’s some unexpected bit of information I just found out: Local legend has it that Winnats Pass is haunted by a pair of unfortunate couple who were robbed and brutally murdered there – their 5 murderers all died in an unpleasant/violent way.  =/

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Winnats Pass – the people a distance away shows how high these limestone formations are.

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12.15 p.m; Mam Tor – conquered! Mam Tor, or known as ‘Shivering Mountain’, has alternating layers of shale and gritstone which causes its unstable structure to move and crumble with the intrusion of water. Nevertheless, I love the wonderful 360 degrees panorama up here at this top. To the north, I could see Edale and Kinder Scout where I previously went. To the the east, the ridge stretches far to Hollins Cross and Hope Valley. To the south beneath the mountain is Castleton and Pevril Castle. To the west I see Winnats Pass and where I came from. Splendid it is whichever direction you face…I had a little dilemma picking which side to sit and savour in the views while eating donuts (again) in the golden sunlight.

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On the way to the top! :D 

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Still on the way…

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At the top!! It was nice of the many hikers who offered to help me take a picture lol.

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Towards the South-west direction.

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Looking back at Mam Tor after leaving it.

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Loving the perfect weather.

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The awe-inspiring Back Tor.

1. 15 p.m; Finally I see Back Tor! Was actually more excited to see this peak because it looks rather spectacular. It was a pity I do not have proper hiking gear and boots so I did not want to take the risk of going up the narrow steep path with my already muddy slippery trainers. Had a good look at it and went on my way, cutting through the fir woods.

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Into the woods!

1.25 p.m; The Mega Mud Challenge! I was stopped short by deep and wide mud patches. Try one foot here, nopeeee; another spot, nopeee. Mud’s too soft and squishy. So there I was staring at the mud when some hikers came along and said one of them can offer a piggyback if I ask. I rejected with an awkward smile, almost sure they must find me silly to wear white trainers for the hike. So I watched them marched all the way across the mud, squashing the brown substance like it’s cotton. 5 seconds later I thought, ‘Alright, challenge accepted. Let’s go.’

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Oh the pleasure of conquering the mud as I stepped through the whole stretch and laughing at my now brown shoes.

1.35 p.m; Out of the woods onto a grassy slope. I passed by a herd of sheep and met another hiker. I asked if he knew any way back down to Castleton nearby but he says it’s Hope I’m heading for if I go straight ahead and he doesn’t know any paths to Castleton there. Fair enough, my motto is free and easy so if I can’t find a way down, I’ll go on to Hope and catch a bus to Castleton for my village-exploring.

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“We love the grass.”

1.45 p.m; Managed to recognize Losehill peak and find a path leading down. First instinct – take it! (Plus, it doesn’t look too muddy).

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Neighhhhhh. The dear horse!

2.10 p.m; Made much progress downhill and came across a few horse ranches which turned out to be a riding farm. This beautiful brown horse saw me and trotted over to the edge of its ranch. :D :D Such a dearie! I like it so much I started talking to it hahaha because its gaze looks like it understands what I’m saying.

2.30 p.m; I’m back on ground level! Walked my way back to the village centre and had a most enjoyable time popping into the church and adorable shops, seeing little kids in glee over the colourful glittery decorations hanging in every nook and corner of gift shops. IMG_1730

Christmas trees in St. Edmund’s Church.

4.15 p.m; Decided to take the bus back to Hope but the bus never came. Only then did I find out it runs only on weekdays for schoolchildren. =/ I stopped by a shop to grab takeaway hot chocolate before the walk back to Hope. Best decision ever because it tasted heavenly and the cup was a marvelous hand warmer.

4.50 p.m; The sun has set completely upon my arrival in Hope. This tiny village remained as silent as it was when I passed through it in the morning. Since the next train is at 5.39 p.m, I wandered into a cafe for warmth and got myself a hot apple + black cherry pie served with ice-cream. Would you spell satisfaction for me? =)

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5.10 p.m; Final leg of journey – the walk back to Hope train station half a mile away from the village. Pitch black it was. And I do mean pitch black. I could see close to nothing but faraway lights when no cars were driving pass. So when that happens, I had to slow down to almost zero speed until the next car comes and shines up the way. But God is good, He once again amazed me with the reassurance He gave. Only when i was in bed that night did it occur to me how anything could have happened to me while walking alone in the dark. Yet I felt safe as I walked. Now I know God was definitely watching over me. (:

IMG_1764End of the Hope village zone.

5.45 p.m; Aboard the train home, falling asleep in 10 minutes.

X End of my Going Solo trip X or if you’d like another line – 7.00 p.m; Scrubbing my shoes. X)

 

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