…in a journey makes the way seem shorter.” For the first time, the Izaak Walton quote from the Pre-Amble does not just refer to any readers who might click on 50FootHead one day, but to the company of someone who was actually physically present with me during the walk.

By mileage this was the shortest day so far anyway, and if anything walking and chatting makes the day a little longer. Not to mention walking back to H’s car in Castleton after arriving at my linear end-point. But you understand Mr Walton’s sentiment. I certainly appreciated her company. And yours, whoever you may be and wherever you are on the journey…

LEJoG Day 39 (Sunday 28 October 2018)

Castleton to Edale (4½ miles)

Cumulative: 543½ miles

Facts: Time on walk: 1 hour 40 minutes. Average speed: 2.70 mph (slowest since Day 12). Weather: Cold but mainly bright; cloud and some hail on Mam Tor; occasional drizzle elsewhere.

Practicalities: Checked out at 10:30am and waited at the Peak District Visitor Centre car park for H. There was time for a brief look around inside and a pot of tea at the café.

The walk

Start: (Officially for LEJoG) Limestone Way junction above Cave Dale, 12:25pm. (Actual, unofficial) Peak District Visitor Centre car park, Castleton, 11:40am. End: (Officially for LEJoG) Start of Pennine Way, Edale, 2:25pm. (Actual, unofficial) Back at the car park, 4:45pm.

Satellite map here. The only OS map used was OL1 (Peak District: Dark Peak area; East sheet).

Started off up Cave Dale in bright sunshine. This is a tougher walk than I remember: never particularly steep but relentlessly uphill and over some very stony ground. The stones were also wet in places today, which is one of the worst combinations for walkers although admittedly much more treacherous if heading downhill. Among the topics discussed with H on this stretch: my new house, job, my diet, alcohol consumption and historic weight gain.

On reaching yesterday’s finish, turned right through the gate and then right again over a stile (gate also an option). Now on the mile-long and reasonably flat stretch to Mam Tor. I’m not going to dwell on any personal issues on this part of the blog, but one of the things we discussed at length here was the origins and possible causes of my catastrophic breakdown. Honestly: I remember this as a cheerful and lovely day with great conversation – nowhere near as miserable as it might sound.

You cross two minor roads (the first to Sparrowpit, the second to Slackhall) before starting to climb the mountain. The foothill brings you to a gate, where you can join the pass to Barber Booth and Edale or continue up a stepped path to the summit of Mam Tor. By now we were talking about happier topics such as summer holidays, in case you were worried about our mood.

It’s quite a short walk to the top. We stopped at the summit for about 20 minutes. You can see the view on the previous day’s header photo. After the very brief hailstorm there was a rainbow (photograph below):

Rainbow Mam Tor and ridge, LEJoG Day 39

Looking out towards the ridge and Lose Hill

(Win Hill is the small triangle just below the horizon, two thirds of the way along)

There’s a great ridge walk ahead (literally), taking you past Hollins Cross, Back Tor (different to the higher peak on Derwent Edge, which sits a few miles east past Ladybower Reservoir) and on to Lose Hill. Some years ago I set out to do this, intending to finish on nearby Win Hill without realising that this involved descending to a river valley and climbing the best part of 300m all over again. I think I was using street maps rather than OS maps at the time, which gives you some idea of what a naïf I was. By the way, non-locals, Lose Hill is higher than Win Hill. Mind blown… at least until you read the Wikipedia articles.

Today’s walk took us only as far as Hollins Cross, the lowest point on the Great Ridge. From there you turn left, actually a bearing of around 130 degrees and make your way down towards the Vale of Edale. The first quarter of a mile or so is on a very uneven, craggy path and may be slow progress. The rest of the route to Edale Road is on a steep grassy slope and may not be kind to your knees. By now H and I were on to dating, and I’m certainly not going to share her two huge stories. Other than to say they put my concerns into perspective.

Cross over Edale Road and continue along a footpath through fields. About halfway along this passes under the Hope Valley railway line and bears left, heading directly for the village of Edale. You emerge on to the road just north of the Moorland Centre with Edale Church on your left. Turn right and complete the last couple of hundred yards to the village centre. In front of you is the Old Nags Head, dating back to 1577. Beyond that, to the north, is the Grindsbrook Clough route to Kinder Scout.

But the landmark I’d been waiting for was to my left. It is this:

Pennine Way signpost Edale, LEJoG Day 39

Signpost marking the official start of the Pennine Way

At last. No more satellite maps, no more detailing of my idiosyncratic routes – back on a National Trail. I’ll link the guides and maps you need for the Pennine Way at the start of Day 40. This moment, seeing the Pennine Way sign and knowing I’d made it here from the Land’s End felt like the first truly meaningful achievement of LEJoG. I guarantee to those of you who are wondering: yes, completing it in sections feels no less fulfilling.

There were times I’d wondered whether I could carry on, and even on good days Edale seemed a long way away. Walking from Port Isaac to Edale in one long 2018 walking season was always ambitious, but I felt it was essential in order to leave myself enough time for more complicated arrangements in Scotland during the early 2020s. Thus I devoted all bar three days of my annual leave to the effort, taking advantage of bank holiday weekends and other summer weekends to bring it up to 32 days of walking. Should I finish in line with my schedule, 2018 will have been the busiest year of LEJoG. It really was worth it though. I hope you enjoyed keeping me company.

H took a photo of me next to the sign. I’m preserving my anonymity though. For now.

After the walk

We walked back down the road and had chips and a drink at the Rambler Inn, which was as busy as you might expect for a pleasant Sunday at the very end of the season (the clocks went back last night). Walked the same way homeward to Hollins Cross – the climb up the grassy slope and stony path is always a test, but will never be as enervating as my first time (see introduction to Day 38). From there we walked directly to Castleton instead of via Mam Tor and Cave Dale. Conversationally, the return was dominated by a follow-up to one of H’s earlier stories, and a shared sense of loss.

On arrival in Castleton we had a drink in the Bulls Head before H drove me home. It was the first time she’d seen my new house.

Postscript: My Listening Pleasure

None. That would have been very rude.

(Unless you count listening to H herself, of course, which is always a pleasure)

Picture (taken 28 October 2018) shows the rainbow from Mam Tor, this time with my “good company” in the foreground.

Next: Another six month-break. Then: Day 40 (23 April 2019) in which I enter uncharted territory (for me), but first get to revisit a classic after far too long.

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