Monday, 30 August 2010

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Wild Camp

After I had been on the last winter walk, Jim mentioned he liked carrying everthing we needed because if the weather closed in, we could just pitch for the evening..
I suggested we should go wild camping..
The plan was to get dropped off at the side of the snake pass where it meets the pennine way (Cheers Dad!), Walk up to the crash site on the top of Bleaklow, drop down into Alport Valley, Have a look at Alport Castle and then pitch for the evening in an undisclosed location before being picked up from the main road the next day.

The trip out was unremarkable, so I'll skip that, (NB. the layby at the drop off point is in bad repair so take care not to bottom out your car).

We soon set off for Bleaklow top. The path is clear (it's part of the pennine way) and this is a nice easy walk in nice weather with no kids. Pretty soon we came across the remains of the crashed B-29 Superfortress "Overexposed".

It's the same type of aircraft that dropped the atomic bombs at the end of the second World War. It's strange to walk among what's left. Some parts are shredded, some melted and some perfectly intact. Thirteen men died when the plane crashed but I didn't feel anything odd, In fact I found it quite peaceful and interesting, though I'm sure if the mist rolled in and I was on my own, it would have been completely different.
Continuing on to the top of the hill we stopped for a bit. I stepped up onto the boulder the trig point is set on. Although windy we must have been sheltered as the wind just a couple of feet higher was amazing. It was like being in a convertable or on a motorbike at speed. There were no gusts, just constant, cold, refreshing wind on a (surprisingly) sunny day. I couldn't get enough. I stood there for ages, just letting the wind blow the cobwebs out. Perfect.

As we went back on ourselves, we passed a couple who were coming the other way. I mention them, not because they were memorable but because they were the last people we would see until the next day! (If you don't find this remarkable, I once read that the Peak District National Park is the second busiest in the world - only beaten by Mt Fuji).

The walk down the valley was scenic and obscenely quiet, No other people, not even sheep for the most part. The only other living things were a few birds and a snake thet leapt from the path in front of us (it's nice to know they really are more scared of us!).
(note: From dropping into the valley, to its exit at the main road there is NO phone reception on Vodafone, Orange or T-Mobile, so phone loved ones before you enter the valey!).
The path is ok until you reach the valley proper. It peters out to a sheep track and is hard going walking on a steep slope an a path perhaps 20cm wide. There are patches of bracken that grows to an incredible size. In places it was taller than me and I'm 6'2"..
We were well ahead of time, so we kept stopping for breaks, watching the erm, stream go by as there really is nothing else there!. I kept hearing that 'swishing' noise that you can hear traffic making on a motorway. It took me ages to realise that it was the sound of the wind rushing over the top of the valley.

As I got to within sight of the first of our (several possible) camp sites, we stopped on a bit of a platau and the decision was made to try and get down to river level. This may have been a mistake. Telling the truth, It was a mistake and a fairly big one. We had little visibility of our surroundings, because no one could see over the bracken, and the steep valley sides, just got steeper and steeper. We hit a small stream valley and the floor kept dropping away either in a very steep gradient or in 2 foot steps. Normally not a problem, just tiring. Here the bracken not only blocked the view, it blocked the view of our feet. To make things slightly more intersting the bracken also liked to get wrapped round my boots, trying to trip me up.
Some how we reached the stream without spraining an ankle and the first possible camp site. Very pretty, but buggy and not that discrete. Besides, Jim and Paul wanted to camp in a woods, so we pushed on.

We decided to find the place to pitch and drop off our bags, before walking on to Alport Castles. First we had to find a way into the woods.. They were thick, dark and inpenetrable. Finding a hole big enough for a badger, we pushed in.
Inside, it was warm, quiet and nowhere near as evil as it looked from outside. I had been given a description of how to find the campsite by an online friend. Without directions we'd never have found it.
We came over a small rise and saw our home for the night. Alport castles, Majestic as it is, never stood a chance. It's perfect. It's flat, hidden and someone before us had built a bench and there is a fire pit there too. Just at the side there is a small stream. At first glance this looked filthy, but this was because it is a sandy bottom with a little dirt in it. Not a lot of water comes through it, but what does is clear, not full of tannins from the peat on the hill tops above the valley and for the most part, insect free. It may dry up if it hasn't rained for a while, So don't depend on it, though you could go to the river Alport if your need was great enough. After digging a small depression for the water to collect, and pitching camp (including pitching a tarp I'd brought that we put over the bench). We were totally settled in. We were going nowhere.
The night was great. A fire was lit, though much smaller than previous ones by others as we were not cooking on it. The fire would only be for a bit of heat, light and general 'when would we get the chance to have a fire again'.
There were no 'spooky woods in the middle of nowhere' feelings. We just had some Supper, sat round the fire listened to music, drank our wine and chatted. It was one of those nights that you'd love to have all the time. So we'll have to go back, sooner rather than later.

The walk out was also uneventful, though it's still very wild, with no paths through the bracken other than ones left by animals. The river also has eroded the bank in places so it is slow going until you reach the farmhouse and pick up a dirt road.

An excellent place and all three of us enjoyed this trip thoroughly. As we didn't manage to go round Alport castle, we've the perfect excuse to go again..