Dark Peak Wildcamp | 29th & 30th October 2016
29th & 30th October 2016
Autumn is such a magical time of year, the landscape comes alive in vibrant colour, helping you to see the world in a different way. The window of opportunity when the colour is at its strongest is so slim, you have to take every opportunity to get out and about. My chance came when my friend, Lewis, got in touch about going for one last wild camp before the cold, dark, unpredictable winter weather sets in. Whilst thinking of places we could set up a tent in relative solitude, Lewis suggested checking out an old shooting cabin that lies deep in the high peak, away from main roads and footpaths. We are reasonably like-minded, with similar interests and enjoyments, so it’s no surprise that I’d already earmarked the cabin on my own map for a future visit, just like he already knew of the alternative cabin I had suggested.
And so, on a Saturday at the end of October, we set off from the car for two whole days in the wilderness. It was a day a little warmer than expected for the end of October, and a slight chill was all to tell that winter was rapidly approaching. Low cloud and fog hung around the tops of the peaks, but our low route along the valley bottom kept us below it for the majority of the day.
We completed the first half of the days miles by the time we stopped for lunch on the shores of Ladybower Reservoir, the still waters perfectly reflecting the autumn colours. From here our route took us along the edge of both Howden and Derwent Reservoirs, before peeling off into the remote area to the North in search of the cabin. Conscious that our daylight hours were running out we pressed on through the afternoon at a much faster pace, resting briefly only a couple of times.
With night-time closing in around us, we diverted downwards from the main path, and after crossing a river found ourselves at the foot of a narrow steep-sided gully. We assured ourselves that this was the correct route to take and headed onwards; we knew there wasn’t the sunlight to accommodate for a mistake, and that we’d have to find our shelter in the dark if we were wrong. As the last of the light was lost in the cloud we set our eyes on two stone huts, nestled tightly beneath one of the sides of the valley. Relieved to have reached our destination, we wearily opened the door, dropped our packs and bodies onto the benches to relax.
Awaking in a sea of thick cloud, we quickly ate before venturing out into the white abyss, our path taking us across the high moorlands. The terrain looked like an apocalyptic battlefield, with deep trenches of peat and mud that patterned the landscape. We pressed on through the alien land following a rough 4×4 track, leaving the muddy plateau and fog behind us as we descended into a wooded valley, picking up the river as a landmark to follow to the next trailhead.
By lunchtime, with weary feet we completed the climb up to Alport Castles, a stunning outcrop and cliff face caused by a landslide many years ago. We made our with through the boulder field, ascending the steep sloped sides of ‘The Tower’ before reaching the top to appreciate the iconic views. I always enjoy the Alport Valley; the area feels much more barren and wild than other areas in the Peak District. The isolation, rugged paths and the dozens of sheep remind me of the Lake District and Cumbrian Fells. It’s an area with a lot to offer and one I’d definitely like to explore in more detail, but with our bodies aching we opted to complete our journey back to the car.
Whilst the trip was close to home, I appreciated these two days more than I expected to. The thought of the clocks changing, and bringing with them the cold weather and dark of winter I was aware that it would most likely be a long time before I spent some serious time in the wild again