We (@PilgrimChris and I) didn’t really manage an April MicroAdventure – we did a camp site overnighter and walked 22 miles through the Yorkshire Dales, but in many ways we didn’t really think it counted. I was expecting not to be able to manage one in May too, what with my Southern Upland Way plans and a couple of other weekends booked to other things. So leaving the Way early was something of a blessing and meant that Chris and I managed to find ourselves parked beside Howden Reservoir in the Peak District one afternoon in mid May with only the sketchiest plan in place and a need to camp wild.
We had planned a much earlier start, from Glossop, with a walk over Bleaklow to the stones and then a camp on Howden Edge somewhere, but I was hijacked by the wife for some household duties so we had to start later. With the original plan blown out of the water, we just decided to wing it and see what came up.
As it was mid-week, the road beyond Fairholmes was open to cars and we took advantage of it, parking at the very end and giving us instant access to the hills. Our plan for this MicroAdventure was to find the perfect early summer camp spot – sit out in the failing light and enjoy the sunset and the quiet. The weather was perfect, with almost no wind in the valley, a wonderfully clear sky and warm too.
We walked along the last remains of the tarmac, passing a few people heading back to their cars and came to the old packhorse bridge at Slippery Stones. We paused for photos and then followed the rugged path that bends right into a forked clough. I stopped again to fill my “dirty platty” (the name given by @hillplodder to the Platypus that contains filtered water) before we chose the steep bridleway that runs between the two cloughs, up the face of Howden Edge.
The climb was initially brutally steep and the 3kg of water I’d just added to my pack was a shock. But we took it slowly, looking back all the time to see the sun play across the hills behind. We were looking out all the time for any suitable camp spots, but other than a couple of marginal and extremely noisy spots beside the stream where I’d filled up, we found only tussocky grass and damp peat beds.
We continued to climb, hoping we’d come to some flat grass on the ridge at the top, but if anything the terrain got more bumpy and heather began to dominate the ground. We scouted along Howden Edge for a short distance but it was all heather and not suitable for anything other than an emergency camp – certainly not what we were looking for. We considered just walking until we found something, but in the end we both agreed to descend back to the valley and find the perfect spot lower down.
We looked in hollows and beside both Cranberry Clough and Bull Clough and dismissed them all. We eventually found ourselves back beside the bridge at Slippery Stones and considered camping there. It was a little too close to the path though, despite being nice and flat. I spotted a patch of green further up stream and we headed across to it. It was perfect! Flat, green, away from the path, secluded and with a bank behind us and the river Derwent to our front.
We pitched tents – we weren’t as high as we’d like to be, but this was the perfect campsite in every other sense. Chris has a new Hexpeak and despite doing a test pitch in his garden, he struggled manfully for about an hour with the supporting pole. It wouldn’t stay up, no matter what he did. Every time the pole was extended and the tent’s weight was placed on it, the stupid pole would slide shut. In the end he used tape and plasters from his medkit to keep it up.
The Hexpeak is a great tent (despite the pole) and with the inner nest dropped, we both sat inside and watched the sun set behind the hill ahead of us. It turned out that Chris had left both his evening meal and his breakfast in the car and all his coffee. So I had my breakfast as an evening meal and gave Chris my evening meal and as the night grew chill we zipped the front up and sat inside chatting and drinking bottomless cups of tea.
Unlike camps earlier in the year, the weather allowed for a much more sociable evening and it wasn’t until dark that I returned to my own tent and a lovely comfortable night. We were camped only a mile or so from the car and we’d hardly walked any distance at all, but this was probably my favourite MicroAdventure of them all so far. I’m looking forward to another seven!