Saturday saw me revisit a familiar haunt but with a twist; instead of wandering lonely as a cloud I met with Gareth and Cath Jones who I'd not met before. In fact I think I've only spoken to Gareth once or twice before with an exchange of emails about doing some reviews for his Webtogs site. Cath's family live in Derbyshire though and they had come up from Dorset to visit her family. Gareth had lined up a couple of walks and I was pleased and a little nervous to be asked if I wanted to go for a walk with them.
The day arrived and the weather was grey, wet and windy. Indeed, it could have been described as miserable, but the great company seemed to sweep the weather away.
We met in the NT car park and donned waterproofs (well Gareth had a pair of softshell trousers on). I gave each of them a cut down print out of the walk; I had decided on the route, not really knowing how well Gareth knew Derbyshire and at that point not really knowing that Cath was at least as local as I am! I like to know where I'm walking and hate following a path of someone else's designation with no idea of where I am (plus there's the safety aspect of it all).
We walked through a patch of woodland and crossed the main road out onto the hills. Across the valley the top of Carl Wark was just about visible so I showed off my limited knowledge of archaeology with the different theories academics and lay archaeologists have come up with about this mysterious site. It looked even more mysterious than usual with the cloud hanging so low and through the walk I kept having a feeling of walking though a Jurassic Park set.
It was lovely to walk with Gareth and Cath though and the conversation flowed easily, talking about what different people get out of being on the hill and inevitably the gear too. It looked like there was a proliferation of Mountain Equipment lovers; right from the off in fact as each of us had at least one ME item on, and we passed a couple of runners (or maybe they passed us?) who were wearing ME jackets too.
Reaching the top of the gritstone edge we peered out into milk of magnesia nothingness as the clouds moved in. As me and Cath nattered, Gareth did a great job of navigating the boggy rivulets so all we had to do was just follow him as we talked! It's interesting to meet other hill and outdoor lovers and to find commonalities - and differences - in outlook and experience. The time just seemed to fly by and soon we were at the mid point where we had a choice to return via a low level path or circuit the other rim of the valley but in the cloud. Various factors helped point the way to the lower level option and I thought it might be interesting to see the edges we'd walked from underneath. With the weather beating down a bit we weren't to see any climbers or people practising bouldering techniques but we did pass three or four groups of people who had taken disabled people in wheelchairs outdoors. Almost everyone seemed to be smiling, despite the 'miserable' weather and of course I had to point out the blindingly obvious of "It's a bit damp isn't it!" to one of the guys' gentle derision!
Cath's boots were squelching well by now, and the rain was pretty relentless and though we were all smiles we decided on tea and scones in the NT cafe. We all started disrobing ourselves of our waterproof layers, dripping onto the floor. We were all a bit damp; Cath had a bit of a wet bum and Gareth made me laugh when he wrung his gloves out "I didn't realise they were so wet", he said as there was a waterfall streaming for a few seconds from his hands! I had two pools of water in my chest pockets (one from some lichen we'd picked up) and my arms had wetted out completely. I had mentioned earlier that I always bring my brew kit along so proceeded to get the Caldera Cone out and assembled it on the table in front of us all and in between mouthfuls of scone (with strawberry jam and cream) tried to demonstrate how it worked - without lighting it of course!
Three hours had seemed to flash by in less than half that and reluctantly we reclothed ourselves before venturing back out into the rain and back towards the cars with talk of doing this again. Despite having had a months worth of rain in the two days over the weekend, I think we all had a lot of fun and it reminded me how nice it is to share places with people, to hear about their lives and their stories. In fact hearing about Cath and Gareth's pond dipping with their boys in Padley Gorge I am hoping to be invited along in the summer some time!