High Peak Way Stage 2: Edale to Hope

Published 20 May 2018

A weathered wooden signpost pointing to Mam Tor

A weathered sign points the way to Mam Tor

For thirty miles between Chinley and Grindleford, the High Peak Way took in some of the finest scenery in the Dark Peak. It was created as a ‘challenge walk’ for those who find pleasure in walking insane distances in one day, but it also makes a fine multi-day walk for those wanting to explore the Peak District National Park. It also no longer seems to exist. The one and only reference to it online was in the Long Distance Walkers Association Website, and now it’s been removed. But it was listed when I decided to start walking it, so that’s good enough for me.

From Edale, the High Peak Way climbs to one of the area’s best known hills, Mam Tor. From there it follows the ridge to Hollins Cross, and then Lose Hill before ducking down to the village of Hope. The ridge even has a name. The Great Ridge.

The route is easily described as a classic. Or maybe even, great. The route forms part of many a popular walk in the area. Some start at Edale as the High Peak Way does. Others do a circular walk starting at either Castleton or the Mam Tor car park). And then there’s the Edale Skyline route beloved by many fell runners.

Whatever way you do it, it offers great views, both to the north and the south. There’s the stunning scenery of the Edale Moors, and the Hope Valley. Oh and the Hope Cement Works. You can see the Dark Peak and the White Peak. And the trains scuttling along on the railway line that runs along the valley floor.

Yes, the ridge is it’s a classic all right. And one I’ve visited several times. I walked it solo as a circular walk in March 2017. And I did most of it on a Saturday in June 2006 with a big group of friends whilst most of the country watched England play football against Paraguay. And there was that time in the snow in January 2015 with my partner Catherine.

But here’s the thing. I’ve never done the full walk all the way from Mam Tor on one side to Lose Hill on the other in one go. On each of my previous walks I’d only done a bit of it. In June 2006 we walked from Hope to Lose Hill and Hollins Cross. But after that we ducked down into Edale. Mam Tor got missed. In January 2015 we started at the Mam Tor car park, along to Hollins Cross and then down to Castleton. Lose Hill didn’t get a mention at all. And for my walk in March 2017, I walked up to Hollins Cross from Castleton, before heading to Lose Hill and then Hope.

Surely I’d made a mistake, I thought. I can’t have gone all these years without doing the full thing? But no, I really hadn’t.

It was time to rectify the issue.

A gate with Peak District hills behind it

A gate on the ascent of Mam Tor provides an excellent view back across the Edale valley

A stinking cold and a rail replacement bus service are a combination that will rarely put you in a positive frame of mind. But it’s hard to stand in Edale when the sun is shining bright, and remain in a bad mood. How could anyone remain grumpy when surrounded by all that glorious scenery? It’s not possible, I’m sure. With a hop, skip and a jump, I retraced my footsteps back to the High Peak Way, and was soon on my way up to Mam Tor.

Mam Tor has to be one of the Peak District’s best known hills. It’s certainly one of the most accessible. The road to Edale goes over it, and there’s a car park a short distance from the summit. It even has a bus stop. Mind you, it was in 2011 that it was last served by a bus.

It’s accessibility means it’s a busy hill. Parents come with young children. There’s people out for an hour or twos walk before popping to the pub. Add them to the day walkers, fell runners, cyclists and the occasional paraglider.

Walkers stand near the Mam Tor trig point, with a paraglider viewable in the background

Walkers - and others - congregate at the top of Mam Tor.

So, with crowds ahead of me, I revelled in the peace and quiet of the ascent route I was following. Enjoying the fact that there were few people around. Instead of the chatter of walkers, I could enjoy the chirping of birds whose jolly tweeting filled the air.

Of course, it wouldn’t last for ever. The climb to the top of Mam Tor from Edale is not long. Soon I was at the top, where there was a queue of people waiting to do selfies at the trig-point. Those not waiting were stretched out on the grass, leaving little of it free.

The more dedicated walkers were walking along the ridge. I joined the convoy as it made its way to Hollins Cross, until spotting a convenient spot to eat an early lunch. A spot that had a great view of another of Mam Tor’s features: the abandoned New Road.

View of the Mam Tor New Road from Mam Tor

In the distance, the snaking New Road - abandoned in the 1970s.

Built in 1819, the New Road replaced an ancient Winnats Pass packhorse route. Even back in the early 19th century, the Winnats Pass route had its failings. It had a steep gradient and was rather narrow. The New Road offered an easier experience. It had just one problem. It crossed the Mam Tor landslide.

The weak ground conditions caused major road works at regular intervals. Problems in 1966 resulted in a closure lasting six weeks. Then in 1974, large parts of the road collapsed during a huge landslide. Again the road was rebuilt, but later abandoned after even more landslides the New Road. Traffic was re-routed through the Winnats Pass, and in 1979 the New Road was left to rot.

Although cars are band, those on foot can still use the New Road. It’s a popular route to use when coming from Castleton. And Viewed from afar it’s a strange looking thing. The tarmac’s still there, all warped and broken. The landslip has given the New Road a sense of artistic beauty. A curious addition to a scenic landscape.

A steady stream of walkers walk along the Great Ridge to Hollins Cross

A steady stream of walkers walk along the Great Ridge to Hollins Cross

Mam Tor gave way to Hollins Cross. Not a high point of the ridge walk. Literally. It’s actually the lowest point on the Great Ridge. The name comes from a cross that sat on the top of the hill, although it had disappeared by 1905. Now there is a monument to walker Tom Hyett, installed in 1964 by his friends in the Long Eaton and District Group of the Ramblers Association.

Then there is the round nobble that is Back Tor. All rocky and scree filled. And from there it was to Lose Hill, at the end of the ridge.

Of course, the views were excellent. The brooding, heather-filled moorland of the Dark Peak lay to my left. Lush green farmland to my right. Oh and the Hope Cement Works. Let’s not forget that either. How can we not? It’s the largest cement works in the UK and is a large employer in the area. It might feel a little incongruous a national park, but the works pre-date the National Park’s creation by twenty two years.

Back Tor and Lose Hill

Back Tor and Lose Hill on the Great Ridge

The further away I got from Mam Tor, the fewer people there were on the ridge. Many peeled off on the paths towards Castleton. Others headed downhill to Edale, and the valley floor. That’s not to say Lose Hill was deserted though. There were still a sizeable number of people there when I reached its summit. Just that it was quieter.

There were the groups of teenagers with their oversized rucksacks and sleeping matts. A large group of middle aged walkers with a dazzling array of Gore-tex based clothing. And a woman sat alone on the hillside reading a book on her Kindle.

The ridge path heading to Lose Hill

Lose Hill - the end of the Great Ridge

Lose Hill was the end of the ridge. And all that remained for me was the two mile walk down to Hope. A wide, grassy path led the way and I sauntered down making the most of the views whilst I could. For soon the people people return. This time not on a hill top, but in the pubs and cafes of Hope village. On a fine day like this, they’d no doubt be heaving with hikers and cyclists toasting a great day outdoors.

How many of them would have walked a classic walk that day, I wondered as I joined the crowds at the Old Hall Hotel. It seemed inconceivable I was the only one. But then, it wouldn’t be a classic walk if no one else did it, would it?

Next time: Losers become winners as I visit Win Hill and Ladybower Reservoir.

Win Hill, seen from Lose Hill

Win Hill, seen from Lose Hill

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