Hope Valley Way: An Introduction

Published 15 April 2018

Peak and Northern Footpath Society signpost near Cracken Edge

The distinctive green signposts of the Peak and Northern Footpath Society - many of which can be found on the High Peak Way

For thirty miles between Chinley and Grindleford, the High Peak Way takes 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.

Pride of place of the Long Distance Walkers Association website is a searchable database of 1,600 UK walking routes. Those 1,600 routes traverse more than 89,000 miles. To put that in to some sort of scale, the distance (by road) between Land’s End and John o’Groats is 874 miles. If you walked 15 miles a day non-stop, it would take you over 16 years to walk every walk in that database. Should you ever feel that way inclined.

The database contains all sorts of routes. There’s official long distance routes like the West Highland Way, and Pembrokeshire Coast Path. There’s smaller routes created by the Ramblers Association, local councils, or ones created for a guide book. Some are famouslike the Dales Way or the Thames Path. Others are obscure, barely known even in their own area. But they’re all there in the database, ready to be found. Each entry has links to official websites, details of guidebooks, and a scrollable map of the route.

I love looking through the database. It’s a glorious compendium of possibilities. It’s far too easy to get lost in the world of walks, wondering where you might go next.

It was on one such day of dreaming that I saw it. The High Peak Way. A thirty mile walk from Chinley to Grindleford in the Peak District.

It was a bit of an enigma. There was next to no information about it. Just a map and the details of where you could get a certificate and badge if you completed it. Although a note stated the map and badge were no longer available. And that was it. No information explaining why the route was created, and why, or by whom. Nothing at all.

The only additional information the database entry gave was that the High Peak Way was classed as an “Anytime Challenge”. This is a special category in the LDWA’s database. They are generally virtual” trails, designed to be done in one day. Yes, if you’re mad enough to want to walk thirty odd miles at once, the LDWA have got you covered.

Cairns surrounded by snow on Cracken Edge

Mysterious cairns on Cracken Edge

I’m not that mad. For me, walking should be pleasurable with time to take in the views. Route marches that leave you with nothing but sore feat and aching legs are not on my agenda. But there was something about the route the Hope Valley Way’s followed that appealed to me. It was a bit like a Dark Peak highlights tour, taking in several of the area’s finest hills, with some classic views. There was a railway station at each end, and two in the middle as well. Split over a couple of days, it would make a rather pleasant stroll through the Peak District at any time of year.

And so it was settled. I would walk the High Peak Way. A few days later I headed to my local railway station and boarded the train to the start of the trail at Chinley.

Some weeks after I started walking the High Peak Way, it got even more enigmatic. For as I was writing up my tales of walking it, the walk completely disappeared from the Long Distance Walkers Association’s database. Just like that, it was no more. There it was, gone.

Why? I don’t know. I haven’t asked. To not know seems more fitting really. It did leave me with a bit of a quandary. An existential crisis as it were. For the rules of this site say that the trails I cover should be listed in the Long Distance Walkers Association’s website. If it was a walk no more, should I be writing about it?

In the end I decided that yes, it was fine. For starters the High Peak Way had been listed when I started walking its route. And also because I’d already written about 3,000 words on it before I found out. Plus it is a good walk, and you should do it yourselves. Maybe, just maybe, the fact that the High Peak Way is covered here will be justification enough for it to be re-included in the LDWA’s website. Although perhaps it would be better not. A special secret between you and me? More in keeping of the thing, really.

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