Pennine Way: Epilogue

Published 10 February 2016

Crossing the water near Jacob’s Ladder

The car pulled up outside the Nags Head pub in Edale.

“Looks like a nice day for it,” said Catherine’s dad, nodding approvingly at the weather. “Wish we were coming with you.”

We grabbed the bags out of the car and waved goodbye as Mike and Julie drove back home.

“Ha! Look at that!” I laughed, pointing at the sign on the side of the pub. “It still says ‘The official start of the Pennine Wa’ after all these years.”

With its close proximity to Manchester and its surrounding towns, Edale has been a magnet for walkers for years. Thanks to its rail and road links, visiting the Peak District is an easy thing to do, and 8.8m people do so every year. A staggering amount compared to a residential population of 37,905.

Many of them come to walk. Some to do long distance paths like the Pennine Way, but far more come to complete day walks in the area. Over twenty times more people use the Pennine Way for day walks, than for long distance walks.

The official start of the Pennine ‘Wa’

We were back in Edale to do just that. Not for us – just yet anyway – a return visit to Kirk Yetholm, but a simple hike taking in the trail for several miles before heading off down Doctor’s Gate to the town of Glossop.

We were up north visiting family, waving our toddler at his doting grandparents for a week in October to make up for the fact that we’d be staying in London for Christmas. And with ample childcare at our disposal, we’d taken the opportunity to head out to the hills. Whilst we stood outside the Nags Head, our son could be found splashing merrily in the swimming pool with my mum and sister.

For the pair of us it was a chance to relax and unwind; to not think about the stresses and worries of the world. To not think – too much – about the fact that I’d just resigned from my job with nothing else lined up, that we needed a bigger house, or anything else like that. Just to be carefree for a few hours. To take a deep breath and load up the lungs with some of that beautiful clean air.

Looking down the Edale Valley from the Pennine Way

“I don’t remember any of this,” I commented as we left Edale through a wall lined track next to a stream.

“Don’t you?” replied Catherine, with a hint of surprise in her voice.

“Nope. Not at all,” I added, shaking my head to emphasise my lack of remembrance.

That some of our Pennine Way journey would not be remembered was, to be fair, inevitable. It is 267 miles long after all. Still, it was vaguely disappointing not to even remember what the first mile or so actually looked like.

I was on better ground though soon after as we headed up Jacob’s Ladder; the height providing a fine view back at Edale and the valley, beautifully lit by the autumn sun. Ah yes, this was coming back to me now.

Up on Kinder, something had changed though.

Kinder Scout’s gone green

“It’s all green!” Catherine said with surprise, looking at the mass of green shoots that were growing out of the peat bog.

You don’t generally expect to return to a fell some years later and find it looking completely different. In fact you rather take for granted that it’s pretty unlikely to have changed at all. Hills don’t generally change much.

But Kinder had, and rather noticeably too thanks to some recent conservation work. The National Trust, it turned out, had started a massive project to restore the ground. Drainage gullies would be blocked up and the bogs replanted with cotton grass. We were seeing the very early results of that work, which the National Trust planned would turn Kinder from the moonscape we’d originally walked over, back to the moorland it once was. It was a massive plan; one that would take 50 years to complete. In comparison, the fact that the Nags Head hadn’t changed their pub sign in a few years suddenly seemed rather irrelevant.

Lunch time began to approach and seeing a large group of rocks, we headed over to find a sheltered spot where we could munch sandwiches and cake away from the wind.

Kinder – it’s rockin’ up here

As we did two other walkers stood up and moved away. Clearly they’d had the same idea as us, but had now finished their refreshment break.

“Best be off then,” one of them said to us, as they picked up their bags. “See you in Kirk Yetholm!”

And with that, they headed off into the sun. Two more walkers heading for the Scottish border, with rucksacks on their back, ready to enjoy – or perhaps endure – everything the Pennine Way could throw at them.

Our story had ended. Theirs had just begun.

Strolling off into the distance…

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