White to Dark – Introduction

Published 1 September 2019

A rather battered White to Dark waymark sign near Bakewell

Created to celebrate 25 years of Country Walking Magazine, the White to Dark is a 27 mile walking trail through the Peak District. And if you haven’t done it, you really should? And not just because of cakes.

Four buses, and two hours of travelling later, and I stood at the heart of the Derbyshire town of Bakewell. The heart appearing to be a large roundabout full of buses stopping at different bus stops.

I looked at my map and wondered which of the many streets that spread off from the centre I needed to follow. The one the bus had used to enter the town? The one that itself forked off in multiple directions? Or the one with the “Bakewell Tart and Coffee Shop” on it?

Surely that couldn’t even be a thing here? I’d heard the tales. Ask for a Bakewell Tart in this town and you’d be chased out of town by a mob with flaming torches, whilst the crowds shout “They’re not Bakewell Tarts! They’re Bakewell Puddings!” And anyone who dared to put icing and a glacé cherry on top would be strung up from the lampposts.

But there it was. Someone had had the audacity to open up a shop with the words “Bakewell Tart” in the name. Yeah, okay. It was no doubt for the tourists. After all, no true local would go near the place. Would they?

I picked a road to go down almost at random. Then realised I’d gone the wrong way, and that actually I needed a different one. The one with one of the two shops who contend to have the original Bakewell Pudding recipe. That would be the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, with its huge gift shop and attached cafe. Down I strode towards the River Wye, past the side street containing the other contender, Bloomers of Bakewell. There was a pasty shop near Bloomers. Boy, did this town love its baked goods.

I was looking for the main car park, on a road next to the river. For it’s here that the White to Dark sets off for a 27 mile walk through the Peak District.

The concept of the White to Dark is pretty simple.

See the Peak District consists of two pretty much two different halves. In the south is the White Peak. And in the north is the Dark Peak.

A path that runs through a stream
You could walk through the stream. Or you could go over the nearby bridge. It’s up to you.

Note the lack of consistency there in naming there. Any sensible person would have called them the White Peak and Black Peak. Or Light and Dark. But we are where we are. And let’s not even go down the road of people who call the Dark Peak the High Peak.

The two are quite different. The White Peak’s all limestone gorges, millstone grit, drystone walls, and fields full of grazing cows and sheep. The Dark’s all brooding moorland, full of heather and peat bogs.
And the White to Dark goes the two. A walking trail that starts in Bakewell in the White Peak, and ends in Hope in the Dark Peak. And it was a birthday present from Country Walking magazine to the world. A walking trail created to celebrate the magazine’s 25th birthday. As they put it in their May 2012 edition when they unveiled the route:

The idea is simple: a 25-mile trail (a mile for each year of CW) threading together the best of Britain’s most popular national park, easy to reach and perfect for a long weekend.

Country Walking magazine, May 2012 edition

Good goal. One mile per year. A 25 mile trail. Except the trail is actually 27 miles. As they make quite clear during the rest of the article.

Needless nitpicking aside, they go on:

But the White to Dark is not just a walk, it’s a journey. We wanted this to be an adventure through the landscapes that make the Peak District unique: limestone dales and wildflower meadows, frothing woodlands and heather moors, vast reservoirs and tiny streams, gritstone edges and rocky hilltops. It’s the first walking trail to link together the White Peak and the Dark Peak (hence the name), via everything in between.

Country Walking magazine, May 2012 edition

I wasn’t sure what a frothing woodland was, but it all sounded good. Although, obviously, they should have called it the White to High.

A chimney and some buildings that were Ladywash Mine
Ladywash Mine was a mixed ore mine, that finally closed in 1979. Some of the buildings – like this chimney – still remain.

But anyway, walking it would give me a chance to explore parts of the Peak District that I didn’t really know. And see some classics that I did. I thought I would love it. Well, that was something Country Walking promised me in their article:

You’ll visit places you know and places you’ve never heard of. And we think you’ll love it.

Country Walking magazine, May 2012 edition

I would, however, be doing it a little different to what the good people of Country Walking magazine intended. Whilst they’d planned it as a perfect walk for a long weekend, I would be doing it in day hikes. Bakewell sat only 25 miles from my house. The terminus at Hope at the other end, a mere half hour train ride from my local railway station. And with regular buses serving some of the villages between, it was a no-brainer. I could do it over a variety of weekends, and go home for tea at the end.

Yep, it sounded like a plan all right.

Next time: I set forth from Bakewell, see an old railway line, go through a classic Peak District dale, and get rather wet.

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