Two years ago in Britain we had one of the most severe winters since records began. This year 2012-13 has also been severe but only in parts of the country and for a relatively short time. I’m not much of a winter hiker because for me the novelty of snow wore off some time ago. It’s stunning when you first see the hills clad in white and for a few years I looked forward to winter for its special attractions. Most memorable was when I walked the Newlands Round in the Lake District, returning in the dark but fortunately with some moonlight. I had no head torch because the day wasn’t planned as such; I’d been so excited by the views I was pulled on to complete the walk like it was a magnet. My initial idea was a quick stroll around Maiden moor and then back down.
I did however want to see the hills in winter this year, so took a drive into the Peak District and went to Lyme Park several times where I walked. Lyme Park is a National Trust property with a tourist stately home ideal for a period drama. It has in fact been used for filming. I prefer the back of the park where it borders onto the Peak District.
The drive I show in this video takes place near the Goyt Valley which is a delightful area for a day trip. I’ve never lingered in the Peak District more than a day because I can get there and back quite comfortably so it feels too close to home, and correspondingly unexciting. A walking trip is partly going somewhere, and partly getting away, and it’s not sufficiently away for me.
I got some photographs from my winter trips, some of them very pleasing, and a sizeable amount of video. The Peak District is not Scotland, Wales or the Lake District which have steep roads, big hills, and more drama. I recall former visits where I spent evenings in a bar – at Rosthwaite in Borrowdale for example – and felt part of the community as people came in with tales of the roads, the hardship, and concern for the next day. One bar in particular has a wonderful roaring fire and we all warmed ourselves against it. The road over to Buttermere from Borrowdale is very steep and in a hard winter it’s closed to traffic. Locals at Eskdale were complaining one year about the Hardknott and Wrynose Pass which were also closed – because apparently the ice section was quite small and could easily be dealt with using shovels and salt. This is not – incidentally – any recommendation to ignore the warnings.
I’ve also driven around the Peak District before when the roads were icy and it’s very stressful and alarming. On this occasion there was no ice, but there was a great deal of snow. My above video shows the Peak District in a snowy winter and what you can expect. I enjoyed my drive, stopped a few times for photographs, and then reached a point where it was too risky to proceed any further.
In less arctic conditions and with a little sunlight winter here looks like this. Such dark skies, with illumined land or snow, makes for another kind of drama and beauty: