An amazing trip, this was the busiest Ben Lairig outing in living memory (although some of us have pretty bad memories … this may explain anything that follows, which doesn’t tie up with what really happened), with over thirty people sign up. More amazingly, everyone turned up on time for the coach to leave at 9.00 on Saturday morning. (Yes, weekends do start that early!)
The day did not get off to a promising start, as we left behind us thick, black clouds in York and headed south into thicker, blacker clouds that promptly started to rain on us. Events then took another turn for the worse when the coach driver generously decided to give us a tour of half the pit villages in South Yorkshire instead of going the quickest way.
Eventually we got to Hope (although we had little left by this stage), where we were dropping the first group of walkers. We decided thirty people was a few too many to walk together in one group, so we split into three divisions. Those from Hope were the slower walkers and those without decent boots, ably led by Phil, who had a more gentle stroll over Mam Tor to join us in Edale.
As we headed on, down the only passable road to Edale, we found a small difficulty, in the form of a very narrow bridge, with tight corners on either side. We were in a 50-seater coach. Five minutes later, we were on our way again, and shortly arrived in Edale. Again, we split up, with half of us (from now on called the “sensible group”) following Ben G and Roger around the edge of Kinder Scout, and the others (from now on called the “maniacs”) following Dan up the north side of the valley, back down and across the south side.
[The narrative will now follow the trek of the Sensible Group, because wonderful as I may be, I can’t be in three places at once and no-one else has volunteered to write up their side of the story.]
It was midday when we finally got moving, walking up through Edale village, casting desirous glances at the pub as we passed (No! It can wait til later, it will still be there when we get back!), as the lowering clouds gathered themselves over the hills ahead. Mercifully, it was not raining (yet!). We quickly struck off the road, up a well-established footpath towards Ringing Roger; an interesting outcrop offering the first scrambling opportunities of the walk.
Having nearly reached the top, we carried on round the edge of the moor, and almost immediately came across The Maniacs going in the opposite direction, having come up a different path from the valley floor. Continuing on the paved path (where’s our sense of adventure gone?), it was soon time for lunch (the second most important time on any walker’s itinerary), and we all huddled behind one rock out of the wind.
By this stage, we were walking through the clouds; the air was cold and damp, the wind was chilling, and the view was invisible. This explains the dearth of photos of the walk! Before long, the path had petered out, and we were in Bog Country! Ben and Roger’s eyes lit up as they led us into the middle of the bogs, to sample the delights of Bog Jumping.
A word or two of explanation might be useful at this point, for those of you not fortunate enough to have experienced the bogs for yourselves. On Edale Moor, there are large areas of peat that, while solid enough in themselves, are crossed by large numbers of gullies, from a few feet deep to twenty, and similarly wide. Bog jumping involves launching yourself from one side of such a gully, flying gracefully through the air, thudding into the peaty gully wall then scrabbling up the side, taking care to get yourself as muddy as possible. The airborne figures were best described as “like flying squirrels” by someone or other (probably Arran, but you remember what I said about my memory earlier?). Bog jumping is a favourite sport of most seasoned Ben Lairigers (did I say the other group were the maniacs? I may have to change that…), but fortunately with only two of those in our group, the attraction quickly wore off, and we struck off to find our way back to the path.
As the afternoon wore on, we found ourselves at the top of Crowden Brook, and ready to head back down to the pub. (Earlier, I said lunch was the second most important time for any walker. The pub is the most important). Ben assured the rest of us that there was a footpath running down the side of the brook, although we remained sceptical, and insisted he led the way! Half-way down, we continued to remain sceptical, as the path disappeared through rocks that we had to clamber precariously over; where one missed foothold could send us plummeting twenty feet into the icy waters below.
We stoically ploughed on, and finally come to an actual path, one that you could walk along without needing to hold on, and miraculously everyone cheered up a bit (this might have something to do with our growing proximity to the aforementioned pub), then as we neared the valley floor, the path turned sharply uphill – much to the disgust of several among us! It wasn’t too long an uphill, and after a brief diversion to chase the sheep (no, I don’t know why either), we were soon in the very welcoming and warm pub. And we were not the only ones.
Soon the time came when we had to be back on the coach, so reluctantly we left the pub and returned to the awaiting transport. That is, the Allegedly Sensible group (minus Roger and Ben, who were still drinking) and Phil’s group from the short walk went back and arrived at the coach a few minutes before 5.30, the time we were due to leave. Twenty minutes later, the Maniacs arrived back, and ten minutes after that, we had to send a search party back to the pub to rescue Roger and Ben).
And that was it, really. We took a more direct route back, and despite two toilet stops in the first 25 miles for the alcoholics in the group, we arrived back in under two hours, went back to our various homes and collapsed in front of our respective tellies.