On the 29th of May, the first Outdoor Bloggers week-end took place. I’d signed up for it eager to do more walking and spend time with like-minded people. I am too often surrounded by people who think I must be mad hiking the Vanguard Way and wild camping on my own, so I was looking forward chatting with people who also love the outdoors and wouldn’t think it odd that I like this sort of things.
Train ticket booked, I departed from London early that Friday, hoping that the weather would hold. But as I stepped out of the train in Edale, the grey clouds were suspiciously low in the sky. It wasn’t raining though and I hoped I would get lucky and stay dry until I reached the campsite – my rain gear is old and although effective, it isn’t the most practical. It wasn’t to be as heavy rain began to fall when I made my way out of the village. I waited for it to stop under the broad leaves of a tree. It did after a few minutes and I moved away to join a deserted country lane to the campsite. The rain kept coming and going in drizzle and didn’t bother me much.
I set up camp in an interval of sun before retreating under the tent to read for a while. I had brought with me H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald and was eager to pick up where I’d left off in the train. Time passed as I lost myself in Helen’s and T.H. White’s struggle to train goshawks and come to term with grief.
Eventually, as the rain clouds moved away over the hills, I stepped out to scout for anyone that was to take part in the Outdoor Bloggers week-end. As luck would have it, Zoe and Jenni had both arrived and pitched their tents. We introduced ourselves and quickly decided to go for a walk as nobody else was expected to turn up that day. We strolled along the bottom of hills, crossed brooks, shared fields with sheep and found a National Trust bothy type refuge and two adorable puppies.
The walk was gentle but opened our appetite and we opted for the warmth of The Nags Head – the official start/end of the Pennine Way – rather than the grey sky of the campsite. We chatted some more about this and that, ate good food, and finally trod back to our tents for the night. I found sleep easily as silence fell around me and only emerged once into semi-wakefulness as rain lapped on my tent.
After a hearty breakfast I met up with Zoe and Jenni who were by then ready. Mark had arrived and was setting up camp. We got introduced and as soon as he was pitched up we headed towards Edale to begin our hiking route.
The walk began pleasantly along a paved trail in a field. It felt like we were in a well-maintained country park until we reached the rocky climb to the moorland. It had been a long time since I had to ascent anything other than a stile or a fence, and at first I could feel my old fear of falling surge into me. It didn’t help that my boots were fairly new and untested in this kind of terrain, but I remembered my bouldering lessons and applied the same rules as I scrambled up the rocks and began to thoroughly enjoy the trek. Our effort were rewarded by a wide view of Edale, its valley and the peaks beyond.
We then headed in the wrong direction for a short period of time and it took our conjugated effort at looking at maps and phones before we got back on the right path. For a while we went on, chatting away and getting to know one another a little better until the trail disappeared. In front of us, the moors expanded onto the horizon. We paused and assessed the land. It didn’t look too bad and we knew the path we needed to take couldn’t be far off. So we decided to chance it, cross the moorland to rejoin our circuit rather than take the long route around.
We walked on for a few minutes confident in our decision before it became clear that we had gotten lost, again. Mark took his phone out boosting my confidence that we really weren’t far away and that soon we would leave the wet moors for firmer grounds and we wouldn’t have to think so much about where to place our feet. Besides there were other people in the distance that appeared to be on the path we were on the look out for. We pushed on. The terrain was getting worse and worse and what started as a jolly adventure was turning into a tricky situation. I sank knee-deep into the bog twice and was increasingly worried that we would be in it for a while. The group we had seen across the moors now seemed lost as they hiked in our direction. But there was no other options than to go on. A path had to be there, somewhere, – I had abandoned hope of finding our original one – and we would eventually stumble upon it.
The group that had built up my belief in the short-cut met up with us, confirming our suspicion that they weren’t any better off than us. We muddled on together until we reached a seemingly uncrossable stream. Some were brave enough to jump it, other balanced along a thin strip of metal that acted as a dam and I remained behind. I had sank twice in the bog and didn’t fancy my chances a third time. I was relieved when I saw that Jenni had made the same decision, preferring to look for an alternative crossing. We went on carefully, trying not to lose sight of Zoe and Mark who were dipping below hills too often to my liking, and we eventually found logs to cross on. I took a breath as we reached the other side but didn’t dare relax fully just yet. I still couldn’t see a path. We headed towards Mark and Zoe who to my greatest relief had found a path. Our struggle was over. I felt my body loosened and as Jenni asked if we fancied lunch, I readily agreed.
Replenished and on solid ground, we departed for the second half of the day. From here on the terrain stayed hard under our boots and it was a pleasure to meander along the stream that was leading us to Kinder Downfall. There the water plunged into the void to the valley below, and far away in front of us lay the city of Manchester. I had heard all sort of things about Manchester since arriving in the UK five years ago but I had never laid eyes upon it. Seen from this distance it looked small and uninviting. I was better off on the rocks of Kinder Downfall. I sat down, tilted my head back, closed my eyes and enjoyed the sun and wind on my face.
After some sweets, we took to the trail once more. Our loop wasn’t over yet but I was confident that the moors were behind us as we joined the Pennine Way and more and more people appeared. It was strange to be in the company of so many other walkers. I am still unused to how much British people enjoy a good stroll. I cannot remember paths being so populated in France – or maybe I have always explored out-of-the-way regions. It was nice to be able to relax and chat with fellow bloggers about our lives, our blogs and everything else in between but I missed the solitude of the moors that for a fleeting moment had made me believe this land was ours to explore.
We reached Jacobs Ladder and made our descent along the paved steep hill. We stopped at the bottom by a bridge, resisting the temptation to dip our feet in the water. We still had some way to go. So we got up and went on, but were soon stopped by the appeal of cake and tea. We settled in the front garden of a makeshift tea shop and ate a delicious ginger cake before the last few miles to Edale where we settled in the pub for a pint of cider. It took some effort to get off the seats and back to the campsite but we eventually made it and promptly settled around a warm fire for some food and a mug of wine before retiring for the night.
Sleep was easy in spite of the growing wind and rain. The following morning we said our goodbye to Mark who had to leave early and briefly considered another hike but decided against it as the wind was reaching gale force. Instead we packed our tents, helped by three reindeer, and headed for the pub one last time. We enjoyed a warm meal and said our final goodbyes as Zoe and Jenni drove away while I took the train to Manchester for a connection to London.
As I reached home, I felt like the week-end had gone too soon. I had had a fantastic time with Zoe, Jenni and Mark. I am new to walking as I have only recently gotten off the bike saddle to explore the UK on foot but I was very welcome in our small group. So even if hiking is not particularly your thing and you prefer to enjoy the outdoors in other ways, be sure to check out the Outdoor Bloggers network. It’s a great opportunity to meet like-minded people, discover new places, new activities and make some friends along the way.