Up Peak and Down Dale (the sequel to Reaching Peak Fitness)

After exploring on day one of our stay, I decided on a run rather than bike ride for day 2.  The commuter bike is OK but not up to any off-roading and I wanted to get closer to the country side.  So I pulled on my old trainers and set off for my first run in my new running tights and gloves.

Leaving our cottage at Hulme End I headed straight up hill over the Manifold River and swung a left to run along a small lane parallel to the camping and caravan site.  I was stunned to see some hardy campers getting ready for a days trekking in the wet and blustery conditions.  But probably only as stunned as they were to see a bloke in fluorescent yellow gloves and jacket run past them for fun!

The lane was about a mile long and came out on a small cross roads.  With no particular plan for my run I decided to follow the signs for Beresford Dale, and after a another mile or so the lane came to an end as it was met by another fast flowing river.DSC_0127

So far I had been running on Tarmac and had managed to avoid any of the bigger puddles beginning to accumulate as the rain water ran off the surrounding fields.  Now though, the terrain changed as I headed along a trail next to the river.

The landscape changed from fields and hills in to something resembling a rain forest.  It was stunning.  Heavy rainfall had boosted the river and it was roaring along its path as I ran past a couple of Dippers.  These beautiful birds are generally pretty scarce but can be found around several of the rivers in the area.

Flanked by rocky cliff faces on both sides, the sounds of the river was impressive and after stopping for a few pictures on a bridge, I continued along the path.

Eventually I emerged over a stone wall on to a footpath across the dales.  Out in the open once more I realised how heavy the rain had become and the uneven grassy surface was quickly becoming treacherously waterlogged.

Continuing at a slower pace with unsteady footing I followed the path up hill and down dale before passing through a muddy gateway.  This is where the elastic laces of my old tri-trainers were found wanting.  Having selected a slightly less muddy route through the gate I did my best to skip through the mud and find some more solid ground.  But failed dismally when the mud sucked the trainer right off of my left foot!photo

Unable to immediately convert my running action to a hopping action meant my foot went in to the mud and my sock was instantly saturated.  So I decided to take a photo to capture the moment, figuring that I was wet anyway!

Slipping my trainer on over the muddy sock, I reached the end of the cross country section of my run and arrived in Hartington.  A final couple of kilometres along the slightly busier road got me back to my cottage safe and sound where the process of drying out and warming up began with a cuppa in front of the fire.

I loved the unpredictable cross-country run and will be doing more of it as I train through the winter.  But I’ll be hard pushed to find anywhere as spectacular until I go back to the Peaks.

Reaching Peak Fitness in Derbyshire

Soz, that’s a complete pun.

Since the 10k race a couple of weeks ago I’ve barely trained.  My Achilles has been aching since the race and work & studying has been mental.  So I’m nowhere near peak fitness. But I’ve had a cracking few days in the Peak District where I’ve managed to get training again.

A view of the Manifold Trail

A view of the Manifold Trail

Staying in a cottage at Hulme End on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border has provided a stunning location for getting out on the roads and trails.  Every first morning needs a scouting mission.  So heading out on my old commuter hybrid bike (now with the bike seat bracket attached) I set off down the Manifold Trail.

The trail runs down the side of the Manifold river so it’s fast and flat but surrounded with stunning scenery. After a mile in the open, the river drops down whilst the trail stays high and the hillside provides shelter from the outside world. The leaf covered path winds parallel to the river, passes under an old railway tunnel and over the occasional tributary whilst constantly flanked by sheep grazing on steep hills.

After 4 brisk miles my scouting destination arrives in to view. Thors Cave looms directly in front of the path, 75 metres up in the rocky hillside on the opposite bank of the river.  It’s an impressive sight, by no means the only cave overlooking the trail, but the only one with some kind of path to aid the ascent.  Pretty quickly I was able to tell that this was going to be a great destination for the kids and a good target for my eldest to ride to on her own.

Me and Thor's Cave

Me and Thor’s Cave

The return journey is moderately more challenging than the outward leg with a slight incline most of the way.  Passing just a few other casual cyclists and the odd dog walker, the ride takes no time at all.

That is a different story when we do the ride with the girls the next day. The round trip takes us two hours.  But this time the adventure included a walk up to Thors Cave, a celebratory photo shoot to mark the achievement of a 2 & 6 year old both scaling the rocky path unassisted, and a game of eye-spy all the way back!!