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After what seems like a short, busy week, and before another hectic weekend starts – this time with the girls – I thought I’d better put pen to paper so to speak and say something about last weekend…and what a great weekend it was too! [Warning: this is going to be a long one!]

A couple of months ago now I think it was, I booked a long weekend in Castleton for Shelli and I. What with weekends where we didn’t see each other (Shelli going to Nottingham with her mum and me visiting Lee in Newcastle) it had felt like a long time since we spent some quality time together, chilling out and having fun so we’d been looking forward to this time together for quite a few weeks.

I guess you may be wondering why I/we chose Castleton of all places? Simply put, it was a place I stopped in for a pint and a spot of lunch on my walk up the country and I’d added it to the places to re-visit some time, not just for the fact that it was a lovely little place but also because it was in the middle of some very beautiful countryside, i.e. the Peak District, a place I fell in love with the moment I came down the pass past Peveril Castle on my way to Edale and the start of the Pennine Way.

So, Friday morning after walking Asri and Eleni (Shelli’s girls) to school/pre-school we got the car loaded and hit the road up to the Peak District. Whilst heading up the M40 I was convinced I’d left something behind, something that wouldn’t normally have been a problem as, well, you can always replace what ever it is when you get to where you’re going. This time though it wouldn’t be so easy as there’s not exactly much by the way of shopping in Castleton.

As it goes, it wasn’t me who’d forgotten something but Shelli – her tops to wear during the evenings, they were still hanging up in her bedroom…doh! Trying desperately not to get the weekend off to a bad, stressful start, I concocted a plan whereby we’d head to Buxton to get some new tops – I’d been there before so I knew the high street shops would more than likely meet the requirement – get some lunch and then do the short drive to Castleton ready for check-in time. Plan hatched we carried on our merry way, no stress, no arguments – lovely!

Buxton came up trumps and it didn’t take too long for Shelli to find a couple of new tops. I managed to get a new walking scarf, well two actually as they were buy-one-get-one-free, which was an added bonus. We had lunch in Costa before heading through the lanes to our intended destination.

Now, this final part of the journey should have been full of stunning views, rolling hills and picturesque little villages but the weather was having a different idea on that as the fog pretty much covered everything! It was a real shame as the road in to Castleton wound its way down through a deep ravine but this was almost invisible. Shame.

I must admit, at this point I was somewhat concerned that the weather would make the planned walking pretty much pointless as the intention on Saturday was to walk up to the top of Kinder Scout which really wouldn’t have been worth all the effort if it was shrouded in fog. Still, we were there and there wasn’t much we could do about the weather other than just get on with our weekend regardless.

After driving round the village a number of times looking for somewhere to park – the pub car park was full up – we unloaded the car and checked in to Ye Olde Nags Head and took everything up to our room with its four-poster bed (nice!). Having been stuck in the car most of the morning we strapped on our walking boots, put our packs on our backs and headed out for a little walk, which we kind of made up as we went along. I’ve plotted the route of this little stroll which you see here if you’re interested.

It was great to get out and on getting back to the pub we treated ourselves to a couple of lovely pints from the five ales available before speaking to the girls and cleaning ourselves up after our little outdoor adventure, especially me as I was wearing shorts and my legs took the hit through all the mud and ferns as I gave my gaiters to Shelli to wear save immediately ruining her walking trousers.

We’d booked a table in the pub’s restaurant and let me say that the food was not only really nice but there was mountains of it! We both had a starter but after that neither of us could finish our main courses. Clearly, dessert was definitely not ordered and feeling ever so slightly full up we headed out the door for a little stroll, which was short-lived as the heavens opened and we scurried into another pub for a couple of pints before heading back for the night.

Waking up Saturday morning I didn’t know what to expect from the weather and it was with some trepidation that I looked out the curtain to see what it looked like outside. Imagine my amazement when I saw a blue sky and, more importantly, I could actually see [the top of] the hills that surrounded Castleton – hurrah!

We got up and busied ourselves getting everything packed for the day and then headed downstairs for breakfast. Not being able to break with tradition, and there being a long tough walk ahead of us, I had the cooked breakfast which hit the spot nicely; a very good breakfast compared to some of the dross I’d had last year.

The walk for the day was one I’d covered last year on my LEJOG walk. The aim was to walk over the hill to Edale and then make our way along the beginning of the Pennine Way up to the top of Kinder Scout, re-treading the same paths and sharing some memories from last year with Shelli.

Unlike last year where the bit over to Edale was done at the end of a day’s walking, doing this at the start of the walk made it a little more challenging as we had to head over the hill to Edale, up to Kinder Scout via Jacobs Ladder, back down again, finally heading over the hill back to Castleton for a few well deserved pints. All in all a pretty tough day’s walking in anyone’s books. As ever, I plotted the route which you can see here if you’re interested. Note: this is only one way 🙂

Fed and watered we got the kit from the room and headed out the door, stopping at the local shop to get some bits in for lunch, and then we were off. I must admit, I was a little worried about Shelli as we headed out as she’s asthmatic and I knew that the hills would prove troublesome. Knowing she had her pump with her and that there was no rush to get the walk done – we’d be finished when we were finished – put my mind at ease a bit.

It wasn’t long before we reached the bottom of Castleton Ridge and the first major climb of the day. Like I said, this bit of the walk last year was done at the end of the day but today it was just the beginning, and we’d have to do it again before getting back to our abode for the weekend too!

Having climbed this hill before I knew what to expect, and even carrying considerably less weight on my back than last year it was still a tough ascent. It got the legs fired up and the blood pumping though, and it wasn’t too long before we reached the top. With the day being completely clear the views were just as good as I’d remembered last year; stunning!

Breath caught and legs rested for a short moment we were off down the other side toward Edale. It was a bit of a scrabble down as the path was mainly made up of loose stones, wet ones at that. As we made our way carefully down a man came running up – madness! It wasn’t long before he came running back down clearly having reached the top in double-quick time. I was worried walking down this path let alone running down it, but he seemed perfectly happy and it wasn’t long before we saw him go through the gate near the bottom of the hill. Madness!

We carried on at a steady pace, chatting and taking photos, and it wasn’t long before we’d made our way through Edale and out the other side, on our way to Jacobs Ladder and the next major climb of the day.

The way that I described Jacobs Ladder after my first ascent last year was something like this: like carrying Elisa up the steps of the Eiffel Tower. When we reached the bottom of it Shelli became acutely aware of why I’d described it as I had and looked just a little concerned with the task ahead of us.

We took it slowly and just over half way up we took a break to let some mountain bikers shoot down the path. It was wet and if you lost it there wasn’t a great deal of space – or anything really – to stop you hurtling over the edge to a not very happy ending. Still, they seemed happy and as they went by us I snapped away with my camera. Bikes gone and legs rested a bit we plugged on to the top.

It took a little longer than planned to reach the top, what with the tough start to the day over Castleton Ridge, and the fact that we were both taking quite a few photos, but we made it at around 1pm. I was damn proud of Shelli for making it up – not having to use her pump once so far – and I’m pleased to say that I think she was quite proud of herself too. One day she’ll believe she can do more than she puts pay to…one day!

It was amazing the change in temperature once we’d stopped for our lunch and it wasn’t long before we were wrapped up in fleeces, coats, scarves and gloves. Quite a change from the warm walk of the morning that’s for sure. It didn’t dampen our spirits though as we sat there eating our sandwiches and drinking the free – but small – bottle of merlot that was in our room when we checked in.

We didn’t sit there too long, what with the cooler temperatures and the fact that there was probably only another three or so hours of light left for the day, so we made our way back down Jacobs Ladder. This really did a number on my right knee but undeterred I carried on as it wasn’t as if I could just stop was it? I wear a pretty hefty knee support on my left leg when I walk/run with a much smaller elasticated one on my right knee. This normally does the job but I think it’s now time I need to be wearing one of the bigger ones on my right knee too, ho hum.

The downward trek back to Edale was quite a bit quicker than earlier and it wasn’t long before we were heading back to Castleton Ridge and the final climb of the day. There was another, slightly less steep path we could have taken but as the light was already beginning to fade we decided to grit our teeth and make our way up the steep path, the one we walked down that morning. I got the walking poles out and gave one to Shelli and off we went up the path.

I was actually quite surprised at how [relatively] quickly we got to the top. It was certainly quicker than the ascent the other side that morning, well, I thought so anyway. We set the camera up for a photograph of the us together at the top and down we went, me swearing with pretty much every step due to my knee. I won’t mention Shelli’s little tumble as we made our way down…doh, I just did! Sorry honey 😉

I made it though – as if there were any doubt that wouldn’t happen? – and it wasn’t long before we were sat in a warm crowded bar supping on a couple of pints. Heaven!

In total, the nearly 14.5 miles took us 7 hours to do, including breaks, and I think I worked it out to be something like a total ascent of around 3000ft by the end of the day with all the hills we climbed. Madness, but thoroughly enjoyable even with the pain in my knee and feet by the time we got back. A great day, and wonderful to share those memories with Shelli.

When we got up Sunday morning it was amazing to see the change in the weather conditions again. Clearly somebody made sure we had a great day out Saturday because the fog was back again Sunday morning – how mad is that?

Not having to rush back to Reading we had breakfast, sorted our gear out, checked out and headed off to visit a couple of the local caverns: Peak (aka the Devil’s Arse) and Speedwell, where you take a boat through the old lead mine – all very close and cosy I can tell you .

I’d never done anything like that before so I was a little excited but to be fair, having done them once I don’t think it’d be something I paid to do again. Out of the two Peak cavern was probably the best, and both tour guides were extremely enthusiastic and really quite funny, but I still don’t think I’d do them again. There are two more caverns in the local area you can visit but I think I’ll pass next time I’m in the area.

Still, we managed to get some more photographs to remind us of the weekend and once we’d strolled back into the centre of Castleton we had a spot of lunch before hitting the road home, sad to be leaving such a lovely place. Unsurprisingly, Sunday evening was pretty much a washout at Shelli’s place. We were both shattered from all the walking and driving and an early night was had, especially with another day out ahead of us on Monday.

With the school run done and cars dropped off at my place, we jumped on a train to London for the day. The plan was to check out the graffiti tunnel at Waterloo again and then pretty much follow a similar route to the last time we went on the hunt for graffiti, i.e. along the South Bank, over Tower Bridge, up Brick Lane and back towards Old Street.

London was shrouded in fog. I can honestly say that I can’t remember ever having seen London like it. The views along the river, with all the high-rise buildings disappearing into the fog was really rather pretty.

The graffiti tunnel was a bit of a let down. There weren’t any really amazing stand-out pieces like there were the last time we visited, and what there was had all been tagged over and spoilt one way or another. Shame.

The area around Brick Lane and Old Street was pretty good though and we managed to find some new and interesting pieces to photograph. One of my favourite pieces was a light switch with “switch on your happiness” on it, which I couldn’t help but switch on. Obviously nothing happened but it put a smile on my face throwing the switch. Another piece I really liked was in a spot just off Brick Lane where we’d found a great piece before. It now had an amazing piece with two snow tigers on it.

We carried on walking and snapping away, with a couple of beer stops along the way, until the light gave way to dark and it was time to head back to the river to try and take some longer exposure shots. Shelli, bless her, had been carrying the tripod – strapped over her shoulder – all day and we weren’t about to let that effort go to waste. Before that though we had some food at the ever good Wagamamas.

Shots of the river, the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament taken, we made our way back home, thoroughly exhausted, feet aching but smiling from another great day out.

It truly was an amazing weekend and one I’ll remember for a long time to come. Thank you Shelli for coming along and pushing yourself possibly harder than you’ve done before. It was amazing to share that special place in the Peak District with you and I now have a new set of memories to go along with the ones from last year.

As you’d expect, the photos from the weekend are sorted out so go and check them out as there are some lovely shots of the Peaks and some great shots from the walk round London.