I recently blogged that I’ve started hiking on my own. I really enjoy the peace and quiet, getting out into nature and gentle exercise. Recently, I headed on a 6-mile solo hike starting near Hathersage in the Peak District. I chose the route because I love the area, full of gorgeous views and rolling natural landscapes. It was a great learning experience with a few ‘argh!’ moments and lots of interesting things to see.
I started by walking up and across some moors, coloured the orange-brown of rust. The landscape was rough and natural and I heard what I think was grouse. Their strange cries sounded like laughing coming from the heather.
Next, I climbed up a gorge surrounded by massive cairns jutting out of the ground. I felt so small walking through the rocks, which must have been there for thousands of years. Walking at the top, I marvelled at their smooth surfaces and the interesting shapes they’ve formed.
To get down from the gorge, I followed the almost-invisible track. Along the way, I jumped from rock to rock, which was hugely fun. Mental note: do more jumping outside. I spotted some rabbit holes and wondered what kind of hardy rabbit might live in this environment.
After some more climbing and jumping, the path took me down towards a small stream. The ground was marshy and I was glad for my sturdy hiking boots. From here the track was difficult to follow as there was no clear route. I squelched through the long grass and followed the stream to slightly higher ground.
At this point, I had a minor panic as I realised that my phone battery was about to run out. I was around halfway through my planned route and keen to keep going. However, I didn’t have a paper map with me (learning #1), nor a portable power bank (learning #2). I considered retracing my steps back to the car but decided to carry on, hoping the route would be relatively clear.
After a while, I came across Longshaw, a National Trust estate. Phew, I thought, I’m on the right track. I popped into the shop and bought a small map, which I quickly realised I had no idea how to read (learning #3). Feeling mildly panicked at the thought of getting completely lost, I decided I’d come too far to turn back. However, I mentally berated myself for heading on a solo hike relatively unprepared and without considering my safety.
Wandering through Longshaw (and feeling thankful for the obvious path), I saw tiny swooping birds in the bushes. I also spotted a robin nestled on a branch, with its funny quick and jerking head movements. The path rounded on the estate’s lake, a shining expanse of water surrounded by beautiful red-and-orange-leaved trees. From here, I ventured into the woods, trusting the route description as the right-of-way was definitely not marked.
Panic in the ferns
I finally found the road after winding through woodland and a sheep field. However, I quickly lost it again and veered in completely the wrong direction through fern-covered rocks (learning #4). This was the low point of the walk as I desperately tried to find my way using the OS app on my dying phone. I was confused, alone, and a little bit frightened. Then, I lost my footing and fell off one of the rocks into a pile of dry ferns and broken branches.
As I lay there stunned, I realised that I needed to pull myself together and get back on track. I climbed up the rock face and headed back to the road, shaken but determined to enjoy the rest of my hike. Somehow I managed to pick up the route again and headed down through more woods.
A bit further into the woodland, I came across a gorgeous small waterfall and a wide rocky stream. This was just what I needed to see and it lifted my spirits immensely. To my relief, the path became even clearer as I climbed the wooden steps past the waterfall and up the crag.
From here, the end of the walk was steep in parts but simple and easy to follow. I exited the woodland into a marshy moor, where I could hear climbers scaling a nearby quarry. I felt even more relieved as I spotted the main road I’d used to drive in. All that was left was a short climb through gorse to pick up the route where I started and finally head back to the car park.
What I learned
- ALWAYS take a paper map on a solo hike, preferably with the route clearly marked out.
- Pack a portable power bank or phone charger. The iPhone has lots of good qualities but long battery life is not one. On a solo hike, safety is paramount. You need to be able to make a phone call if you get into trouble.
- Make sure you know how to read the paper map you have definitely brought. A passing interest in finding public rights of way may also help on a solo hike.
- If you feel like you are going the wrong way, you probably are. Don’t keep going into wild and remote areas without triple-checking the route.
- Parking: Surprise View car park, pay and display.
- Route: roughly inspired by this route, but I followed a trail from my OS app.