The peak district adventure files

IMG_1389The Peak District is special is one of those trite statements, a bit meaningless and fluffy. Special how? In habitat terms? Because its cream teas match those of Devon? Because it’s popular? More special than the Lakes? Less special than the Cairngorms?

Which leaves me relying on personal experience to flesh out a meaningless platitude. More than twenty five years ago, I drove to the Peak District with one thought in my mind, to climb on Stanage Edge, rightly described by some as a World Heritage Site for rock climbing. My pilgrimage found me sitting atop Black Slab, stunned briefly into silence by the gentle breeze, sun and a breathtaking view. I was overwhelmed by a feeling I struggled to nail down. It was reminiscent of the moment in Fawlty Towers when Sybil says to her long-suffering husband, “You seem happy Basil.” To which he replies, “Happy? Oh yes, I remember happy!”

But it wasn’t simply happiness, it was something primal and basic. Three hours since I had been in the benighted, busy, pell-mell hell of the south. Now I was surrounded by space and beauty, indulging in a pointless yet challenging exercise, transported both literally and metaphorically by the contrast between busy normality and this balm for the soul.

Thus began my education and what an education. The climbing obsession has transmuted into a rounded knowledge of the Peak, it’s habitat, flora and fauna. Over the years, I’ve gone from simply knowing what a Curlew looks like to knowing when I’m likely to hear its plangent call, where it nests and what it eats. I know about some of the Peak’s hidden archaeological gems, it’s industrial and social heritage and all because I came here to dangle off a rock. One adventure has led to another.