14th December, 2019.
The sky was still the colour of charcoal black as I quickly dressed in my hiking gear and pulled my boots from the cupboard at 5am on Saturday the 14th of December. I had spent most of last night tossing and turning, and staring at four walls. It was becoming a regular occurrence lately and although I had racked my brains trying to find an answer to what might be causing this insomnia, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. The night ticked by as it had done all the other nights I had lain like this. Tonight though, it seemed to take longer than ever… As I laid in bed, a thought suddenly popped into my mind. How would I like to try something different? Something random and completely out of the blue? Something I had never thought of doing before… And so the decision was made, I would watch the sun rise in a location I’d had my eye on for a while now… The Ringing Roger up on Kinder Scout.
People reading this will most likely think it strange that a person would decide upon this course of action. I mean, even I was taken aback by the sudden urge which overcame me. For one, it was Winter and the temperature outside very much lived up to its name. It was freezing in Sheffield alone, so I had a very good idea just what it was going to be like out on the moors too. I had checked out the weather forecast that morning and it stated that there had been a light dusting of snow in Hope Valley overnight with more set to arrive later in the evening, but the sky looked clear and I had a great feeling that there might be an awesome opportunity to catch the sunrise if I went early enough. It was in all fairness, a last minute decision. A case of ‘get ready and go’ and just make the most out of whatever the moment had to offer. It would also be my first solo Peak District adventure as I didn’t have my 2 year old daughter with me or any of my other children. The location was totally new to me too, as it had been a considerable number of years since I had last visited Edale.
So what possesses a woman to go wandering the Peaks in the dark, alone? Well, I’ve thought about this many times since this night and have been asked by lots of people how I’ve got the guts. Although this was the first time I had done it, it certainly hasn’t been the last. I will try and give an insight into my reasons for doing it here in this post but I guess it’s all down to individual personality. Every explorer has a good idea of what ignites their inner flame and drives their passions and I will touch on this area in further posts about solo adventuring at a later date. If anyone can shed any further light on this or shares similar feelings then please let me know.
For me it starts with adrenaline and pure curiosity which builds up to form a bigger picture which just cannot be ignored. It’s like I have a scenario of what I hope to see and that becomes entwined with what else might be there to discover. From reading the accounts of other writers who seek similar pleasures, and looking at photographs both professional and candid of sunrises and sunsets in remote locations, it became apparent very quickly that if you want to capture beauty at its finest then you have to make certain sacrifices. There is definitely something enthralling about the start of a new day. When everything is crisp and fresh and untouched. I feel to truly appreciate this type of scene then you have to make yourself available to it and witness it first hand… Actually be there to see it unfold before you and I suppose you get out of it what you put in…
Kinder Scout is a moorland plateau and designated nature reserve situated in the Dark Peak location of the Peak District National Park. In its highest point near to Kinder Low Trig Point it is said to be 636 meters (2,087ft) in height. Kinder Scout covers a wide area with many different routes into it from various places. It is the highest point in the whole of the Peak District, Derbyshire and the East Midlands, and on clear days, people can see as far as the mountains of Snowdonia in North Wales. The area I am focusing on in this entry is the Ringing Roger where I had chosen to visit in order to catch the sunrise. It is a collection of large weather beaten rocks and boulders standing approximately 550 meters up the southwestern side of Kinder Scout and overlooking Edale, the Great Ridge and Grindsbrook. Kinder Scout is well known for its many beauty spots located throughout the plateau and is famous globally for being the start of the Pennine Way, a National Trail spanning 268 miles beginning in Edale and ending at Kirk Yetholm just inside the Scottish border.
I arrived at Edale Station at approximately 7am after catching the 06.20 train from Sheffield. Due to the time of year, it was still dark and I began the walk up Mary’s Lane from the station as fast as my legs would carry me. As I approached the village of Edale, the snow was virtually non existent but I could see the white tops of the plateau in the distance stretching out before me. I had never gone walking in the dark before, and I remember clearly the sounds I heard as I trudged along. The wind howled as it blew through the narrow alleyways between the houses, making its way down from the great heights of Kinder. Branches swung in the wind making load creaking and cracking noises and at one point, I thought I heard footsteps not far behind me. I turned around briefly, but there was no one there. Edale is a beautiful picture postcard village, but it is surprising how different it can seem in the dark when there is no one about. I remember feeling quite scared as I hurried passed Edale church yard and even once considered getting back on the train to Sheffield! This soon passed however as the Nags Head public house came into view and I managed to control my imagination yet again.
At the Old Nags Head, I continued on up the road towards Grindsbrook and took a right turn down a narrow walkway which crosses the Grindsbrook via a wooden bridge before heading up some stone steps and onto the Nab. A short distance along a flagged path, walkers have the option of continuing along this to Grindsbrook Clough but today I turned off to the right and followed a footpath across the Nab which climbs higher towards the Fred Herdman Plantation. I knew I needed to get a move on at this point as it wouldn’t be long at all until the sun began to rise. I hoped to arrive at the Ringing Roger within the next 20 minutes. After walking through a wooden kissing gate at the Herdman plantation, the path becomes a flagged one once again and continues upwards in a zig zig fashion in the form of paved stone and steps. My fear at this point had deserted me and this surprised me as I had found walking through the village scarier than the open moorland. Despite it being dark still, the moonlight shining and reflecting off the surrounding hills and scenery provided enough light to be able see clearly.
The directions up to the Ringing Roger are simple enough to follow. I had screen shot the walk route before I set out and so had it safely on my phone. There is no phone signal at all down in the village of Edale and so there is no chance of accessing the internet via 4G until you climb up towards the plateau. It was only when I reached the zig zag part of the path that I began to receive 3G signal and so I was glad I had thought about maps and directions beforehand. The walk directions I had on this day were clearly described and so I was able to follow them and recognise the photographs without any problems. The path leads straight to the Ringing Roger but can become quite steep in places. As you follow the path, there is an option to climb the steep part via steps and this is the route I chose that day. The walk took me approximately 40 minutes from Edale Station to the Ringing Roger with brief walking but I did get quite tired as it is all uphill walking. I arrived at around 7.40am just as the sun was starting to cast the first light. I sat down in front of a large boulder to block the freezing wind and waited to see what happened next.
There had been no snow underfoot for most of the walk up the hill but now that I had arrived at the Ringing Roger there was at least 2cm of it. The paths were covered in ice and water had pooled in the crevices between the stone flags and had now frozen over. As I sat looking around me, the sun began to rise. I was met with a spectacular scene of orange, purple, red and blues. The light cast shadows over the surrounding countryside and made the rocks and ice glitter like they were covered in diamond dust. It was amazing to watch in all directions and I began snapping away with my camera trying to catch all that was there. I’m not going to lie, it was absolutely freezing and my hands really felt it as I couldn’t wear my gloves and control the camera, but in my opinion it was more than worth the discomfort as I looked on. Straight in front of me I could see the Great Ridge with Mam Tor, Hollins Cross, Back Tor and Lose Hill in the distance. To my right I could see Grindslow Knoll which was snow covered and still in shadow, and down the hillside towards Edale the village and surrounding fields were all bathed in a brilliant golden light. The rock formations up on the Ringing Roger were spectacular and had been weathered and formed over the years with the severe weather conditions into wonderful shapes. I might have explored around them further had it not been for the ice and the potential for slipping and falling. As much as I wanted to, I decided to save that more for the Summer time when the risk was less. Within 30 minutes, the sun was fully up and the sunrise completely over… but what an amazing place the Ringing Roger was!
The return to Edale
After a while I decided to continue on up the flagged path and head on a little further towards the top of Ollerbrook. My intention was to follow the path down the hill from there and rejoin the path I had walked up from Edale. It would’ve been too dangerous in the current weather to venture back down the Ringing Roger the way I had came so I opted for the slightly longer route with less of an incline. I will include a map of the route taken later on.
The walk along the path towards Ollerbrook was stunning. I was in awe of the views and just what I could see from high up on Kinder Scout. It was around this time that the weather suddenly changed and the sky became very dark. Before I even had chance to think further, it began to snow and visibility became very poor indeed. This did catch me off guard as no snow had been forecast until later in the day. It became so bad that I could not see in front of me and I began to feel disoriented which was quite a frightening experience. However, I remembered my basic safety skills for adverse weather conditions and I found shelter behind a large boulder for approximately 20 minutes until the snow storm passed. When I eventually came back out onto the path, I was able to see my surroundings clearly and the route I needed to take.
The route back down from the Ringing Roger was easy enough once the snow had stopped and eventually, I rejoined the original path back to the zigzags that I had taken on my accent up earlier. Now that the sun was up, I was able to fully enjoy the beautiful scenery that was around me in all directions and I remember marvelling at the colours. Care needed to be taken on the path as although it was flagged, these had become slippery due to the snow and the now wet surface. Here are a selection of photographs of what I enjoyed on the route back down to Herdman Plantation near the Nab.
As I approached the village of Edale once again, I began to meet other walkers heading in the opposite direction and just beginning their walks of the day. By this stage I had to admit that I was a little relieved to be out of the freezing cold and risk of getting caught in another snow storm. Although I was dressed appropriately and I was warm in my core, my feet and hands were suffering greatly and I knew in that moment that I needed to invest in better walking socks. The ones I was wearing just about got me through the short walk today but they would not be enough for anything longer.
Upon my return towards the train station in Edale, I decided to treat myself to lunch in the Penny Pot Cafe before boarding the train home. The staff in there are very welcoming and let people hang up their wet over coats to dry whilst they ate. There is a wide variety of food and refreshments available and they are all too keen to know all about your walk as you wait for the food to cook. I thoroughly enjoyed the Penny Pot Cafe and would definitely recommend this outlet to anyone visiting Edale. I definitely will be back!
Distance walked: 3.76 miles.
Total accent: 1.151ft
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed today’s walk up Kinder Scout to the Ringing Roger. It definitely was an eye opener to just what beautiful scenery can be enjoyed when venturing out early to catch a sunrise. The walk went well in many ways mostly because I was dressed in the appropriate clothing for a winter walk in the Peaks. It was freezing there’s no denying that and I dread to think what it might have been like had I not layered up enough, but the views certainly make up for any discomfort felt during the walk up. Having clear directions in photograph form on my phone was probably the best guidance I could’ve used and it was fully worth it’s weight in gold when there is no internet or signal. I wouldn’t say there were any bad aspects of the walk, only that it goes to illustrate how temperamental the weather can be out in the Peak District. What can start as a fair weather walk, can quickly change and it is important to respect this and dress and prepare accordingly. Walking in secluded areas is a risk especially if people are not familiar with the location. It is always worth checking out the area and maybe reading other’s accounts of the walk before setting out. In saying that, this was a new location to me in the Winter of 2019 and I enjoyed it very much. I would wholeheartedly recommend watching a sunrise from Ringing Roger on Kinder Scout. The photographs I took that day although stunning really do not give it the justice it deserves and I truly feel that this is a location which needs more coverage. I look forward to more visits to this location to experience it in different seasons. I am fast learning that no walk is ever the same no matter how many times I visit a location. If the weather is different, the walk is different.
Once again, Thankyou for taking the time to read this weeks blog post about watching a sunrise at Ringing Roger. If you enjoy this kind of adventure and have done something similar please give your thoughts. Maybe you haven’t yet but are considering it in the near future. Either way, I wish you all the best in your exploration. Happy adventuring!
All photographs for this entry have been taken and edited by myself Lucy Bailey using iPhone 7 camera.