6th March 2020.
I am not sure why but I have always found sunset fascinating in many ways. No sunset is ever the same. Some are over in a second (blink and you will miss it), whilst others take their time and can be enjoyed for much longer. I have always enjoyed looking at the colours and how the light changes as the day fades to night, all the while knowing that it will soon be darkness and a new day is waiting around the corner. On this day in particular, I had made up my mind to head out into the Peak District yet again in the hope of maybe catching a good sunset. This however, was not my only reason for going… I love walking and exploring in general, but the thought of ending my day on the moors, the wind in my hair, surrounded by solitude and watching the sun go down would be an extra special bonus.
Starting at Hathersage Station, my walk would take me up onto the Sheffield Road, through Hathersage into Whim Plantation, and from there the plan was to walk up through the woodland and out onto Over Owler Tor. I was not sure at this stage where I would go from there, whether I would stay in that vicinity to watch the sunset or whether to explore the area further. Either way, I knew I would not be disappointed. The views up there are to die for!
I arrived at Hathersage Station a little after 4pm and headed straight up Back Lane towards Sheffield Road. The walk today was not aimed at being a long one and I hoped to reach my destination within an hour and a half at the very most. As I approached Sheffield Road, I turned right and followed it along towards Surprise View until I came to woodland on the opposite side. There was a public footpath which led upwards through the wood with a signpost reading ‘Whim Plantation’ and I began the climb up towards Over Owler Tor.
Hathersage is a village situated within the Peak District, Derbyshire in England with a population of approximately 2,000. It is a popular location for tourists due to the scenery surrounding it and local amenities. They include an outdoor swimming pool with a cafe both of which remain open all year round, several public houses, shops, a climbing and orienteering school and a few churches. It is also the location of Little John’s grave which is always a good story for the kids. In and around Hathersage are some of the best hiking locations found in all of the Peak District, all of which are frequented daily all year round allowing people to take part in activities such as rock climbing, bouldering, map reading exercises, river scrambling in the valleys and hill walking up on the open moor. Hathersage is home to some of the best moorland and lookout points in England with areas such as Higger Tor, Carl Wark and Stanage Edge being top favourites. Other known areas frequented by tourists include Millstone Edge, Bolehill Quarry, Owler Tor, Burbage, Padley, and Surprise View. Local villages to Hathersage are Hope, Grindleford, Bamford and Castleton.
Getting to Hathersage is easy enough and can be accessed either by train, bus or car. If travelling by car there are various parking places to choose from starting in the village of Hathersage itself, to car parks on the outskirts of the village or outside it but within walking distance. Parking places both paid and free can be found at Mother Cap, Surprise View car park, the Longshaw Estate and Grindleford. If travelling by bus, the services are the 271 and 272 which form the Sheffield to Castleton route. There is of course the train services which stop at Hathersage Station throughout the day and pass through many other locations throughout the Peak District. On this day I chose to take the train from Sheffield to Hathersage and had arrived to a lovely and surprisingly warm afternoon considering the time of year. It was still only early March, 2020 and yet the sun was shining and hardly any clouds in the sky.
Over Owler Tor
This location is a gritstone outcrop featuring a selection of rock formations including the Beehive and Mother Cap amongst others. It is situated above Surprise View and the Millstone Edge with absolutely stunning views over the Longshaw Estate, Padley Gorge and Owler Tor. As well as being dotted with attractive boulders and containing the beautiful rock formations, it is rich in thick Ling heather. During the Summer months from June to August in particular, it appears to be most in abundance and is a favourite spot for photographers due to this. The paths around this location are easily accessible and easy going. Terrain here is rocky underfoot and sandy paths. Care should be taken when walking as the rocks have been weathered smooth and have the potential to become slippery when wet.
Mother Cap is a large weathered gritstone rock found at the bottom of Over Owler Tor. It stands alone on the heathery hillside and is a prominent feature when looking up from the Longshaw Estate and Padley Gorge. As I headed down the hillside towards it, I was in awe as I looked around and took in my surroundings. The striking purple and mauve colours from the heather, I believe change the whole landscape and make everything appear to have a bluish tint to it. This looked extremely prominent as the sun began to go down. The gritstone rock looks even more beautiful in this light and adds an extra special charm to any photograph.
Mother Cap is a great rock to climb and adults and children alike are often spotted sitting on the flat top enjoying a picnic and the views. I know I enjoyed scrambling up onto the higher ledge to take the photographs which I used in this blog post. A favourite aspect of exploring for me, is that I get to climb to high places, scramble and crawl in caves and holes and just be free from the stresses and strains of everyday life. I go out with a completely blank canvas. Sometimes I find what I’m looking for, other times not… but I always leave with something. I never come away from the Peak District empty handed even if it’s just a lesson learned…
Many climbing and bouldering sessions take place at Mother Cap due to its accessibility with Surprise View Car Park. This location is one of the most attractive and sought after spots within the Peak District National Park often attracting hundreds of visitors per day during the Spring and Summer months.
Return to Hathersage
The quickest and easiest way to get back to Hathersage Station from Mother Cap is to continue on the path leading downhill towards Sheffield Road. I chose this route that evening as I was quickly losing light now that the sun had almost set. Mother Cap is only a very short distance from the road and only takes around 5 minutes for the average fit and able walker to reach it.
Upon reaching Sheffield Road via the car park at Surprise View, I then turned right and began to head down Sheffield Road towards Hathersage. There is a narrow footpath which runs alongside the road but has no pavement for quite some time. If planning on visiting this particular spot, careful planning may be needed especially if doing this with pushchairs and wheelchairs etc. After a while, you do reach pavement but it alternates sides and it involves crossing the road a few times to stay on this. As the road nears Hathersage Village, people can remain on one pavement for the remainder of the route. Upon reaching Back Lane once again, I followed this back downhill and retraced my steps back to Hathersage Station.
Distance walked: 4.57 miles.
Total Elevation Gain: 762 ft.
I thoroughly enjoyed this short evening walk to Over Owler Tor in Hathersage, Derbyshire. It was only ever meant to be a short one that day but I feel that I got lots out of it in the way of stunning views, catching the sunset and plenty of rock scrambling entertainment. On this occasion, I cannot say that anything went unplanned or wrong but it was a very local area, the weather was good and the whole walk was no more than 5 miles. The only thing I will say is that there are no public toilets anywhere around this location and nowhere to buy refreshments so plan accordingly and bring a picnic and your own food. The nearest places to buy food and refreshments are the village of Hathersage itself or the Longshaw Estate which are within a couple of miles of Mother Cap.
My favourite part of this walk, I have to say for me was standing on the summit of Over Owler Tor and gazing round at the scenery, and all the different places in the Peak District that can be seen from this point. There is so much to see and do in this location and due to how easy it is to get to, it makes a great fun day for families with young children as well. I have noticed that many locations in and around the Peak District are stunning but difficult to access for toddlers and young children. Over Owler Tor and Mother Cap are easy access locations and involve only slight climbing and scrambling. The smaller rock formations are great for little feet and hands and so makes a fun and safer climbing experience for children of all ages. I would definitely recommend this walk to anyone. It is only a short walk but filled with adventure at every turn. I will definitely be back to explore further at a later date when I have more time and daylight.
If choosing to stay and watch a sunset from Mother Cap my only advice is just to play it safe and maybe carry a head torch or suitable light source as the light fades extremely quickly. The path down is rocky and these are not easily seen when in darkness. The Sheffield Road back to Hathersage is only well lit in certain places, so people can find themselves walking in darkness. The road can be busy and has a National Speed Limit of 60 miles per hour. Care should be taken when walking along this roadside.
Once again I would like to thank you all for reading. Many Thanks and wish you all well on your adventures.
Images for this blog post were taken and edited by myself Lucy Bailey using iPhone 7 camera.