Sunday, 26 May 2013

Barefoot Hiking

Well today was glorious. Lovely weather, the ducklings were playing noisely outside when my eldest declared that he would love to climb Mam Tor. Those who don't know its one of the peaks around here. Known as the 'shivering' mountain. This is due to movement of the hill which has caused a road that once led from Castleton to Edale to be abandoned due the amount of subsidence it suffered. Always up for an adventure I said yes, quickly stocked up on water, juice, energy rich choccy bars and cheese sandwiches. The faithful hound (Abyssinian wire-haired tripe hound, Beano readers will know that breed) was leaded up and we set off in the car to what I expected to be a very busy Castleton.

It wasn't we went down Winnets Pass avoiding cyclists and sheep. Turned left towards Trek Cliff Cavern. There are various parking spots all with ticket machines nearby. However, if you ignore these and drive on you will find lots of free parking. There we left the car in a shady spot so we wouldn't get lightly poached on our return.

There were plenty of sheep with lambs around faithful hound kept resoundingly on the lead much to his disgust.

Within moments of setting off my youngest declared that she was tired and needed to be carried. Mrs Sea Duck who had sun blocked us all up encourage her to walk herself. Which she did.

Curlews could be heard in the distance. Chaffinches everywhere, as well as carrion crows. The crows seemed to be very interested in the people, stealing whatever sandwich remains they could happen across. The climb is nice and gentle, which is good for me as I usually walk by car.

The sun was lovely and warm, however as in areas of the High Peak there were patches which are best described as boggy.

There was a lot of activity. Someone had a remote controlled aeroplane, one of those stealthy flying wing designs. As we were buzzed by future technology we made our way up Mam Tor.

I was walking in sandals, the same ones I loaf about the house with instead of slippers. Everyone else in our party had walking boots. But me being a Peaklander felt I could deal with one of our hills in my loafing footwear. How wrong I was, as educating the ducklings about the countryside code, use styles, close gates keep doggie under control etc. I happened upon a very boggy area. Nothing new round here and marched through with my feet decidedly wet on the other side. This is something we take as water off our backs but the sandals didn't.

They started slipping around my feet and it was difficult to get a grip and keep ones correct stance and balance. Thinking how I wouldn't live it down if I became a mountain rescue incident. As well as the gorse bushes I would surely land in not looking at all inviting I decided to take the sandals off and walk barefoot. The sandals strapped to my rucksack drying in the sun.

Awaiting to stand on an adder, I continued with the rest of the flock far ahead. We reached the paved area, what Mrs Sea Duck refers to as the Roman Road. This was very busy and I passed a Scottish couple who remarked about my barefoot hiking.

Apparently its all the rage! I was actually waiting for someone to tell me to get a job. As I looked, and felt a tad vagrant.

As the rest were waiting for me, we had our choccy bars, sandwiches and various juice. The hound was given water for which he was very grateful. A lot of people were out walking, the sun was quite strong but I think it's strength was deceptive as a cool breeze at the top was blowing. 

As we pressed on to the summit. I met two chaps who remarked about my barefoot walking. They were training for the British three peaks, Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowden all in 24 hours. Trying to raise money for charity, possibly to clad barefoot fell walkers. They too instilled me with knowledge of the benefits of barefoot hiking. It was okay as long as you didn't stand on anything sharp. They left me swiftly behind as they disappeared towards the trig point at the top like a set of gazelles. 

With the summit now in sight various people exchanged glances at my slightly Tarzan way of walking. One chap declared that I was wearing the best set of boots he'd seen that day. A tad Emperors New Clothes I feel. At the top we rested again and I was able to put my now dry sandals on.

At the top people were photographing themselves at the trig point. A couple of paragliders were floating very peacefully in the sky.

The way back was quicker, I avoided the boggy parts on the route. As we descended around 1400hrs, more people seemed to be heading up Mam Tor. Castleton was much busier. As we came to the abandoned road several university students were measuring to see if it was feasible to fix the road. Maybe something to watch out for in the future. When we arrived back at the car, the clever shady parking had worked and the car was cool. Still put the air con on.

One of the ducklings nodded off on the way back. Again there was the sheep slarlem on Winnets Pass. The roads still did not seem that busy for a bank holiday weekend, especially one with such good weather. The journey back to Buxton was quick and pleasant. A mug of tea to refresh, and some fun memories of walking with the ducklings.

So if you were walking the hills around Castleton and remember a barefoot hiker being dragged along by his faithful hound. Then it t'was I Sea Duck the Mary Celeste of Mam Tor.

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