As a latecomer to camping I would be the first to admit that when I did the Pennine Way in 2013, I had a lot of catching up to do. I did several campsite weekends in order to complete day walks around Northumberland, but the Pennine Way was the first time I had taken a tent on a distance walk. Because of my lack of camping experience and the fact that I was on my own, I stuck to small campsites and gardens on that walk, partly for the facilities such as running water and showers, and partly for the availability of support if I needed it. This is my tent at the Fieldhead Campsite in Edale at the start of the Pennine Way.
However, it is plainly useful to be able and willing to wildcamp in an emergency or if plans dictate, so I suggested a wildcamping weekend to a few people on Twitter and came clean about my lack of experience. Thankfully, after a bit of rejigging five of us agreed a date in July 2013 and met up at the Cat and Fiddle pub near Buxton for a weekend of walking & wild camping.
We stopped off for a quick drink before we headed off towards Shining Tor as the sun set. After a short walk we reached the summit and the others started to look around for a level place to pitch out of the wind. Suddenly everything that had seemed simple on the green campsite lawns was more complicated amongst the heather and the tussocks. I managed to get the tent up as it grew dark, although it still flapped more than it should have done, and laid out my mat and sleeping bag onto a floor which slightly resembled a bouncy castle. We chatted for a little while before heading for our sleeping bags as it had become chillier as darkness fell.
The next morning I surfaced at about 7am and rustled up some porridge and coffee. I surveyed the surrounding hills in daylight for the first time. For me it was a definite improvement on waking up to a view of the back of a pub on a campsite.
After breakfast we packed up and headed north. As I seem to have caught the hill bagging habit somewhere on the Pennine Way, I bagged a nearby summit on my phone. Carrying on northwards we stopped for a vertigo inducing photo-opportunity at Windgather Rocks.
At the end of Goyt Forest we turned eastwards down to the River Goyt which we then followed north into Horwich End. Here we stopped for lunch and a drink in the local pub which had a little garden. After lunch it was back along the other side of the river to a pleasant woodland path above Fernilee reservoir.
I began to appreciate the habit of brewing up when we stopped for a break, and we skimmed a few stones and drank tea on the banks of the reservoir. Feeling refreshed we began a gradual climb up to Wild Moor where I stopped to watch the others collect water from a little stream.
When we reached a blocked up rail tunnel we headed up and over it, turning south along Burbage Edge. After a mile or two we agreed that we should stop and pitch on the trail high above Buxton.
This time it was light enough for us to sit around after we had eaten and chat about walking, camping, music, Twitter and phones with a nip of whisky. It was nice to have some company, after spending a couple of weeks walking the Pennine Way on my own. The site was less windy than Shining Tor but my tent was on a bit of a slope which resulted in my mat slipping constantly towards the tail end during the night!
Next morning we woke to find that the cloud had descended, so there were no spectacular sunrises to greet us. There was an extra summit the other’s wanted to bag so I agreed to meet them further down the path at Cheeks Hill. Here we headed south along Alum Spring to pass Three Shires Head which is the point on Axe Edge Moor where Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire meet. From here we walked north westwards across the moor to Reeve Edge quarries.
After walking through the disused quarries we crossed the road and headed along Danebower Hollow, past Whetstone Ridge, and back to our starting point at the Cat and Fiddle in time for some lunch, and just before an enormous bikers rally started to arrive.
On the whole it was a very pleasant and relaxing weekend. The Peak District is a fairly new area for me and it was good to be exploring it with people who knew it well. It was a good, varied route which included some summits, moors, rivers, woodland, a village and two pubs. So much of successful camping is in the detail and many of the lessons I learned will be put to good use.