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A Great Day on the Great Ridge

Given how much of my family culture comes from spending time together in the mountains, it's no surprise that when my family come to visit me in Sheffield, we don't actually spend any time in Sheffield at all.

The novelty for me is that the Peak District is the one place I know better than my parents. They've given me so much knowledge about the Lake District - you don't get to name every mountain in a view without some teaching! - and this is the root of what has made me educate myself about the Peaks. "Educating myself" makes it sound very formal...the truth is, I know things about the Peaks because it's a landscape that I can't keep out of. When I'm there, I want to feel as immersed as possible - part of the landscape, if you will - and for me this means learning all the place names, poring over my maps and reading endless blog posts of walks in the hills.

So far, this has made walking in the Peaks a pretty independent experience. The university has some fantastic walking and mountaineering groups, but for me the adventure is in exploring, and that's something that going with a large group of people, some of whom are strangers, doesn't have the flexibility to allow. What this does mean, however, is that I've now gained the experience and the knowledge to give the people I can drag out with me a proper experience.

The weather was incredible on the day I decided to take my Mum down the Great Ridge: Mam Tor, Hollin's Cross, Lose Hill. It was one of those days when you genuinely ask yourself what you've done to deserve such weather: a bright November day with a sun which was hot but clouds which gorgeously patterned the landscape in shadow, with little wind and a bite to the air that made you want to keep moving. The hills looked sharp, defined by that clarity which Winter air brings; their flanks patterned gold and auburn with the turning trees.

The accessibility of Mam Tor blew me away. My Dad is 77 years old and he's been climbing mountains for as long as he's been able to walk, but things like that get harder when you've got two replacement hips and a dodgy ankle, and it was wonderful to be able to walk to a mountain top with him.

As I said - we really couldn't have wished for better weather. The Hope Valley was spread out before us, and I'm a sucker for a route where you can see the whole of the walk before you walk into it. When I picked this walk for us, I'll be honest, I wanted to show off the Peak District. I wanted something simple, which we could walk together without having to worry over much about navigating or losing the path or any actual hiking stuff, just somewhere where we could be together and appreciate the landscape. Great Ridge, you delivered in spades.

It was a Saturday, and the ridge was full. Sometimes I hate it when routes are busy, but this wasn't one of those days; people were making themselves at home and drinking tea from thermos', everyone was greeting everyone, dogs were absolutely everywhere. The whole walk was just full of people simply there to enjoy the landscape, together.

If I had one complaint about the entire walk, it's that I got incredibly muddy on the walk down, from lifting my dog over stiles. As complaints go, it's a very tiny one, and honestly unless your dog is about 30kg and loves mud, like mine, I'd say you're pretty safe.

So then, advice for the day: wait for a crisp Winter afternoon, and go walk the Great Ridge. Get someone to drop you off at the top of Winnat's Pass and pick you up in Hope, or just lengthen your route a bit and go on a round trip from Castleton or Hope. You'll have a brilliant time, I promise.


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