It was the early part of the merry month of May when I took the opportunity to escape to do some backpacking. My dad had been killed in a road traffic collision a couple of weeks before And I really felt the need to escape from the bureaucracy of death for a short time. I figured some time away from it all would give me a chance to get myself sorted out a bit. A normal death is bad enough but when there are coroners arguing over jurisdiction and police doing forensic investigations……well, it becomes manic.
As I travelled by train to Matlock I reflected on how different it was from last month when there was snow on the ground at Whatstandwell and everywhere was extremely muddy. “Not this time” I thought as the sun shone and lambs frolicked in the fields as the train sped by. At Matlock I then caught a bus to Bakewell. I was feeling a bit pushed for time so I caught a local bus to Monsal Head.
Monsal Head is high up and looks over the Wye Valley. The views are tremendous. At Monsal I met up with some fellow members of the Backpackers Club. After pitching, a friend and I wandered up to the head of the Wye Valley to enjoy a beautiful sunset before joining the others in a local hostelry. A convivial evening was enjoyed by all on a balmy (not barmy) night.
The Tuesday morning dawned dull and overcast. As we departed our separate ways to the pitch at Winster it started to rain. And rain it did non-stop all day! So much for my hopes on the train travelling up. As the group I walked with sploshed along we decided to truncate the walk by catching a bus from Bakewell to Stanton so that we could pitch earlier than intended and get out the rain. The walk over Stanton Moor took us past the Nine Ladies stone circle which was very interesting.
I was very pleased with my strategy to keep dry. I used my trusty Euroschirm umbrella and wore a Pertex windshirt (made by Montane), some softshell shorts and Integral Design eVent ankle gaiters. Despite the torrential rain I kept dry and well ventilated while others suffered leaking waterproofs or built up their own, damp, internal atmosphere. A brolly is the way to go!
Eventually we made the Miner’s Standard on to find that, despite me checking beforehand, the kitchen was not open. Cue dejected faces. Luckily, a takeaway in Matlock delivered pizza to the 5 surviving members on the meet and another member of the club who had just happened to pitch there that evening. Again a pleasant evening was spent talking and drinking while sitting next to a warm fire. When I left the pub the rain had stopped and had been replaced by a very thick mist. So thick that I couldn’t see any tents in the field and found my way by memory. Back at the tent the pub was impossible to see. After getting inside my Gatewood Cape it started raining again. Heavy rain fell all through the night. As usual, the Gatewood Cape kept me sheltered from the elements.
Come morning the rain stopped long enough to get packed away but the forecast was awful for the next few days with persistent, heavy rain and high winds predicted. Discretion being the greater part of valour I made the decision to wander down to the village to catch a bus to take me on to Matlock and the train. A pity as I’d hoped to spend longer out, and do some wild camping, but there’s always the next time.
And, yes, the short time away really did help me to get my head around the loss of my dad. Fresh air, exercise, beautiful scenery and the company of fellow backpackers gave me some sorely needed respite and time to think.
The view from Monsal Head looking over the Wye