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Exploring the Alport Castle Circular Trail: The Herd Diaries - January Meet

Our first walk of the New Year! and its always good to see everyone after the festive season, we were ready to walk off the over indulgences, get some fresh air and get back into the hills. What better start to our Herd year than a scramble up Alport Castles.

After a very wet and stormy start to the New Year we were treated to a calm and mild morning at Fairholmes, even the resident ducks were quiet this morning. Its becoming a common occurrence to be sharing the meeting point with another walking group, we nearly lost a couple of members to a 'singles' group but Sam managed to lassoo them back and Sues networking skills failed again as we didn't gain any new members, despite some questionable poaching techniques, the 'sexy leg pose' was maybe too short to lure anyone over.

After holding back for the late stragglers, ok lets name and shame them, James and Jimbo! next time lads book that full English in a little earlier OR to stop future names and shames, bring us a bacon butty? bribery works well with us.

Time to get going. Heading up the steep woodland trail, we all tried to breathe normally whilst we had a catch up with the regulars, and get to know and welcome the new faces that joined us. A few grateful costume changes, made us pause to catch our breathe and look back towards Derwent reservoir, peeking in the distance and looking very beautiful. Little breaks in the clouds casting beams of light on the water, the camera phones capturing this welcomed respite after a turbulent few weeks. Through the fields we hesitated, a 'Warning Bull' sign, we made our way to Rowlee Pasture and took in the vistas of the Peak District Landscape pointing out Winn Hill, The Great Ridge and the clouds clearing over Edale Valley.

Any layers we had taken off on our woodland accent were quickly pulled back out of the packs again, as the wind hit us hard making our way, single file, along the stone path that leads to Alport Castles and Little Moor. Maybe it was the wind that carried us, or maybe the varied conversation, but we were making good time, the pace was on! and we were ready for the shelter. Even with the wind blowing Johann's hat away, you cant help but pause when you first catch site of Alport Castles.

Seven years ago we both scrambled up The Tower of Alport Castles, it was the coolest thing we had seen so far in the Peak District, it felt like a hidden remote wilderness that no one knew about, even after many visits we rarely saw anyone. It felt like a secret hideaway. Today we were one of maybe three groups of enthusiastic walkers, Sam noticed the now easy and worn out path leading down to the rockfall at the base of the Castle, a carved out path made from human traffic is something that was not there on our first visit.

The 'hidden' places of the Peak District are now a more popular tourist attraction, and as we always advocate, the outdoors is there for everyone to enjoy, we wouldn't take groups of people to these places if we thought they shouldn't be accessible to everyone, nor ever kept 'secret'. It just seems a little sad that to find these places no one needs to look at a map anymore, just look up the hashtag on Instagram, and you'll be there with the masses in no time. No need to seek out the odd shaped oblong circles that indicate rocks on an OS map, no curiosity at a 'stone circle' on a gradient scale miles away from a main road. The need to just go and check it out in case its something worth seeing.

And yes we totally get the irony as I write this blog post on a walking group website, and our Instagram posts, hundreds of photographs and comments of where we have been, how long it took us, and of course where to park. We are contributors to this dilemma, even if we are only a small online presence, and a drop in the social media ocean (and very happy to remain so, a future blog post on that topic, I'm sure). We just really hope that this sense of exploring our local patch of the wilderness we have left, is not over, or maybe it is for us in the Peak District, have we really seen it all? I hope not. We have slowed down the oversharing because of our awareness of the impact of more visitors, not to keep these amazing places to ourselves, but because we feel so deeply overprotective. You come round here bringing your mess and you mess with us!

Johann's Scramble

Sheltered from the wind, the brave or the FOMO amongst us decided we were doing the climb. To our disbelief following behind (with the help of some coaxing from James) was Johann. Anyone who is a regular on our meets will know that Johann, is not great with heights, and usually likes his feet on solid ground at all times. So to see him pausing and accessing the route up, came as a bit of a shock! 'Are you sure, Johann?' always smiling, he responded with a 'well, I'll give it a go' That's the spirit! I tried to give Sam the 'should we get a quick liability quote' look, but she was leading the way already. He was going with up.

The Scramble Up The Tower - A Helping Hand

The ground was still damp, and some recent rockfall had made the scramble up more slippery with less hold than we remembered, but as always on our group walks, everyone helped a hand to the person behind them, team work (special thanks, Michael and James). One by one we summited The Tower and was reintroduced to the strong wind, we held on, we took a few pictures, and we got ourselves down. Not before we congratulated the man of the day! The only time we saw him go a paler shade was the narrow ridge that you have to shimmy across, and duck under a precarious rock to be in the safer flat area. Johann absolutely nailed it! It was so great to see him up there with us. Confidence comes from being with friends you can trust, helping each other out, facing the fear and doing it anyway. The wind was strong, or else we would have stayed longer, taking in the 360 views, but we decided it was time to make our way down the back way which is far easier, and less dangerous, sorry did we forget to mention that bit?

Summit Complete - Johann and the back up team!

Alport Castles is one of the largest landslides in the UK and over half a mile long, The Castle gets its name from the gritstone debris left behind by the landslide. We have observed Peregrine Falcons nesting on the main cliff side, in the summer calm months their screeches can be heard for miles. We have also been frightened to death by a mountain hare, that darted in front of us right at the summit, nearly toppling us over the edge. Geologically, Alport Castles is one of the most significant conservation landslips in Britain.

It was time to reunite with the rest of the group (and with Johann's hat), who had patiently waited at the bottom and no doubt feeling the chill, waving at us from below. A quick bite of sandwich and it was time to get moving, and warm up again. We passed other groups of people on our way back up to the ridge, we must have timed it right, looking back we saw the second group making their way up the castle, there 'whoops' carrying on in the strong wind and ricocheting along the cliffs. Walking along the ridge looking down on The Tower it really is a sight to behold and we will never not be impressed by it. Before 'Birchin Hat' we make our way back down to Howden Reservoir, realising at this point just how well we were doing for time, this must have been some power walk, who was pacing this walk up front? Someone powered on a full English breakfast this morning no doubt!

Following our way around the reservoir heading back to the dams, we passed felled woodland which is always sad to see, but has a purpose to protect future wooded areas. A quick group decision to not extend the walk further and instead, make our way to the pub! we love this group.

Our original plan to meet at the Yorkshire Bridge was foiled due to some flood damage, so we instead made our detour to The Travellers Rest at Hope Valley, our new favourite haunting place. It was a quick walking pace on this one, but according to Laura's 'Strava' reading we managed 9.25 miles (some logged 10 miles, but as I was tagged in that reading I'll log that, thanks Laura!) The mileage was debated over a drink at the end of the day, also debated was vinegar on chips? And the importance of Henderson's Relish! Before our goodbyes on another great meet up.

Thank you to everyone who joined us on our January meet, it was great to be out again with you guys.

The January Meet -Dream Team - Right Pub!

We want to take this opportunity to wish a speedy recovery to our beloved Trudge! He has been missed on our walks and we want him back out with us ASAP. However, rest that knee Trudge!

Our next meet up is Sunday 25th February, full details are on our Group Walks And Events page. Our walks are free and you can sign up to join us with no obligation, we don't use your details for anything other than a safety contact, in case of emergency. Example: you are like Johann and have a brave moment and follow us to your untimely death, then we shall use the contact number to say where your body can be found, as we are in the pub.


Here's one of our first visits to Alport...

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