After applying to take part in a three day ‘Wilderness First Aid Course’ in the peak district, I booked my time off work, arranged my train tickets from Bristol, and then started to research for some cheap accommodation close to the location of the course. Then the thought immediately retracted after I realised that I have my one-man tent with me right here in my bedroom! I pack my rucksack, shoved in my tent and stove and headed out on the six hour journey to the Peak District. I remember looking through the window of the train as it left the city of Manchester as the flat, grey land started to rise and dip, and hills with high, sharp contours started to appear in the distant horizon. I looked with animated eyes, excited knowing that I one of these hills would be my home for a few nights, already feeling calm and refreshed, exiled from the city, back into the arms of nature, the air coming through the window of the train had a spring freshness to it mixed with the smells of cut grass, cow waste and fresh rain about to pour onto over the valley.
I arrived at the small village of Hope situated directly in the middle of the Manchester and Sheffield and without a single glimpse of any nearby city. I hauled my rucksack over my shoulder, took a deep breath of fresh, glorious English countryside air and headed into the village. After scanning the area and buying a few supplies from the local shop: bread, hummus, fruit bars and a few cans of ale, I spun around, observing my surroundings and saw a two eminent and lush green hill tops poking out beyond the edge of the town, I pointed at it and said to myself, ‘that one!’. At this point the sensible voice inside of us will say, ‘but how will you get there? With no map and no local direction, there might not be a path’.
The other voice inside of us however, the little excited adventurous child, doesn’t bother with these sort of limiting questions, it just says ‘GO! Try it out, see what happens’ and so off I went, and sure enough after half an hour of navigating winding village roads, dead ends and several untamed tracks bursting with thorny bushes, I found a track that seemed to be taking me all the way to the top. Moments later the grey skies opened and spilled over me in a quick, heavy downpour. I squelched my way up the track which was now running brown with a purling stream of muddy water, I felt the water start to fill my shoes and run down my back and pants. After around an hour of hard walking, passing crowds of sheep and cows clustered together under trees I made it to the summit, 476 meters but without a single view of the surroundings, only a wall of grey cloud everywhere I looked! I set up my tent, changed my soaking wet clothes and tucked into my dinner.
I fell asleep that night to the rain smashing on my tent and the constant calling of tiny lambs. The view in the morning however was indeed spectacular, a clean sunny day revealed lush, rolling hills as far as the eye could see and the little town of Hope just a few miles down the slopes in front of me. I packed up, had myself a glorious stretch, and headed down back to the village to start my course, chomping on a few breakfast bars and typing my notes on my phone with one finger.
I arrived at the course, sweaty, fresh faced and with a warm radiant glow, and as I threw my heavy rucksack down and introduced myself to the other participants who were sat on the tail gates of their cars, they asked me, ‘So Jack, which B & B are you staying in?’.
I thoroughly believe than we can all find quick access to nature and are capable of finding somewhere to rest our heads in the freshness of this brilliant English countryside. So next time, when you have the opportunity stay overnight somewhere new, take your tent or your bivvy bag with you and climb the nearest hill, you’ll wake up refreshed, rejuvenated and with a little glint in your eye knowing you’ve spent your night well!