Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Slippery stones

Today started with a little walk around Hayfield in the morning sunshine. It's a rather lovely place; very oldy-worldy with a joyous stream gurgling through the middle.

We stopped off at the camp site to meet the others and found them finishing their breakfasts in a dew-covered field.

We travelled across the Peaks to a place called Speedwell Cavern, which is an old lead mine accessed by a series of underground canals, which visitors travel along on a rickety old tin boat. It was my idea to visit the place. I'd been there as a young child and found it hugely inspiring and hoped the kids in our group would be similarly excited.

It is a highly atmospheric place. Those above a certain height are forced to wear hard hats, and the tunnels you travel through are only just large enough for the boats and those sitting on them to pass through. I'm told that when I last visited (in 1984) the tour guides would have pushed the boats along with their feet on the tunnel ceilings - which I think I remember - but these days it's all motorised.

We went from Speedwell into the nearby village of Castleton for lunch in a pub. We sat in the garden in bright sunshine, reading about the troubles my parents had experienced in Thaxted the night before, when a massive hail and thunder storm destroyed one of the roads in the town and led to five people needing to be rescued by emergency services. We're told Newbiggen Street became a river, that basements flooded, and that untold damage was done by a milk float driving down the road at high speed which created something of a tidal wave! My mother sent a text saying there were blue flashing lights everywhere and that the whole place felt like a disaster zone. Quite astonishing.

From Castleton we drove into the deepest, darkest part of the national park, in search of the alluringly-named "Slippery Stones", an area just North of the Derwent reservoir, well-known to wild swimmers. There's a two mile walk from the car park, along the banks of a river which had deep orange water, no doubt the product of incredibly peaty earth.

The walk was so worthwhile. The river turns into a glorious plunge pool, where you can swim in clear water and have your entire body massaged by a mini-water fall. We stayed there for hours, repeatedly diving into the water, getting out and then thinking "just one more swim."

The walk back to the car was accompanied by a multi-coloured evening sky, which didn't know if it was stormy or made of treacle. In the end, it delivered a light show of spectacular proportions. The sun turned the mountains a bright shade of green which the reservoir reflected  against a black, blue, brown and slightly pinky sky. To cap things off, two enormous jet planes flew really low through the valley, making us gasp, duck and then laugh!

During our journey home, as we drove up and down over the hills and moors, the sky melted into a spectacular sunset of reds and golds and deep maroons. Morris men were dancing outside a pub in the village of Hope, hikers were returning to their camp sites all sun-kissed and achey, but everyone seemed jolly content. As they all should be on a wonderful English summer day!

Back in Sam and Matt's room, we had a mini picnic of bread and cheese before turning in for the night. I go to bed exhausted and very cheery.

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