Day 38, Edale to the River Dove, 30 miles, 'Tales of Richard IV: The Longest Day'.
30 miles. That's how far we walked today, 30 miles (58,000 steps). I don't think I've ever walked that much in one day, nor probably will I ever again. Our plan was to wild camp this evening, so we had the luxury of simply going for as long as we wanted before pitching up and that is the main reason behind today's bloated mileage - because the day was unbelievably good - looking back this was (so far) the best day of the entire journey and as the morning turned to afternoon and the light began to dim we both didn't really want to stop, hence the mammoth distance made today.
As ever, we started with a calf-sapping, stitch-inducing climb as we cut directly across the ridge that boasts Mam Tor, a hill that dominates the skyline, and made our way towards Castleton for breakfast. It was a good start to the day, a tough 3 miles that got the heart pumping before a well-deserved breakfast in the town below.
We had a cracking breakfast in Castleton (no pics sorry) and I secretly ordered a banana milkshake, much to Richard's chagrin when it arrived. It's a weird place Castleton - one of those villages that's almost too nice - it had definitely cashed in heavily on its location. Every third building was a 'Tea Shoppe' or selling 'Ye Olde Sweets' and it all began to feel like a tourist trap and not quite like a real place in which people live. But still it was lovely and we spent an hour eating and planning our next steps. From Castleton we would be taking the Limestone Way, a 46 mile trail that began at Castleton and ended to the south in Rocester (which bizarrely rhymes with 'toaster'), unlike the Pennine Way we would be leaving the Limestone Way and rejoining it as it suited us, and I think we both enjoyed the feeling of flexibility this gave us.
Oh yeah, it was also gorgeous. Limestone caves, crags and cliffs scattered about the trail and the path underfoot was easy to follow, if a little gravely at times. The first 3 or 4 miles out of Castleton were unbelievably good, the views were splendid in all directions, the morning sun wasn't yet oppressively hot and the cows were all far away behind fences and high walls of old stone.
We smashed down the Limestone Way, conscious that we had many miles to go, but making excellent time under ideal hiking conditions. The path slowly transitioned from majestic rocky scenery to gentle rolling farmland and we soon found ourselves only a couple of miles away from our lunch spot, a wonderful country pub called the Angler's Rest.
It is worth mentioning at this point, that Rich frequents the Peaks on a weekly basis to climb, but he always drives to his location, parks up, dominates a cliff or two, then drives home happy, so he never really sees it on foot. This meant that every 4 or 5 miles he would see a familiar sight and snap back to reality, loudly exclaiming that he knew exactly where we were much like a dementia patient on a day trip to a theme park, being briefly shocked back to the real world by the familiar sights and smells. At any rate, we casually swept aside the miles to the pub, and sat outside in the shade for a good 30 minutes, we had reached the River Dove.
The pub was excellent, as were the views of the Dove, which was so clear you could see the stones and small fish at the bottom. Regrettably we had to leave the river and head back to our old friend the Limestone Way, but we would be seeking out the river later on in the day so it was nice to have already made its acquaintance. The Limestone Way was actually pretty dull for the next 2 or 3 hours and I honestly don't remember that much of it - there were roads and fields and some grim looking pubs with England flags in every window, but aside from that the miles melted away until we reached Hartington without leaving much of an impression. Hartington was lovely, and unlike Castleton actually was a real place where people lived. It had a brewery, a cheese makers, a butcher and a 3* hotel that took all this good local produce and turned it into tasty, tasty food, so we headed there immediately. We were sat outside having a quick pre-dinner beer, when Rich thought it would be a good idea to erect the huge umbrella that rested in our table to shield us from the sun - as soon as it was up an unexpected gust tore the giant brolley from its bracket and flung it around the hotel forecourt with genuine menace. It very, very narrowly missed going plumb through the front window of an adjacent Land-rover, and eventually Rich wrestled the umbrella to the ground, and with the pre-dinner entertainment out of the way, we headed inside for a steak and a curry.
After leaving the hotel the Limestone Way cut east to Matlock, a town too far out of the way for us, so we boldly strode off on our own seeking the River Dove once more. We found it relatively easily, and from here on in we were just following the river all the way south until the end of the Peaks. At this point we had probably covered around 22 miles or so - the River Dove walk was so nice, so easy going, that we just did not want to stop until the light went against us, hence the 30 miles today. The river was clear as mirror glass, the trees provided both shade and an ever-changing peripheral scenery, plus every now and then a duck would get caught in the rapids, which was pretty entertaining.
We continued along the river, often seeing a perfect site to pitch our tents, but choosing instead to walk on, captivated by the superb path. I came very close to having to, uh, relieve myself in the wild, but believe it or not a proper toiler appeared out of nowhere right on the path - this trail seriously had it all.
Eventually the light got the better of us and we were forced to find a pitch, and after a mile or two in the near dark we threw our tents up right next to the river and slept like logs after 30 long but ultimately excellent miles. Today had been unparalleled for length and scenery, and tomorrow we would be leaving the Peaks behind having basically covered half of the district in one fell swoop, still the thought of a shorter and flatter day tomorrow was a pleasing one as I drifted off soundly to sleep, with the pleasing sounds of fast flowing water to my right.