The Peakland Way, 1978 edition

The Peakland Way, 2013 edition

In, I think, around 1986(?) I walked The Peakland Way, John Merrill‘s 96 mile walk around the Peak District, with a group of (5?) friends, one of whom later became my brother-in-law! I reckon we completed the walk over 8 days, as that’s what the guide suggests, but the end of day / overnight locations were certainly not ‘as per the guide’ …

  • Day 1 : Ashbourne to Hulme End – 12.5 miles
  • Day 2 : Hulme End to Blackwell – 11.5 miles
  • Day 3 : Blackwell to Barber Booth – 12 miles
  • Day 4 : Barber Booth to Snake Inn – 9.5 miles
  • Day 5 : Snake Inn to Hathersage – 12.5 miles
  • Day 6 : Hathersage to Robin Hood Inn – 13 miles
  • Day 7 : Robin Hood Inn to Birchover – 10 miles
  • Day 8 : Birchover to Ashbourne – 15 miles

It was a week spent camping, overnighting in ‘camping barns’ and staying in YHA Hostels, some of which I guess are no longer there. The camping was a mixed affair, some days we walked and set up camp in glorious sunshine, others we walked in the rain and erected tents in, to put it politely, gale force winds and rain! An overnight camp at Edale, if I recall correctly, was hard work, made no easier by a family enjoying the hilarity of the spectacle of us trying to control tents that had become wind socks from the comfort of their caravan!

At the end of Day 1 I think we camped at Wettonmill, some 3 miles or so short of Hulme End. Why I’m not sure but it may have been we travelled up to Ashbourne from Wisbech on the first day and so shortening the mileage on Day 1 was a necessity. At the end of Day 2 we may well have stayed at the YHA Hostel at Ravenstor, Millers Dale but that would have significantly increased the distance walked on that day with the shortfall from Day 1 and the extra miles an overnight there would have added at the end of Day 2.

As described already, I can recall camping at Edale, which would have added half a mile or so onto Day 3 which should have ended at Barber Booth. I’m confident we stayed in the YHA Hostel at Hathersage at the end of Day 5 but we may have camped, as was popular at the time and we had done on other occasions, at the side of the Plough Inn next to Leadmill Bridge just south of Hathersage. I’d been introduced to the Plough in the mid 80’s through walking / outdoor groups whilst a student at university. The pub’s a much grander affair now and I’m sure they would no longer allow drunken hikers to camp in the field between the pub and the River Derwent, let alone sleep on the floor of their adjacent, very rough, barn alongside a tractor for the price of a pint when the weather was bad or you simply were too drunk to erect a tent!

Where we stayed exactly at the end of the others days is anyone’s guess, I have no idea I’m afraid! I do recall some of the evenings spent in various notorious (noteworthy?) pubs along the route … strange that!

The tent I had at the time was an Ultimate Peapod 2. The ‘2’ indicating it was a two man tent (yeah, right!) being a matter of a ‘few inches’ larger than the Ultimate Peapod which you could just about squeeze one person into! At the time though it was a good buy and served me well. I’d purchased it in the early 80’s and the last time I recall using it was in the late 90’s, maybe even early 2000’s, for an overnight next to Elterwater in the Lake District and also a few nights somewhere in the south west. Where exactly I can no longer recall. What has happened to the tent since I have no idea. Maybe it will resurface at some point!

Ultimate Peapod 2 (not my image!) Image courtesy of

The Peakland Way route in the mid-80’s was followed using paper 1:25,000 OS Maps (which I still have!) and the detailed notes/instructions in John’s paperback guide to the walk. Paper maps were useless in the wet, no such thing as lamination in those days (yes, I know, I’m sounding old!), and so were often folded and forced into a plastic ‘map case’. Ahhh, map cases! Two things about a map case … (1) the bit of the map you wanted to see was never, ever, visible through the damn case at the critical time you needed it to be and the amount you could see was inversely proportional to the wind strength and amount of rain falling at the time you needed to rearrange the whole thing to see the critical part and … (2) in even the slightest of winds the map case, which hung around your neck on a piece of nylon cord, would cause friction burns at the best of times and garrotte you at it’s meanest. Imagine being soaking wet, p***ed off with the wind (as well as probably being lost ’cause the bit of the map needed was not visible but you’d decided to press on regardless “we couldn’t get lost again today after all, could we?” and, on top of all of that, being starved of oxygen by the garrotting design of the frigging map case. Happy days! 🙂 So naturally, at times (OK, let’s be honest here, often), even with the map and guidebook, we ended up heading in the wrong direction, blamed the ‘damn book’ and began to question if ‘John’ knew his right from his left! We walked many, many miles more than the planned 96 and it certainly caused friction amongst the group 🙁 A poor workman and all that I guess.

Anyway couple of days ago I came across John Merrill’s website, he’s gone on to write over 450 walking books, walked over 200,000 miles and is now the Rev’d John Merrill apparently – each to their own (maybe divine intervention has helped his navigational narrative too?!), and decided to order the latest version of his The Peakland Way book which arrived today. Ironically, well it made me smile, the Rev’d John has had the book typeset in the Humanist521 font. I wonder if he realised?

So it got me thinking, maybe 2019, is the time to walk The Peakland Way for a second time? Especially as the latest guide includes a list of 26 pubs, in 17 towns and villages along it’s route! It’s a ‘no brainer’ surely?!

As they say, watch this space 🙂

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