Thursday, June 27, 2013

Peak District Hike

While we were in England this summer, we took a trip up to Derby County to visit Ali's brother Adrian and his family. They were very gracious hosts who made us feel very welcome in their new home. Adrian was kind enough to take a few days off of work to plan some outings for us. One of my favorites days was the day we took an 8 mile hike through the Peak District (which is kind of like a national park). Our boys have nicknamed Adrian "Uncle Mountain Goat" he has a reputation to live up to based on our previous outings with him. Haha!

Ali and Adrian started the day with a 6 mile run through the village and through the grounds of a nearby castle. Too bad Ali never took a camera with him on those runs!! I figured that the morning run would have encouraged Adrian to choose a relatively easy hiking route. That, plus the fact that we were taking our 8 year old and 10 year old with us. It turned out that the trail we hiked was PERFECT. It was challenging in spots, but great for our family's abilities.

We parked at Hassop Station in Bakewell, which was once used as a railroad station. It dates back to 1862! The station has been converted to a cafe, book store, and bicycle rental location. The trail we hiked started on the old railway line running next to the station. All of the railroad ties have been removed.

Here is a map of the Monsal Trail. This trail is popular with walkers, bikers, and horse riders. It is a wide, flat trail that is made of packed dirt and crushed stone. Our hike started and ended along this trail, but we took a huge diversion along the way!

This picture was taken right as we diverted off the main trail. We began hiking through some cow pastures and farm fields. The phrase "watch your step" was used quite a bit along this stretch of our journey. Haha!!

The cows we passed were very curious about us. Luckily most of them were fenced in and didn't wander too close.

This hike took us through the Bakewell countryside and a few small villages. I loved all of the beautiful old foot bridges. This one was located by an area that was once used as a sheep wash.

Our hike took us from public walkways to privately owned land. We crossed many fences like this one along the way. Because it was a public footpath, landowners are required to make sure the public can gain access to their property. These fences allowed people in, and made sure their cattle didn't escape.

We seemed to be following a stream along most of our hike. There were a few places where it gave way to waterfalls like this one.

Right next to the waterfall was this cool gate. I wish we had time to go through and see what was on the other side.

We trudged on...

And pretty soon we came to another village. I am always in awe of the old churches in this country! There is so much history in these old church yards.

Soon we came to another beautiful footbridge. We decided that this was the perfect spot to stop and have a snack. We packed cereal bars, granola bars, and a thermos of coffee. We also made sure to bring plenty of water. Ali and Adrian had the joy of carrying all of our supplies. Poor guys!

This duck and her ducklings joined us for lunch. After snapping up a few crumbs, the ducklings jumped back in the river, and were swiftly carried downstream by the current. The mama jumped in and swam after them quacking away. It was almost like she was scolding them for running off!

With snack time over we continued on our way. The terrain changed from open fields to a dense forest. It was kind of spooky in some areas! I thought this abandoned water mill was cool though.

Seemingly out of nowhere, we stumbled into this patch of wild flowers. It almost appeared as if we were walking through snow. It was breathtaking! It was a completely unexpected surprise.

Of course, with the beautiful flowers also come the stinging nettles. Both boys had the misfortune of rubbing up against those evil plants. Within seconds they were covered in these small, burning, itching bumps. Tyler had a few on his knee, but poor Darby fell into a patch of them and was covered. Thankfully the pain lasted only a short time.

The trail was beginning to change again. We seemed to be heading downward, and the trail became more rocky too.

Soon our path evened out. Up to this point we had encountered very few hikers. Once we reached this flat area, we were surrounded! This let us know that we were coming up to our first destination: the Monsal Head viaduct. I was excited to see it coming up in the distance. This was our half-way point. We decided to stop here and have a picnic lunch. We had packed some cold meat pasties, a cheese and onion pasty, chips, and granola bars. Someone also snuck in a huge bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. That didn't last long at all!!

After lunch we began to climb out of the valley. This was the most challenging part of our hike. It was basically 30 minutes of climbing stairs straight up. Luckily the boys never complained about being tired!

The views from the top were spectacular!!! Well worth the butt-kicking I took on the climb up.

Here is a great view of the viaduct from above. The flat land to the left of the viaduct is where we had come from...and where we would be heading back to on our return trip.

We decided to enjoy some Ice cream before starting back down into the valley.

Once we were rested up, we started to hike back the way we came. Along the way we took another little detour that brought us back further up on the Monsal Trail. At this point we were able to walk through an old railroad tunnel. These tunnels have only recently opened to the public. They are now part of the walking trail. In the trail there is still evidence of the steam locomotives that used to chug through. The ceilings and walls are still covered in coal soot.

This is another one of the railroad stations we passed on our way back. This one has been converted to a private residence. How cool would it be to live there??

About 6 hours later, we arrived back at Hassop Station. We each had a beverage of choice as a reward. Can you guess which drink was mine? Hint...mine came in a mug :)

This hike was, by far, one of the best I've done in England. We had such a great time laughing and joking along the way. It was nice visiting with Ali's brother while exploring a beautiful area in Derby that I had not been to before.
Next time we return to this area, we plan on renting some bicycles and biking the entire length of the Monsal Trail. It definitely gives us a reason to want to go back.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The White Cliffs of Dover

Ali and I recently took the boys on summer vacation. Summers off is one of the biggest teacher perks!! This year we flew the boys to England to visit Ali's side of the family. Here is a blog post i started writing there, but never got a chance to finish...until now :)

We are about half way through our visit, and already feeling the same old "we just need a few more weeks over here" feelings we get each time we visit. There are so many things to see and do here! There are also a TON of beautiful places to run, walk, and hike.

Tuesday morning Ali asked if I'd be interested in running up on the White Cliffs of Dover. Of course I jumped on that opportunity! We love walking on the Cliffs...but I had never run there before. I knew I was in for a challenge, but I was ready. The weather was pretty cool (in the low 50's) and I knew it would be very windy up that high, so I was a little worried about how to dress. I decided on my Nike capris, Swiftwick arm sleeves, and a very thin Nike running jacket to help block the wind without making me too hot. I was wishing I owned a pair of trail running shoes, but my trusty Saucony Kinvaras worked out just fine.

Ali often runs from his parents house to the cliffs. It is only a few miles away. BUT on this day I was tagging along and I'm not fond of the incredibly steep roads leading up towards the Castle and Cliffs. We decided to drive instead. We got there before the gate house opened, so we didn't even have to pay admission. We were the only people around, but I knew that would quickly change as it got a little later (and warmer).

My goal was to run out to the South Foreland Lighthouse. This sign at the entrance to the main trail says that my goal was 2 miles away. I was determined to beat that 45 minute estimate though!! I'm sure that is an overestimate for casual walkers.

The first part of the trail is a little misleading. It is paved and flat. That quickly changes to a rocky, uneven grooves worn into the chalky ground. There are also some steep stairs to navigate down (and in the back of my mind, I knew I had to go back up those same stairs at the end of my run).

I stopped a few times to try and capture the views that I was seeing. It is so neat to be able to watch this port city in action from high upon the cliffs. I was able to watch the ferries come and go all morning from my running route. Last time we were here we took the boys on the ferry to France. We ran out of time this trip to repeat that adventure.

This run was a pretty tough one for me, as I haven't been doing much running lately...and certainly no hill training. By the first mile I was feeling the burn in my legs and when I got to this marker at about mile 1, I was tempted to head back to the left. Haha! I reminded myself that my goal was just ahead in the distance and trudged on up the next hill, and the next, and the next. This picture is a little grainy, but this point on my route is where I first caught a glimpse of the lighthouse in the distance.

And here you can see it even more clearly! My goal was in full view and the path became more of a slope than a steep hill, which made it easier to continue on. I also knew Ali should be doubling back from his run to find me at any given moment. I sure didn't want to have him catch me walking!! I picked up my pace a little.

I MADE IT!!!! If I knew how to cartwheel, I'd have done a dozen of them about this point. Just as I snapped this shot, Ali appeared from over the next hill. He was able to help me document the return run to the visitor center.

I took a minute to catch my breath and enjoy the view. I was a little disappointed that the lighthouse wasn't open yet. I would have liked to have gotten some pictures from the top. we decided to head back. Now, just all those hills back to where I began. Oh boy!!

One fantastic thing about these trails is the beauty of nature!! Those yellow fields of rape seed can brighten anyone's day!! They sure made me smile. It's like running next to a field of sunshine.

I really wanted to go to the cliff edge and get a super shot looking down, but Ali would have flipped his lid if he had seen me. I decided to sit near the edge and scoot towards the end for this shot. I was very aware of recent erosion, so I was very careful to avoid any ground that appeared cracked. I didn't want to end up at the bottom of the cliffs!

We continued on our way stopping now and then to marvel at the spectacular views. The weather was cold, and it was pretty windy up there. I still managed to get quite warm and even had to take off my jacket to cool off a little.

I knew I was nearly finished when I saw Dover Castle up ahead. I will NEVER get tired of looking at this castle.

This was one of my favorite runs ever. It took me just over an hour to finish the 4 miles, but I didn't stop my Garmin when I stopped to take pictures either. I'm guessing that my actual time would have been about 50 minutes.

Now that we are home, I find myself wishing we had been able to run there again before we left. Instead we got in a few hikes up in the Peak District. Stay tuned for more about that :)