Fell-run­ning: the peak of ex­cite­ment

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Great Outdoors -

Some­where along Burbage Edge, I leave the world be­hind. I am only aware of my­self and the ground be­neath my feet as I gather mo­men­tum down the trail. There is no room for the every­day clut­ter of the mind as we pick our way through the fur­rows and rocks of the path skirt­ing above the val­ley, which opens out across this lovely stretch of the Peak Dis­trict.

Thoughts like “I’ve for­got­ten to email so-and-so”, or “I won­der if the kitchen tap will ever stop drip­ping?” tend to be crowded out on a down­hill fell run. It’s all about the path ahead, and the re­lent­less flurry of an­kle-pre­serv­ing de­ci­sions you make as you place your feet for the next step.

This lib­er­at­ing feel­ing strikes half­way through a guided run with Dave Tay­lor, whose light foot­fall I can just dis­tin­guish be­hind me. We have eased our way into the route, set­ting out in heather moor­land just above Hather­sage, a pretty Der­byshire town in the heart of the north­ern “Dark” Peak area of the park. We be­gan at Sur­prise View, so named, Dave tells me, be­cause Queen Vic­to­ria was once taken aback at the dra­matic panorama that un­folded over the Hope Val­ley as she turned a cor­ner in the royal car­riage in the 19th cen­tury.

“I don’t know if it’s true or not,” he ad­mits. “But it’s a good story.” With his guided run­ning and nav­i­ga­tion ser­vice, Dave now spe­cialises in tak­ing peo­ple away from th­ese well-known views to the park’s more ob­scure spots and van­tage points.

“Off-road run­ning is be­com­ing more popular,” he says. “But few run­ners have the con­fi­dence, knowl­edge or skills to get the most from their runs, so they tend to stick to main foot­paths rather than ex­plore less vis­ited ar­eas.”

As a qual­i­fied ori­en­teer, Dave is a re­as­sur­ing pres­ence for any­one wor­ried about los­ing their way on a run in the area. He is also a good ad­vert for the age-de­fy­ing ef­fects of reg­u­lar ex­er­cise in the open air. Look­ing much younger than his 49 years, he leads with a sure-footed bound up to­wards the dis­tinc­tive grit stone out­crops that dis­tin­guish this part of the na­tional park. It’s a brood­ing, strik­ing land­scape, strangely un­sung when com­pared to the Lake Dis­trict, and Dave rev­els in shar­ing its se­crets.

First we en­counter Mother Cap, a scarred, stacked rock for­ma­tion and one of the lo­cal area’s most prom­i­nent land­marks. As we pass old quar­ries, Dave points out halffin­ished mill­stones, now a sym­bol of the Peaks, aban­doned in situ as mar­kets and tech­nol­ogy moved on.

Up on the dra­matic clus­ter of boul­ders on Hig­gar Tor, we pause to take in our sur­round­ings, which are even more glo­ri­ous than at Sur­prise View. On this clear day – never guar­an­teed around here – you can see up to Win Hill, which just ob­scures the Der­went Reser­voir where the Lan­caster bombers of the Dam­busters raid prac­tised.

From here, the ter­rain shifts sur­pris­ingly swiftly. Drop­ping down the other side, we thread through heather to­wards a clus­ter of pine wood­land. We catch our breath beyond a sim­ple, pack­horse bridge (“my favourite spot,” says Dave), as wa­ter bur­bles in the brook be­neath, be­fore delv­ing into the woods fol­low­ing a faint wa­ter­side path.

Once we emerge from the pines, the gra­di­ent steep­ens and we climb to­wards the boul­ders by Burbage Bridge, the shouts of a rock­climb­ing in­struc­tor echo­ing down to us. At this point, a few miles have

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