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Pennine Bridleway South Head


It was one of those days. One of those days when you feel that you really don’t want to get up. Everything is wrong and nothing makes sense. Your regular hiking buddies are busy with other stuff so they can’t go anywhere. You also have to face the cruel reality that the summer is over and so is the nice weather. What to do when everything seems to be falling apart and all the odds are against you? Well go and climb a mountain – obviously.

Without any maps or preparation, I got into the car and started driving. I thought to myself, ‘yeah I will go somewhere that I know, where the path is safe and not too difficult’. Figured that the Great Ridge would be perfect for that. Yeeahhh…well it turned out there was not a single parking space available… That was it. My frustration level was at its peak. I’ve decided to leave everything in the hands of destiny. I just carried on driving. The plan was to stop at the nearest available point close to some footpath. After a short drive, there it was. One single spot waiting for me, on a small parking space near the road. I’ve grabbed my camera and got out of the car to find out what fate had in store for me. Close to the entrance gate to the footpath was a sign: ‘Pennine Bridleway South Head’.

Later on, I found out that the Pennine Bridleway is a massive trail, stretching from Derbyshire to Cumbria! It is 205 miles long and very popular not only with walkers but also cyclists. For the section in Derbyshire, there are 2 official starting points. First one is the Middleton-by-Wirksworth (through the High Peak Trail) and the second point is the former Hartington railway station. The section that I have managed to cover started from Sheffield Road car park (53.338894,-1.864322) and finished at the top of South Head (53.357806,-1.909806), which is about 3 miles one way.

I was quite pleased to see that the path was very well labelled so you don’t have to be afraid you will get lost. It started rather smooth, leading down the hill. To be fair, it was a bit slippery and wet as in some sections it did turn into a small stream, however, in terms of difficulty, it was not too bad.

When I started my walk, I’ve already noticed some dark clouds in the distance, so I knew I couldn’t waste too much time. The road ahead was still covered in sunshine which was brilliant. Due to the limited parking options, this section is not overcrowded. This was exactly what I needed that day. A safe but not dull path with hardly any human interaction.

Everywhere I went I could hear the water flowing. It was either the stream next to the path or the water underneath my feet. The bright green colours now were slowly fading away and the landscape was dominated by shades of yellow and brown.

On your way you will have to open and close multiple gates and if you decide to walk with your dog you will have to keep him on the lead as there are numerous sheep roaming free in the area and the cyclists, horse riders and, as I was later to find out, motocross fans might collide with your pooch. Stay alert and be aware of your surrounding as the bikes do come down the hill fast. Always be ready to step to the side.

By the time I have reached the South Head I could already feel the strain in my legs. For good few minutes I was standing at the bottom of the hill contemplating if I have the strength to climb the last few meters. It was quite steep, and the path consisted of few holes where you could put your feet in. The rest was just bare grass. On top of that, going down on slippery grass is never a great idea.

As I was standing there, one cheeky sheep was staring at me, looking with contempt, as if it would say ‘well I knew you didn’t have it in you’. Well.. if you add to this the majestic birds just gliding near the top of the hill, literally calling me to walk up there.. I’ve put my hat tight on my head, zipped my jacked and proceeded to conquer the hill. Waved to the cheeky sheep as I’ve walked past and step by step slowly advanced. Eventually I did climb to the top and trust me it was worth it. Yes, it was very windy but the view was stunning.

Derby, UK

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