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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Exploring the frozen North [20100219|15:37]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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Last weekend, we went to the Peak District to do some hiking in celebration of the bloke's birthday. These were intended to be two nice easy gentle hikes and one death march up Kinder Scout. Somehow one of the nice easy gentle hikes turned into Death March II. We stayed in a peculiarly regimented hostel in the pretty village of Eyam, famous for heroically sealing itself off from the outside world while the Black Plague raged inside it. Though the Plague Museum was closed until the end of March, the green plaques outside solid huddles of grey stone houses along the high street helpfully informed us of the list of victims who died in each of them. The lists invariably terminated with a sentence, e.g. "Mrs. X alone survived, but lost 25 of her relatives." Cheery.

Birthday boy and fellow lycanthrope


This doesn't look like much on a dark monitor and when it isn't at full resolution, but it's one of my favourite portraits I've ever taken. I like the framing, composition and focus. It was taken in a cave at Dovedale Canyon, our first day's hike and the easiest. The trail meandered alongside a river. Some parts of it were half-drowned, others cobbled and one long stretch was covered by a sturdy boardwalk. The trees lining the path dipped their bare white limbs towards the rapidly rushing water. The riverbed seemed to be completely carpeted by luminous green plants, lending the one splash of colour to the otherwise grey-and-tawny winter landscape, aside from these tiny ferns clinging to the canyon walls.


The next day, we woke early and wolfed down a surprisingly generous cooked breakfast, provided only between the hours of 0800 and 0900, with notification of the time of intended consumption provided the previous evening. Many layers were donned, thermoses filled with tea and coffee, lunches packed and Ordinance Survey maps repeatedly consulted. At last we piled into the car and headed for the base of Kinder Scout, purportedly the highest peak in the Peak District, although I have heard tell that there are peaks in the Lake District which are higher.


Once we passed the reservoir, the trail rapidly disappeared into a slush of soggy heathland. We were forced to stop repeatedly to consult the map in order to complete the ascent.

Er, where are we exactly?

Eventually we worked out that we needed to head up the icy slope on the far left of the panorama below, which looks much better if you embiggen it.

Kinder Scout panorama

Made it to the top!

Behind me, you can see the reservoir from the first photo.

Hail the conquering heroes

We celebrated our victory by hiding behind one of these smooth outcroppings and eating our sandwiches, but we didn't linger long. Though it was clear and the only precipitation was a light dusting of snow, the wind was bitterly cold, so we pressed on into the white.


Grouse botherer

One of the troops apparently didn't have enough to eat for lunch. His attempt to stalk this grouse ended in failure, although we discovered later that this was probably fortunate, as grouse-hunting is forbidden during mating season. The male grouse have a rather exciting method of displaying their masculine prowess. They hide in the heather and then ping vertically out of it, flapping and squawking and generally making the most godawful racket. This is supposed to be impressive to the females. We didn't see any evidence that it was actually working.

The bloke points the way

It had been quite difficult to discern the trail during the hike along the ridge to the trig point, which is marked by that white squared-off pyramid in the upper left. Since Kinder Scout is suffering from erosion due to the number of ramblers who visit it each year, we were feeling rather guilty for most probably having trudged over a certain amount of pristine heathland. We stopped to get our bearings so that we could finish along the Pennine Way without doing any more damage.

Off again

As we descended, the weather changed rapidly. Visibility improved with every step. The fine snow that swirled around us cleared.

Return to a sunny world

Invigorated, we found the nearest pub in which to have celebratory ales, warm our chilled limbs and watch the rugby, of course. Well aired, well fed and well exercised, we were all asleep by 10 PM.

Unfortunately, one of our indomitable crew forgot to turn the alarm on his mobile off, and thus we were rudely awakened by clanging bells from under someone's bunk at 7 AM. Since I'm an early riser by nature, I couldn't go back to sleep, so I scampered off to the showers and then went for a wander before breakfast.

Eyam Youth Hostel

The hostel itself is a Victorian folly, which is peculiar enough, but for some reason they decided that what they really needed for outdoor recreation was an ill-kempt crazy golf course, which you can see in the foreground, covered in wet leaves.

Eyam's Revolving Sheep-Roasting Jack

Tell me I'm not the only person who's seriously tempted to be in Eyam on 4th September 2010 to see this baby in action.

Sundial, 1775

One of the reasons I like being in England so much is that it never ceases to provide me with a sense of historical perspective. This sundial, which is one of the newer items in Eyam's churchyard, the oldest being an 8th century Celtic cross, is one year older than my country.

Gravestone tablets

The goth in me can never resist a good gravestone photo.

Once everyone else was awake, showered and fed, we decided to seek out one more walk before the great drive back to the South. A conversation with some of the hostel staff the previous evening had convinced us that the Derwent Edge around Ladybower reservoir would be a good choice.

Ladybower reservoir dam

About halfway up the cliff face, we decided that the hostel staff hadn't liked us very much.

Halfway up the cliff face

Plotting a course to the trig point

Birthday boy at the trig point


The brutal wind on the ridge once again necessitated a hasty lunch before the long, meandering descent to the lower end of the reservoir. Though the ground was waterlogged, the weather stayed clear until we reached the car, where the bloke magnanimously drove his shamelessly sleeping passengers all the way back to Cambridge in pouring rain. Fortunately, he had plenty of presents to open on arrival.

[User Picture]From: chickenfeet2003
2010-02-19 16:10 (UTC)
Thanks for that. I stayed at Eyam YH a few times many moons ago. The first time was probably when some school friends and I did the Pennine Way in the summer of, I think, 1972. 270 miles of mostly peat bog.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-02-23 12:59 (UTC)
Ha, fantastic. Did you use the crazy golf course?

Peat somehow seems less "dirty" than ordinary mud. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because it's still got threads of organic material in it.
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[User Picture]From: chickenfeet2003
2010-02-23 13:31 (UTC)
I don't remember the golf course. Peat stinks. I remember going in almost up to my waist in a couple of places in the Cheviots. Yuck!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-02-23 13:34 (UTC)
Ew. I'm now thinking that not being able to smell the peat may be the biggest advantage of climbing Kinder Scout in winter...
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[User Picture]From: wurlitzerprized
2010-02-19 17:13 (UTC)
gorgeous. you are a beautiful storyteller.

my soul belongs to england; i don't know why. it probably sounds like a very odd statement from a 3rd generation new-yorker...i must have reincarnated here and miss briton.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-02-23 13:02 (UTC)
I don't think it's any odder than a Hawaiian moving to England and deciding that Yes! An island with a culture, cuisine and climate that is almost exactly opposite in every way to the one I grew up with? This is the place for me to settle!
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[User Picture]From: sneakypeteiii
2010-02-19 19:02 (UTC)
Looks like certain parts of the Western Rockies, like in Montana. Had no idea England looked like this. Gorgeous.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-02-23 13:03 (UTC)
I think most of our (American) perception of England is based on the southern regions, which are pretty flat. And London, of course. At least, I know mine was before I moved here.
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[User Picture]From: nimoloth
2010-02-20 20:50 (UTC)
Good trip! I've been to the Lakes a few times in recent years, having never been prior to that. It's very pretty, but I can never get over the slight disappointment that it's like a poorer version of Scotland. Like Narnia was a poorer image of the real Narnia in Aslan's country in The Last Battle. OK, I'll stop talking now.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-02-23 13:08 (UTC)
Heh. Scotland is a lot more rugged, for sure. Its mountains haven't been tamed quite as well as England's. But they all pale in comparison to the mountains of western North America, which are not only bigger and wilder, but span climates from snow to desert. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: painted_dreams
2010-02-21 06:32 (UTC)
Those pictures are wonderful. The place looks absolutely beautiful. I can only imagine how living in Europe can change your perspective of home. We (here) consider buildings that are 50-60 years old historical... Yet, in Europe they have buildings older than our country. When I went to Rome it was a trip. Walking amongst these ancient sites while being surrounded by modern.

Good to hear that you had fun.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-02-23 13:10 (UTC)
Yes, the trip I took to Sicily was eye-opening. There are so many ruins on the island that they haven't even bothered to identify some of them - it's just Temple A, Temple B, Temple C, etc. because it isn't obvious to which gods they were dedicated.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-02-23 13:16 (UTC)
What is it about putting meat on a stick and rotating it over a fire that never fails to make me hungry even if I've just eaten? I just had lunch, and typing that sentence elicited tummy rumbles.

The names of the features in the Peak District are terribly romantic for some reason. Maybe it's just because Derbyshire == Mr-Darcy-land.
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[User Picture]From: danaid_luv
2010-02-24 01:32 (UTC)
Delightful! Thank you for the photos & text--embiggin *giggles* Please to be sharing 'shelter' & 'made it to the top' slightly larger so they might live on in my screensaver program? *bats lashes*
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-02-26 20:48 (UTC)
Of course. They should be clickable to full resolution now!
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