Exploring UK’s Nature – Peak District

Hello again! We’re in the final stretch of this semester, and for most students this means wrapping up for the winter holidays. Most of my deadlines were completed 2 weeks ago and I had a bit of down time last week, so I decided to take a little road trip to Peak District!

Peak District National Park is located in central England and spans across a few counties including Derbyshire, Cheshire, and Staffordshire. The three closest large cities from Peak District are Manchester in the north west, Sheffield in the east and Nottingham in the south east. Known for its beautiful landscape, quaint little towns and villages, and historic houses, it’s definitely one for the books to satisfy wanderlust and outdoor adventure cravings.

Although people generally don’t recommend visiting the Peak District in late autumn as it can be wet, cold and windy, we were extremely lucky in catching a few less gloomy days during our time there. We also packed our hiking boots, fleece clothing, down jackets, and even rain coats in preparation for any of the typical UK weather conditions during this time of year.  

The drive itself took a bit over 3 hours, and for someone from a small city like Hong Kong that is a long way to drive. Even though most of the way was on motorway, we had to take a couple of food and bathroom breaks at service stops throughout to keep us going. Thankfully we made it without a hitch, as it is very common to run into car trouble or even encounter roadkill while driving! Of course, snacks (not necessarily roadkill) and fluids are crucial for the road, and we had plenty packed in the car for the few days. We spent pretty much the first day of our vacation just to travel from Surrey to the Upper Midlands, and it was an exhausting day of travel.

Long winding roads make for a long drive.
Piping hot sausage roll on the road – a perfect warm pack for the hands.

For the remaining days, we spent the majority of the time exploring the natural beauty that Peak District had to offer, heading out early in the morning and returning when it got dark (which wasn’t very late as the sun sets at around 4pm during this time of the year).

Chasing the most iconic and picturesque locations in the Peak District, we hiked the famous Mam Tor (its name meaning “mother hill”) and a few succeeding small hills in Derbyshire. The entire ridge of hills overlooks Edale Valley on one side and Hope Valley on the other side and offered a stunning panoramic view. Be warned – you may lose your hat or beanie as I nearly did, since it is constantly very windy at the top of the hills. The circular hike took us three comfortable hours, with constant rest stops for pictures, snacks, and soaking in the view.

A picture of Mam Tor, taken from a few hills away.

We managed to squeeze in a hike at Bamford Edge on the same day, another stunning viewpoint near Hope Valley. This was a much easier walk, as it was a short steady uphill climb. We were even informed by other travellers that the walk would take about 15mins to reach the top, although we ended up spending well over 2 hours frolicking around and catching the sunset.

Bamford Edge in the distance.
Golden hour – watching the sunset while sat on Bamford Edge.

The next day we traveled to Staffordshire to hike The Roaches. The Roaches is a perfect location for outdoor climbing, and the University’s Mountaineering Club makes a visit for one of their trips during the first semester of each year. Since I am not one for rock climbing, we hiked around The Roaches and Hen’s Cloud instead, and it was a pleasant but much rockier walk. At each summit it felt like I was stood on top of the world, peering over the edge and looking far beyond the landscape. It was an equally thrilling and terrifying experience, with a slight adrenaline rush creating a sense of euphoria.

The Roaches looming up ahead.
The Roaches and Hen’s Cloud.

We also did a bit of horse-back riding around Derbyshire to wrap up the trip. We managed to find a horse-riding centre that offered trekking for experienced and non-experienced riders. Since I have quite a bit of riding experience, having had lessons through the University’s Equestrian and Polo Club, I joined a few others in cantering through the woods. Cantering through difficult terrain with the wind blowing in my face and constantly ducking tree branches was indeed an exhilarating ride that put a huge smile on my face.

Of course the most important part of any travel is proper fuel for the body– and by that I mean food. Being located near small villages and town, we decided to replenish at local pubs with proper British grub. The hearty hot meals were well worth it especially for the price and were perfect ways to end each long day of travel.

Steak & mushroom pie with chips – proper British grub!
And of course, can’t forget about fish and chips!