You won’t believe where I am right now as I type this. Frankly, I don’t believe where I am right now.
I’m sitting on the grass at the edge of a pond. A fishing pond. The only sound to be heard besides the tapping of keys is the majestic rustle of the trees on the opposite bank and the odd chiming of various birdcalls. M, whom I’m here with, is crossing his fingers and waiting for his line to sink. Brian, our airbnb host, is watching over his shoulder, palms tucked into the back of his jeans. Brian is past 70, and although his fascinating life story includes having worked in NASA headquarters, he still considers dating a Miss Universe finalist to be his biggest achievement of all time. Hard to top that, I’ll say. We’ve just driven about 30 minutes out of the town of Harrogate, rumbling along bumpy dirt roads and being assailed by a flurry of small flies every time we put the windows down too far, clutching fishing rods, an unfinished, splintery wooden stool and a bag of sandwiches.
I’m in the countryside!
I find myself in such pretty places sometimes.
It all began quite simply; I had a week or so free and needed to get away after my boxes (with most all my worldly possessions) were collected and thrown – rather violently, I might add – into the back of a truck and sent to storage. So when M asked if I would perhaps like to spend the week in the Lake District, it seemed perfect.
Then the problems began. Almost all accommodation available for booking online in the whole big green patch of the Lake District was booked up, otherwise exorbitantly expensive. All right, we thought, we can go camping. Not sure how wise that would be seeing as to how M hadn’t actually camped in the great outdoors before, and the closest I’d come was draping a blanket across two chairs and cosying up to my sister underneath for an hour or two. The great indoors. But ignorance can breed great courage, and we bought a cheap tent off a friend and figured we could stock up on sandwiches or something. Fair enough.
In the end the biggest hurdle, the one we could not cross, was the issue of getting a car. M is under 25 and let me tell you, the insurance charge (‘Young Driver’s Charge’, as they call it) is so high it’s probably worth more than our two lives put together, even if I sold my postcard collection. Insane. We had neither big enough wallets or the guts to risk it, so that was a dead-end.
Exasperated, we pulled up google maps and decided the next best place that didn’t look too hard to reach by public transport was the Peak District. Of course. We found an airbnb in the … town? …. gee, I don’t even know if you could call it a town, it’s so small: of Broadbottom. Never heard of it? That’s cool, neither had we. A 20 minute train ride out from bustling Manchester we were in a town (?) so quiet that the most happening thing (or so we thought) was a Chinese takeaway. Beneath the arches of railways and aqueducts, the rolling green of the Peak District could be seen, stretching out to the horizon.
We went with no plan, so there was a lot of wandering to be done. On our first day, our host was kind enough to fetch us out a little way to the lovely town of Hadfield. Hadfield blossoms at one end of a series of five reservoirs, which makes for a lovely walk and a good pub meal at the end. We started from the town and made it round 3 reservoirs, going really really slow and napping or tucking into some fruit whenever we found a bench or a nice dry spot. The going was safe and extremely easy, which was probably why we came across a number of families and joggers. The views are pretty spectacular when you reach the high points; don’t be too afraid of veering off the main path into forest trails, as long as you stay aware of where the reservoirs are, you can’t get too lost. If it’s a wet day, of course, boots on.
View of the reservoirs from a well-placed bench.
The path to … heaven, maybe?
The walk was lovely but for us, Hadfield will always be memorable first and foremost because it is the home of the best Thai food in the world. No kidding, this stuff was legit and so delicious that a number of expletives sped through my mind while flavours danced across my tongue. You’ll find this oriental heaven at a pub called The New Lamp – Lord knows how they arrived at this name – that’s a on a corner not 10 minutes down the hill from Hadfield Station. You’ll find a list of addresses below. I had Yom’s Special Fried Rice and, my word, it was amazing. When the plates first came – the portions are massive – I wasn’t too blown away. Thought it looked like ordinary fried rice, just kinda wetter. But ordinary it certainly was not. The first bite was shockingly good, and I don’t say that about many things. The closest I can describe it is like phad thai, but with rice instead of rice noodles. My best guess would be an amalgamation of peanuts, fish sauce, sweet sauce … I don’t know. Drugs, maybe. Would explain why it’s so addictive. M had the Green curry and it was delicious as well.
Do not miss THE NEW LAMP! Don’t don’t don’t. I’ve not been able to stop thinking that fried rice since and have even considered taking a day trip all the way out to tiny Hadfield just to have it. Oh, what I would do to have that plate in front of me again!
In Broadbottom itself we found the Lymefield Garden Centre, a whole estate that consists of a farm shop, cafe and horticultural retail. Seeing as to how I’ve never lived in anything other than a pigeonhole flat, high quality top soil wasn’t of much interest to me. Cakes, on the other hand, were. The cafe is a lovely, spacious place flooded with sunlight, and their ingredients are mostly all freshly gotten from the area. The shop is a teeny little grocery + corner shop, and we had the best nectarines from there, 4 for a pound and the sweetest fruits I’ve ever come across. It was hard to eat them in a graceful and demure manner because juice would literally spurt everywhere, pardon the graphic image. Rubbing shoulders with Lymefield is a big traditional printing mill, at the corner of which stands a little shop selling all kinds of cloth and haberdashery. Pretty to look at even if you, like me, can barely sew a button.
If you’re in the area also do not miss the beautiful, even quieter town of Little Hayfield. Yes, Hayfield and Hadfield. There’s a Padfield too. Gotta keep your head pretty clear when dealing with the geography here. A busride away from Glossop – which is as much of a hub as you’re going to find in the area – the town is nestled in a valley at the foot of Kinder Scout, which happens to be the highest peak in, well, the Peak District. If you’re meaning to get up Kinder Scout, though, I’ll definitely recommend driving. In fact, I still do think the best way to explore the Peak District is by car. You save lots of time and can reach places that your own private bus 11 (read: own two legs) will never get you to, unless you wanna pack some steroids while you’re at it.
Us, we wandered along till we found a little road called the Snake Path, which we followed diligently till we got up the side of a hill and had an amazing view of the town and the hills surrounding it. Also, there were lots of sheep. Sheep are amazingly daft but endearing creatures (not unlike some humans I know!). They are also so blissfully ignorant. Their lives are all about eating grass and mating, as our observations would suggest. Watching them has the same effect as paying hundreds to have people put hot stones on your bare back in a nice smelling room with a tape playing the sound of running water, but FREE instead. Why not? M decided to have a bit of fun and go chasing some sheep, and it was bloody hilarious, but we later found out from our host that chasing sheep could get you into a ton of trouble with farmers. Apparently they shoot dogs that chase sheep. (@____@) I think the lesson here is: only chase sheep when no one is looking. There might be another lesson, but I think you can tease it out yourself.
The Snake Path!
‘Peace and quiet is to be found; just take a rest and look around’
- – wise words engraved on the bench we napped on
So, as mentioned, we are now in Harrogate with fascinating Old Brian, and tomorrow we leave for York. Let’s save all that for another day, shall we? 3 days in the Peak District has already chalked up a mountain of words.
Me thinks: Having lived all my 22 years as a city girl, it’s easy to think that’s all there is – the skyscrapers, the hustling and jostling, the convenience and immediacy and urgency and rush. But it’s not. The world is ready to offer peace and quiet if you would only care to look. I’m loving the countryside not just for what it is, even though it’s breathtakingly scenic. I’m loving it for what it lets me be. There’s also so much to discover out here. Over these couple of days I’ve seen flora and fauna that before I’d only known from the pages of my Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter collections (Potter, by the way, is from the Lake District. Apparently that’s why the area attracts hoards of Japanese tourists who learnt their English from Potter’s books). Every few steps I stop to look at yet another interesting flower, or to touch a captivating leaf or two (not advised). I listen to the sound of the wind rushing through the overhead canopies of leaves instead of the sound of people rushing through the concrete jungle. I see panoramic views instead of screens. It’s wonderful! Go on, the great outdoors is waiting at your doorstep to be discovered.
Staying in Charlesworth, edge of Peak District
Broadbottom station is a 20 minute train journey from Manchester Piccadilly, and from there a 15 minute walk takes you to Angela’s lovely airbnb. Immaculately clean and comfortable, it’s a lovely place to relax while escaping the usual touristy crowds. We literally spent an entire afternoon in bed while the summer rain beat down on the skylight. Breakfast is provided as well, and Angela is mummy to an adorable Whippet named Alfie who will melt even the most frozen corners of your heart.
12 Bankbottom, Glossop SK13 1BY, United Kingdom
+44 1457 238004
Lymefield Garden Centre
Lymefield, Broadbottom, Hyde, Cheshire SK14 6AG, United Kingdom
+44 1457 764686