Which time of year inspires you to get your walking boots on?

What’s the best time of year to put on your walking boots and head out into the Peak District National Park?

Many people don’t fancy the idea of getting togged up in thick coats and waterproof trousers to brave the snow and heavy rain we’ve been experiencing in recent weeks. But there’s a lot to be said for a winter hike, even if it’s a low level one around a reservoir admiring the snowy tops of nearby hills.

Moving into spring, there’s a lot to experience as the days grow longer, the temperature increases, and many woodlands are filled to the brim with a beautiful carpet of bluebells. The amount of wildlife you see is on the rise as well. Surely the spring is the most fascinating time to go for a walk – what do you think?

But then we hit the summer. T-shirt weather and the best opportunity to take a picnic to the top of the highest hills, with the lowest chance of getting wet when tucking into your cheese and pickle sandwich. Enjoy the heather turning pink in late August. Summertime anyone?

For me, the autumn is up there at the top. Crunchy leaves, conkers on the ground and the majestic spectrum of colour transforming deciduous woodland. An awesome time to get amongst the trees and enjoy the Peak’s woods.

The truth is, all the seasons are fantastic times to head out into the Peak District and that’s why I’ve thoroughly enjoyed putting my new book together – Peak District Year Round Walks. There are 20 walks in it, with five falling in each of our four seasons. I’ve tried to maximise the seasonal joy that can be experienced at that time of year and point out some interesting things to see along the way.

Let me know what your favourite time of year to walk is, and why you love it so much!

Peak District Year Round Walks is available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Peak-District-Year-Round-Walks/dp/1846743559/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1521105316&sr=8-1&keywords=naldrett+year+round


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The top 7 gems of the Peak District


I was invited along to do a radio interview this week, talking about my new book about walking on the moors and tors of the Peak District. The inevitable question came about which was my favourite place to visit in the National Park. I was ready for this, but it’s not an easy question to answer. Favourite places depend on the mood at the time, the weather, the time of year and countless other factors which mean they can change from one day to the next. But here is my collection of the top 7 places to visit in the Peak District. If you have never paid a visit to this wonderful National Park, these are the places I suggest you start with.

1 Edale

Gaining a lot of attention this year because of the Pennine Way’s 50th anniversary, Edale is a lovely village with a couple of good pubs. It’s here that you’ll find the best rambles up to Kinder Scout, the highest peak in the National Park and there are some smashing tors up there to discover.

2 Padley Gorge

Not too far from Grindleford and within easy walking from the National Trust’s Longshaw Estate, Padley Gorge has footpaths that go alongside the river, passing waterfalls and through nice woods. In summer it’s often packed with picnickers, but there’ll be a spot for you on what can be a lovely day out.

3 Castleton

Nice to visit at any time of year thanks to walks up to Mam Tor and a decent range of shops, Castleton is a popular Christmas destination. The shops put trees and lights outside and there’s a programme of carolling events taking place in the caverns.

4 Lathkill Dale

A walk out of Monyash to Lathkill Dale takes you into limestone country, with fabulous formations and the chance to see fossils in the rocks that once lay at the bottom of a tropical sea.

5 Dovedale

It’s a pleasant walk up the valley, but there are several special features that make this a must-do trip. Firstly, there a fossils all around to take a look at, then there’s the picturesque scene at the Victorian stepping stones across the River Dove. But make sure you also pop by the car park for some award winning ice cream and visit the National Trust’s Ilam Hall for a creamt tea.

6 Chatsworth

A stately home to be reckoned with, this place prides itself on never using public or Lottery money, instead being self-funded through visitors. And there’s so much to see and do; a farm for the kids, an adventure playground and of course the house and gardens. All this in addition to some cracking walks up to Calton Pastures through the estate grounds. Nearby Haddon Hall is also worth checking out for a fine example of a historical building.

7 Monsal Trail

This trail makes a wonderful walk and an even better bike ride, not too taxing as it used to be a train track that was kept as level as possible. The gems here are the old tunnels that were repaired and opened up after decades being closed, meaning you can once again tread the route of the tracks.

What would your numbers 8, 9 and 10 be? Please contribute via Twitter or by posting a reply!

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Happy Birthday to the Pennine Way!


This is Andy Bentham. He’s a Park Ranger in the Peak District National Park and he’s pictured here with his pride and joy. It took him the best part of a week to make this oak gate that’s going to be fitted into a fancy dry stone wall in Edale. The centre panel will have a map engraved onto it and it will be a nice addition to the countryside in the Dark Peak.

But this is more than a gateway to a footpath from any old countryside village. No, this is going to mark the start of the Pennine Way, the famous long-distance footpath that begins in Edale and trudges north for 267 miles until it ends up in Kirk Yetholm, three weeks, two tired legs and one satisfied grin later.

The Pennine Way is 50 years old in April, half a century since the ambitious outdoor mind of Tom Stephenson saw his dream become reality; a winding route through the backbone of England. I visited Edale recently to get photographs for an article on the anniversary and generally to soak up the atmosphere in such an idyllic setting. It was a weekday morning, so I didn’t expect the rush of a summer bank holiday. Even so, the place was fairly busy. There were backpackers heading off to tackle the first stages of the Pennine Way, a TV crew filming a show about the path, a school group from Sheffield who were exploring the famous route and, of course, locals who were proud of the beauty on their doorstep.

There was also Andy Bentham and the team of Park Rangers. Noisily cutting stone for the wall and proudly gazing onto the newly built gate, they were delighted to be providing a focal point for the start of the Pennine Way. It’s not just for those who are embarking on the full route, it’s for everyone. For those who are in awe of the length but wouldn’t tackle it, for those who want to experience part of it, for those attempting to do it in weekend stages.

The Pennine Way may not be the longest path in the world, and it certainly isn’t the toughest. But it has developed a mythical reputation in its short lifetime and is a firm favourite for folk to put on their bucket list. It’s even becoming a well-known brand, with many Pennine Way related goods being available in the local shops. And long may it continue.

Happy Bithday to a Peak District legend.

The full article will appear in Derbyshire Life.


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Could you stomach a life afloat?

A life on the water at Skipton.

A life on the water at Skipton.

Some of them were extremely well kept. Shiny coats of paint, solar panels optimistically placed along the roof, neat pots of flowers placed on the deck. It really added to the serenity of the walk alongside the canal.

It’s some years since I last walked down a towpath. I used to live in Lancaster and used to love strolling by the canal there, stopping off for a pint in The Water Witch. But I’d sort of forgot that the canals are there, and when I went up to Skipton last week to research a couple of walks for a new book about railways in the Dales, I honestly felt like I’d been missing out. There’s something unique about it, passing locks, going under old bridges, over aqueducts that must have been incredibly futuristic when constructed.

But it must be very different actually living on one of the boats, when darkness falls and the cold sets in, when the little stove needs huddling round and the rain pelts on the roof. Would this be romantic, quaint, idyllic even? Or is it just your idea of a complete nightmare? Well, walking between Skipton and Gargrave on Friday, there were plenty of people at home on the water, chopping wood, tending plants and doing the shopping. I’m not sure I could stomach it as a way of life, but that wander by the waterside did make me want to have a go at it for a week – although how I’ll manage to park one of those things is quite beyond me.

The walking book I was writing was more concerned with railways than canals, but the two were important in shaping Skipton and developing transport links in the Yorkshire Dales. Money is being spent preserving the canal and carrying out maintenance work, both for those on the towpath and on the water.

So what do people think? Is a canal somewhere you could live for a few years? Do you have a barge, and if so is it the idyllic dream some may see it as?

* Peak District Walks on Moors and Tors is out this month through Sigma Press.



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Desk or exercise bike? What’s the best location for a writer?

George Orwell famously took himself off to the Scottish island of Jura to pen 1984, allowing himself to become engrossed in tranquillity and isolation for the creation of the dystopian classic.

I’m writing this blog as I sweat away on an exercise bike in my one-time garage that now acts as a cold office for the writing of books and magazine articles.

So where is the ideal location to sit down with a laptop and string together classic sentences? With so many writers and bloggers out there, the location of us as an industry must be very diverse.

As a journalist on several newspapers, the optimum location was simple – the newsroom, with all the cups of coffee and swear words needed to motivate the sharpest of copy. At a push near deadline, I’d telephone it in from Crown Court having scribbled it in shorthand.

But what about now, as a freelance with the luxury of working from home? Ah, there’s a phrase. “Working” from home. The trouble is, with all the distractions of a modern home, it can often be the worst place to work. Apart from the kettle, the telephone, the television, the cleaning, the washing and the DIY, there’s the Internet; the working day can sometimes be squeezed into 30 minutes between dishwasher cycle and the tenth check of the BBC News website.

Let’s try leaving home, then. I’ve written some of my work sat in a pub or a cafe. But then you risk being seen as a pretentious so-and-so who drags his laptop everywhere to write golden prose over a caramel latte and piece of carrot cake. Those lattes soon add up as well, hitting me like a caffeine tax on creativity by the end of the session. I’ve tried going out on a bench in the Peak District, which is great for inspiration but not so great for the sunlight’s glare on the screen. Or, more likely, the raindrops hitting the keyboard.

I suppose I would like to report that I sit at a desk, inspired for hours on end and hammering the keyboard while taking up an ergonomically suitable position. But the truth is I’m usually scrunched up on the sofa listening to Lana del Ray or Noel Gallagher, trying to get the wood burner going to fight off the chills of winter and avoid putting the central heating on.

Apart from now, of course, 7.2km into a bit of keep-fit.

So, come on. Where do you do it?

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Writing a book isn’t all milk and cookies…

Writing a book isn't all milk and cookies...

Writing a book might seem a glamorous idea at first, but there are more than a few downsides along the way. As well as relying on the creative juices to be flowing whenever I have spare time to start writing, there’s also the expense of getting to the Lake District regularly and the worry that nobody will buy the finished product. Of course, none of these outweigh the delight of being able to produce a guide to one of the world’s most beautiful places and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I didn’t bank on the loneliness of the long distance walker.

I’ve three Lake District books on the go at the moment, none due to see the light of day before April 2014. But it means I’m spending at least one weekend a month in the Lakes, which is on one hand a dream come true but on the other quite a lonely affair. My journeys up include a midweek day usually, ruling out many of my working mates coming with me and meaning that I can’t take the family either. Besides, the walks often have an industrial feel to them when they’re for a book – recording in the Dictaphone, being obsessive about photographs and trying to get at least two or three done in these long summer days. There’s no time for niceties. So I end up flying solo a lot of the time.

This means nobody to share the amazing views, nobody to talk to on the way round and, at night, my main social interaction is a phone call home and a short-term relationship with a Pot Noodle in the Travelodge. Rock ‘n’ Roll, eh? On Friday, I did treat myself to fish and chips in Keswick. Yes, that was me; the weirdo in the square eating on his own in the rain. And then a couple of walks around Kendal on Saturday. Yes, that was me, too; the freak talking into a Dictaphone in the town centre, looking like I might be a spy but not really having the physique to be credible.

The weekend just gone wasn’t too bad. I had Alison Goldfrapp and Tracy Thorn to keep me company. On my iPod.

Writing a walking book is a cracking thing to do; I’m living my own dream, I’m aware of that. But it would be nice not to be the oddball walking around beauty spots at high speeds with his earphones in, rather than listening to the birdsong and enjoying a more leisurely pace.

However, not everyone took pity on my relative isolation. On my way back from Ennerdale, I drove through Cockermouth and had to slow down because a ten year old boy on a scooter shot out into the road. He gave me the middle finger and disappeared down the road. Nice. I wish the earphones could drown out things like that.

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Two walks, two litterbugs, two great days

IMG_2820I have an image in my head I want to get rid of. Then the weekend I’ve just enjoyed would be up there with the best of them. The Lake District, once again, proved to me how much it is worth the hype, worth the miles to reach, worth the hours and hours it’s taking to get this book finished. Once I have this image removed from my memory, all will be ok. I just need a sonic screwdriver or something.
For the walks I did last weekend, I was based in Eskdale, a wonderful place. As you may know, the theme for the book at the moment is walks from train stations so I visited the wonderful little steam railway at Ravenglass and enjoyed a lovely round trip. The actual walks we did were from Beckfoot station and Dalegarth. From Beckfoot, it was a lovely climb up to Blea Tarn and there was a round waterfalls walk from Dalegarth. All went well, including remembering extra batteries for my dictaphone, and I’m delighted that two such great walks will find a place in the book.
But on the train I got sat close to a young boy and his family who didn’t treat the landscape with the respect it deserved. He seemed to think it funny to throw his sandwich and napkin out of the window, bit by bit, while his family did nothing to stop him. Come on, people! What’s wrong with you? The next people on the train will have to look at a half munched sandwich on a trip they’ve paid over a tenner for. It’s just not on. Show some respect. To top it off, on the walk up to Stanley Ghyll from Dalegarth, the road was strewn with McDonalds packaging. See my earlier blog for ongoing dispair over this, so once again I picked it up and binned it, wondering what kind of idiot winds his window down and throws this out in one of the country’s most beautiful areas.
One of the lesser visited parts of the Lakes, Eskdale is certainly a place I have not been to for a while. But I’ll certainly be back. Enticing me back up is the wonderful Woolpack Inn we discovered, the quaint little village of Boot and the friendly staff at the Ravenglass Railway. And it’s the quirky, unexpected things that also add to the fond memories, like the dozens of Vespa drivers attending a convention and making the Hardknott Pass look like the streets of Rome, if only for a passing second.

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