Me and Frankie’s ideas of what constitutes the ideal Sunday walking outing differ somewhat. My preference is for a twenty minute train ride from our suburban base followed by a gentle stroll through undulating (and preferably paved) pathways, perhaps with the occasional short but entirely manageable ascent through a poppy-covered meadow, although not one overly crowded with unpredictably short-tempered farm animals. Ideally the route should follow a recognised route, feature regular stops at thoughtfully placed park benches engraved in the memory of now-dead but pleasingly-long-lived ex-hikers (‘To Charlie Wagstaffe, 1904-1978, who loved these views’) and end with a couple of rewarding lunchtime pints, perhaps in the memory of old Charlie Wagstaffe God Rest His Soul, at a friendly country boozer.
Needless to say this sort of civilised pottering around the edges of the English countryside is regarded by Frankie as dilettantism bordering on outright sloth. The boy’s ideal Sunday walk would not be a walk at all, rather a three day wild-hiking adventure in deepest Snowdonia, featuring a death-defying three-mile high totter along one of the region’s several two-inch wide and four-mile-long mountain ridges (they have names like ‘Devil’s Mouth’, which tell you all you need to know, really), and at least one encounter with some interesting wildlife that he can video close-up on his ever-ready camera (a herd of marauding mountain goats, perhaps, or an eagle, or a previously-thought-to-be-extinct species of wild boar).
Given these slight differences of approach to the practice of the hike (and the fact that Frankie has taken to spending many hours from Wednesday onwards researching into the wildest outreaches of YouTube for suitably challenging uses of our leisure time, ie endurance missions self-filmed by men with apparent deathwishes and legs like old timbers, intoning into the screeching gales a running commentary along the lines of ‘now, I’m just going to hop aboard this passing speeding freight train and then it’s only a matter of a short balance along that cliff edge up there before I can bed down for the night in the comforting surroundings of Hell’s Crevice- I just hope the mountain goats aren’t too hungry!’) ) it is perhaps surprising that we ever manage to coalesce on something we can both find to our liking. However we more than often do, as on Sunday, when we ascended to Lantern Pike via a short train ride to New Mills, a gentle stroll along the Sett Valley trail (one of those old train lines axed by your man Beecher in his far-sighted gift to the walking nation), a short climb up to the cloudspace via an unmarked craggy byway off the Pennine Bridleway, and only the one short, impromptu, eventually abandoned diversion (prompted by my amateurish map-reading skills and over-enthusiasm to reach a promising-looking country pub three hundred metres distant) through steeply-descending half-flooded farmers fields and over crumbling dry-stone walls topped by jagged barbed wire.
This outright contravention of the countryside code taken into due consideration, it was a just-civilised-enough-for-me, and just-intrepid-enough-for-Frankie sort of walk, just how we like it, and on the last leg, along the thankfully even tarmac of the Glossop to Hadfield trunk A624 road (we had given up on trailing through the fields by this point, or at least I had, the OS paper map and the newly-installed app thingy on my phone having jointly contrived to send us us along a dead-end farmtrack whose outbuildings were jealously guarded by a rural streetgang of ferocious-looking ducks) we found a succession of car-tyre hubs leaning enticingly against the drystone walls, and amused ourselves by flinging them as far as we could into the fields, where they spiralled graciously like great oily frisbees, before landing in the faraway clover.
All that, and at the end, a pint (well, OK, two, it had been a long morning) of Port Merion’s finest Glaslyn Ale miraculously discovered at the most walker-friendly of Hayfield’s three licensed counters, followed by the even-more-miraculous discovery of a Stagecoach number 358 bus travelling once an hour from this outpost of the Peak District direct to our very own section of the A6 within suburban Stockport. As Frankie slumbered on my lap through a sleepy Marple village (he may be nearly my height, and a wannabee YouTube freight-train-hopping wild-camping sensation, but he’s still just a boy, really), I considered the various less-than-ideal ways the outing could have panned out (lost in featureless hillfarm terrain, savaged by ducks, arrested for wanton dereliction of ancient stonewalling infrastructure, dealt fatal glancing blow by passing Morrisons lorry on the perilously unpaved section of the A624) - and gave the day a considered 8.5 out of 10, with the extra 0-5 awarded on account of the tyre-hub-frisbees.
Frankie’s account (with maps, and featuring one of those angry ducks, as well as my strange wavy-armed hiking style)- here.