In Search of Snow : Mam Tor and Winnats Pass

In Search of Snow : Mam Tor and Winnats Pass

This week, Britain went into meltdown with rumours of heavy snow and wintery chaos. The media were using their usual buzzwords such as ‘Arctic Blast’ to stir everyone into a snowy frenzy. Every TV news show, newspaper and Facebook feed was filled with talk of plunging temperatures, blizzards, and mass travel disruption.

The media went even further to sensationalise the weather report by creating the term ‘Thundersnow’; apparently blizzards just weren’t enough so now we were to expect thunder and lightning at the same time as snow.

A large percentage of the gullible public rushed out to the supermarket to stock up on milk and bread as being trapped at home in the ‘worst snow since records began’ would be simply unbearable without tea and toast.

By Wednesday afternoon I was both sceptical and expectant, doubting that this ‘weather event’ would be anywhere near as big as the media was making out, but also hopeful that it would be as anyone who knows me, knows that I love snow.

The temperatures dropped late Wednesday afternoon, and the winds picked up. There was a definite feeling that a storm was brewing and as Michelle and I spent the evening in front of the fire, I was getting up to look out of the windows every 30 minutes, hoping to see the first flurry of snowfall.

We went to bed at around 10:30 pm,  one final scan of my Facebook feed revealed that the snow had started in other areas of the country. I looked out of the bedroom window but there was still nothing here. I got into bed, fully expecting to wake up to a winter wonderland with a deep, white blanket of snow over the whole country.

I woke up early and opened the curtains to a disappointing dusting of snow. This was not the deep snow that had been promised by any stretch of the imagination. Days of media hype had amounted to pretty much nothing and my hopes of taking the day off work to enjoy the snow disappeared instantly.

TV news and Facebook reported that some areas had had a couple of inches of snow, but rain was on the way for most of the country and the snow was set to disappear in all but the hills and mountains.

My brother, Dave, loves snow just as much as I do, and I knew he would be disappointed too. I sent him a message and suggested that we take a trip up to the Peak District on Saturday. If the snow wasn’t coming to us, we would have to go to the snow.

Saturday morning arrived and the search for snow began. I left the house at 6 am and after a quick coffee stop, I drove an hour north to my brother’s house, where I left my car and we continued the journey north in his 4×4. We were hoping to find a decent amount of snow so his Land Rover would be needed.

After another quick coffee stop in Leek, we took the A53 towards Flash, the highest village in Britain. It had been raining lightly for most of the journey, but as we left Leek and the road began to climb, the rain became sleet, and then snow. As we passed Blackshaw Moor and the Roaches, the snow became heavy, this was more like it. The landscape changed rapidly and there was snow all around, the hills and fields covered in the blanket of snow we were hoping for. Ahead of us, there were several cars and lorries in trouble, the heavy snowfall was settling on the road and they were struggling to find traction get them up the hill.

Dave switched his Land Rover into four wheel drive and went around the struggling vehicle and up the hill. As we went over the brow of the hill we were faced with a white landscape, snow for as far as we could see in all directions.

Our plan was to do three short walks, rather than one long one and to have a good drive around the Peak District and find the best snowy views. The weather forecast for the day was good, although we were in a blizzard as we headed up the A53. We decided to head to our furthest point first, to allow the weather time to clear, before heading back south later in the day.

Mam Tor was to be our first destination, a hill in the Peak District that stands at 517m above sea level. We knew that there would be good views from here and it’s also an easy hike to the top with the car park close by.

When we arrived at the car park we were still in a blizzard, the snow settling on the roads and I could see that Dave was concerned, despite the Land Rovers capabilities. We parked up and got our gear on, multiple layers for warmth and waterproofs on top. It took us about ten minutes to get ready, and another ten minutes to figure out how to pay for parking on the overly complicated ticket machine. As we were ready to start walking the clouds cleared rapidly and revealed blue skies above. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

As we hiked the short distance to the summit, we stopped several times to take in the views. Snow in every direction. It wasn’t the deep snow we had been promised by the media frenzy, but it was enough to change the landscape to an incredible wintery scene.

We reached the top in less than 20 minutes and took photos of the epic views. There were around 30 or so people also at the summit, it was now a beautiful day with blue skies all around. Lots of people had the same idea as us, get out and enjoy the snow.

It was extremely cold and windy at the top, between taking photos I had to keep putting my gloves back on and my hands in my pockets to try and keep them warm.

We looked across the landscape and started planning the route to our next destination, Winnats Pass. We had originally thought that we would have to go back to the car and drive closer to the pass, but from our vantage point at the top of Mam Tor we could see that it was only about a 30-minute walk away.

Now we had our route mapped out we started our hike back down the hill. It was much more difficult heading back down with gravity working against us as we tried to make our way over the icy steps and pathway. On several occasions, we both slipped and must have looked quite comical to anyone who could see us.

It was much busier at the bottom of the hill, the car park had filled up since we had arrived, the blue skies bringing people out and about. We passed the car park and started our walk across the fields towards Winnats Pass. It was typical Peak District countryside with fields full of sheep surrounded by drystone walls. The snow drifts were substantial in some places and Dave took great pleasure jumping off a stile into three feet of snow.

‚ÄčAnd, of course, no trip to fresh snow is complete without a snow angel.

Winnats Pass is a road that cuts through a valley with towering limestone pinnacles on either side. I had driven down that road a few times and had always wanted to hike up to the top and look down that valley. The route we had taken across the fields took us to the top of the pass with the pinnacles ahead of us. The views were incredible and it was really surprising that we were the only people there. There were no footprints in the snow and it looked as though we were the first people to visit here in at least a couple of days.

We spent an hour or so exploring the area and posing for photos, getting as close as we dared to the edges, looking down on the road below.

The next thing on our mind was lunch, so after the 30-minute walk back to the car we drove into Castleton in search of food. We parked up and walked to the nearest pub serving lunch, The Castle, and both ordered pie and chips. The food came out quickly and was pretty good, albeit a little expensive.

Our final stop for the day was to be the Roaches, 45 minutes or so south of where we were. We had passed the Roaches earlier in the day and planned to return when the weather was a bit better.

As we drove back the weather took a turn for the worse, the blue skies being replaced with clouds that looked like they were threatening rain.

Our Roaches stop was a short one, a quick scramble up the rocky hill to take in the view and straight back to the car.

It had been a great day, we had definitely got a good fix of snow after the disappointment of the dusting I had got at home. Hopefully, we will get plenty more snow before it turns to spring. I might return to the Peak District when it does snow again, or maybe I’ll look somewhere else next time. Either way, I’ll be making the most of the rare snowy days.