CITY TO SUMMIT
Follow in The Hike Society’s footsteps on an adventure deep into the Peak District.
CITY TO SUMMIT
Follow in The Hike Society’s footsteps on an adventure deep into the Peak District
The city and the countryside are always seen as separate entities, but the two are intrinsically connected. Monique Christian examines the transition from urban to rural during a 17-mile hike from the centre of Sheffield to the top of Mam Tor, the ‘Mother Hill’ standing almost 1700ft high in the heart of England’s Peak District.
6.00am. The alarm buzzes through my body as I wake. The city is mostly still asleep, with only the occasional car on the road. This rare moment of peace in the city centre is one of the few times that Sheffield gives off the same, unrushed energy as the open lands of the Peak District. It can be easy to forget that the site of the city was once countryside too, so here, at this time, it resonates with something of its old self. Six of us are making this trek, and kitted up in our Columbia Sportswear apparel we’re well equipped to face all that the elements might throw at us. Our first challenge of the day is to find a coffee shop. Oat flat white is my go-to. With caffeine in my system, I’m finally awake. We draw out our maps and plan our route, then off we set.
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The city’s brutalist 1960s architecture highlights a sense of separation from any form of green natural space. However, to raise your gaze beyond these structures is to be reminded otherwise. In the distance are the hills to which we’re walking. The sight grounds me. I grew up in the northwest of England, on the Welsh border, with greenery on my doorstep. I feel calmer in the countryside, more at home. As we meander through the streets of suburban Sheffield, we speak about escaping the ‘rat race’ of city life, and how being in nature makes us feel rested, and in touch with ourselves.
Around an hour of walking leads us to a small village on the city outskirts. This is where we fuel up and eat breakfast. The historical buildings here allow us to appreciate how past residents lived symbiotically with the land. We wave goodbye to the final remnants of the urban sprawl, now fading into the distance, and march forward to explore Mother Earth.
Heather greets my eye when we finally arrive at Britain’s oldest national park. The scene is patched with early sunlight, the light and dark areas creating a purple, mosaic-like art piece. This northern section of the park is known as the Dark Peak, with its gritstone ridges and high moors covered in thick, dark peat. The White Peak, to the south, is a lower region of rolling farmlands, named for its 300-million-year-old limestone filled with fossilised corals.
"THE CITY’S BRUTALIST 1960S ARCHITECTURE HIGHLIGHTS A SENSE OF SEPARATION FROM ANY FORM OF GREEN NATURAL SPACE."
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Heather greets my eye when we finally arrive at Britain’s oldest national park. The scene is patched with early sunlight, the light and dark areas creating a purple, mosaic-like art piece. This northern section of the park is known as the Dark Peak, with its gritstone ridges and high moors covered in thick, dark peat. The White Peak, to the south, is a lower region of rolling farmlands, named for its 300-million-year-old limestone filled with fossilised corals.

"THE CITY’S BRUTALIST 1960S ARCHITECTURE HIGHLIGHTS A SENSE OF SEPARATION FROM ANY FORM OF GREEN NATURAL SPACE."
We’re exposed out here, the harsh wind hitting my face and attacking my eardrums. My bucket hat flies away as if nature wants it for itself, taking a piece of the city as its hostage. Further ahead we can see the power of the elements out here, through two standalone boulders which have been shaped by thousands of years of exposure to the wilds. We climb them. It brings out a childlike character in all of us. Who can climb the fastest? Who can get up them in the most challenging way? Natural play is so often lost in the city.
Nature holds so much power, and as I look out from the top of Stanage Edge, it allows me to comprehend how small I am on this earth. That realisation in itself will be something I hold close to me for a long time.

As we descend from the escarpment we pass through the park’s native ferns, some coming up to my shoulders, again making me feel small in the landscape. We hit the woodlands, stopping for water and the readjusting of socks and shoes (there were a few blisters at this point). The woodlands are my favourite form of nature. Trees are knowledgeable, and I feel that when I’m around them. The moss in this section is intensely green, even more so when illuminated by the sunlight breaking through the leaves.
Fatigue starts to creep in, especially after our early rise. However, Mam Tor is getting closer and closer with every step that we take. It starts to rain lightly – the kind of rain which is the ‘spray’ setting on the hose – but we’re all warm and dry as, thankfully, our kit is made for this.

We press on, dipping down into the valley below Mam Tor, the hills on either side of us making me once again understand my size in the grand scheme of nature, and simultaneously allowing me to appreciate that problems in life are smaller than they seem at times.
"EACH STEP UP MAM TOR BRINGS A SENSE OF ECSTASY FROM EVERY ONE OF US."
The rain gets heavier, the sun drops lower, and my legs become more tired. We reach the base of Mam Tor. Here the steps to the top have old items like chalices and other instruments set within the stone. This is to do with the history of the place. Each step up Mam Tor brings a sense of ecstasy from every one of us. Around 15 minutes later we reach the summit. Ursula climbs on top of the trig point. We celebrate. We’ve made it. Our transition out of the city, through the villages and out to these rural landscapes, has led to a gradual change in our beings, from fast minds and pent-up energies to relaxed and happy individuals, moving together as a collective. Each one of us has trekked as an individual but we’ve finished as one. Nature doesn’t only make you one with yourself, but also one with others. As we hop in the minibus to return to Sheffield, it feels almost cyclical as we transition from rural to urban, through villages back to the city. This time, however, the city is not as we left it. Instead it’s alive – alive with the same buzz that my body had in the morning when my alarm went off, the same buzz which I now have from spending the day in nature. This experience, travelling on foot from the city to the summit, is something I’d advise everyone to try.
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Written by Monique Christian
Photography by Johny Cook
Produced in partnership with Sidetracked

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LETS GO HIKING
Following the footsteps of The Hike Society
PEAK DISTRICT
The Hike Society is celebrating their first Annual General Hike weekend, hosting multiple hikes over one weekend to encourage people to get outside and to unlock the outdoors.
Come and join The Hike Society by Columbia and 114 Index for a hike in The Peak District.
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NEXT DATE
Sat, 15 October 2022
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DURATION
10:00 – 15:00 BST
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LEVEL AND LENGTH
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LOCATION AND MEETING POINT
Meeting Point:
Bowden Bridge Car Park, High Peak, SK22 2LH
#
LETS GO HIKING
Following the footsteps of The Hike Society
PEAK DISTRICT
The Hike Society is celebrating their first Annual General Hike weekend, hosting multiple hikes over one weekend to encourage people to get outside and to unlock the outdoors.
Come and join The Hike Society by Columbia and 114 Index for a hike in The Peak District.
#
#
NEXT DATE
Sat, 15 October 2022
#
DURATION
10:00 – 15:00 BST
#
LEVEL AND LENGTH
#
#
#
LOCATION AND MEETING POINT
Meeting Point: Bowden Bridge Car Park, High Peak, SK22 2LH