Fell running in the Peak District

This rugged region in the heart of England is a fabulous place for runners, with a network of trails across varied terrain - and plenty of local events to take part in.

The Peak District's stunning upland scenery - some of it very remote, some more undulating - is the venue for some of the best fell running trails in the UK writes Nicola Dick, local B&B owner and fell running enthusiast.

Located smack in the middle of England, the Peak District is easily accessible from all parts of the country, and there are a variety of trails well suited for all levels of runner. Distances range from 5 to 30 miles, the terrain from truly challenging uplands to fields and well-surfaced paths.

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The Peak District and adjacent Staffordshire Moorlands have some of the best off-road running in the whole country. The hardened fell racer, running with a bumbag and on an all-day or all-night race, could easily race here every weekend. The popular events fill up within hours of online entry, or are balloted, while others can be entry on the day only. On summer evenings there's a wide choice of shorter village races, with mostly just local people running - and often with a junior race at the same time.

Local running clubs like Matlock, Buxton, Dark Peak, Staffs Moorlands and Totley always field a good number of racers, and equally there will be plenty of unattached. Most races are well marked, over varied terrain – ascents, descents, bog, bracken, mud, open moorland. Slightly harder are the trig point races with no defined route, where it's up to you which way to go.
Look online at the Fell Runners Association pages, and local running club sites with fixture lists.

It's always a good idea to sit down with a map and familiarise yourself with the route before setting off. And be prepared to change your route whilst out running - the weather can change very quickly and it can be extremely windy on the tops. Good studded shoes, as opposed to flimsy/slippy trainers, are a must. And you can get refreshment at the numerous village cafés.

The following four areas are the best overall for fell running:

Edale-Castleton-Hope

There are various stunning runs all over this area. Park the car near the Odin Mine, northwest of Castleton - this is now a dead-end due to land subsidence. From there run north uphill to Hollins Cross and reach the top of a long ridge. Head east to Lose Hill, then south to Townhead Bridge just before Hope. From here you can now do a wonderful loop along the banks of Ladybower Reservoir, or head north through Norman's Farm, go behind Jaggers Clough, and keep heading west towards Edale. Turn south (ie left) in Edale to head back up Hollins Cross and down to the Odin Mine again. The total loop would be over 20 miles, but there are plenty of variations and cut throughs.
 
The Roaches

Park at Tittesworth Reservoir visitor centre, then head out behind the centre along the grassy woods to the road, and through the village then the farm. Find the path which goes up onto the ridge in front of you, and head straight to the top. Turn left and follow the ridge to the end, drop down left, and follow the boggy path slightly right across the valley. At the bottom up again onto the second ridge. Run along the ridge, just a few feet left of its top. At the end, you need to go down then up again, up Hen Cloud, and drop off this to the left, through the woods and fields back to the road then the visitor centre. This totals about 9 miles; once you have committed it's difficult to change the route and it is often VERY windy on the ridges. There are plenty of shorter routes: again, have a good look at the map beforehand.
White Peak scenery © Sarah Stirling
 
The visitor centre is a pay and display car park and has a very good café. If you are with non-running family members, they will find plenty to do whilst you are out. Staffordshire Moorlands and Congleton Harriers organise races here - including Passing Clouds and the Christmas Cracker amongst others.

Grindleford Gallop - Eyam

This area has a multitude of running routes. The Grindleford Gallop is a very popular race from the village, while the Eyam half marathon - though a road race - has to be the hilliest half marathon for miles around. Nearby, you can set off from the back of Hathersage across the moors and see where the fancy takes you. Park near Hathersage railway station, go down the road and take the left up the rough road, and just go. (Do look at the map first though.)

Lathkill Dale

West of Bakewell, this is a Natural England-designated Nature Reserve and a beautiful limestone valley. Park near Youlgreave at the top of Moor Lane. Cross the road, go over the stile and the head right across the fields, across a meadow to Place Grange, before heading up then down into the dale. Cross the river, then turn left along the dale for a couple of miles to a bridge, cross the bridge, head uphill and look for a drop to the left. Go up the steps and across the fields: 7 miles brings you to the car park again. In November the Leg it Round Lathkill race departs from Over Haddon, taking in some of this route.

TOP 5 EXPERIENCES

1. Edale Skyline

This fabulous route covers 20 miles around the tops of Edale: incredible scenery, but not for the novice.

2. Red Bull Steeplechase

Around Edale, Castleton and environs, a knockout of four stages with 20 percent not going through at each church steeple. It totals 25 miles. I couldn't walk for two days after this!

3. Passing Clouds

Eight miles along the top of The Roaches, plus having to run to the top of them first. Plenty of first-timers, and bottles of beer at the finish.

4. Leg it Round Lathkill

November, from Over Haddon, seven miles, lots of locals and plenty of fast club runners. It's always muddy.

5. Summer evenings

Take part in one of the village races - Longnor, Sheldon, Parwich, Hope. All are short and friendly.

WHEN TO VISIT

Best times to go:

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Avoid going at bank holidays, or school holidays: parking will be difficult and there will just be too many people around to make it enjoyable. Notable races are Edale Skyline in March, and Red Bull in October.

The weather can be truly atrocious on the top of Kinder, Bleaklow, Mam Tor, The Roaches - even in the middle of summer. But half an hour later the sun can be blazing down and you'll be looking for a stream to quench your thirst.

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