“Wow, is that England?”
Brocken spectres, cloud inversions, fog bows and extraterrestrials

Some might assume that I would be more disposed to a round of golf than a round of Kinder Scout, but nothing helps me to get a sense of perspective like a day in the Peaks. This particular day was very special and the weather was so unusual it not only got a group of old boys swapping phone pics like teenagers, it also stunned my son into saying, ‘Wow, is that England?’

The weather was a solid band of damp cloud as we set off from The Snake Pass Inn. The forecast promised a 90% chance of rain. The steady drizzle and the black mud surrounding the roughly felled forest that lies just below the Snake Pass was a grim start to what became a truly amazing February day on Kinder.

Cutting up Fairbrook Naze is the quickest way onto the relatively quiet path along Seal Edge. Even in terrible light there are never any navigation worries with John Beatty leading the way – he’s written the book on Kinder – literally, and was once the youngest warden in the Peak District National Park. These days he’s more hip op than hip hop and we all seem to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing our knees, which seem to range from a bit broken to completely replaced.

Roger’s Brocken spectre

Emerging out of the cloud into gin-clear blue skies was the first magical moment of an amazing day. A perfect inversion left us just twenty feet above the clouds. Winter at our feet, spring above.

As the day progressed we had the usual peanut butter and jam butties by the Downfall, but this time we had a perfect fog bow which contributed to one the most atmospheric cups of coffee I’ve ever enjoyed.

The route back was spent playing with Brocken spectres along the northern Edges. As you probably know, you can only see your own spectre projected on the clouds below – even one foot to the side and it’s invisible. What four men in their fifties and sixties waving their arms about taking selfies must have looked like from the path, I can only imagine.

To keep the surreal vibe of the day going, we gathered around a stone with the initials GK etched into it. John told us stories of fancy-dress gatherings where the energy from the stone was gathered by a cult and brought back to Manchester in a little wooden box to be shared with a larger group. GK stands for George King. It was on this spot he achieved enlightenment, which in George’s case was seeing the end of days and his own escape to Venus helped by friendly aliens.

John Beatty scrambling around for a ‘real’ camera while we bag the shot on the phone

He predicted the end would be 2015. There’s no doubt these are tough times, so sharing memories and making future plans may be the best medicine. And this could even be the perfect time to work out a bucket list for when the world starts to turn again. So remembering a day in the hills amongst boulders that have witnessed the ups and downs of humanity since the Ice Age seems to help.

Of course, fish and chips at the Yorkshire Bridge Inn was the proper way to finish a big day in The Peaks. I like to say I’m gear testing on these days, but I think everyone knows it runs much deeper than that.

The cross marks the spot where George met the aliens

A perfect cloud inversion over Glossop

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