Last week the Ordnance Survey revealed that Edale in Derbyshire is the most popular place in Britain to start a hike – judging by the volume of walkers.

It’s not, perhaps, a huge surprise. After all, the Pennine Way starts there, and the village is easily accessible by rail from Manchester in the west and Sheffield in the east.

It also has the benefit of having some notable social history attached to it, being the site of the famous mass trespass of 1932 that presaged the opening up of the countryside to the public in the decades that followed. Indeed, by 1951 the Peak District had become the UK’s first designated National Park.

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Like those ramblers who wilfully broke the law, most walkers visiting Edale today make for Kinder Scout, that great hulking plateau which can seem so benign until the rain closes in or night falls sooner than anticipated.

Somehow, Kinder can maintain the feel of a mountain, though at its highest point it only just scrapes above 2,000ft. Still, it is a better beast than many which claim mountainous status by size alone.

The Pennine Way path offers the obvious ascent, tracking north-west from the village. But across Grinds Brook, a little further to the east, an alternative route winds in zigzags up the plateau’s flank.

As a child, seeing such hairpin bends was a sure sign that we were in for some serious hiking business, with walkers ahead of us tacking upwards like boats battling against the wind. When we reached the final zig (or was it a zag?), we could glance down and see the path just trodden immediately below, and be impressed by our achievements.

Up on the plateau, the wind invariably seemed to howl. Spongy hollows in the heather and peat were shelters for dozy sheep and wartime trenches for small boys imagining themselves as soldiers. I’m afraid I shot any number of woolly critters using sticks for guns. Cream cheese sandwiches never tasted better than they did on Kinder’s southern edge in 1988.

On that occasion, we were staying in a house on Edale’s northern outskirts, in the shadow of the Kinder massif and only a couple of hundred yards from the Old Nags Head pub. The whitewashed cottage had a prominent porch in which we laid our boots to dry.

The garden’s lush grass tempted in hardy, growing lambs and their mothers most mornings, waking us as they called to one another. In the evenings, the ovine bleating from the moors competed with high-spirited chatter from the pub.

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Once, a party of young men who were a little worse for wear mistakenly staggered into the garden after last orders – presumably less interested in the tasty lawn than in working out which path they needed to take to get home.

They were perhaps celebrating having completed the Pennine Way in the other direction, which goes to show that Edale might be just as good a place to end a walk as it is to begin one.

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