Ways to find Hygge in the Peak District
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 August 2017 | UPDATED: 18:06 11 August 2017
With lots of talk about leading a healthy, less stressful life, Helen Moat looks into some ideas for making the most of our surroundings
Danish ‘hygge’ (pronounced hoo-gah) is creating a buzz in Derbyshire. Literature on the subject lines the shelves of bookshops – telling us how to create hygge, or cosiness (usually through winter) with soft blankets, candlelight and warming food. But for the Danish, hygge is much more than this: it’s a way of life and a philosophy for living that’s year-round. And while businesses and booksellers market hygge as the must-have commodities needed to recreate the experience, true hygge is something that can’t be bought. It’s sharing good food with the people we love. It’s about connecting with the outside world. It’s a celebration of life and nature. It’s an appreciation of simple, old-fashioned pleasures.
So while hygge may be a Danish concept, it can be enjoyed anywhere and any time – and especially in Derbyshire and the Peak District in the summertime. We just haven’t invented a word for it yet.
To market, to market
Seasonal produce handpicked from the farmers’ market, sunshine, the company of loved ones, a rug and a green space all combine to create the perfect summer hygge experience. Surrounding the flower-beds in Hall Leys Park in Matlock, the Wednesday morning market stalls are filled with fresh fruit and vegetables and locally-produced delicacies. From there, it’s just a few steps to the nearest bench or the park green with views of Riber Castle on the skyline.
Likewise, the monthly market at the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton (first Thursday of the month) sells flavoursome pastries, meats and cheeses right next to the pleasure gardens with its miniature railway, rockeries, ponds and babbling brook.
On Mondays, Bakewell Market is filled with the aroma of street food and the distant call of the cattle auctioneer. The stalls on Market Square are crammed with freshly-baked breads, pies and cakes. A short walk leads to a bench by the River Wye, busy with mallards, coots and swans.
To the north, Hathersage Market takes place on the first Saturday of the month at the Methodist Church. Just a short distance away is the outdoor swimming pool. Settle down with a rug on the lawn and enjoy a refreshing swim before the picnic.
For those who prefer picnicking in the solitude of near-wilderness, climb up onto one of the edges and spread out a tablecloth on a table-top rock. Derwent, Stanage, Burbage, Froggatt, Curbar, Baslow, Gardoms and Birchens all provide dizzying, wide-angled views of the Peak District with the ground dropping away beneath the escarpments. And for a 360° outlook, seek out one of the rocky outcrops such as Robin Hood’s Stride near Birchover (with a stone circle and a hermit’s cave close by) or Higger Tor and Carl Wark outside Hathersage with their Jenga-style rocks, eroded and contorted by wind and rain. Alternatively head for the dales, where waterside picnics conjure up lazy, summer days. 4
Woods and water
Dovedale, Lathkill and Bradford dales with their wide grassy verges and Monet-esque waters of dappled blues and greens are the perfect locations for a spot of al fresco dining – followed by a walk. When the thermometer rises, water and woodland give respite from the heat. There is something deliciously refreshing about wandering along waterways and through shady forests on hot days. High above the River Derwent, Stand Wood provides both. Chatsworth’s extended pleasure gardens (designed by Paxton) contain an imposing aqueduct, lush glens of brook and waterfall, a Tudor hunting lodge, a fairy-tale Swiss cottage and four lakes, all set in woodland of diverse trees and shrubs.
Splashing around in water outdoors in sweltering weather with friends and family is the essence of summer hygge. Derbyshire may not be by the sea, but the moors and valleys offer pools and occasional stretches of river swimming. Between Chatsworth House and Calton Lees, the pool above the weir on the curve of the Derwent is deep enough for a dip – sometimes with a backdrop of deer grazing on the parkland below the moor.
More remote, Slippery Stones north of Howden Reservoir at Ladybower has a frothy, bracken-tinged pool set beneath rapids and surrounded by hills, pine trees and a stone bridge. The water is chilly and invigorating. So too, are the pair of mountain-cold coppery pools below a humpbacked bridge and tumbling waterfalls at Three Shires Head, where the counties of Derbyshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire meet.
The half-mile stretch of river meandering through woodland, marsh and meadow from Froggatt Bridge to the A625 is long enough to satisfy swimmers who want to properly stretch their limbs. The River Trent at Ingleby south of Derby, too – although the rock grottoes carved by the river at Anchor Church, a mile upstream, are a delightful distraction.
And wild days out with the Park Rangers
Embracing the hygge concept of family and community, book one of the Peak District National Park Authority’s events (look for ‘ranger events’ online). August is a great time to hike onto the uplands, when the moors are covered with swathes of purple heather. The ranger-led walks take in Hathersage and Sheffield Moors, Abbey Clough (with a chance of seeing ring ouzel, peregrine and grouse), Stanage and Derwent edges and the flooded valleys.
Other ‘wild’ family events are exploring wildlife in Bradford Dale: fish, wildflowers, dippers, wagtails – and possibly kingfishers, while woodland play for younger children is offered at Macclesfield Forest and Longdendale.
To experience the Peak District in a different light – literally – hike into the dales at dusk after the day has cooled down. Wait for a clear night with a full moon, pack a torch, flask and a warm fleece – and bring along some good company. This is the time when animals are at their most visible. Badgers emerge from their setts and foxes from their holes, their young frolicking on the dusty earth. In woodlands, bats swoop low over heads and deer stumble out onto paths at close quarters. And if you’re really lucky, you might happen on some glow worms – as I did at Cressbrook Dale, a runway of green lights spread out along the verges of the brook-side path.
Under the stars
High pressure weather systems come with hot summer nights and clear skies. It’s pleasant enough to sit outside and observe the heavens with a warming drink and blanket. But to see a dark sky flung with glass-cut stars, wait for a new moon and head deep into the National Park far from city lights.
In the Peak District, the three Dark Sky sites, Parsley Hay and Minninglow, just off the High Peak Trail, and Surprise View near Hathersage, have astronomy interpretation panels in their car parks, changed seasonally to correspond to the shifting night sky.
At Stoney Wood on the edge of Wirksworth, a granite StarDisc mirrors the northern hemisphere sky above. The disc is etched with the Milky Way and the constellations. Surrounding it are 12 benches of granite that represent the months of the year, all lit up at night by the power of our nearest star, the sun.
Nearby Hoe Grange Holidays (below the High Peak Trail) recommend a night of stargazing on a lodge balcony or from the hot tub, preferably with a glass of wine in hand. Blakelow Farm Holiday Cottages, also well-situated for the StarDisc and the Dark Sky Sites, provide telescopes for the wide-open skies in their cottages above the farm uplands.
Around the campfire
Where better to experience long summer evenings and night skies than on a Peak District campsite. Toasting marshmallows over a crackling campfire with loved ones is summer hygge at its best. The owners of Rivendale at Alsop-en-le-Dale near Ashbourne take pride in their dark skies and keep lighting to a minimum. And if you really want to get away from it all, you can experience near ‘wild camping’ on their tucked-away field in ‘The Shire’ or on the hillside high above Eaton Dale – safely in the knowledge there’s a hot shower and a pint not far away. For those not so keen on roughing it, the yurts and camping pods offer all the romance of camping without the loss of comfort. And during the day, the three close-by dales and Tissington Trail, popular with cyclists, allow campers to submerge themselves in the tranquility of the Derbyshire countryside. At the other end of the county, Upper Booth Camping is found on an award-winning organic farm below the Kinder Plateau. The Swaledale sheep, Belted Galloway rare-breed cattle and hens on the farm supply campers with lamb, beef and eggs for that barbecue in the outdoors. Right next to the campsite is the Pennine Way, leading to some of the most dramatic landscapes in the Peak Park – inspirational and soul-restoring in the true sense of Danish-Derbyshire hygge.