When I was ten years old my family went on a camping holiday to France, in the Loire valley. It was our first family holiday abroad, which made it very exciting. There are many things I remember about that holiday, but one thing that stands out is having my eleventh birthday in France and having a little party on the campsite with french food, cakes and patisseries. It was also on this birthday that I was told there would be a meteor shower in the evening (someone on the campsite told us about it), so we all stayed up late looking for shooting stars. I remember counting how many we saw, making it a competition to see who could see the most. I think I managed to see thirty that night, which is probably the most I’ve ever seen in a single night.
Years later I later discovered that the meteor shower wasn’t just a one off event, but occurs every year and peaks on the evening of my birthday. So for many of my birthdays I’ve often made an effort to see some shooting stars on or close to my birthday, though the clouds often get in the way, as is typical for the British weather. Last year I spent my birthday evening camping out and taking photos of the meteor shower and sleeping under the stars. I really enjoyed the adventure and decided I wanted to do something similar this year to celebrate my birthday and see the meteor shower.
For most of the year I thought about where I could go on my birthday, but I never really made a plan. When a friend told me he was getting married on my birthday, I joked that I might not be able to make it because I’d probably be camping on top of a mountain instead. Since the wedding was in Staffordshire, I decided that I could go to the wedding but still manage to be on top of a mountain in Wales or the Peak District in time to see the meteor shower. In the end I decided on the Peak District as it was closer and the weather was looking a little clearer.
It was a great wedding, and it was great to catch up with old friends at the wedding.
After the wedding, my sister and I headed into the Peak District to climb Kinder Scout. We’d already climbed it this year when camping in the Peak District, which is why I thought it would be a good place to visit again, since we already knew our way up there, and knew there would be places to camp at the top.
We started walking from Edale and made a quick stop off at the Coopers Chippy for curry and chips, before continuing to the start of the path that follow Grinds Brook to the top of Kinder Scout.
One thing I noticed straight away about the hills was the bright purple heather flowers that were scattered all across the hillsides. I couldn’t believe how bright they were and loved how they contrasted against the green grass and ferns. The evening light seemed to make the purple stand out even more. The purple flowers and the colours of the setting sun changed the feeling of what now feels like a familiar hike.
It was an enjoyable walk and it was a pretty easy going for most of the way. As we got further up through Grindsbrook Clough, it starts to get harder, with several crossings of the brook and lots of climbing on rocks. The last stretch to the summit is a lot steeper and becomes a scramble over the rocks. I didn’t find this part too difficult last time, and I actually enjoyed climbing on and jumping between the rocks. But this time I was carrying my camping and camera gear, with my rucksack weighing close to 15kgs, which made the hiking slower and the climbing more difficult.
We reached the summit plateau a little after sunset, and immediately put on every extra layer of clothing we had brought with as the temperature had dropped and there was a strong cold wind coming from the other side of the mountain. Once we were warmed, we stated looking for a good spot to pitch the tent in the fading light. The top of Kinder Scout is mostly a peat bog, and the wet summer weather had made most of the ground extra soggy, so it was difficult to find a dry patch of grass, or somewhere that was sheltered from the wind. After a little searching we managed to find a patch of sand that wasn’t too damp and was somewhat sheltered to from the wind by rocks. The sand was quite soft and the tent pegs came out the ground easily, so we had to add rocks to hold the pegs in place, which seemed to work and the tent stayed up all night.
I set up one of my cameras to do a time-lapse, then we sat out of the wind and watched for shooting stars, while I kept taking photos with my other camera. We saw lots of shooting stars, including some really bright ones that left long streaks across the sky, but I somehow didn’t manage to get any shooting stars on camera. As it got close to midnight, the moon came up and really brightened the sky, making it harder to see the smaller shooting stars. Clouds also started to roll in and pretty soon the whole sky had clouded over. By this time we were feeling the cold, so with no chance of seeing any more meteors we went to bed.
I woke up at 3am and looked out of the tent to see the sky was completely clear and the moon was high in the sky, lighting up the whole mountain. So I thought it was worth getting up to take some photos and look for more shooting stars.
I got some good photos, but didn’t see any meteors, and it was still very cold, so I didn’t stay up very long.
In the morning we woke to the sound of pheasants flapping about. It was a chilly morning, but the wind had died down and it was sunny, despite low cloud hanging over the mountain. It had been a much colder night than I had expected, but by the time we packed away our camping gear and the tent we were warmed up.
We didn’t really like the idea of hiking back down the way we came since the scramble over the rocks would be a lot more difficult going down, especially with out heavy rucksacks and no hiking poles. Instead we took the path back to Edale going via Grindslow Knoll. It turned out to be a much easier route down, and once we dropped below the low cloud, we had some nice views of the surrounding countryside.
Despite the colder than expected night and lack of any meteor shower photos, I still think this was a great birthday adventure, and I’m already thinking about where I can go next year to watch the meteor shower.