Sunday, January 17, 2016

Review: Car Camping, North Lees Campsite, Peak District National Park, United Kingdom

Peak District from Stanage Edge
Location: 30 mins from Sheffield (10 miles)
Website:  National Park or Campsite
Map: Google Maps
Camping Facilities: Car camping
Grade: C
Stargazing: Good
Summary: Acceptable camping experience in the UK (my first)
Thoughts: After entering the park with little fanfare (the color of the terrain on my GPS changed from beige to green, if I'm not mistaken), I knew that I had to keep my expectations in check.  No park office, no visible change in land use, sheep eyeing you suspiciously -  clearly things are done differently here. As we zigged and zagged along the country roads, we had hopes that the vast wilderness that is the Peak District National Park would eventually reveal itself around the next bend. It does, but not in the way that we're used to. But that's okay. The UK is a small country with a relatively large population (compared to Canada), so one can only expect a certain level of solitude and remoteness. And maybe within the campground itself things would be different. Well it was, and it wasn't.

Sheep and grazing fields
- mainstays of UK National Parks
The flocks of sheep that greet you on the roadsides within the National Park were not welcome in the North Lees Campsite. No sir, gates and fences made their access impossible. A win for conservation! The camping experience, however, was consistently frustrating as the rest of the drive to that point. First off, the site was sloped, and quite dramatically so.  Good luck finding a level spot to sleep comfortably. Second, there is no demarcation of campsites. It's a total free-for-all. Where ever you'd like to stop walking/carrying gear, well, that's as good as any spot, friend. Thirdly, no demarcation of sites also means no privacy.  None. Nor are there many picnic benches to cook your breakfast (most people seemed to be happy to do so on the ground but we grabbed one of the few that there were).  Last, there are no campfires. Given that there are so few trees in the region to begin with, it's probably for the best. But yeah: "sigh".

Nice spot to wash dishes
Bears aren't an issue...
Sheep - you are fenced OUT!
Some good points that I need to bring up. The place is very tidy. You have nice shower facilities as well as running water for washing dishes (a bit of a hike from some of the "sites", so bring a container of some sort, like a bucket or camping sink). You also have recycling facilities and very kinds, friendly staff running the place.  And the connectivity to the splendid hiking trails within steps of the campground is excellent. Another bonus - you can walk to the pubs in Hathersage in about half an hour. In doing so, you'll stroll through quaint English countryside and maybe learn to appreciate it on its own merits, and not in relation to those of a totally different country that has no physical resemblance to the one you're living in, so you might as well stop whinging about it.
A second camping space that is a bit flatter

As a Canadian out on their first camping trip in the UK, I could have done worse than North Lees. Once you have acclimatized to the setting and your eyes have adjusted to the local scenery, you'll probably find that it does what it does pretty well. It's just different, that's all.

Interpretive sign maintenance varies...
Weather may vary as well
View from Stanage Edge

Peak District National Park
Mam Tor

Mam Tor was a gusty spot that day
Some trails veer onto private land,
but the signage will get you back
on track
Roadway carved right into
a drainage channel

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