Cheeks Hill, Staffordshire
Location: Axe Edge Moor, Peak District
Nearest town: Buxton
Peak: 520 metres above sea level
Date climbed: 17 April 2021
This county top was our highest above sea level to date - although some of our previous summits haven't been hard to beat (Rutland, Bristol, we're looking at you). Climbing a total of 165 metres from the car, parked at 355 metres above sea level, to the summit at 520m, this was one of our more strenuous climbs to-date. However, it was not our greatest ascent - that honour still belongs to our first county high point, Worcester Beacon, ascending 285 metres up to its summit at 425 metres above sea level.
This walk took place almost entirely within the adjacent county of Derbyshire. We parked near Burbage waterfall on the very western edge of the market town of Buxton and headed out west. We walked beside a shallow stream and then clambered up a well-trodden rocky path which took us up onto Axe Edge Moor. By this point we had done most of the ascending and turned south following a track across the moorland, over the A54, and eventually reached Derbyshire's boundary with Staffordshire.
This section of the Derbyshire-Staffordshire boundary takes on the more distinctive form of a rugged, centuries-old stone wall, marking the edge of one moorland sheep reserve and the start of another. A sheep pen - disused and crumbling - stands on the highest point, and two walls stretch off towards the south giving this corner of Staffordshire a remarkably pointy end.
It was here that we had our picnic, and struck up conversation with another couple who reached the summit not long after us.
"Hello," they called. "Do you know that at this current moment you're the highest people in Staffordshire?" "We do!", we exclaimed. "That's exactly why we're here." "Ah! You're county-toppers, too, I see." And so we learned of a new name to call ourselves: the county toppers. And with Staffordshire ticked off, we had now 'topped' 12, or 25%, of England's Ceremonial Counties.
As we headed back across the moors, we spotted the Cat & Fiddle Inn, the second highest pub in England (after Tan Hill Inn in North Yorkshire). And beyond the inn, another summit: Shining Tor - at 559m, Cheshire's highest point and one not yet ticked off our list.
Buzzards flew above us, pairing up for the coming summer months. And lapwings dove this way and that on both sides, calling out with their uniquely robotic display cry - "peewit". For any budding bird-spotters out there, we identified the lapwings using an app called 'Chirp', a database for all British bird calls.
Returning from our 7.5km round trip, we drove further into the suburbs of Buxton - an absolutely delightful town - and meandered to the centre via 'the Devonshire Dome', a grade II* listed former stable block-turned university campus. We stopped off for a totally unnecessary hot drink at the Pavillion Gardens, which we enjoyed relaxing in the dazzling sun by the stream running through Buxton park.
It's well worth a visit if you're in there area. You could even stay at the recently renovated Buxton Cresent hotel, the restored at a cost of £70m crown jewel of the town.