At a time when one hardly dares watch the news or read the paper with endless stories of war, misery and man’s inhumanity, it’s a pleasure to report that there’s a perfect antidote. There is something so wonderfully uplifting about an HF holiday that it quite restores your faith that people really do enjoy being nice to one another, and sharing in good and uncomplicated times.
In essence, nice people go on HF Holidays. That’s nice civilised people who don’t want luxury, fuss or pampering, but who enjoy a warm welcome, a comfortable bed, home-from-home cooking, friendly service and the chance to explore the surrounding countryside on foot – either independently or under the watchful and knowledgeable eye of their HF host.
And what a revelation the HF hosts are! A wonderful group of over 800 loyal and hardy supporters, who give their services on a voluntary basis, and amongst whom the longest standing and most loyal must be Harry Wroe.
Harry became a major fixture of our short stay at the Peveril of the Peak Hotel in the heart of the stunning Peak District. Upon arrival, it was Harry who we found in reception ready to discuss our walking requirements. He reappeared again at dinner and then organised the quiz evening. The next morning, there was Harry was in reception again (does he sleep?), making sure all his guests were ready for the day ahead, and it was not a surprise as we staggered back from our 6 hour self-guided walk to find the ubiquitous Harry, who suddenly appeared from nowhere in the middle of a field to ensure that we knew the back way to the hotel.
The origins of HF go way back to 1913 when it began life as a Christian organisation, and whilst Harry’s excellent “History of HF Holidays” documents meticulously the many changes over the last hundred years, the ethos is unchanged. HF, which stands for Holiday Fellowship (although it could stand for Harry’s Fanclub), may no longer have its religious association (grace has not been said at meals since the 1960s), but there’s something very warm and convivial about the atmosphere.
Guests are warmly welcomed and encouraged to socialise by sharing tables. And whilst there were a few younger couples and children staying at the Peveril of the Peak, the vast majority of guests were active silver travellers, fit and ready for action. I can imagine that single people would find this a reassuring and welcoming environment.
The Peveril of the Peak, was such a welcome escape from the city. Only 3 hours’ drive from London but a world apart and situated within easy distance of the Tissington Trail (perfect for cyclists), the picture postcard villages of Dovedale, Milldale and the stunning River Dove.”
For those not in the know, the formula of an HF holiday is simple and not dissimilar to a ski holiday. Up early for a full English breakfast, then out for the day on a guided or self-guided walk. Lunch is a picnic (you order sandwiches the night before and they appear at breakfast ready for you to supplement from a “pick and mix” selection of fruit, biscuits and healthy snacks). Simple but it works a treat! Dinner is hearty and traditional, perfect for hungry hikers.
For those who prefer not to take advantage of the excellent guided walks, there are also self-guided walks. On the first day we chose a relatively easy 5.5 mile hike and the second day a more ambitious 10 mile hike. Reasonably good instructions are provided as well as an Ordnance Survey map. The hotel likes to know where you are going (in order to send out a search party just in case!). Guided walks are divided into easy, medium and difficult with one host for each walk (including Harry of course!) and transport to the started points is included.
There’s an incredible loyalty and longevity amongst the HF clientele and I can see why. My enduring memory has to be heading for bed at around 10pm, and passing two ladies in their 70s discussing the day’s walking which lay ahead. Both were planning to embark upon a 9 mile hike the next day with an ascent of over 300m and naturally Harry was with them, advising on weather and walking conditions. Trim and fit, they had the energy of ladies half their age. An inspiration to us all that keeping active, spending time outdoors, and a regular dose of HF Holidays, is a simple recipe for a hale and hearty life.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends HF Holidays