A walk with a coffee stop is a great way to spend a morning. At Curbar Edge in the Peak District you can do just that – no Thermos required!
Curbar Edge, in the Peak District, is a high gritstone escarpment offering spectacular views across the idyllic countryside of the White Peak.
The National Trust's Curbar Gap car park is where many visitors begin their exploration along the footpath that follows the edge. But, arriving at the car park, you may be surprised by the sight of a rather unusual vehicle.
Louis is a blue and white 1981 vintage Citroen H van that's become a regular fixture at Curbar Gap. Bedecked with flowerpots and bunting, he is a welcome sight for hungry walkers and thirsty cyclists – because Louis is also a mobile café, offering freshly brewed coffee and delicious cakes.
Named after his first French owner, Louis Durand from Toulouse, the van belongs to Jolly's Catering Company, and has been a regular weekend feature at Curbar Gap for the past four years.
Sarah Cairns – owner of Jolly's, and pictured above – serves fresh homemade cakes and savouries, coffee, tea, and cold drinks from the van every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A seating area with tables and chairs is set up alongside the van so that morning coffee or afternoon tea can be enjoyed in comfort.
Sarah, originally from Yorkshire, had wanted a coffee shop for some time when she first saw Louis. She had been looking in nearby Bakewell for a place to start her business, but the perfect premises remained elusive.
When she saw Louis, she was inspired to create a mobile coffee shop.
“I had seen a vintage VW converted into a coffee van and thought it was a really good idea. So when I saw that Louis was for sale, I decided to go for it!” says Sarah.
After spending seven months being lovingly restored and converted, Louis was ready to go – and it wasn't long before Jolly's had become a huge success.
“We have become very popular, and are getting busier and busier each year,” says Sarah. “Curbar Gap is a great location for walkers who want a coffee break, with proper coffee from a machine!”
There's a delicious range of cakes to choose from – with new and different options offered each week including white chocolate and cranberry flapjack and salted caramel slice. There are vegan and gluten-free choices too, such as chocolate tiffin and chocolate brownies. And for those that need a quick bite for lunch, sausage rolls, Feta and red onion scones, and other savoury treats are available. All are baked to Sarah's own recipes.
Sarah is helped out in the kitchen by her dad, who makes homemade blackcurrant jam for the Bakewell slices, and a delectable fruitcake – served, in true Yorkshire fashion, with a slice of crumbly Wensleydale cheese.
Sarah is also starting to offer health-conscious options – such as a raw pecan slice, made with raw cocoa and sweetened with maple syrup instead of sugar – for those who are being careful with their diet but still want to indulge in a tasty treat.
Canine visitors are well catered for too, with bone-shaped homemade dog biscuits containing wholemeal flour, oxo and beef dripping!
Spectacular Curbar Edge
Walkers are frequent visitors to the van – there's an excellent 10km circular walk starting from the car park, which takes in Curbar and Froggatt Edges as well as White Edge. The Eastern Moors Partnership has produced guides to this and two other, shorter walks that also start from Curbar Gap.
Froggatt Edge is really just a continuation of Curbar Edge – each section of the edge is named after the village it looks down upon. It's worth walking all the way to Froggatt Edge though; there's a diminutive but ancient stone circle hidden in the trees along the way – and each outcrop, stack and pinnacle of rock you pass seems more dramatic and photogenic than the last. Red deer are found in this area too, so keep a look out!
Froggatt Edge: ancient stones, paths and pinnacles
In fact, in autumn, White Edge is one of the best places in the region to experience the famous red deer rut. This unmissable wildlife spectacle sees the stags lock antlers in a noisy ritual that marks the start of the mating season.
Walk, climb, cycle
If you're short on time or can't manage a long, circular walk, you can simply stroll along the edge for as long as you like, enjoying the wonderful views. Then just retrace your steps when you've had enough – and are ready for refreshment.
Kids will love clambering over all the rocks, but make sure they don't go too close to the edge! You'll often see climbers, fully equipped with ropes, harnesses and carabiners, at various stages of an ascent up the face of the edge.
But you don't have to be on foot to enjoy a pit stop at Jolly's. It's a steep road up from the village of Curbar, and cyclists frequently take advantage of an energy boost – Sarah's flapjacks are particularly effective. And some people just drive up on a regular basis, to enjoy a coffee and cake in the sunshine. If it's too hot for coffee, iced coffees – made with a double shot of espresso, served over ice and milk – are a refreshing alternative.
If you plan to visit Louis up at Curbar Gap, check out Jolly's Catering Company on Facebook first.
“We confirm opening times on our Facebook page, and let customers know what cakes we'll be serving,” says Sarah. “And it's a good idea to check that Louis isn't having a day off – he needs them occasionally, as he's an old boy!”
Green Adventures February 2018