There are four settlements in Great Britain called Hope - three in England, and one in Wales. Of these, two have railway stations on the national rail network. In July, I decided to visit both in one day as part of a winding journey from Birmingham to Leeds.
It's worth adding that I have no idea how I came across this information, nor where the motivation to complete this task came from. But it happened anyway.
In order to make it to Leeds for dinner, I had to begin my journey on the sixth train out of Birmingham New Street that morning.
The journey to New Street involved a brief Uber ride from my house. The driver made an effort to converse with me, and asked me where I was heading to. I skirted around my real reason for leaving so early, as it didn't seem worth the effort of explaining. Besides, many people had raised their eyebrows on previous occasions when I had revealed my motivation for completing this trek was: "dunno - fun?"
Towards the end of a short, one-sided conversation about beggars and parking, we pulled into the drop-off rank at the station. I purchased a cup of tea and a paper, and made my way onto the 05.30 departure for Holyhead.
Surprisingly, there was little to do in Crewe station during the morning peak. After paying an eye-watering amount of money for my second tea of the day, I found a bench and started to fill out the crossword in my paper.
Ignoring the platform changes and slight delay in departing, the 06.56 to Holyhead - yes, another train to the Welsh port - grumbled westwards out of Crewe without a hitch.
Less than three hours after leaving Birmingham, I arrived at my first Hope of the day. Hope (Yr Hôb in Welsh) is an underwhelming village tucked away in the south-eastern corner of Flintshire.
A caveat of embarking on this meandering trip was the length of time I was able to grant myself at each station - I had the pleasure of exploring Hope #1 for just thirty minutes, during which time I found the Church of Hope, Hope mountain, and a selection of other pun-inspiring features around the village.
Train number four of the day - a creaky stopper towards Bidston that called at a collection of unremarkable North Wales villages along the way.
A painfully long wait at Shotton for my Manchester-bound service. This forty-minute pause gave me an opportunity to explore the town adjacent to the station.
Shotton is boring.
One seamless (if a little crowded) journey later, I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly. Dozens of suitcase-hauling holiday-goers waited for the next Manchester Airport service, only to find it to already be 'full and standing' upon arrival.
I found myself wandering around the station's shopping centre looking for a bite to eat. What did I opt for - a Greggs vegan sausage roll? No. Two vegan sausage rolls. Live life on the edge.
When booking my tickets several weeks in advance, I had given myself almost three hours to explore Hope (Derbyshire). It was only as my sixth train of the day approached Chinley that it occurred to me that I may find little to do at my next intermediate stop, and I therefore spontaneously alighted one stop early at Edale. I shall walk to Hope! How far could it be?
Five miles. That's what the walking guide that I bought in the local café said, at least. 'A fairly strenuous ridge and valley walk with panoramic views of the Edale and Hope Valleys,' read the booklet. The overly confident Londoner in me brushed aside this concerning warning.
A robin landed under my table at the café and watched me cautiously. Perhaps it was trying to warn me about something.
I may have made a mistake. A walk of five miles across a plateau in ideal conditions should take around two hours. What I had failed to consider was that Hope #2 was in the heart of the Peak District National Park, and that the vaguely ominous warning in the guide booklet was no joke.
To make matters worse, I had accidentally misread the booklet and had ended up ascending over seven hundred and fifty feet from my start point in Edale. On top of that, it had slipped my mind that I had packed my laptop and several notebooks to do work on some of the nine trains I was going to take that day. That being said, the view from the Great Ridge did sort of make up for all of this.
I was pushing it for time, and was unable to enjoy the scenery. A number of avid ramblers dressed head-to-toe in The North Face gear passed me heading in the opposite direction with bemused looks on their faces; I looked out of place wearing TfL Continentals, a plain white tee and a pair of old denim jeans from Next.
I had strayed so far from the original route that the guide book was no longer of any use, and I was relying on navigation using Google Maps when I could get the signal. The route looked all downhill from Lose Hill, but Hope (Derbyshire) station is on the other side of the village, and so I couldn't let my pace drop.
Progress on the downhill was hampered by the sheer abundance of sheep in the fields through which the walking routes passed. The occasional beast would stand its ground before plodding off to another corner of the grassland.
With less than thirty minutes until my train, the small Derbyshire village came into view. As was the case with Hope #1, this second Hope was also home to a church, though the opportunities for puns beyond that were limited.
A short walk down the road lay Hope (Derbyshire) station. Upon entering the car park, I was struck with a small sense of accomplishment - the challenge had always been entirely arbitrary, yet completing it felt like a genuine achievement.
As expected, there were limited facilities at the station. had I not disembarked at Edale, passing the time would have been a struggle.
It wasn't long before the next train arrived. I felt a twinge of sadness as the train rolled out of the station; it wouldn't surprise me if I ended up back there in the future, if only to complete the intended route of the walk from the guide book.
After spending twenty minutes sitting in front of two lads talking about how expensive fast food is in France, the train trundled into Sheffield. Another wait between trains, another tea purchased.
For reasons known only to the mystical beings who decide train ticket prices, it was cheaper for me to 'split' my ticket between Sheffield and Ilkley, my final destination. As a result, I only had a seat reservation for the next train between Sheffield and Wakefield Westgate, and unsurprisingly this seat was taken when I boarded the train. The overhead displays suggested that the seat did not actually belong to me and, in true British fashion, I chose to scowl and huff as I passed the seat rather than maturely discuss the situation with the seat's current resident.
Ah, Leeds: Manchester's uncouth, Northern younger sibling. A sweaty mass of bodies greeted me as I approached the concourse - presumably part of the horde of music aficionados visiting the much-loved Jazz Leeds Festival that weekend. I made a beeline for the lower level platforms and hopped on the next service to Ilkley. Job done, pretty much.
End of the line. A short walk through the picturesque Yorkshire spa town and I was at my final destination, over twelve hours after I started this circuitous trek.
"How was your journey?", I was asked upon arrival.
"Which part? You'll have to be more specific."