Thursday, 1 February 2018

Mud Glorious Chatsworth Mud!

 Well, we certainly know how to pick them. We had an interesting 'new' walk planned but the dire weather had us doing a quick rethink so, after sitting out some of today's deluge in the car we headed for Chatsworth and the empty, sodden Calton Lees car park.

With a certain degree of reluctance we prepared ourselves for a modified walk where, we hoped, it wouldn't be too bad. Ah, if only we had known.

We stroled up the lane to Calton Lees and took the left hand road to a stile. Once over we realised that we hadn't intented to come this way (waterlogged brain is my excuse) but we decided it would be good to go this way as it will be a reverse walk for us.

The trees stood out very stark against the grey sky, but for now the rain had stopped, which was a bonus.

We could see the river a few fields away and how it had leeched out into the flood fields surrounding it creating large pools of cold grey water.
We were glad not to be crossing them - we would have needed to paddle!

It wasn't long before our slightly elevated path descended to river level, though, and by then we had reached the mud. Lots of it. Ooozy and sticky and slippery. And so much that it was impossible to avoid. This relatively short stretch of level ground took us rather longer to cross than we had thought possible.

Once the muddy path across the field was behind us we were a little better off, and when we came to the edge of the river we paused to look. I don't think either of us had seen it so high or so wide, the waters running far swifter than we were used to.

This path led us towards the village of Rowsley and for a brief period the sun came out. We turned sharpe right and started climbing uphill - at least we were on a pavement. The farm had a couple of young calves in a shelter next to the lane, and they appeared supremely unconcerned.

It didn't take long to leave the houses behind us as the lane wound upwards. We were heading for the shelter of some woods where we could eat lunch, but the woods had gone (though new saplings replanted) and the ominous gloom of rainclouds in the distance spurred us on to seek shelter.

We were lucky. Near the top of the incline, just after a left hand turn, we discovered a thick copse of conifers behind a broken fence. Gloomy and dark, but sheltered. A perfect spot.

We found an old large stump to sit on, relic of some woods before these, and enjoyed a peaceful lunch with coffee and creamy chocolate pots for pudding.

Only when we emerged, suitably replete, did we realise how fast it had been raining while we had been in shelter. No mind though, we were at the half way point and had to keep going.

The lane continued in a fairly straight line, then dipped and turned left, although the track on the right going uphill through woods was the one we wanted. And yes, it was slick with mud.

We managed the climb quite well though had to check the map a couple of times to make sure we didn't inadvertently end up following a path down to Bakewell.

As we arrived at the highest point of the woods the trees thinned, and the rain turned to lazy flakes of snow. There were pockets of snow on the ground, but the shelter the trees gave us made it feel warmer than it undoubtedly was.

We continued on the muddy path until it brought us out overlooking fields. We could see the Hunting Tower in the distance to our right. And very gloomy, snow covered hills to our left. Our path was straight on, and downhill, and - yes - muddy.

We made it to the bottom only to have to negotiate what appeared to be a large pond that had appeared at a gate above a fast flowing stream. But we were not to be deterred as we were on the home stretch now. 

We skirted around a stone wall then came to a gate that led us through  Calton Houses and down the track towards our start. The weather seemed to be clearing up.

That was, until we were a few hundred yards from the car park. It came down fast and hard, an absolute torrent of rain that meant we were completely soaked within a couple of minutes. We hurried as much as we could, though it clearly wasn't going to make any difference. All we could do was hurriedly make plans as we took off our bemuddied boots and clambered gratefully into the cars to head home to dry off.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Happy New Year 2018

We start a New Year with a visit to an old friend. Yes, back to Derwent to try to ease away a few of the accumulated pounds that Christmas brings. We neither are feeling terribly active, so plump for a familiar walk that will take little effort, mentally or physically. But we will do it in reverse, for a smidge more interest.

Our usual car parking spot is still thankfully free of parking meters, but we wonder how long for as they seem to be creeping alongside the reservoirs at a rate of knots. No doubt by summer there will be no free parking at all.

It's pleasantly mild (ish) for the time of year and there are quite a few people about considering it is mid week. Still, we set off with high hopes and a spring in our step. It is so good to be out.

The dam is overflowing - not too much but enough to make it look rather attractive rather than scary. And it is scary when the water comes thundering over in a white wall of sheer energy and power.

We take the steep path up the side and emerge onto the track, which we follow and give Mollie the chance to be off the lead for a while.

As usual, it is quieter at this side of the reservoirs with all the people clustering around Fairholmes. We carry on until we find the steep path up to our right - did I say we were taking it easy today?

Quite muddy at the bottom, and climbing rapidly it is a bit of a pull (and a paddle with the overflowing stream) but we are getting lovely views behind us.

It is worth pausing to look back from time to time, for the views and to have a breather. Too much Christmas pud! The distant clouds look quite ominous though.

We reach the 4-way footpath sign and turn right. It's relatively level now - we are quite high up, and as we cross the moor we are alone. This, we remind ourselves, is what it is all about.

Over the stile at the top and we start looking for our lunch spot. It's fairly bleak up here, but there is a stone wall and after a bit of scouting we find a couple of large flat stones and, with our backs to the wall and our faces to the view, we settle down for lunch.

Plans of dieting are thrown to the four winds when PC produces two homemade apple turnovers (made by her daughter) and they are superb. Mollie is hopeful, but unsuccessful. She must satisfy herself with dog biscuits!

It is quite chilly sat here, despite our wind shelter, so as soon as we have finished eating we move on.

It is flat and a little boggy here, and we meet the only two other walkers this high up, two similarly aged women. Great minds, and all that.

The views range as far as Lost Lad and Mam Tor in a 180 degree sweep, and for a brief spell the sun comes out.

The moors are lit up looking golden and inviting, but the photos don't show how cold it has actually become.

The descent down towards the reservoirs gives us more good views.

But once we get close to the trees the views disappear and we are on a slightly muddy track making our way to the narrow road around the side of Ladybower.

By the time we reach the bottom the winter sun is already dropping rapidly, the clouds are amassing and the temperature is starting to fall. We have, however, managed to have a dry and extremely good first walk of the New Year.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Anti-Clockwise Along the Ridge

A sparkling, crisp and very very cold day for our last walk of the year. 

We park up in Castleton and are surprised at how few people are about, given that the weather is so good. We have a vague plan for a walk, choosing a reverse of one of our favourites in this area. Hopefully we will have good views from the ridge.

We along the path next to the small stream and onto Hollowford Road. Here we realised how cold it really is with large swathes of the tarmac covered in sheet ice. We gingerly tiptoe across.

The lane turns to a track and we have a lovely view ahead of us of the Great Ridge and Mam Tor.

We are carrying straight on and the track degrades to a path that is a running stream at the moment. But not just water, ice crystals have built up and caution is required. At least it isn't muddy, which can be the summer state of this path.

Once off the path we are onto the grassy moor, with a number of options, but we choose to go more or less straight ahead start our climb up to Hollins Cross. It's quite steep but we are in the lee of the wind so we aren't cold - quite the opposite. But once at the top we are rewarded with splendid views - and a buffeting by the wind!

Certainly no lingering. That wind is bitterly cold, so it's hoods up, zips zipped and gloves on. There are quite a few more people up here and they are all heavily muffled,

We follow the path a short distance then drop down again to a cosy hollow that faces the valley and keeps the wind to our backs. Time for lunch, the all important coffee and our pre-Christmas buns - fresh cream puff pastry mince pies. And keeping in with the festive spirit, a nip from the secret flask.

It really is too cold to sit for long, though, and the sun seems to be giving up the unequal struggle against advancing clouds. We set off again up the path and find ourselves battling against a gale. It is coming from the Edale side and almost blowing us over, especially as the path climbs. The wind chill is so great that our fingers are starting to feel cold, and that is with us both weather insulated skiing gloves. It is impossible to say 'hello' to other walkers as we are all completely muffled up.

We don't pause at the summit - been there, done that, too cold anyway - but as soon as we begin the drop down the other side the wind abates. The difference is quite remarkable!

We drop down the path to the road then choose to cross over towards the Blue John Cavern and thus return via the 'old' road. Big mistake. The path is, in places, a sea of mud. However, we do manage to cross without making a spectacle of ourselves and eventually emerge onto the road.

And coming towards us is a man taking his hawk out for a walk. It is an impressive Harris Hawk (though a walker coming from the other direction calls it an eagle!) but we don't stop to chat, others are eager to do that.

We head towards the 'old' road, but the one we are on has to be negotiated first, and there are some really slippery parts.

Once through the gate we see the flooded stretch, usually easily crossed by stepping stones, but that seems out of the question today, so we head 'upstream' to find a less onerous crossing place.

Then we are onto the 'old' broken road with its undulating curves of fractured surfaces. All downhill now, and a steady trek along the usable road towards Castleton.

The sky is darkening fast, dusk comes early, and maybe there is a hint of more bad weather to come (I get a message to say there is a blizzard blowing at home, a little over 30 miles away) so we get ready to go. We aren't sure at the time, but this will be our last walk before Christmas so Best Wishes to everyone and Happy Walking.

Monday, 18 December 2017

An Amble in Padley Woods

Our plans for a walk have been sent awry by the grim weather this moring. As we sit in our cars in the car park at Surprise View we have a view of sorts, of the rain sweeping across the landscape. Time for a drink and a bun (cream eclair) before we set foot into the murk.

This is PC's birthday walk, so the extra bun is an essential, and comes in quite handy as we wait for the rain to pass, which it does eventually.

We muffle up as, although the rain has stopped it still feels rather cold. And after we have crossed the road and gone onto the narrow track down to the brook we discover that the rain has left the path slick with mud. We just need to be careful.

By the time we have slithered down to the water the sun is making an attempt to shine, and Mollie eagerly awaits a biscuit (one of the few words that guarantees her instant attention!)

The water looks particularly lovely with the sun glinting off it, but it also looks very cold. Wouldn't like to dip a toe in that.

We keep to the right hand side of the water as we amble downhill, and every now and then are rewarded by the bright glow of late autumn leaves.

We have decided against anything that resembles a strenuous walk - we have set off far too late and , to be honest, are feeling too lazy. It has got a little warmer so, encouraged, we find a fallen tree and settle down to lunch, with some apricot wine and our second bun - cheesecake this time.

Once happily sustained we set off again, heading for the bridge across the brook. Alas, it is not merely slippery going down to it, but boot-squelchingly muddy too. Mollie skips through easily enough but we have a job to keep our balance as we teeter on the odd protruding rock or stray branch.

We make it eventually, and from the bridge are rewarded with a lovely view upstream.

We climb up the path at the far side and the sun shining through the trees is particularly lovely here.

The copper colour of the beech trees, and the fallen leaves, are like walking in a golden landscape.

We have an interesting down-up to traverse as we cross a deep stream but we don't give the nearby workman on the road anything to laugh at as we manage with a fair degree of agility!

From here it is a continuing stroll along the high bank of the brook and to where we cross the bridge back to the other side.

We take the path across the moor towards the outcrop where what seems to be a small film crew are following a single young man posing on the rocks. He's there a long time, flinging his arms wide to the elements. We try to ignore him - it is rather surreal after all.

We get back to the car and yes, he is still on his rock, posing, although some of his crew - or maybe just interested onlookers - have returned to their car too. They may have to hurry up though, the light is beginning to fade and there is a fair chance of rain again.

We, however, have to return home and are glad that the weather, eventually, stayed fine.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Autumn Colour at Chatsworth

We are back after a long break, and choose something familiar and comforting. Chatsworth is always good and a visit in autumn should give us the lovely hues of this season.

We go past the garden centre and onto the familiar path leading upwards at Calton Lees. The stream is running fast and there is a nip in the air, but hardly any people about. Which is as we like it.

As soon as we climb we get the wonderful views across the estate towards Beeley and the Rabbit Warren on the horizon.

Up past the few houses here we are greeted by an enthusiastic young hound bounding out of a driveway, and who deems it her job to escort us part of the way. At the gate into the next field we dither momentarily to decide our route, and the hound disappears. We are clearly not energetic enough for her.

Through the gate we skirt left, then climb up at the side of a drystone wall. Ahead of us is a large pond and we walk in that general direction. There are certainly a few more people up here.

We follow the path around and past the pond, then the track to a lane. We have done this in the past, in reverse, but it was a while ago. On the tarmac lane we turn right and are heading in the general direction of Edensor, and are surprised at how much ground we have covered in so little time.

The fields are full of sheep, and we spot a small group of antlered male deer, but they aren't too keen to stand still for us. And they are quite some distance away.

There are some rather splendid bracket fungi on an old tree stump though.

The track we are on turns into the lane through Edensor which, as always, looks very picturesque. However, we are getting hungry and need somewhere to sit for lunch.

Luckily, once out of the tricksy gates and across the main road through Chatsworth we find a bench and with our backs against a tree we enjoy our sandwiches, buns (fresh cream apple turnovers - bursting with cream) and coffee.

Then it is onward again. We drop down to the bridge and cross over the road to walk along the riverside with the House on our left.

It looks as though they are getting ready for a market, or a fireworks event as there are plenty of stalls being put up in the gardens.

It's a pleasing stroll next to the river as it meanders back towards the car park. Only a short upward haul, and we are back in pretty swift time. The break from walking has cleearly done us no harm at all.

Saturday, 19 August 2017


With another lucky turn of events PC is back home again for a short time and we're able to get out for a walk. We are being a bit cautious, at the moment I can't drive and have to rely on a 'chauffeur' to get me anywhere, so any walk has to be at 'my side' of the Peak District. Also, I'm just getting over a shoulder operation which means carrying my trusty rucksack (which has everything I could need or not need in it) is a definite no-no, a limiting factor when we rely on my rucksack for all emergency supplies. And, of course, I've only got one 'useable' arm at the moment.

So, I'm dropped off at the car park in Baslow where PC is already waiting and I transfer my meagre belongings to her car. Some I have in a bum-bag, the rest go into PC's rucksack. Then we drive through Chatsworth Park to the car park at Calton Lees which, since it is holiday season, is starting to fill up. We duly pay the parking fee - £3 this year, but it gives us all day without having to stick to a return time - and pay a quick visit to the loos in the garden centre. Then we're off.

Today we are dogless, which does make things easier, and PC is looking very fit since she has been accompanying her husband on some of his training walks for his trip to do the West Highland Way next month. My fitness levels, needless to say, are not what they were.

We take the slope down to the road from the garden centre entrance and cross over the bridge, avoiding the holiday traffic. From here there is a short walk on the narrow verge until we turn away from the road and go left at Beeley Lodge where we climb up the narrow lane towards Beeley Hilltop. The sun is out and the views are, naturally, superb. In fact, it is good to pause in the shade from time to time as it is getting quite warm, certainly warm enough to walk minus fleeces and layers.

The track that runs up from Beeley Hilltop is extremely rutted, probably due to its use by 4x4s as well as farm vehicles. It's fine on foot though, providing you don't get a loose stone under your boot.

It's a lovely walk up here, surprisingly quiet too as we don't see anyone else. The views are far reaching but there is a heat haze which gives them a fuzzy blur to spoil photographs. 

Once past the edge of Hell Bank Plantation (what a name!) we take the stone stile next to the gate leading onto Rabbit Warren. Fortunately I get over this obstacle without any problems even though I'm only using one hand. 

At the far side of the stile we pause as a wave of scent hits us. The heather on the moors is currently in bloom with swathes of purple and lilac wherever we look, but the floral honey scent of the blossoms was quite unexpected. It is certainly something I have never experienced and can only assume that the warm weather has brought out the best in the blooms. After all, whenever we have walked through heather before it has tended to be dull or raining, or both.

It is a very pleasant path across Rabbit Warren and we see quite a few people here, a sign of the holiday season. At the end of the path we have another high stile to cross, and again it poses no problems. I'm feeling quite pleased with myself!

Our usual route through here is by turning left along a small track, but today we follow the more obvious track around to the right, then at the crossroads of tracks we go straight ahead. There are lots more people now and some are quite noisy.

The track takes us on a loop of a walk to arrive at Swiss Lake - or rather, the remains of Swiss Lake. The last time we were here the lake was full and had wildfowl on it. Today it is a muddy mess, drained of water and with a sparse covering of weeds. At the far side the stone walls have flapping drapes of black polythene - not terribly attractive and seemingly serving no useful purpose whatsoever.

Continuing on for some way we see the Emperor Lake through the trees, at least this seems to be full. We walk down to it but there isn't anywhere to sit just here, though we can see that we have missed the usual spot and go back to the road to walk around a little. Then we see a newly constructed feeder pond/lake next to the track which feeds directly into the Emperor Lake. Is this the reason for the Swiss Lake's demise? It may well be, and whilst it is probably more effective it certainly isn't particularly attractive being functional rather than aesthetic.

We walk down to the Lake and find that the single bench is vacant - perfect. So, coffee (not the best, alas) and sandwiches followed by cream doughnuts - all of which went down very well.

After our leisurely lunch we return to the track and continue to follow it, we pass the Hunting Tower tucked into the trees and start to lose some of the other walkers as they veer off down towards the house. We continue on the main track and ignore the path down to the left which would take us into the park.

We've never actually taken this route before so even in somewhere as familiar as Chatsworth we are finding something new. The track comes to a halt at a field gate but to the left of it is a narrow path which leads to another stile over a high wall. At the far side of this there is a small white arrow (permissive path) and a clear track across Dobb Edge.

Wow! the views open out and we have a vista in front of us that we haven't seen before. Far ahead are the Three Ships and Nelson's Monument on Birchen Edge and Baslow is down to the left. There is a ladder stile in front of us which, undoubtedly, will lead us to the Robin Hood on the A619 to Chesterfield, but there is also a path leading downhill on our left. We choose the left hand path.

Up on the hill to our left - we must have missed seeing it on our way down - is a huge rock structure which may be Jubilee Rock. We continue downhill though and emerge, as we suspected, into the main Chatsworth Park. From here we meander in the general direction of the House.

As we are continuing in our vague downhill and left direction we spot a herd of young male deer sheltering in a copse of trees. We try to skirt around them without disturbing them as we head for a small stile over the wire fence, but the deer see us and take flight, leaping over the fence as though it isn't there. We cross the fence via the stile with much less grace!

It's a fair distance across this part of the park to the house, and as we get closer to the stately home we see the reflected gleams of hundreds of cars in the extended car parks and we start to see a few more people taking a gentle stroll within easy reach of their vehicles.

At the car parks PC heads for the plush loos whilst I go to buy us ice creams. Large (very large) 99s. Naughty, but very nice!

We eat our ice creams as we walk down through the cars and over the bridge where we pause to admire the Emperor Fountain and remark (again) on the gilding around the windows of the house.

Over the bridge and we have the final walk across the park to complete. It is here that there are the most people - other than those up close to the house and visiting that and the gardens. Still, Chatsworth is a big place and huge numbers of people can be accommodated without taking up all the space.

It doesn't take long for us to reach the car park at Calton Lees where we sit and enjoy a little more of the sunshine before setting off. It has been great to get out, and having a familiar walk with some new places added on is a distinct bonus.