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.

Friday, 23 June 2017


With a fortuitous bit of timing PC is home for a brief spell before I go on holiday and we're able to get out walking. Not our usual day, which is probably why the sun is shining!

We're meeting in the car park at Edale and there are already a lot of cars here. But the weather is promising and, something we tend to forget, this is a tourist area and the holidays have already begun for some.

We are dog-free today so only have ourselves to plan for. After a moment of deliberation we decide to go for the longer parking charge, we want to enjoy our walk, not be rushing to get back before the traffic warden.

So we set off, coat-free and fleece-free for the first time this year (though we do have them packed!) We walk up the lane and admire the church before stopping at the little shop to buy some water. Typically we had both forgotten to bring extra.

Then it's onward, following the road to the end before veering right and down the wooded slope to the bridge over the trickling Grinds Brook. Up the steps at the other side and we're into the open with a view of our route ahead.

The main path continues straight on but we take the less distinct path to the right, rising steeply up the grassy slope to the stile adjacent to Heardman's Plantation. We pause briefly before setting off uphill on the zigzag path climbing up The Nab. It's really quite hot now, the sun is very bright and we're glad we bought the extra drinks.

We decide to sit on the rocky outcrop for a while just enjoying the view over The Vale of Edale. This is a day to savour so there's no point rushing. Besides, there's plenty of walking ahead, and a breather (plus a nip from PC's secret flask) does no harm!

We set off once more and the path is generally much easier, which is good as it is getting rather hot. Who'd have thought, sunshine in an English summer!

As we approach the base of Ringing Roger we can see a steep, maintained path of steps and rubble up its shoulder. It doesn't look particularly appealing and we're sure we didn't go up that way last time we were here. After a brief map consultation we confirm that we take the narrow but gentle path which contours around the base. This brings us to a shorter, simpler climb onto the ridge a little to the east of Golden Clough. We turn left, clamber up to Nether Tor, and pause. The views are spectacular. A little hazy from the sun, but wonderful nonetheless.

Apart from a few undulations the climbing is behind us, so we can walk along with ease, enjoying the views down the valley and across to Grindslow Knoll. 

Naturally, this walking works up an appetite, but the wind is gusting quite strongly by the time we reach Hartshorn and Upper Tor, so we mooch about a bit until we find some comfy (relatively) rocks shielded by heather and peat where we sit down for lunch. It has clouded over now, so we pull on our fleeces for the first time today.

Sandwiches, coffee, and buns - these are apple crumble buns, a bit like a Chelsea bun but with only a few raisins and not enough apple or crumble topping, but they are soft and suitability stodgy and go down extremely well.

Yes, there is a temptation to linger, but we still have a long walk ahead, so we set off again. From here the path does meander a bit more, and there are a couple of trickles of water, to cross. 

We meet three young women and pause briefly to chat. Each is carrying a baby, snuggled, asleep and well protected from the sun. We admire the stoicism and determination that has brought these young mums out hiking. Babies and young children can be very hard work, and even a trip to the shops can feel like an expedition with all the preparation required, so all credit to these young mums, long may they continue.

From here we go through a gate (yes, all the way up here) and it's fleeces-off time. We wander off the path to have a look at a rock formation and to get a view down a steep sided Clough. And, admittedly, to allow three quite loud walkers to pass us. Once they've gone we continue, only to see the three of them sat on the rocks ahead blocking the path over the next ford (ie, trickle of water). Fortunately on our approach they decide to move on and we are left alone.

This is the to the north of the final push up from Grindsbrook Clough and the water is one of the major tributaries to the Brook. The rocks are flat and wide, and the peaty brown water is too tempting. Making sure to tuck our gear away from the crossing point we remove boots and socks and indulge in a paddle. Bliss!!

We're able to spend quite a bit of time here, the sun is warm and the water isn't too cold. No one comes along, so once we've dried off and donned boots and rucksacks again there is no one to witness our ungainly hoisting of ourselves up the steep sided rocks up to the path.

From here it's pretty easy going again. We detour a few yards to cross the top of Grinds Brook easily, then walk around to the mushroom stone (our name). There are a few people up here, most have probably come up Grindsbrook Clough, but there's plenty of space.

We aim now for Grindslow Knoll and as we do we spot a pristine rail ticket on the floor. I pick it up, it has today's date on it. Ahead of us there are three men so, since they don't hear us call, I volunteer to run up to them (yes, run). When I reach the last man who has paused to take photos with his phone he discovers he'd lost the ticket from his phone case. So luckily, man and ticket were reunited.

We carried on, rose over the top of Grindslow Knoll and looked around for a potential Kinder Downfall route - for sometime in the future, not today.

Then begins the arduous descent of Grindslow. It isn't particularly bad, but it is something we have never really embraced with enthusiasm. It's constantly watching your every footstep for loose rocks and rubble, with some awkward areas to negotiate. Once the worst is over it does ease quite a bit, before becoming rubbly again. And wow, is the sun hot now.

At last we reach the gate leading into the final grassy sheep-grazed slope. The three men who had been some way behind suddenly overtake us, as does a couple with dog. We saunter, reluctant to relinquish the last of the walk.

We head back to the car park, resisting the lure of the pub, and feel that deep satisfaction of a great walk completed. To say that I have caught the sun would be an understatement, though PC has undoubtedly only topped up her envious Mediterranean tan. This has been a great, unexpected interlude in a summer we expected to be devoid of walking, and we have managed it on a near-perfect day.

Saturday, 27 May 2017


Working on the principle of third time lucky, and with a weather forecast in our favour, we are heading up to Lost Lad today, our last chance and last walk before PC heads off onto her boat for a few weeks of guaranteed sunshine.

We are going up by the same route we used last time, a few years back now. It is quite a long way around, nothing like the shorter routes that  most people use, but we are looking forward to it, especially given the sunshine.

There are a lot of people out today, most of them clustered around Fairholmes, but we doubt that many of them will be heading up on our route.

We take the usual path away from Fairholmes and along the bottom of the Derwent Dam wall, then up the steps at the side. When we emerge on the track at the top of the wall we can see the low level of the water. It is some time since we have seen it this low and we wonder if it is partly due to the recent hydroelectric works around here, though it is pretty extreme.

Derwent Reservoir
The waterline is so low, it looks as though there are huge beaches to lounge on. And approaching the Howden Dam it is even more apparent, though the top and bottom reservoirs (Ladybower and Howden) are pretty high.

Approaching Howden Dam

We find our path on the right of the track and walk up to the gate at the top leading onto access land. Although there is a clear path straight ahead which, yes, goes up to Lost Lad, we take the left hand footpath which follows the line of trees and a stone wall. Soon, we are over a stile and onto a path surrounded by the open moors.

We have superb views down to Abbey Brook in the valley below, and the Howden Moors ahead.
The path has a fairly steady incline, though in places there are some quite big downs, with big ups to follow - which does mean we end up divesting ourselves of as many layers as possible. It is warm enough with the enclosing hills adding to the heat, though in reality it is very pleasant. A 'no-coat' walk is a real treat.

Cogman Clough

 We have a dip down to Cogman Clough, then back up again. We see a pesky grouse up ahead, which keeps on bobbing up and down on and off the path. Though it did pause long enough to have its photograph taken.

We are finding that this route is longer than we remember it. Still, it doesn't really bother us. The day is wonderful and there isn't another soul in sight. Just us, a path and the moors. Perfection.
Once we've done most of the ups and downs the path is pretty much smooth and level. There is an immense feeling of freedom when the only sound is from the slight breeze, the curlews and the occasional bleat of a sheep - oh yes, and our conversation, naturally!
The path narrows and begins to wind a little as we begin to circuit around Howden Dean with Howden Edge over to our left. We must get back up there again sometime soon.

We look back the way we have come, and realise that the next time we'll do this walk in reverse and get the different views.
Looking down the Abbey Brook valley
From here it is a short walk to the small crossing over Abbey Brook, but although this is the route of the footpath we veer off to the right and up Sheepfold Clough. There is a path of sorts here, or rather, more than one path, and a number of fences for the sheep but with the gates open, so a bit of careful navigation is needed to keep on track. Basically, go straight ahead, through the first fence in front (the gate was open, but there is a flimsy stile) then keep the second fence to your right and it's plain sailing.

Panorama from Sheepfold Clough

 (The stile can just been seen on the far left of the panorama shot above)

From here it is a bit of a slog. Not because the walking is particularly difficult, but because we haven't stopped to eat. This is mainly because if we do, we won't want to get going again. We prefer to enjoy our food when we know all the climbing has been done. I have, however, succumbed to a piece of Kendal Mint Cake but PC declares that she isn't that desperate. She really doesn't like it one bit. Mollie has had a few biscuits to keep her going.

We debate stopping for a coffee, our pauses are getting more frequent, but Lost Lad is on the near horizon and we know that we will be better just keeping going. 

Sure enough, with a last pull uphill we make it. There's only the three of us (PC, Mollie, Me) and we are, honestly, quite surprised. It's a wonderful day, why aren't there more people up here? Never mind, we take some photos, enjoy the views, then drop down to a comfy spot to enjoy a very very late lunch.
Lost Lad summit
Mollie enjoys a drink and biscuits, then finds a clump of coarse grass and promptly does the sensible thing, and falls asleep!
Remarkably, PC has found a small bottle of wine in the bottom of her rucksack so we not only have coffee, sandwiches and buns (strawberry and fresh cream charlottes) but a welcome tipple too. Bliss.

Panorama, Lost Lad cairn in centre, Back Tor on right, Howden Dean on left with Howden Edge beyond

There is a huge temptation to sit here for hours. After all, there's plenty of daylight, and we have earned a linger. But eventually we decide we ought to pack up and move along.

As we set off a young couple reach Lost Lad from Back Tor. They pause for just a moment before starting to descend. We stand aside and let them go past. They clearly have no intention of hanging around to enjoy the views, they aren't even walking closely together. It's yomp on.

PC and I have never really understood the need to complete a walk as fast as possible, unless you're in training for something. After all, who are these speedy walkers competing with? Themselves? The clock? Life? They must miss out on so much, all those magic moments to breathe and look, those small easily missed treasures, the chance to talk and enjoy shared companionship. Ah well, everyone to their own. Perhaps age helps you to reflect more, and be more thankful for such simple pleasures.

Down from Lost Lad

It is, as they say, all downhill from here. The path continues along then curves around to the left heading towards Green Stitches before joining the footpath from Bradfield Gate Head.

From here it is simply a case of following the path. It splits and we take the right hand footpath which soon brings us up above Derwent Reservoir and very familiar territory.
The large cairn gives us an option of routes and PC opts for the 'straight down, it isn't that steep' route.
Actually, it is that steep, and rutted, but it is the quickest way down. To our surprise we pass two sets of walkers on their way up, neither particularly well shod for such a rough path.

However, we soon reach the bottom, where we hit the path at the side of the reservoir, and more people than we have seen all day. The lovely weather has brought people out in droves, and who can blame them. It is a perfect late afternoon for a stroll with the family.

We, however, head back to the cars extremely satisfied with our walk, and a little tired. But it has been worth it. A perfect walk on a perfect day.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Taking the Low Road

So, the plan is a second attempt to reach Lost Lad, and for the second time we accept defeat. Rain, drizzle and more rain, although it might clear later, apparently!

We're parked in our usual spot at the side of Ladybower deciding on an alternative. We aren't in any rush so decide to do the long circuit of the reservoirs; Derwent and Howden. 

Our route is predictable and easy to follow, so we cross beneath the Derwent Dam wall, climb the uneven steps and start along the track on the far side of the reservoir. It's already drizzling with rain and the dogs, Mollie and Scamp, are soggy.
Needless to say, we don't have much of a view, although the low level of the reservoir is a bit of a surprise. Then it really starts to rain and we seek refuge beneath a stand of trees where I dig out my waterproof trousers from the bottom of the rucksack.

We stand there a while, hoping it will pass over, but it really is bucketing it down. In the end we decide to go for it. We have waterproofs, we shouldn't get too wet. Should we?

To our relief the rain does start to ease off to a light drizzle and a potential of some clear - or rather, not wet - spells. We pass the point where out walk up to the Lad would have started and we admire the rather soggy daffodils.
We pass the Howden Dam wall and continue along, not meeting another soul. Perhaps the weather is keeping everyone under cover.

Mollie finds a discarded ball at the side of the path and gleefully picks it up to play with. She plays fetch for a while, with Scamp's little legs whirring to keep up.
We pass the stream running down from Howden Clough and the dogs have a paddle before we turn the bend with the view down to the dam. It looks as though the water stops in mid-air, like at some upmarket hotel with their suspended swimming pools. Although this is undoubtedly much colder!
We see our first couple of walkers, then go through the gate where we put the dogs back on their leads. There's always the possibility of sheep.

And we see a helicopter coming down the valley - the first of a few we see through the course of the day.
Then, as we are walking along the long length of Cold Side, the sun comes out and the view clears. We have a superb view up the valley.
There's been a lot of planting done on the slope down to the water, and some up on the hillside on our right too. Mollie tires of carrying her ball and leaves it for some other fortunate hound that may follow in her pawsteps.
Soon enough we see the bridge at Slippery Stones and we know that we'll soon be able to stop for lunch. We go for the huge log cum bench at the far side of the bridge where we can sit in some comfort and enjoy our food, including quite messy but very nice custard slices.
There are sheep around here, good job the dogs are on their leads.
But as we walk around the views improve again.
Though the dogs are a little tired, there's still a way to go.
We are on tarmac now, much more tiring underfoot. The gorse is in glorious bloom though, and we hear a curlew up on the moors.
The dam wall looms ahead, and another helicopter goes overhead. As we pass the wall, and the cottages beneath, we enter into the woods where Tin Town was: the construction village for the dams. It's mainly wooded now, with little indication of the industry. A

And we hear a cuckoo - our first of the year. Does this mean it's Spring?
The last stretch of the walk always seems the longest, and is undoubtedly the slowest. But at least it isn't raining anymore.
It's a good job we weren't in a rush. We are quite late getting back to the cars. So late that we hit the rush hour traffic on our way home.