Sunday, 28 February 2010


It had snowed again. Although the valleys were more or less clear the hills were not and the slow thaw was adding the extra excitement of fog. Oh joy! Our usual mix of determination, desperation and sheer bloody-mindedness meant that we were not to be deterred from our walk as we headed up to the Surprise View car park above Hathersage. I received a text as I was driving up the hill out of Grindleford: 'Some bloody surprise view.' That summed it up perfectly.

Nevertheless, at the car park we togged up in our many layers, added waterproof trousers on top to guard against the misty drizzle and ambled over to the ticket machine to pay for our stay. Flummoxed, we stared at the machine with furrowed brows. It did not accept cash, only cards. OK. So where were we to buy these special parking cards? We read the instructions. It didn't say. We puzzled over this for a full five minutes before the light-bulb moment occurred. Credit cards. We had to pay by credit card. Of course, Paparazzi Cate didn't have a credit card with her, but I did so we followed the instructions very slowly and very carefully and managed to acquire our tickets. Perhaps we'll think about buying an annual parking ticket. It might save on confusion.

We crossed the busy road to reach the familiar track down to the river but as soon as we were through the tight kissing gate we had to step aside for a group of walkers toiling up the hill. Fancy being out walking on a day like this, who - apart from us - would be so daft.

The path cuts deep into the moor and as we walked along we wondered if it could be man-made; we are relatively close to Carl Wark. Leaving speculation aside we discussed the recent half-term break as we slithered and slid down the muddy track.

At the water's edge we paused to watch a small flock of birds (sparrows or chaffinches possibly) hopping about on the opposite bank before setting off on the familiar route down to Nether Padley. Our path kept us well above the water, swollen with snow melt and thundering ominously. We had entered the woods and the trees, stark without their green leaves, closed in and blocked out the feeble winter light. Although, in places, the path was wet and muddy, for the most part it was stony and boulder-strewn so we needed to watch where we put our feet. We paused to take a photograph of a waterfall that, in good weather, is a mere trickle, but the snow speckled ground didn't give enough contrast and we're disappointed with the result.

Soon we'd dipped down past the houses in Nether Padley. We decided on a slight detour to visit Padley Chapel and were rewarded with a sign saying it will be open twice a week from the end of March. We resolve to come again soon. On this visit we contented ourselves with the exterior, and despite the heavy rain that decided to join us, a clump of emerging snowdrops in the shelter of the chapel wall made us smile.
Around the back of the chapel are the ruins of the old Padley Manor gatehouse, and we happily wandered around trying to piece together how it would have looked. In places mature trees are growing over the walls; nature reclaiming the stone.
Too early for lunch so we backtracked towards Grindleford station to take the easy route up to the road rather than the slippery woodland slope. We discussed the merits of prom dresses and what they shouldn't be (not long, not poofy) before reaching the road. After a short stretch we're in the woods again and looking for somewhere to stop for lunch. The prospect of soggy sandwiches in the pouring rain is not an appealing one, nor the dubious comforts of moss encrusted boulders amidst the rotting undergrowth in the perpetual damp. We pass the log we used on a previous walk, it was a precarious perch at best, and wonder briefly where the squirrel is that came to nosey at our food that last time.

The rain stopped quite abruptly and we found a moderately comfortable spot. Out comes lunch, coffee and buns. Banoffee Pies. Big ones. With fresh cream and a chocolate disc on top. They were given due reverence before being demolished.

Afterwards we both declared that we were too full for a second cup of coffee, so we decided to save it for later and instead take a fortifying nip from the secret flask to set us up for the rest of the walk.

To avoid undue acrobatics in the mud whilst trying to cross the stream feeding the waterfall we go onto the road for a few paces before returning to the wood over a wall stile with narrow steps. We're thankful that no one can see us.

At the top of the wood where the trees thin out we step through a gap in another wall and into a different landscape. On this side the snow is everywhere, from where we have come there are only a few pockets.

We headed through the trees and squelched through bogs following the line of the water until we came to two gate posts at the side of the river. They have clearly been there a considerable length of time but we can discern no purpose for them. Did they lead to a bridge? If they did, there is no evidence of a bridge on the opposite bank. Puzzling over this we plough on. At least there is now a view as the fog has started to clear.

Over the bridge and across what is known as Lawrence Field we headed for the prominent boulders where we could sit, finish our coffee and look at some photos. The dark clouds begin to loom ominously again - very Wuthering Heights - so with the coffee finished we headed back to the cars with fresh bounce in our steps guaranteed to fool anyone into thinking we're super-fit.

As we were planning our next walk the rain started again, and it meant it. Time to head home, and hope that the snow is gone by next week.