Friday, 2 July 2010


It's a little bit overcast today, but so much better for walking than the unaccustomed heat we've been experiencing over the last few days. We park on the road heading towards Little Longstone just short of Monsal Head. It's going to be a steady walk along the old railway line that has been turned into the Monsal Trail, but it will be a long one.

We walk down the road and go through the gate into a field. The Trail is broken at this point because of a blocked tunnel, so this is a slight diversion from what would have been the original route. The field is clear, undulating and, more importantly, devoid of livestock. There is the rich perfume of roses on the air and we spy a tall rose, possibly Nevada, clambering high into a tree that stands in a back garden.

At the next field gate my footsteps slow. Beyond the gate are cows, lots of them. I really hate cows. PC asks if we can go on another route, but there isn't one. So I tell her to keep talking and walking as I brave the herd. The cows must know that I don't like them, they keep staring at us, but I keep going buoyed up by PC telling me it's all OK. (No, it isn't - stay calm, breathe, keep walking,) The last few steps are taken at a run as a cow tries to block the gate and PC bravely shoos it away. Safety at last. Alas, there's no camera again today but PC gets her phone out to take a momentous photo of the perils we have just passed. From here it's all plain sailing - or walking.

The trail is so easy to walk that we don't really have to think, which is good as it leaves us plenty of time to talk - an essential on a day like today. Of course, we pass quite a lot of other walkers, some in groups, but most noticeable are the abundant wayside flowers: polemonium (Jacob's Ladder), geranium pratense (Meadow Cranesbill), scabious and meadowsweet.

We turn up the bridleway towards Bakewell, the only detour we'll make off the Trail and one that takes us higher up and gives us better views. It's only a short steep pull between fields of, yes, more cows. At least these are fenced in. There are plenty of calves too looking impossibly cute with their oversized knees and big eyes. They're mums don't look too sweet though.

The path peaks, then we're downhill. We go through a gate which swings opens upwards. There must be some strange law of physics to explain this but PC doesn't come up with one and it's soon forgotten as we head down to Bakewell.

This part of the path is rough and steep but soon we're on paved ground. We take the footpath that skirts the side of the river and as we watch we see a dipper, it's white chest flashing, then PC spots a water vole washing itself on a mound in the middle of the river. It's quite unbothered by us and carries on with its daily ablutions without a care in the world. We watch it for a while before moving on, only to see another, very briefly, swimming at the edge of the river before darting for cover.

We walk around the bend in the river and find a bench to sit on for lunch, which is uninspiring, and buns - fresh cream eclairs - which make up for everything else. To the coffee we add a little from the secret flask which is a guaranteed mood enhancer. As we sit we see the wildlife of the river: dippers, coots with their adolescent young; a duck with a very young brood and grey wagtails with a youngster bigger than the parents.

We can't sit forever, even though we feel like it, and set off again, firstly coming out at Bakewell's famous bridge before heading uphill towards the Trail. It's easy enough to find (but last time we came here we took a less direct route and spent ages looking for it) and soon we're skirting the old station buildings and walking on the familiar surface. There are still flowers in abundance, plenty of wild roses and toadflax amongst others.

We pass a large group of people at the Hassop roundabout bookshop and ignore the enticements of cream buns and ice creams at the cafe to continue on our way. Three men approaching us ask, without much hope, if we have an inhaler. To their amazement, and relief, I have one in my overstuffed, ready-for-any-eventuality rucksack. The required medication is whipped out and administered, along with a hayfever tablet, and the grateful parties are able to continue on their way without having to resort to an ambulance. So, no more mocking when I say I'm ready for any eventuality! Ok?

After we've saved the day our mood lightens and we're on our way back with almost a bounce in our steps. We have to return via the field of cows, and I'm steeling myself for it, but by some miracle they've disappeared. Phew. It might have taken more than a drop from the secret flask to keep me going this time.

Soon we're back at the cars. We've had a little rain, quite a bit of sun, and more drama than we'd have liked, but it's done us good to get out. I just wish there had been fewer cows.