It's an early start for today's walk as parking is limited. There's only room for a couple of cars and we have to make sure they are ours!
We're in place a good half hour earlier than usual and the day, although bright, is much colder than it looks with an accompanying brisk wind. Rain is forecast for later too. We tog up against the cold and set off cheerful.
It's a long time since we last did this walk across Offerton Moor and Abney Moor so we're looking forward to it.
First of all we have to negotiate a number of stiles, easily done since we choose to go through gates instead which provide their own challenges, and after startling a few long-tailed sheep we're out on the moor following a narrow but distinct path.
It is all much wilder than we remember it, with stark moorland covered with low growing heathers and little else. It must be very barren and bleak here in the winter. However, the 360 degree views are stunning. We pause to admire the scene and take the opportunity to dig out the winter woolly hat! The wind blows with sadistic determination up here. We cross over the oddly named Siney Sitch which trickles lazily today and press on over the flat top of the moor.
Soon we're dropping down and the narrow path becomes slippery as the surface peat has become sodden in the recent rain. Thank goodness for the tall bracken which provides handholds. As we drop the temperature increases and the wind dips. It's off with our layers as we turn left onto the bridlepath which just misses the tiny hamlet of Offerton.
By now we're discussing history, more particularly the Norman Conquest. Just goes to show that we're interested in more than buns.
We cross Old Clough, not much more than a running puddle today, and start the gentle but slow ascent towards the track known as Shatton Lane. We pause to admire and photograph a large hairy caterpillar crawling determinedly across our path, and we wonder what it will turn into, and when.
The walking is easy, if warm, but at least it isn't muddy. Last time we had to pick our way over a quagmire when we reached the gate onto Shatton Lane, but not today. A few puddles make a half-hearted attempt to slow us down, but they fail miserably.
More views open out as we climb up Shatton Lane. We stand a while to point out the landmarks we recognise: Derwent, Bamford Edge, Mam Tor, the Great Ridge, Stanage Edge - miles upon miles of fantastic scenery and most of familiar to our well used boots. Seeing it all on such a wonderful, sunny day just reminds us why we do this, and why we want - no, need - to keep on doing it.
We're interrupted in our musings by a couple of motorcyclists; the lane is 'a route with public access' and although the map shows a fairly clear circuit of these 'routes' in the area, there is a part at the top of this lane which has no vehicular access at all. It doesn't stop the bikers.
We are fast(ish) approaching the monumental mast that stands on the moor and is, sadly, visible for miles. A few steps past the mast and the view beyond it makes even the towering structure of metal and antennae seem beautiful. The ultimate Blot on the Landscape has come into view. Yes, the cement works. It really is an eyesore, and the most hideous structure imaginable. In no way has there been any attempt to make it blend into the landscape. It just sits there, scowling, and alien creature in the wrong place, and just plain ugly.
Trying to ignore the eyesore we press on pass a tiny group of walkers, the first and only ones we see today, and hunt for somewhere to stop for lunch. We've made excellent time again, too good really, so we settle down comfortably, pull on our layers as we're being buffeted by the wind again.
This week the secret flask is opened without problems (phew) so after a warming toast we settle down to eat. Buns today are apple and cinnamon muffins, substantial and healthy (because of the apple!) and they are washed down with flavoured coffee.
Because we've made such good time we sit and talk until we see the predicted grey clouds looming, so we pick up our rucksacks and set off. The track follows the line of grey stone walls behind which are paddocks for numerous horses then veer onto the moor again. It's an easy stroll now and a few spots of rain fall, but not enough to make us even damp. By the time we're back at the cars the sun is shining and we're all fired up for next week.