Monday, 13 September 2010


Here we are for our first walk back after the summer holidays and it feels good to be out. We meet at the Surprise View car park under an unpromising sky of mist which threatens rain, not that it matters to hardy souls like us. We have loads of news to catch up with and are desperate to escape the accumulated post-holiday chores which have multiplied alarmingly in our absence.

We cope admirably with the parking-ticket machine which had us stumped on our last visit then set off gingerly, nursing a dodgy hip and back back - one each so they're equally shared.

The first stile is approached with caution but we cope with it easily. See, things aren't too bad after all! We almost immediately encounter a small uphill scramble, but experience of this means we know the easy way and we're soon on the open moor covered with a dense carpet of heather and spindly silver birch trees. The path is sandy underfoot due to the constant erosion of the sombre grey gritstone.

We're heading uphill here, but at a gentle gradient which gives us plenty of breath to talk about all that has happened since we last met up.

We pause to take photos of some of a couple of strangely eroded rocks that look like a pair of Komodo Dragons turned to stone, one looking north, the other south.

A short distance along we reach the towering bulk of Mother Cap, a large wind-weathered monolith that is visible from a great distance away. It is a popular site for climbers with a route up it being called, apparently, Conan the Librarian! Why? No idea.

After only a brief pause to admire the view, and to remove a layer of clothing - the sun has emerged - we head north towards the distinctive flat-topped rise of Higger Tor. We take a path that is not on the OS but is well used enough to be clear on the ground. Carl Wark, the iron age (or possibly even bronze age) hill fort is over to our right. Carl Wark isn't the only evidence of settlement here on Hathersage Moor although the fort is the clearest with the rest being buried beneath vegetation.

Our path dips at Winyards Nick with another crossing it, but we continue straight on. Soon we reach the only enclosure on the moor, a large rectangular sheepfold. As always we look for the 'missing wood'.

I'll explain. On a walk here some years ago, in snow and thick fog, we passed the corner of the sheepfold heading in the opposite direction and saw, heading roughly easterly, two cart tracks leading in to a wood of spindly silver birches. After much debate we decided to press on instead of going into the wood and forgot all about it. Until I went on a walk there some time later and - no wood! I asked PC. She remembered the wood too (I hadn't imagined it) so we went back together. Despite us both recalling the wood's exactly location and what it looked like, it quite simply wasn't there. A mirage? or some kind of window to a former time? We're still debating the point, and we look for the wood on every visit. One day we'll return in fog, just to see...

Skirting the enclosure boundary we head towards Higger Tor, which looms larger on our approach. We shun the direct ascent and skirt around to the east where we can climb up without undue effort. At the top we pause for a sip from the secret flask, but to our overwhelming frustration the top won't come off. We both try, even resorting to bashing the flask on a rock, but all we manage to do is form a hairline crack in the metal that oozes the odd drop of nectar. Grr.

Refusing to be daunted we set off on the clear path towards Upper Burbage Bridge. This whole area of the moor is very close to road so is easily accessible which makes for more visitors. There are quite a few small groups out, and we have to remind ourselves that although this area is on our doorsteps, it is actually a holiday location for many people.

We cross Burbage Brook by the bridge rather than the up and down scramble over the water. Our way is quicker, and safer, especially in our fragile states.

At the far side of the Brook we debate whether to take the high route on the top of Burbage Rocks on the edge of Burbage Moor or keep to the lower, easier path that forms, apparently, part of the Sheffield Country Walk. We opt for the easy route today but first drop down towards the Brook to sit on some boulders in the sun to eat lunch. The coffee is welcome, as is secret flask number 2 which is only brought out in times of dire need. It feels very civilised sitting here, sipping our drinks, eating lunch and contemplating the moors, the weather, life and everything. And buns. PC has done us proud. Two cup cakes - one lemon, one coffee - are duly presented for admiration before being ceremoniously cut in half and savoured.

It would be far too easy to sit here all day with life buzzing past inconsequentially, but we have to move so we hoist ourselves stiffly upright and head off.

We discuss which path to take, either the one on the top of the rocks, or the lower track. We go for the low track as it is track is so easy to walk and as such is far more popular than the paths on the other side of the Brook. Even today, midweek, we see more people than we usually do, and at weekends it will be like the M1. To our left the rocky ridge of Burbage Rocks stands starkly sculptured in the sun.We pause frequently to admire the views up and down Burbage Basin and across to Carl Wark.

When we reach the road we cross over and into the Longshaw Estate which gives us easy access back to the car park. We go over Burbage Brook by a footbridge then follow the stream side path to the footpath leading to Surprise View car park. When we arrive there we are surprised to see an ice cream van. Tempting, but no. Smugly satisfied that we can resist temptation we plan our next walk then head home with the sun still shining. An excellent first outing.