Not an auspicious start to the day with high winds and driving rain on the agenda, but by the time we meet at the car park at the side of Ladybower the sky has cleared and we are hopeful. Hopeful, not stupid. We pull on all our waterproof gear, just in case!
The last time we walked this way PC had forgotten her camera. This time, though, she'd remembered it - but the battery wasn't working. Grovelling apologies ensued, but it was the proffered bottle of Old Tom (with chocolate - can't wait to try it) that clinched it. For that particular ale I'd forgive anything. Anyway, she has a mobile phone that takes pictures, so that would have to suffice for today.
We set off up the steep bridleway up Hag Side. Behind us, across the water, is the dramatic Derwent Edge which we had walked a few weeks ago, and the massive Wheelstones are prominent. We climb quickly and can soon see up the valley towards the dam which has water gushing over the top in a white, foaming cascade. We can even hear the pounding torrent from here. The light is perfect and PC takes a photo - just hope that the phone camera is able to do it justice.
This is a steep uphill climb which takes us beneath the trees where we startle some sheep who leap athletically over a fence to avoid us. A heavy shower of rain suddenly bursts down on us but no sooner do we pull up our hoods than it stops. It's going to be one of those days.
We both agree that the uphill slog isn't so bad. certainly not as bad as we remember it. Are our memories playing tricks? Or are we really getting better at this sort of thing?
Within no time we reach the top and as we go through the gate we are suddenly exposed to the howling wind, and another sudden torrent of rain. We turn our backs to the weather but this is more than a quick, passing squall so we retrace our steps back onto the bridleway where we gain some shelter from the rise of the hill and the trees. Sure enough, a few minutes patience is rewarded and the rain stops enabling us to strike out again.
We turn left on the path which is awash with rainwater. The trees to our left provide no shelter as the wind is coming across the moors from the right. It's hard to make ourselves heard, quite an achievement. The views are opening up as we trudge soggily up the gentle grassy incline: Bleaklow, Kinder, Mam Tor are all in our sights as we look around. Closest is the Vale of Edale to our right with Rushup Edge clearly defined. To think, we were only up there last week.
A couple of waterproof-clad walkers approach from the gate in the wall ahead of us. So we're not the only mad people out on the hills today. We pause a moment to exchange pleasantries, and we all remark upon our collective lunacy. At least if we're carted off to the loony bin we won't be alone. They head down the path as we push on up. The rain has abated but the wind is blowing hard.
Through the gate at Bridge-end Pasture (what bridge?) we're faced with an extremely waterlogged field and we become bog-hoppers as we try to avoid getting sucked into the mire. It's pretty much impossible.
At the crest of the field, though, we have a wonderful view of the twin peaks of Crook Hill. Again, the sun is shining and it is a perfect picture, so the lack of camera is cursed again. We drop down quite quickly across fields that don't seem to be the slightest bit boggy and go through a gate next to the high stone wall which takes us into the open access area around Crook Hill.
There's a distinct track leading around the base of the first hill and we follow it easily then veer off on a far less distinct path (Ok, so maybe it wasn't a path at all) up the side of the hill. Our aim is to reach the top but we come across a sheltered nook away from the wind and with glorious views over the valley to Derwent Edge. It's too good a place to pass so we sit down and have a drink from the (not so) secret flask and a coffee to wash it down. The sun is shining, the colours are magical and we aren't being buffeted by the wind.
We plan to hike to the next hill for lunch, but we're past noon now and the picnic police won't get us so we stay where we are and break out the sandwiches. Before the buns are brought out we see the rain clouds hurtling towards us again so we pour the coffee and keep our heads low. When the rain comes it splashes into our coffee cups and threatens to swamp us. We sit it out as the rain sheets across the landscape, then five minutes later the sky is clear and we are rewarded with a rainbow.
Postponing the bun fest we lever ourselves up from our comfortable spot and set off to have a look on the other side of the hill. We can see along the length of Ladybower stretching at the side of the A57, and the long ridge leading up to Win Hill. We drop sharply down then climb up again to reach the top of the higher of the twin hills. It's worth the effort. The 360 degree view makes up for the climb. For now the sky is perfectly clear and we spend ages admiring the views and trying to commit them to memory. We wave to someone on the top of Win Hill, but they don't wave back. Maybe it's not a person, but a trig point.
We trudge down the hill trying to pretend that there aren't cattle prints scored deep into the ground, and soon reach the broad track that goes through Crook Hill Farm yard. Instead we take a slight marked detour through a field, startling some sheep, and arriving at the end of the farm track where we only have to cross over. PC becomes slightly disorientated and tries to set off in the wrong direction. Like horses, she needs steering!
The cattle are in the large byre next to the path, and are making a heck of a racket. Thank goodness they aren't out in the open. However, a long, low, loud rumble of thunder rolls along the A57 valley and we know what will follow. We're in the open and can see the rain racing along the valley. Just enough time for us to pull up our hoods before the rain hits us.
There's something primitive and elemental about being out in this kind of weather. You can't do anything about it, you just have to accept it, the same as man has had to do for thousands of years. It's an enriching feeling, if a bit uncomfortable.
We're pretty certain that the rain has set in for the rest of our walk; visibility is negligible and even the sheep are squelching. Out come extra jumpers (PC) and the rucksack cover (me). Naturally, by the time we reach the bottom of the hill (the oddly named Toadhole Cote), the rain has stopped and the sun is shining again bathing everything in rainwashed light.
We cross the road, pause to admire some very neat hedge laying, then take the path running at the side of the reservoir. Some sheep, looking very clean, wander towards us before veering off, and we disturb a jay which flies overhead for a while before disappearing.
Soon we enter Fearfall Wood and are keeping our eyes open for somewhere suitable to stop. The uneaten buns are calling to us. The last time we were here it was bluebell time when it was considerably drier and sheepless. There are a lot of sheep about today.
We do the ugly up and down between the huge water pipes then we're on a long straight stretch in Lee Wood where we finally find a bench to sit and unpack the buns. Raspberry Rapture it says on the packet - very appropriate we agree as we hungrily devour the delicious raspberry cheesecakes. There's even another cup of coffee left in the flask and we drink it, enjoying the view and feeling very mellow.
It isn't far back to the cars now and soon we're crossing the road and stripping off our soggy gear. The changeable weather hasn't stopped us or hindered us, and we both agree that it's been a great day out.
Sadly this will be our last walk for a while. PC is going into hospital to be transformed into BW (Bionic Woman) complete with new hip. It will take a while for her to be fit enough to venture onto the hills so in the meantime we'll resort to going for drives before progressing to short strolls. Naturally, we'll have to keep occupied by visiting cafes on our trips, but we'll take up the challenge of sampling coffee and buns with stoicism and determination! And we'll keep a record too.