Sunday, 23 May 2010


What a fantastic day. Clear skies, sunshine and temperatures well into the 20s. It couldn't be better for our walk.

We love coming to Edale but our outings here tend to be restricted. Long days are needed because we have a long drive to reach here and can only make it when school timetables and extra-curricular activities allow. Today luck was on our side.

The car park at Edale is spacious, with loads of room first thing in the morning, so why does someone have to park right beside me? I give them one of my special looks, but I don't think they notice. This is a pay and display car park but today there's no ticket machine. It had, apparently, been stolen to be replaced by a poor woman cooped up in a shed peering out glumly at the sunshine. Perhaps she'll be able to get her own back later by doling out parking fines to those who have outstayed their ticket times.

We pay our money and set off, not even having to bother pulling on jumpers or coats - a most unusual occurrence. Walking through Edale village we catch up on a week's worth of news and gossip, and spy some bluebells in the hedge bottom. No doubt the sunshine has brought them out making us wonder if our bluebell foray in a couple of weeks will be over before we start.

At the end of the road we veer to the right and descend into the cool wooded gloom to cross the bridge over Grinds Brook before climbing smartly up to the other side and into a wide open field. This feels like the start of the walk with the large slabs of stone underfoot to point the way - and prevent excessive erosion.
The temperature is creeping up and as we pause to drink from our water bottles we see the deep scar of a path running down from Grindslow Knoll. We can't remember it being so prominent last time we'd walked here.

This first part of the walk is gentle enough, the slight incline sufficient to warm up the muscles without too much effort. We amble through a copse of trees then cross the small bridge straddling the stream that falls down from Golden Clough. There's a path here, straight up to Nether Tor, but we reckon it must be pretty tough on the leg muscles. We allow a couple to pass us, him with the rucksack, her unencumbered, and I note with envy that it doesn't work that way in my household, quite the opposite, Equality certainly has some downsides.

Here the path is relatively smooth as it follows the brook, albeit on a higher level, and with the continuous steady uphill slope that is so much a part of this valley. The brook is beautiful today, the fresh green Spring growth around it, small frothy waterfalls and deep, inviting plunge pools - especially tempting as the temperature continues to rise.

At the first rough, rocky section we take the obvious path to the left which leads to the brook. Mistake. After scrambling, clambering, rock hopping and swapping from side to side numerous times we manage to recall having been on a higher, easier right hand path in the past. We hadn't spotted it - we hadn't even looked for it - so we're forced into doing impressions of Lara Croft instead.

Eventually we reach an easy section again and, looking back, are surprised at how high we've actually climbed with relatively little effort. Here the brook widens as it cuts through a section of shale. Huge slabs of rock are laying in the water looking very welcoming. However, this is where the walking becomes a little harder.

We're climbing obviously now, and there are rocks and boulders to negotiate. We decide to put on sun cream, a sensible precaution, then carry on upwards. We allow a young couple to pass us, they've been following us quite a way, and PC decides to try the route they've taken although discovers that it isn't quite as easy as she thought. Taking consolation we decide that they probably won't find it half so easy when they have another 25 years on their backs!

We keep pausing, not for breath (although that is a bonus), but to enjoy the ever widening views down the valley which we know will be lost soon. The heat haze doesn't help photo quality, but we know it all looks spectacular.

Soon we hit the part that turns into an unrelenting upward scramble. PC abandons her walking poles as they keep getting in the way; hands are needed here, and we forge on up. It isn't quite as bad as it looks, or as we remember, and every step takes us higher and closer to our goal. As I reach the plateau PC follows behind with the immortal words, "Are we there yet?" Yes, we are, and it's wonderful.
We stop to admire the view then walk on to the aptly named Mushroom Stone before striking away from the path to find somewhere to eat lunch. There are quite a few people up here today, hardly surprising. The weather, the views and the sheer exhilaration are not to be missed. Thank goodness we can come in the week, though. On a good weekend it must be like a motorway service station up here.

We eat our lunch, meagre by any standards, followed by fresh cream doughnuts. It's so warm that the jam in the doughnuts has turned runny, but they're delicious nonetheless as well as providing the necessary calorific intake to give us the energy we need.

We could sit here all day, and it's tempting to lay our backs onto the boulder behind us and drift off, but instead we consult the map to gauge how far it is to Kinder Downfall.
far to even consider today or in the near future as it will mean an early start and late finish. We decide we'll do it when all the girls have left home for university or whatever. That means in another four and a half years or so. We're patient. We can wait.

Despite the desire to linger we press on and the rise up to Grindslow Knoll at 601 m doesn't seem to take much effort - must be because of the doughnuts. Our reward, of course, is the ever expanding panoramic view around a full 360 degrees. The downhill route lays ahead and despite its rock-free grassy slope we're not looking forward to it. It's steep and we know, from experience, it's a killer on the knees. Still, it's the only way to go and we set off, reluctantly leaving the high places behind us.

We're passed by a couple of men, and some more angle down off of other tracks.

We debate how infrequently we see women out on our walks unless they are accompanied by men. Men alone, in pairs or groups are in abundance, but not women. It's sad.

The path turns rough and rubbly, making it slippery underfoot, but we've soon dropped down to the gently sloping field that leads us back to the village. We pause, quite astounded, as on old aircraft flies overhead very low. We watch it go up the valley and out of sight, unable to recognise it, of course. A little earlier we'd have been above it.
We head back to our cars, slower than on the way out. We're tired, but extremely satisfied. It's been a brilliant walk on a perfect day; one to treasure.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


Given the absence of bluebells we decide to follow Plan B. We park facing the northern arm of Ladybower Reservoir and set off walking up the steep bridleway which runs beside Ridges Coppice and up Hagg Side. We stop a few times, to admire the view of course, which is opening up in spectacular fashion under a clear but cold sky; the reservoir in the foreground, Derwent Ridge behind topped by the distinctive Wheel Stones, Salt Cellar and White Tor. Pity about lack of photos, though. We're suffering from camera absence. Ah well, it gives us an excuse to re-visit this walk again in the near future.

This bridleway is a bit of a slog and our muscles aren't warmed up yet, but the incline soon changes that. We're not lot before we lose the backward view as the woods close in on both sides. Drifts of white oxalis pepper the ground beneath the trees, delicate rather than spectacular, but little else grows here as the conifers swallow all the light.

Once at the top of the bridleway we turn right, without pause for breath, along the path running above Open Hagg. It's easy strolling and again the views are fantastic.
Behind us the path to Crook Hill is dominated by looming grey clouds but scanning around we can follow the long ridge running from Lose Hill to Mam Tor, then the ranges of Edale Moor and Kinder. It's lambing season and we pass dozens of ewes with their lambs, most laying down and trying to remain invisible - snow white on green!

We cross a stile and set off on the hardcore track heading towards Lockerbrook Farm, only to pause at a permissive path on our left. It's tempting. It leads up onto Bellhag and Pasture Tors - places we'd noted on our last visit to the area with every intention of reaching them at some point. It's no good. The walking is proving too easy, the weather is great and we're so glad to be out that we succumb to temptation without any effort to resist. Our plan, if it can be called one, is just to walk up and enjoy the view, then return on the same path and resume where we left off.

Avoiding the high ladder stile in favour of a gate - securing it carefully behind us - we head off through a field full of sheep and lambs. We're careful not to disturb them as we follow the gentle uphill gradient.

With every step the impressive views unfold - although we try to ignore the blot that is the cement works - and again bemoan the lack of camera. We WILL have to come here again. We can see over the trees to the Derwent Edge and beyond to Stanage Edge and Howden Edge.

As we continue onto open moorland we are walking above the A57 Snake Pass which seems to be a thin, insignificant thread below us. There's a distinctly chill wind blowing up here but after passing Bellhag and Pasture Tors (neither of which we can see as their rocky outcrops are below the ridge line) we find a comfortable spot to sit which is sheltered enough for us to enjoy a coffee, and a warming nip from the other flask.

From this vantage point we can spy out another potential walk, a linear one following the course of a Roman road, and we make a note of it for the future.

With the coffee break over we set off again, pretty certain that we won't be back-tracking. When the moorland path becomes paved we strike out north-east across open land. There's no path, just a few narrow sheep tracks and clumps of coarse grasses. As the land dips the wind drops suddenly. There's no-one else in sight and probably no-one in earshot either. Apart from the birds it is wonderfully, eerily silent.

We pause to consult the map and take our bearings - it would be easy to become lost here - but we can spy the far distant turrets of Howden Dam, the narrow cut of Alport Grain in front of us with the groughs draining Rowlee Pasture feeding into it from our left. We are exactly where we want to be, and know precisely where we are heading.

This is brilliant walking. No-one and nothing to disturb us and a feeling of being out in the wild. We hop over the start of Alport Grain, here it is only a few inches wide, and climb up and down the groughs, grateful that they are dry as it hasn't rained for days.

We reach the line of a tumbled wall and settle down for a picnic. We eat our lunch and drink the coffee. A slight panic follows when PC yells something about a bomb, but it's only her desperation for the buns which she thinks I've forgotten. Crisis is averted when the fresh cream eclairs are brought out, but they are hard to eat when you're almost crying with laughter!

We've been sat for long enough for the birds to ignore us, despite the noise we must be making, and there are dozens of different calls. Most we don't recognise although the curlews are very vocal, as is another that PC thinks sounds like a sad Clanger.

At last we have to move on and using excellent navigational skills (with a smidgen of luck) we approach a gate in a fence which surrounds Birchinlee New Piece. We are a little concerned, it looks as though it's a sheer drop beyond the fence, but once through the gate we can see that the route is passable, but with care. We face the option of a serious steep downhill walk (or slither) or abseiling off some rocks. We choose to walk.

Fortunately the fence is extremely sturdy and it provides essential handholds as we make our way down the hillside. Thank goodness it isn't wet, or we'd be skiing. Eventually we can make out a faint track to our left which leads us to a single hawthorn tree beneath a rock face richly sculpted by wind, rain and rock falls.

We have to be careful now. There are plenty of rocks beneath our feet but they are buried beneath a thick carpet of bracken, bilberry and heather. We manage to clamber up onto the narrow ridge that stands proud of this small valley, and we look down warily. The view is brilliant, apart from the revelation that there are cow grazing in the valley bottom. But there's no turning back, I'll face the cows - somehow - when I get to them.

It's difficult to find the best way down. There isn't a path, just a hint of a track, so we take our time testing each step. We have to go up first, then once we've reached the highest point on the ridge we start descending. It isn't easy, until we discover how to sledge down on our bums. Easy with well padded derrieres, you just have to be wary of the prickly bits.

The going gets easier when we reach the woods surrounding Ouzelden Clough, and I'm determined to stick to the woods to avoid the cows, risking injury on felled trees on the far side of the brook rather than walk too close to them. The cows are supremely indifferent to our presence, but I feel better taking no chances even though PC is far braver and walks quite close to them.

Soon we're back on a man-made track and all we have to do is walk back to the cars by the side of the reservoir. The water seems very low and a heron is fishing in the shallows. We're back amongst civilization; cars and walkers, but we're feeling very pleased with ourselves.

It's a fair distance to the car park, but it doesn't take us long. Beyond Fairholmes we dip into the woods just to see how advanced the bluebells are. Not very.

We reflect that this has been an immensely satisfying walk, and no matter how often we come to this area we frequently manage to find somewhere we haven't been before. It's just a pity that we didn't have the camera - hopefully there'll be a few photos in the archive!

Sunday, 9 May 2010


The looming grey clouds which promise rain can't dampen our enthusiasm. Another week's walk has been forcibly crossed from our diaries and we need to make up for lost time.

We've parked at Upperdale Farm and decide to pull on all our waterproof gear when we feel the chill of the wind sweeping down the valley. We're hardy souls, but not daft. We set off down the road towards the old mill, now fancy dwellings rather than an industrial space. As we veer off up the right hand road we pause to look at the mill pond. In the centre, on a raised nest, is a coot. Then we see, to the right, its partner swimming in the water with three tiny balls of fluff. It's amazing how fast they can swim; surely they can only be a day or so old given that mum is still on the nest. We watch them for a while, daft grins on our faces, before setting off up the road reflecting that it's seeing such gems that add a special something to our walks. We pity those who forge forward with their heads down seeing only where they are
their feet.

When the road turns a hairpin bend we take the footpath straight on, going through a gate which, last time, had been guarded by young bullocks. Fortunately there were long gone and we passed through with ease (and a steady pulse rate. I don't do cows).

Over to our right the sheer cliffs of Ravenscliffe loom, and to our left is a wood full of anemones.
We walk steeply downhill and come to the bridge at the entrance to the Cressbrook Dale nature reserve. Today the river bed is bone dry, grass and weeds growing amongst the rocks, but on our last visit we'd had to paddle to the bridge which only skimmed the fast flowing water by a few millimeters and was in danger of becoming submerged. On that occasion, the valley upstream had been turned into a series of small lakes complete with resident ducks. Today we cross dry shod.

Once over the bridge we are in a botanical haven. The trees are not yet in full leaf which means that the anemones are thriving, and we have to stop to photograph a clump of pink flowers which are showing off in the middle of their white
family members. There are bright yellow celandines and in the numerous clearings cowslips are blooming. The dry river bed is home to blackthorn, its white flowers promising a bumper crop of sloes in the autumn. Later on in this season there will be ramsons and meadowsweet, their leaves fresh but their flowers not ready yet. Deeper in the wood it is clear that trees get little light, and that the air is moist. We stop to stroke one tree which seems to be wearing a soft, furry overcoat of moss which has turned its bark green.

The rain has turned to a determined drizzle and we have to be careful over the
limestone rocks which have become slippery underfoot. There is only once spot which could cause any problems but we're careful. Now the woodland has given way to open valley bottom, and we spot our first orchid. Of course, we have to take a photograph of the vivid purple beauty, but the camera is being uncooperative. By the time we've finished the poor specimen must be in contention for the most photographed orchid in England.

We stop for a coffee. The rain has passed over, the view is lovely and we've found somewhere comfortable to sit. A couple of walkers come down from Tansley Dale and stop to talk about the wild flowers. Apparently Tansley Dale is awash with cowslips. The couple seem unsure of exactly where they're heading, they only have a guidebook and no map, but they set off anyway. We pack up our rucksacks and head further up the valley.

We walk past Peter's Stone (or Peter's Rock, it depends whether you believe the map or the marker post) to peer down the valley towards Wardlow Mires then double back on a path that takes us up towards Peter's Stone, an impressive limestone outcrop believed to resemble the dome of St Peter's in Rome. More sinister, though, is the fact that it was apparently the site of the last gibbet in Derbyshire in 1812. We didn't know that when we decided to picnic amongst the orchids at its base!
Our lunch spot is chosen in blissful ignorance of past associations and we enjoy our picnic complete with fresh cream slices - just enough jam, just enough cream - which we eat with sticky relish. We finish off with coffee and a sip from the flask to keep the chill at bay. The clouds are gathering again and the temperature is dropping. It's too cold to sit for long so we set off back.

We had planned to take the uphill path which then drops down to the bridge, only to vary the route and views on the return, but sitting down in the cold has made hips stiff so we return on our outward path.

When we reach the awkward rocky part of the path we find a small group sitting on it eating their lunch totally blocking the way! There is no other way around so they have to move their belongings for us to pass and immediately settle down once we've gone. They'll be in for a shock as there are more people out walking now. We muse over the foolishness of some people as we head back to the bridge. The sky has brightened again although the sun resolutely refuses to shine. At least it isn't trying to rain anymore.

We cross the bridge and head left along the side of the dry river bed. Why doesn't this river have a name on the map? Is it because it's only a part-timer? Here the banks are smothered in ramsons, the pungent flowers still curled up deep in their buds. In a few weeks the air will be a solid wall of garlic scent. Lovely.

There are a few bluebells out, especially close to Ravensdale Cottages, but they stop abruptly. Perhaps in a few years they will have managed spread, although the ramsons are probably tough competitors for the available space.

We only have to walk back downhill now and along to the cars. It hasn't been a particularly long or strenuous walk, but we both feel tired. It doesn't stop us planning for next week though when we go hunting for bluebells (we hope).