Wednesday, 14 July 2010


Traditionally we don't do very well on our walks around or over Eyam Moor. This morning looked like giving us some of our usual poor weather; grey skies and a few spots of rain with the possibility of later downpours. Sad really given that we'd been experiencing some (un)seasonably dry and hot weather which had already meant hosepipe bans were being put into force in the NW.

I reached our meeting spot on the end of the track on Sir William Hill Road early, PC texted to say she'd be late - a change for both of us. By the time PC arrived the clouds had thinned and the sun was making a break for freedom so we abandoned our waterproofs (well, stuffed them in our rucksacks) in favour of suncream, sunhats and sunglasses. This may be a first for Eyam Moor.

We clambered over the stile with agility borne of much practise and followed the wall on our left. The ground for the first few steps is surprisingly undulating, not apparent until you meet it during a deluge. On one occasion we were almost stopped from reaching our cars because the whole area had turned into a lake. Fortunately it was during our 'dog days' and my dog was big enough to be sent forward to test the depth. She made it, so we waded through. PC's diminutive dog, though, had to be carried or she would have had to snorkel!

Today, after the prolonged dry spell the undulations are barely noticed and we stride ahead enjoying the ever expanding views in front of us. There's hardly anyone else out today and apart from far distant figures we have the moor to ourselves.

Since we started so high we soon have to start our descent although the path is neither too steep nor too rugged and we can keep our eyes on the wonderful clear views as much as our feet. The terrain levels a little as we approach a stone stile built into a wall which we climb with caution. It feels very high and exposed. At the other side we pause to admire the view down to Bretton Clough and across to Abney Low. The drop down to Bretton Clough looks a lot more dramatic than it is, but makes for a suitable photo opportunity.

The path curves alongside a high wall and we pull on our jumpers against the chill wind that blows across the valley, although we need our sunglasses too. The path drops towards Stoke Ford with the added inconvenience of another stile. By the time we reach the point where we had once sat for lunch we are removing our jumpers again. When we'd been here before we'd sat, bemused, as a couple scoured the hillside for a path for a considerably length of time before eventually deciding to approach us for help. It turned out they were about 2 miles away from where they thought and had only a vague idea how to read their map. We set them right, and continued with our buns, but we wonder if they ever reached their destination.

We descend to Stoke Ford, once the main packhorse route from Eyam to Bradwell but now used primarily by walkers and with a bridge to prevent anyone getting their feet wet. Today the water isn't too high and although tempted to stop for a paddle we continue though the woods that skirt Highlow Brook. The woods give way to open ground carpeted with bracken and thistles which are proving a magnet for hundreds of brown spotted, orange butterflies. After much patience PC manages to persuade a pair to pose for a photograph.
Also, at a lower level and easily missed amongst the thick grass,

Another photograph is called for.

This is easy, if undulating, walking. We cross one of the many small streams that feed Highlow Brook, hop over a wooden stile then look for somewhere to stop for lunch as we're making extremely good time. We sit down on the springy turf at the foot of Eyam Moor where we can enjoy a pleasant view across the moors. A ewe is instantly curious and hopeful, but we persuade her (nicely) to go away although she doesn't go too far, just in case.

Lunch is unmemorable, but the buns are good as befits our last walk for a while. We were going to have cup cakes but they hadn't materialised (unco-operative opening hours of the cup cake shop) but PC has brought along photographs and vivid descriptions of the treats beyond our reach. This is serious food porn at its most extreme. Instead, we content ourselves with New York Vanilla Cheesecake, and yes, it is exceptionally good New York Vanilla Cheesecake. Absolutely delicious. Our muted sighs of approval have the ewe showing an interest again, but she's disappointed. Some things are too good to share.

We stay a while, drinking coffee, talking, enjoying the blazing sunshine, making the most of our last walk. Summer holidays loom and we'll be going our separate ways until September (but I've been promised cup cakes for our first walk back. YAY!)

Soon we have to admit that we can sit around no longer so hoist ourselves to our feet, walk downhill and cross a stream via a small wooden bridge, a courtesy that had not been here when the stream was a torrent and we'd had to cross with a small dog and an audience! We walk through the edge of Highlow Wood and for once the path isn't a quagmire. .In open fields again PC decides to snap a pair of photogenic sheep who decide she's taking too long over the whole thing and put on bored expressions for her
We pass the beautifully kept Tor Farm and what must be the most picturesque 5 star chicken hut in England. A lot of houses don't look as good. Then we reach the road, turn sharp right and start the long, slow slog uphill. We're steadily overheating now and have frequent pauses to drink. At Leam we leave the road and return to the moor following the easily discernible path upwards. There are loads of bilberry bushes here with a few ripe berries on them, but after a sampling they are deemed to still be too sour.

Ahead stands a pair of gateposts in the remains of a semi-derelict wall, very atmospheric but no longer any use other than as a way marker. Through the gateposts it's time to pause and admire the views again, this time over to Higger Tor and Carl Wark.It isn't far now, and soon the cars are in sight. Through the last gate, and we're back. It has been probably our best walk ever across Eyam Moor, and a perfect end to our 'season'. Now we're can look back on what we've done this year, and look forward to our new season in September.

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.