Friday, 22 October 2010


Despite predictions to the contrary yesterday's snow never materialised so it's all systems go for our much anticipated walk along Derwent Edge. Since this is to be our second attempt (see last week's blog) and aware of the distance we'll be travelling, we both manage to arrive at our meeting place early, pile everything into one car and set off for a small lay-by on the Strines Road facing Boot's Folly. It's snow free but not cold free and the arctic winds are making themselves felt. Undeterred we wrap ourselves up in as many layers as we possess and set off down the road to Strines. We're walking earlier than we usually actually meet up, so it's ten brownie points and a gold star each.

We trudge along the road wondering if we'd overdone the layers, and soon we're in the sleepy hamlet of Strines and wonder, is it actually big enough to be called a hamlet?

Barely past the few houses we almost walk into two male peacocks, their iridescent blue feathers glorious the early morning light. Naturally, by the time PC has her camera ready the birds had run for cover in a corn field. We wait. Patience pays off as a peahen and her chick emerge,which entices the males from cover. Then even more arrive, including a white one. Now we have plenty of photos and as we walk away we decide that the peacocks must outnumber the hamlet's inhabitants.

We continue down the road passing the beautiful autumn trees and rich smelling woody loam, hoping not to encounter any cars on this narrow stretch. Hard luck. Even on the tight hairpin bend at the bottom we have to wait for traffic.

We cross over to the out-of-use car park, check the notices to see if we still have access (we do) then plough on up the bridleway. The loggers are hard at work and the sound of their engines a constant drone through the should-be silence. At least they haven't made too much a mess of the path and the tall log piles of cut pine smells wonderful. Behind and around us the trees make a wonderful collage of honey, cinnamon, paprika and dark wintergreen; this is such a beautiful time of year.

We're getting warmer now, probably because the path has turned from hilly to mountainous. We don't remember it being this steep before! Maybe it's because we were younger and fitter back then. We press on regardless and pause to admire Foulstone Dike, it's shrouding curtain of trees removed by the loggers. It gives us chance to catch our breath too.

The path begins to even out and the moor is in sight. We're on Foulstone Road which only resembles as road up to the edge of the woods and as far as the house known as Foulstone Delf - possibly a quarry house - which stands above us. From here the road deteriorates into a moorland track, boggy in places, but which maintains a good width up the moor and was likely to have been a packhorse trail in the past.

It's a long steady pull up the track, the woods with the loggers are left behind us and the moor engulfs us. It's a bleak and lonely place, and so characteristic of this part of the Peak District. Today the far distant views are gradually opening up for us in a spectacular fashion, but on a cold, misty, murky day the unprepared could so easily find themselves completely lost.

We take our time, pausing frequently to admire a new vista, and having enough breath to continue talking. To our right are the grouse butts ready and waiting for the annual slaughter of brainless birds by brave gunmen.

We can't see Back Tor yet, the high point of the ridge, but soon we can see the tall marker stone at the cross roads on the moor. From here we can go down to Derwent Reservoir, along the edge towards Ladybower Reservoir or towards Back Tor. We choose Back Tor and head along the track that has been paved with huge slabs, grateful for the hard work done to keep erosion to a minimum and our feet dry. The peaty soil up here can be like a quagmire in wet weather.

We decide to by-pass Back Tor and head, instead, for Lost Lad which we have never visited before. We lose a little height first of all, then have to climb up again, but once at the top of Lost Lad (so named for a young shepherd who perished on the moors in a blizzard) the views are spectacular. We can see through 360 degrees and the sun is obliging too, making it all the more magical. There is a large cairn here, and a splendid memorial to a Mr Baxby, a keen walker. We sit down for a while to enjoy the views and the silence, and the secret flask comes out.

Too soon we see a herd of walkers approaching, so we drag on our rucksacks and head back the way we came. Looking back our still-warm seat has already been taken.

At Back Tor we look along the long ridge of Derwent Edge, but it is impossible to tell how far we have to walk. Still, we know it's a long way, so we set off determined to make the most of it. The path is easy to follow, either clearly grooved by many feet or flagged over the boggiest patches, and it is fairly level too. We've already reached the high point of Back Tor at 538 m and it's all downhill from here - even if it does take a very long time to lose any height at all.

The next major sight to greet us is the cluster of rocks known as the Cakes of Bread. To be honest, whoever named them had to have had an extremely vivid imagination or been very hungry at the time, although they are rather striking.

A little way beyond is Dovestone Tor where we decide to stop for lunch. We're both feeling peckish so we find ourselves a comfortable niche amongst the rocks and rummage in our rucksacks for food and coffee. As we start on our first cup of coffee the wind, which has been blowing gently all day, gathers a little more strength. We shuffle around to find a more sheltered spot but find that the wind is following us. Undeterred we finish our drink, start on our buns - carrot cake, all the way from Cumbria, which must count as one of our five a day. Feeling chilly we pour out our second cup of coffee only to find the surface of it being whipped into waves. Talk about storm in a teacup. We are liberally splash with coffee-spray and have to drink up quick. We don't linger, the wind feels vengeful and we're not sheltered enough to feel totally safe.

Once walking again we don't notice the wind quite so much, although it certainly cuts across the exposed ridge, but the cold is biting. We've seen a few walkers out today, but now they have all disappeared. A shame for them as the sun has now come out, lighting up the landscape but not actually warming anything up.

It is still a steady walk punctuated by small ups and downs. Ahead is the Salt Cellar rock formation and it's clear how it acquired its name, although it probably looks more like a pepper pot. To our right, in the valley, is the striking blue of Derwent Reservoir, dark blue today instead of murky grey.

We negotiate White Tor to see the impressive Wheel Stones ahead of us. These were clearly visible early on in the walk but the undulations of the ridge meant that we'd not seen them for a while. Now they're straight ahead and quite a size at close quarters. We have a look around them, shelter from the biting wind for a while, then press on.

From here the ridge curves distinctly SW and the decline is more noticeable too. We pause to photograph the reservoir below us, but the sun doesn't oblige leaving the hillside and water cast in shadow although even from our height we can see that the wind is rippling the water on Ladybower.

As we descend towards Whinstone Lee Tor we pass the Hurkling Stones on our left. They aren't, to be honest, very impressive, although there are some identically named stones a few miles away near Bradfield. Perhaps they provide more to look at.

We drop down to the crossroads of paths and feel the wind scything up the gap from Ladybower, and quickly turn east on the clear path towards Cutthroat Bridge. It's lonely here, only a few sheep and grouse to keep us company as we make our way on this very familiar route. We're usually taking this track in the opposite direction, but this way, downhill, is definitely easier. The light is mellower now, and the distant ridge of Stanage looks almost golden.

There are a few patches of bog for us to negotiate, this path has never been flagged, but we're soon past and on our way down the rocky track leading to the road. The waters of the small Highshaw Clough look particularly cold and fast flowing as they rush beneath Cutthroat Bridge.

We leave the moor behind us and trek the short distance up the fast A57 towards the lay-by. Everything is piled into the car and we head off to join the other car at our start point. We're a little stiff, quite tired and very cold but extremely satisfied. It has been a brilliant walk with wonderful views, and well worth the effort to do it.

Thursday, 14 October 2010


Grim, overcast skies with plenty of low cloud is today's greeting, and the low cloud has decided to turn to rain. Not a good omen.

We've met at Cutthroat Bridge with great plans to do the long Derwent Ridge, so we leave one car, pile everything into the other and set off for Strines where we'll start our walk on the bridleway at Fox Hole Carr. At least, that's the plan.

Upon reaching our parking place we discover it to be full of logging machinery with a rather obvious sign stating 'Car Park Closed'. Naturally, no alternative is given. A little way on we pull into a gateway to peruse the map, with little joy. In hope more than expectation we carry on a while hoping to see a parking spot and, to our relief, find one at the opposite side of the road. Another quick look at the map and with fingers crossed with climb over a steep ladder stile into Bole Edge Plantation hoping the thin path will be heading in the right direction.

It's hard to see through the trees, but we're soon suspicious. The path clearly isn't going where we want it to. Soon we emerge onto a track which leads to a paintballing centre. No thank you! Fortunately, there are no trigger happy paintballers about but we realise that we're following a path to nowhere so walk back down to the road which is only a few yards away.

We're stumped. The paintballing centre is clearly paranoid about trespassers (even though there's a public access stile just down the road) and have barricaded and barb-wired the gate and walls with enough protection to keep away all but an armoured tank brigade. Our only option is to tunnel out, but we haven't got a shovel and it would take too long with spoons so we head through the woods towards the stile.

This is seriously heavy going with waist high bracken and brambles trying to leg us up. At least we're not being stalked by paintballing snipers.

Once back over the stile we consider a change of plan. We've wasted time and need to get walking, so we follow the route of least resistance and take the downward sloping bridleway heading towards Strines and Dale Dike Reservoirs.

Neither of us have been this way before so it's interesting to look around. On the far hill is a tower, known as Sugworth Tower or Boot's Folly. It was built in the 1920s by the owner of nearby Sugworth Hall to keep men occupied during the depression. Apparently there was a staircase leading to the top, but this was removed in the 1970s after a cow climbed up and became stuck!

Our path leads us to the curiously named Brogging, an old property at the edge of Strines Reservoir. The name may be linked to Brogging Moss which lies higher up to the east near Derwent Edge, but in tudor times (if not before) a brogger was a freelance wool trader. The house certainly looks old enough! However, today there are some lovely free range poultry and ducks looking extremely content and PC stalks a fine cockerel determined to take his photograph.

From Brogging we take a downhill path which leads us to the bottom of Strines dam and on a track running alongside Dale Dike Reservoir. It's low very still and quiet with only a few ducks on the water, which is. We push through the trees to cross the very sandy 'beach' still marked with old wall lines, and once at the water's edge we spend time skimming stones and attempting to photo the results. Hmm. Not a resounding success.

It's hard to imagine that this tranquil place is the site of one of the worst man-made distasters in British history. On the night of March 11th 1864 the newly constructed Dale Dike dam burst its banks and a mountainous torrent of water bulldozed its way down the valley wiping out lives and livelihoods. It is known as the Great Sheffield Flood although, sadly, there are few people who know of it.

We press on past the earthen ramparts of the reconstructed dam wall and drop down to Dale Dike. It's fungus season and we soon see a magnificent bracket fungus attached to a tree. From here we'll see many more varieties too.
We cross a small footbridge at the side of a small picturesque weir then head up the SE side of the dike towards the dam. There's a steep climb in front of us, but not before we photograph the stone at the 'waterworks'.

In the higher reaches of the wood we can now see right across the reservoir to where we were skimming stones, and we soon find a strategically places bench where we sit to eat lunch whilst enjoying the autumnal view.

The sandwiches are pretty boring, but the fresh cream eclairs followed by coffee more than make up for them. However, it is quite chilly so rather than sit we decide to press on. There's a high stone wall on our left although all it seems to screen is woodland. There isn't much wildlife activity today, probably the cold has kept them all away as it has with the people. We wonder why there are so few walkers out on this easily accessible route.

Soon we're at the top end of the reservoir and crossing over the no-man's-land between that and Strines reservoir before climbing back up to Brogging and the path to the road.

All in all it has turned into a pretty good day but we'll try for the ridge next time.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Having missed a week's walking desperation has me turning up at Ashford in the Water's tiny car park ridiculously early. It is foggy and I have a long wait. An uncharged camera and milk boiling over conspires to make PC late. Ah well, by the time she arrives the weather is picking up a little and we can at least see where we're walking to.

We set off through the village and over the picturesque medieval Sheepwash Bridge which spans the River Wye, pausing long enough to take a photo (I had brought a camera though wasn't quite sure how to work it) and admire the ducks braving the cold water.We cross the main A6 and walk along it for a short distance before turning off onto the road leading to Sheldon, although we are soon taking a footpath to our right which follows the winding river.

By now our initial giddiness at being out has passed and our talk has turned to more serious things. Radley handbags. Women will understand, men undoubtedly won't.

The level path isn't as muddy as we had expected as we pass Little Shacklow Wood on our left and head towards the derelict water powered bobbin mills. Here bobbins were made from the local ash woods to be used in the cotton making industry, such as at nearby Litton and Cressbrook Mills.

Today a group of anglers are parked outside the mills preparing for a day on the river, so we walk on by without pausing and take the broad track that runs behind the buildings, admiring the rusted waterwheels and old stonework.

We have now entered Great Shacklow Wood and are hoping to enjoy the autumn colours as the sun is now breaking through. Before the path begins to climb we come across a large pond playing host to numerous water birds. This pond is the collection point for Magpie Sough, the drainage tunnel from Magpie Mine high up on the hills behind us beyond Sheldon. Although blocked in the 1960s it has since been cleared to run freely again.
From here the path begins to climb, quite steeply in places, and it's time for us to pause to admire the golden trees - and remove a layer or two. Time also to test the contents of the secret flask. Yes, all in order.

The flask obviously helps as we reach the top of the path sooner than anticipated before dropping down to the head of Deep Dale where there is evidence (although we didn't see it) of a settlement and cave shelter. There is also evidence (clearly visible) of cows. Lots of them. But since they aren't to be seen I concentrate instead on the views - excellent behind us over the River Wye towards the Fin Cop settlement on the far hill, and closer to the stark white limestone amongst the green and brown vegetation. The path is dry but rough underfoot as cloven hooves have dug up rocks and pebbles. At times this supposedly dry valley can be a quagmire but despite recent rains it isn't bad today. But it is warm now, so we remove yet another layer. As we press on PC suddenly instructs me to 'Keep Walking'. Naturally, I stop and looking around see a herd of cows on the slope directly above us. Resisting the urge to scream and run I remain calm and, with PC uttering soothing words to me all the time, we press on only a little faster than usual.

Danger passed we spy a large clump of blackthorn with fat juicy sloes still on the branches. It hasn't been a good year for sloes so this is an opportunity not to be missed. We down rucksacks, rummage for something to put the sloes in, and start picking. It's very therapeutic - despite the vicious thorns - and brings out the self-sufficient peasant in us. It doesn't take too long to gather enough to make a bottle of sloe gin each, and PC decides to have a go at making some herself. We'll taste and compare when they're ready - all in the interests of serious study, naturally.

It's turned cooler again but we're buoyed up by the thoughts of the gin - and of the raspberry gin, raspberry vodka, gooseberry gin, and mixed berry vodka all underway at home, plus the gallons of cider and Ramblers' Restorative (the contents of the secret flask) already made. We start making up names for them all, until we see more cows ahead. What is it with this walk and cows?

This time I'm not feeling so brave so I manage, with agility borne of desperation, to climb over a wall and squeeze under a wire fence to avoid them. Seeing my gymnastics PC decides the cows are less of a threat and walks right past them. They don't bat an eyelid but I know that they would have charged us and stampeded if I'd been there.After our adventures we're feeling hungry so find a hollow of ground and settle down for lunch. We have to pull on coats and jumpers as the sun has gone and it has turned chilly. Heavy salads are followed by welcome coffee and the buns. Today's offering: Lemon Muffin Cheesecakes. Mr Morrison has done us proud. They are sooo good. Biscuity base, fluffy cheesecake with lemony centre topped by muffin pieces. Bliss.

Feeling extremely full, but cold, we press on through a close-cropped field of sheep to the gate which leads onto the unmade Wheal Lane. There are cows (again!) in the field to the side of us, but they're behind a stone wall so pose no threat. At the top of the track we emerge onto Flagg Lane, a minor road which runs between Moneyash and Buxton. Here we debate what to do next. We can follow the road then turn left into Sheldon, or we can cut off the corner and go through fields. The road is the least appealing option, but the potential for a bovine ambush in the fields cannot be ruled out. Finally we decide to go the field route, with PC volunteering to be the cattle wrangler if necessary. I, of course, will be sprinting in the opposite direction!

There are cows in the first field, far enough away not to be a problem, but we cross at high speed anyway and squeeze through a tight crush-stile. We're both pleased to be able to get through so easily - shows how slim we are. The next few fields are fine and we're becoming blase, despite the increasingly dodgy stiles we have to negotiate. Then, with only two fields to go we see them. Cows. Hundreds of them. All across our route.

After some dithering we set off across the first field. These cows are only young, curious and a little afraid. I'm over the stile in record time but the next field is more problematic. It's full of friesians, all in the bottom half, next to the road and our escape route. Across the field is an electric fence. If it is switched on we'll not be able to get through anyway, and the thought of walking all the way back is even more daunting (at the moment) than the prospect of walking though cows.

We approach the fence cautiously. It doesn't appear to be connected. PC risks electrocution by tapping it with her stick. No, she's still alive so we limbo underneath the wire (honestly) and face the cows. Some of them are looking at us and others wander onto our path.
Decisive action is required which involves walking at speed with PC between me and the beasts, head down and trying not to see them. As we approach the gate the cows are milling around but I've spotted a gap and am sprinting for the stile before PC even knows I've gone. onto Johnson Lane taking out the camera before PC is over the stile. Photographic evidence is essential.
With the cows now behind us we walk up the lane into Sheldon as the sun shines on us again. A good omen.

There are a number of cars parked on what appears to be the village green,a group of walkers, and we wonder what the villagers think of having their space commandeered in such a thoughtless manner.Then we see them. More cows, this time being herded up the main street. I don't believe it! I take refuge behind a bench as PC stands suicidally in the middle of the road to take a picture

Once the cows have passed we walk though Sheldon, a pretty unspoilt village. It still seems to be a predominantly farming community although there are some lovely cottages and it was once home to miners working at the nearby Magpie Mine. There is an interesting looking pub, the Cock and Pullet, which has been marked down for a future visit.

As we walk we discuss the possibilities of alcoholic jams and marmalades, debating which liqueur will go best with which fruit. Experiments are in order.

The road drops down and we round the bend before taking the path off to the left which runs along a grassy, sloping field with the woods ahead of us. With the afternoon sun shining the leaves on the trees in Little Shacklow Wood seem to be glowing. This is early autumn in all its glory. We skirt the edge of the wood and as we do the vista opens up ahead of us so that we can see a huge distance.

We leave the wood and start to descend steeply across open ground towards the River Wye. It's hard on the knees but soon we're at the bottom and able to retrace our steps to Ashford. With the sun shining we pause for more photos at the bridge, then it's a quick walk back to the car park and the end to another very satisfying day - apart, of course, for the cows.