Friday, 12 November 2010


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.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


We knew this was going to be a big one, so plans were afoot to meet early. And you all know what happens to the best laid plans ...

Mild for the time of year, and with the sun attempting to shine, made today's start promising, until entering the Vale of Edale where the clouds pressed in smothering the hilltops in mist and threatening rain. Undeterred we met up at Edale's large car park, fed the meter with coins and after pulling on every item of clothing we possessed, set off looking like Bessie and Billie Bunter.

A short stroll down the road brings us to the bridleway that runs up past Hardenclough Farm. The footpath takes us over the young River Noe - its source is only a short distance, but steep climb, away on Kinder - and already the water is running fast and deep.

This first part of the walk is easy, a tarmac track with a gentle incline. Just enough to get us warmed up. Once we leave the farm behind us, though, the track deteriorates and branches: right up and over a stile to go across the fields to Barber Booth, left on the bridleway towards Greenlands or straight ahead on a barely noticeable footpath although there is, hammered into a tree trunk, a yellow arrow. Not very clear but we know from a previous walk that this is the path we want.

The path skirts the wall and remains under the cover of trees, but it soon emerges from cover and deteriorates. It is seriously muddy and is getting steep. We pause to admire the view (or to remove a layer) before slogging on. And it is a slog. Too late we recall how hard this initial climb had been last time. It's straight uphill across the contour lines. We have to keep stopping to catch our breath and cool down, as well as to admire the ever-expanding view. It's glorious in this late autumn light despite the clouds. Edale is snuggled cosily beneath the protective arms of the hills, the last glowing colours of golden trees standing out against the still-lush greens and mellow browns.

Then we glance up the valley and see, well, nothing. A huge sheet of rain is speeding towards us like a heavy grey curtain. We quickly don waterproofs again and prepare for the worst. Heads bowed we continue upwards, but the promised downpour is nothing more than a sprinkling as the wind whips it away before we really feel it.
We're at the stage of taking a few steps and stopping. This really is a tremendous slog.The only consolation is that it's early on in the walk where we, supposedly, have enough energy reserves to cope with it. But will we have enough energy left to last the course. Hope so, as neither of us is fit to carry the other!

We reach the road - three cheers - and pause to look at Mam Tor. It's impressive ancient ramparts are clearly visible here, and we wonder how on earth anyone could even think of attacking such a well defended site. They'd be knackered before they ever reached the top!

We walk up to the next stile where we cut off a bend in the road and reach the bottom of Rushup Edge. As we clear the dip between Mam Tor and Rushup Edge we are treated to the glorious views that, if you're really careful and crouch down, don't include the cement works. The sun is shining, but not on us (typical) although we can enjoy it at a distance.

The wind up here is extremely strong and we debate which of the two paths we should take. There's a bridleway and a footpath running parallel but either side of a stone wall. The footpath is on the Edale side, the bridleway on the Castleton side. Because of the wind, and the direction it is blowing, we decide on the bridleway for safety. We don't want to be blown off the edge.

My major concern is that there are cows ahead. PC looks at the hoofprints in the mud and declares them to be horses. The girl needs her eyesight checking. They are cow prints, lots of them!

The ridge is still climbing but it isn't too steep and there are plenty of ups and downs. For the most part the cows are out of sight then, cresting a hump, there they are. In full view. On the path. Loads of them. With young. I only dither for a moment before leaving the path, crossing a ditch and striding onward next to the wall. The cows watch me. PC is behind me saying something probably not very helpful - I can't hear because of the wind -and I don't pause to look back until I'm past the glowering herd. PC is stood next to them, TAKING A PHOTO. Doesn't she know the danger she's in? Admittedly the cows don't even blink, but they might have. I sprint on, leaving her to her foolish foibles, and find safely behind a gate. When PC catches up, blithely unconcerned, we have an essential pick-me-up from the secret flask. Ah, that's better.

It would be good to stop for a while but it's far too cold, the wind is blowing straight at us and we must press on. The path becomes wider but less distinct as we reach the high point of the ridge at 540m. The views to our left are excellent with the sun shining benignly on a patchwork of fields, but to our right the towering Kinder massive is covered in cloud.

We debate crossing the wall to find somewhere to eat, but behind the wall is a sturdy post and wire fence that makes us decide to keep on our side. It's easy walking and we're really covering the ground now, but we're hungry so our talk turns, naturally, to food: bruschetta, lasagne, chilli, pizza. Mmm.

At a metal gate the bridleway and footpath merge, and we have to cross a fast flowing stream to swap onto the northern side of the wall. The path here is almost sandy where the gritstone has eroded.

The path dips slightly then, with a fork to the left which leads down to the Chapel-en-le-Frith road, we turn sharp right across the moor. Here we see the only other person out walking today, a man sat huddled in a protected hollow of ground eating his picnic. Pity we can't oust him, he's in the perfect spot!

We press on speedily now, our stomachs rumbling. The wide track is waterlogged in places and we have to detour across the springy peat. It must be pretty grim up on Kinder. A couple of narrow tracks lead off towards the Kinder Plateau, and it may be good to follow them someday, but it would take more time than we usually have available.

We're on Chapel Gate, a track that was the old packhorse trail from Edale. As we start to descend we find a hollow to our right which looks promising. Yes, just right for lunch and providing a fantastic view down the Vale of Edale.

Out come the sandwiches, coffee and - joy of joys - fresh cream scones. How come everything tastes so much better out in the open? We devour everything with unseemly haste but maximum satisfaction. We can't linger, though, as this walk is taking longer than we'd intended, so we haul ourselves to our feet and continue our descent.

The wind is behind us now, helping us on our way, something we could do without given the state of Chapel Gate. It is seriously eroded, presumably due to the huge amount of water run off which, today, is a fast-flowing wide stream, but the track is also used by mountain bikers and motorcyclists.. I believe that the 4x4 brigade see it as one of their 'rights of way' too, but hopefully they will have enough sense to avoid it given the state it's in - but perhaps that is hoping too much. At least we see none of them today.

Surprisingly we descend fairly rapidly, our energy levels are obviously replenished, and at the bottom we debate whether to cross the fields towards Manor House Farm, or stay on the track. We decided to keep on the track, which may not have been the wisest choice. At one point the path is completely flooded and we have to scramble up onto a slippery bank to negotiate a way around the water. Yet again our supreme agility is put to good use!

A few spots of rain are starting to fall, and looking back we can see more clouds gathering with intent. We have no intention of pausing - we've already overrun our time on the parking meter - and as soon as we reach the road we're able to stride out. It's heads down and pushing the pace now as we stomp along the road between Barber Booth and Edale, but it doesn't take us long.

At last we stagger into the car park and as we are removing our muddy gear the rain that has managed to hold off all day finally decides it can wait no longer. The heavens open.

Our timing has been perfect (unless you count the overdue parking) and we're dry as we drive home through the torrent. It's been an excellent walk, but we are both seriously tired. We'll pick something a bit less challenging for next week.