Wednesday, 21 December 2011


This is to be our last walk before the festive feast and we're delighted not to have a repeat of last week's weather to look forward to.
We meet up in the Chatsworth car park (Calton Lees) and have saved ourselves a couple of pounds as the ticket man isn't there. A Christmas present from the Duke, perhaps?
There's some snow on the higher ground but Chatsworth Park is a snow-free-zone and all we have to contend with is mud and slippery leaves. Reports that we'd be driving through drifts and blizzards has proved unfounded, and despite the cold it isn't even icy.
After a quick trip to the garden centre facilities we take the muddy track down through the trees to Beeley Bridge, pause to admire the view of the river,

then head along the road towards Beeley Lodge and the lane running up towards Beeley Moor. This lane is tarmac as far as Beeley Hilltop so it's easy walking, if a bit steep. PC pauses to remove a layer. This is the therapeutic part of the walk where we vent our moans, groans and grumbles (Grumpy Old Women style) so we can put them behind us and enjoy the rest of day surrounded by an aura of calm and serenity. (Honest!)
We've been past Beeley Hilltop numerous times, and have noticed the lovely stone mushrooms or staddle stones) before, but we'd never seen how many there actually are. We thought they were only next to the lane, but walking uphill we can see that there are many more in the garden. They really are very attractive, even if they aren't being used for their intended purpose.
Just past the farmhouse/yard gate the lane turns to mud, and it's pretty obvious from the tracks that it's being heavily used at the moment. The next minute a tractor comes looming up, but the driver considerately slows down past us as we hug to wall trying to keep out of the way. At least he turns into the next farm gate which means the way ahead for us is clear.
The path here, which is an "other route with public access" can be used by vehicles, so it is deeply rutted in places, but it's quite free draining so isn't boggy. There are plenty of puddles

though, and a fair amount of slushy snow. A couple of walkers stride past us so we pause to let them go, looking around at the view whilst pulling out one of our Christmas treats - a bar of Green and Blacks ginger chocolate. We aren't sharing it with any other random walkers!
The chocolate is a good way of kick-starting the Christmas spirit and we head up the track with a new bounce in our steps. Half way up the lane PC suggests that we use a convenient gate to lean upon to enjoy more of the chocolate (is really is very good) and a nip of Cointreau from her secret flask. This is definitely a good mix: the orangey Cointreau blends perfectly with the dark gingery chocolate. We must remember it for the future.
As we continue on our way PC relates the saga of the Piccalilli (don't think she'll be making any more in a hurry) and follows that by the enticing description of a most intriguing cake tin (and the cake to be made in). That prompts a discussion about how to fill the cake - PC is considering sweeties, I opt for fruit in alcohol with cream. I am beginning to suspect that I know why we don't do well with diets.
We come to the point where the lane turns sharp right, but we go left onto the moor. However, although there is a gate, it's locked so we have to go over the high, very high, stone stile. The steps are covered in slush but aren't slippery, but it feels very exposed on top.

Safely on the far side we head on the wide path over the moor marked 'Rabbit Warren' on the map. No sign of rabbits today, but excellent, far reaching views in the Bakewell direction with the sun shining and a liberal sprinkling of snow. We finish off the last of the ginger chocolate (we need the energy) and consider finding somewhere to sit for lunch. But it is rather exposed up here and there are three more walkers striding up behind us. Greetings are exchanged and they continue, only to slow their pace once they're in front.
We stop to look at the landmarks: Edensor church, Froggatt Edge, and the tip of the chimney from the ****** cement works! There's even a faint rainbow, a sure sign that murkier weather is on the way.
The walkers in front turn and ask us to take a photo of them. PC obliges (she's the technical one) but the camera plays up, the battery is low and she can't get a shot before the camera dies on her. The walkers don't seem to be too upset as they retrace their path, leaving us alone on the moor.
By now we can see a great, grey bank of cloud rolling towards us from the NE so we head towards the woods with added incentive. A runner sprints over the high stone stile in the wall (yes, actually sprints over it, then runs past us with enough breath left to speak) as the first drops of rain plop to the ground. I clamber over the style with considerably less grace than the runner and use one of the trees for shelter as I drag on my waterproof coat. PC stays at the far side to put her coat on first.
This is quite a heavy downpour, but the trees do give us some shelter. We walk forward then turn left onto a grassy track. This in turn skirts the edge of a dense conifer plantation which will give us excellent protection from the rain and wind. Beneath the trees we find a large boulder where we can sit in comfort. OK, so we don't have much of a view, but on the outside the rain is coming down quite heavily and we're only feeling the odd spot.
Out comes lunch and coffee. The sandwiches are eaten, the first cup of coffee drunk, then we have our buns. Yes, we've had them before, but they are so christmassy that we had to have them again. Fresh cream puff pastry mince pies - and yes, they are excellent. We follow these with more coffee and a liqueur - some of the Ramblers Restorative (which started life as a Christmas drink). After all that we are feeling decidedly stodged, but we're also feeling the cold so we have to move on.
We emerge from the trees into rain, but it doesn't last for too long as we make our meandering way down through the Chatsworth Estate woods. Nearer to the house there are workers cutting back some trees and burning branches, and the woodsmoke smells particularly fragrant. PC is drawn to the fire, and not just for the warmth.We're not far from the House now, and as we make the final few turns on the road we are amazed to see so many cars in the main house car park. There must be hundreds of them. We decide to amble into the Stables area to look at the water feature and the horse statue, and for PC to test the facilities. There are hoards of people about, and most are dressed considerably more smartly than we are. We emerge from the Stables and walk down through the car parks, past the House entrance and on over the old bridge.
Here we turn left and head out across the park towards Calton Lees.
The light is fading and although the rain has stopped it has turned very cold. It's also slippery underfoot, and boggy in places. We watch a few ducks, oblivious to the cold and wet, before following the narrow track back to Calton Lees.
So that's it for another year. An excellent walk to round off this 12 months, and far better than we could have hoped for given how short a time it is since PC went bionic. We've been able to do everything we could have wanted, and more, and now we're looking forward to next year with enthusiasm.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Saturday, 10 December 2011



First of all I must point out that this week's walk was all PC's idea, and she must take full responsibility for it. Even her suggestion when we meet, before 10am, that 'we go to the pub for the day' does not absolve her in any way.

We've had a week off and our last walk, which was windy but mild, had lulled us into a false sense of well-being. Since then we've had snow, rain and gales so on the drive to Hope we aren't surprised to see the peaks liberally covered with the white stuff. And the forecast isn't promising: gales in Scotland, possibly filtering down to us later. Hence PC's suggestion that we sit out the day in the pub. Tempting, but she isn't getting off that easily. So we layer up, consult the map and set off.

At the moment there isn't any rain and although it is cold there's barely a breeze, so we're feeling fairly confident. We walk up Edale Road and turn right onto the small road leading to the cemetery. We cross the bridge spanning the River Noe which is flowing fairly fast, ignore the path running alongside it and take the next right hand path which takes us past the cemetery.

The path goes through a gate then underneath the railway line. From here the wide path takes us gently uphill and past a neatly kept patch of land that looks like a small site for caravans. Sure enough, when we arrive at the top of the path and pass Fairfield Farm we see the sign at the end of the driveway that indicates a Caravan Club CL site (5 caravans only). That's one worth remembering.

At the end of the drive we turn left onto the narrow road leading towards Aston and it's a little more noticeably uphill. By the time we take the left hand turn (signposted Hope Cross) PC is removing a layer. We wonder if this part of the old roman road, but careful study of the map makes it seem unlikely as the road appears to be lower down.

We press on uphill and start to see the wonderful views over towards Mam Tor and Lose Hill with their snow covered tops. We're so glad we aren't up there this week!

At the top of the tarmac lane we turn left onto the rough track which leads up - eventually - to Hope Cross. A fat squirrel crosses our path and scurries away as a ginger cat eyes us suspiciously. Do they know something we don't?

The first section of this path is very stony, and wet. It's a sign that there's been a lot of rain lately as there are rivulets of water running downhill, but it's easy enough to avoid the streams and we continue dry-shod. There are trees to our left, sheltering us from the view of the cement works (thank goodness) but every now and then there is a break which gives us ever-improving views towards the snowy peaks of the Great Ridge.

An abandoned, ruined farm building hunches at the side of the path, then we go through a gate and onto a path which cuts across a rough field. It is slippery, slick and muddy and although the uphill gradient is minor it takes effort not to slide around too much. At this point we are unaware that worse is yet to come!

Above Twitchill Farm and at a crossroads of paths, not very distinct but there is a signpost, we pause to admire the views - and the gathering clouds. PC snaps away with her phone (did I mention that she forgot the camera?) and we agree that it is wonderful to be out enjoying such glorious scenery. After a brief debate we decide to continue straight on rather than climbing steeply uphill towards Win Hill, as we want to enjoy the vista opening up in front of us.

Apart from the slippery ground the walking isn't hard and we find it easy to avoid the numerous puddles on the path. We pass through another gate and we're finally onto open moor. It's a little bit breezy here, but nothing to worry about. It's a steady but easy climb and we've made the right decision as we can now see beyond the Great Ridge to the Kinder Plateau which looks spectacular with drifts of snow emphasising the contours of the land.

We feel a couple of spots of rain so PC decides to put her coat back on, and when I see the rapidly looming grey clouds I follow suit by dragging on my waterproof trousers. Just in time too. Almost as soon as we're dressed we're hit by rain, sleet and hail. And wind. Where did that come from all of a sudden?

We press on uphill expecting the wind to ease, but it doesn't. Nor does the rain and sleet. The higher we go the harder it is to keep our footing as we're constantly being pushed sideways into the hill. For once talking has ceased as we keep our heads bowed and plough on.

As we hit the top of the path we're struggling to stay upright. The wind is so fierce that we are seriously beginning to doubt our sanity (not for the first time) but there's no turning back. The Kinder Plateau is completely obscured by ominously thick clouds and it's impossible to look in the direction of Mam Tor because that is where the driving sleet is coming from, so it doesn't look as though we're in for a respite.

Turning towards Win Hill we set off again; one step forwards, two steps sideways. Enormous puddles cover the width of the broad path and rivers link one puddle to the next. We manage to avoid them, but we have to use sign language to communicate as we can't make ourselves heard over the wind. We've reached the snow line too, with slush on the puddle-free sections of track and white fluffy sheets on the heather.

After a while we realise that the sleet has stopped and bracing ourselves against the wind (which hasn't stopped) we turn around 360 degrees to admire the view. PC spies Ladybower reservoir looking full for a change, and across the valley Crook Hill looks stark and uninviting. To the north-west we can see the roman road heading to Hope Cross. Strangely enough, there are no other walkers on this popular path. I wonder why not?

There's a long wall crossing the path with the option of a stile or gate. Naturally we choose the gate, and at the far side we fall gratefully into the shelter of another wall which runs at the side of the path. At last we're able to stand upright without effort, though our leg muscles are aching with the unaccustomed requirement to fight for balance whilst walking forward. As we rest we reward ourselves; cointreau from PC's secret flask (it's easier to get to than mine). A couple of hefty nips soon makes everything seem warmer and rosier.

Walking is a lot easier now with the benefit of the wall on the windward side, and the cointreau on the inside. However, as soon as we lose the wall we're completely exposed again and the full force of the gale makes itself felt. Win Hill doesn't look terribly promising so we prudently decide not to go right over top but keep to the path which skirts around the southern side. Before we reach it, though, we see two other walkers coming up from the south and heading right for the summit. They manage it so far, then turn and hunker down on the leeward side against the wind.

As we approach the slope of Win Hill it becomes increasingly difficult to stay upright. Every footstep has to be carefully judged but every pause is punished by the hammering gale. Its a case of heads down, watch your feet and don't look back. Just below the trig point I manage to sit on a boulder to wait for PC to catch up. When she reaches me she sits on another boulder a little higher up. After a brief break we have to fight to stand up and regain our balance before setting off again. Tempted to look back at the view I'm almost knocked off my feet, so I carry on, but PC is more successful and manages to take some photos. She's not sure she's been able to keep still enough, though, since the wind was rocking her so much.

It's downhill now, but quite worrying as the steeply sloping steps are covered in snow, slush and running water. I make it to the bottom first and wait for PC to catch up (she's been taking pictures), then we continue down towards Winhill Plantation. All of a sudden the wind stops. Completely. Under no illusions we know that we have dropped down sufficiently to be protected by the lay of the land, but it is very strange to suddenly be able to hear, talk and stand upright without effort.

We pause to consider our options. Namely, we're hungry and need somewhere to sit for lunch. Fortunately, just in the edge of the plantation are a couple of fallen trees, so we cross the snow and heather towards them. It's a perfect spot; sheltered with seating provided.

Sandwiches are dispatched with alarming speed, followed by a warming cup of coffee. PC suggested leaving the buns until later, but we're too hungry, so out they come. These are a first. Pear tarts - buttercrust pastry with half a pear and a frangipani sponge. They taste wonderful and are extremely satisfying.

As we finish off our buns, and our second coffee, a bedraggled group trudge up the path towards Win Hill. Most of them seem to be well equipped but a couple are without rucksacks or waterproofs. They'll be in for a serious shock when they climb out of this sheltered buffer zone.

Even though we're out of the wind here it is getting chilly, so we don't need much encouragement to pack up and move on. We return to the path through the snow and continue downhill where, instead of going through the gate and down Parkin Clough, we turn right across the moor.

No sooner are we out of the cover of trees the rain starts again, and looking at the grey expanse of cloud it seems that it will be set in for a long time. There's more wind here too, so we're treated to the double-whammy of stinging rain being blown into our faces. Lovely - not. We risk looking back towards Ladybower, but there's too much rain to see clearly and all we can make out are a few murky shapes.

Heads down we walk on. The path is grassy and level, but soggy and very exposed. Parts are flooded and we have to detour through the heather. Soon we come to a signpost where we have to turn right and cross through a broken section of drystone wall as we take the path signposted 'Aston'. The first part is narrow but it widens as it goes sharply downhill between high banks.

As we reach the bottom and prepare to climb over the stile in the wall (very long legs required) the weather takes a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse. Snow and sleet on a driving gale hits us squarely and forcefully. Visibility diminishes to a few feet and all we can do is turn our backs to it like a couple of miserable pack-horses and hope it will pass.

The wind dies a little and the sleet eases so we make the effort to cross the (high) stile. I get over, but as PC climbs over her phone rings and, distracted, she bangs her shin. Turns out her husband is worried about the weather conditions. We're not worried, we're actually past caring. The back of my neck is damp and one boot is starting to squelch. PC thinks her boots are OK but she's looking very soggy.

Half way across the next field is a cistern to collect water, and it is overflowing to such an extent that a wide river is running downhill from it. It follows - naturally - the exact line of the footpath. And it runs - obviously - right underneath the stile we have to cross. Then it continues - of course - all the way through the next fields exactly where we need to walk.

By the time we have to paddle (yes, paddle) to the last stile into Aston we are at the point where we can't actually get any wetter. It's still raining, we are well and truly soaked, and we are beyond caring. At least we're out of the wind!

As we squelch soggily through Aston we aren't surprised that there's no one about. There's a minor flood across the road (yes, we paddle through it) and a waterfall pouring down a bank from a field drain. The road winds around (and up and down much to PC's disgust) until we're back at the drive to Fairfield Farm. It's just a case of retracing our steps - somewhat wetter than on the way out - and as we eventually cross over the River Noe we notice how much fiercer the water is flowing. PC remarks that it could turn into flood conditions like in 2007 - I hope she's wrong.

By the time we reach the cars the cold and the wet has actually got through to us. I can't feel my fingers and struggle to get my car keys out of my pocket. PC heads for the loos to get changed. We both agree that we are totally mad - but in a good way (naturally).

Next week will be our last walk before the festive season, and we're keeping fingers crossed that the weather isn't quite as bad as it has been today. We've been out before in high winds (stanage edge) and torrential rain (ladybower) but we don't think we've ever had the combination we've encountered today. But it hasn't stopped us, and we've actually enjoyed it. Perhaps we're certifiable after all.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


After our great walk last week we decided that we really ought to carry on along the Great Ridge and go to visit Lose Hill so, in a repeat of last week, we meet up in Castleton (for the conveniences) then drive up the road to park past the turn off to Winnats Pass, close to Treak Cliff Cavern.

We're lucky, again, as we've managed to arrange for another fine day. Not quite so clear as last week, nor as mild, but an excellent walking day. We have to layer up against the wind but we're soon setting off up the road in good spirits. We haven't gone far (we're just across from the car park for Treak Cliff Cavern) when we spot a nuthatch in a tree, its plumage beautiful. It hops up and down oblivious to us, but as soon as PC has her camera ready it disappears. Obviously camera shy!

We're taking a familiar route today, past Odin Mine (a protected archaeological site) and its adjacent crushing circle which produced lead ore for a considerable length of time, along the old road then off on the path to the right near Mam Farm.

There hasn't been much rain lately but the narrow path is quite slick and slippery. PC pauses to remove a layer, we are going steadily uphill, and we pause to admire some vivid orange toadstools.There are sections of this path that are always boggy, and although we negotiate the first stretch easily the second is more problematical. Whilst PC pauses to take a photo of the view I forge ahead and after some nifty footwork manage to stand on uneven muddy ground which takes my feet from me. Fortunately I put out a hand to save myself, which sinks wrist deep into mud, but at least I haven't sat in it! Naturally, PC crosses without a hitch.

Once I've washed the muddy glove in a stream we carry on up the slope towards Hollins Cross.

We really aren't finding these climbs as difficult as we used to, which much be a good sign. At the top we pause to enjoy the far reaching views ahead to Edale, then decide it's time to sit down for a coffee, so we make our way to the shelter of a wall and the place we'd sat last week.

First out is the Ramblers Restorative - not that we need restoring just yet, but there are other treats in store for later in the walk and we don't want to miss out on our 'fix'. After sampling the warm, fuzzy glow left by the Ramblers we then have a coffee. PC's turn to make it today, which means it's scalding hot and the cups are too hot to hold.

While we sit waiting for the coffee to cool, and enjoying the view, and talking, a large group comes along the path from Mam Tor and turns down towards Edale. "Don't look now," says PC, "but they have Tigger with them." Sure enough, when I am allowed to look, there is Tigger, bouncing away down the path, and there seems to be a polar bear too. Well, at least they seem to be warm!Once the coffee is finished we pack up and set off again, this time up Barker Bank towards Back Tor.

This seems to be the busy time of day as there are quite a few people on the path here, most are coming towards us and most have come down Back Tor. As we approach the path veering off to the left towards the Tor a large dog comes snuffling up behind us, nudging the back of our legs. its owners completely unconcerned. It's a good job we aren't dog-phobic, and the hound seems genuinely docile, but it could quite easily have given someone a fright - and it's a shame the owners aren't very considerate of other walkers or of sheep.

Instead of going up Back Tor we decide to take the lower path which goes through Brockett Booth Plantation instead. A deliberate break in the trees would provide an excellent view of Peveril Castle if the sun wasn't shining so brightly in our eyes, but it isn't bright enough to block the view of the hideous Cement Works. Will we never be rid of the blight.

At the other side of the woods we clamber over a stile and cross some fields. The height of Lose Hill is ahead of us but we are skirting around its base first to approach from the SE. One stile forces us to perform near miraculous feats of athleticism to climb over it, as it seems it was made for giraffe-legged people, not mere mortals such as us.

Soon we're at the base of Lose Hill with the long 'flight of steps' leering down at us. There's nothing for it but to grit our teeth and go for it.

We surprise ourselves. With only a couple of stops (to admire the views, of course) we make it almost to the top. With the wind howling we decide to stop for lunch before reaching the summit to avoid being blown about too much, and we skirt around to the eastern side of the hill where the wind is barely a breeze and we can see for miles.

Out comes lunch - a celebration lunch as PC's birthday is approaching. 21 again! Sandwiches are accompanied by a glass (actually a plastic cup, but it doesn't sound so good) of red wine - very welcome. Then it's time for the special birthday bun. Excessively high calorie Belgian Chocolate Cheesecake complete with a white chocolate swirl on top. Under normal circumstances it would be too rich and too fattening, but somehow today it has the Goldilocks factor. It is just right!

After the wine and the bun it is very tempting to just sit and talk (and maybe have an afternoon nap) but time forces us on. We clamber up the side of the hill and once away from the cosy wind-free picnic spot we are hammered by the full force of the wind. Wow, it really has increased in strength, and has become bitterly cold too.We don't linger on the summit but press on down the ridge to a slightly less buffeted spot where we drag on an extra layer. Feeling warmer we continue on the path. There's hardly anyone out now and we have the strange sensation of having the whole ridge to ourselves.

As we make our way very carefully down the steep, rugged slope of Back Tor, we're talking about ballroom dancing. Probably not appropriate under the circumstances.

At the bottom of the Tor we take the path leading away from the ridge and downhill, and by now we're onto the subject of posh frocks. Not that we have a great deal of experience of posh frocks, but we share what experiences we have endured.

This track takes us to the Hollowford Road gate, exactly where we'd been last week, and all we have to do now is follow the same route to Castleton then back to the cars. In Castleton some of the Christmas trees are already lit up, and it's a pity we don't have the time to wait until dusk as we're sure it must look lovely.

As we press on up the road to the cars we make our plans for our next walk. Not for next week, family commitments, but the week after. Fingers crossed the weather will be kind again.

Saturday, 19 November 2011



On planning today's walk we realised that, although it is one of our favourites, we had never done it in reverse.

To remedy this oversight we meet up in Castleton (good loos) then drive along up the road to park near the Speedwell Cavern car park (no parking fees on the road except for weekends and bank holidays). We're quite giddy with excitement, the sky is brilliantly clear and blue with hardly a cloud in sight. And the shadows cast by the early sunlight are nothing short of spectacular sending the limestone sculptures of the rocks into sharp relief.

Another relief is that PC has brought a rucksack today - no need for me to carry double then!

And one more thing PC has brought is a bottle of Cointreau. No, the plan isn't to drink our way down it through the day (though it is tempting) but to fill up the secret flask. However, there's no need. There's still plenty of Ramblers Restorative in the flask, and it doesn't do to mix spirits, so instead we have a nip before we set off. Gorgeous. Just like breakfast orange juice, but with a glow.

Glowing, we set off along the footpath which crosses the field between the road and the Speedwell Caverns site. The grass is sodden with early morning dew so we get a little damp, and at the top we come out onto an area which is being tarmacked. As we gingerly tip toe across the still warm and springy surface someone hurries out of the shop opposite to stick signs on the footpath gate to say it is shut. So we were just in time, then, but we were given some resentful looks by the workmen.

Now it's all uphill. We usually come down Winnats in the afternoon at the end of our walk, and it is really good to see it in different light and from a different perspective. We notice things we've not seen before, like a huge fallen gatepost which would make a wonderful seat for weary walkers. We, naturally, aren't that weary, though the uphill is keeping us warm (or maybe that's the cointreau).

In a surprisingly short length of time we find ourselves at the top of the pass and adjacent to Winnats Head Farm. That was pretty painless but we don't congratulate ourselves too soon, we've plenty more uphill climbing to do.

We cross over the road and head for the footpath crossing Windy Knoll. There are two horses in the adjacent field, dozing in the sunshine, but they both manage to perk up when they see us, ever hopeful that a stray polo mint may come their way. They're disappointed, so we give them a consolation pat and continue on our way.

The disused quarry on our right is in deep shadow as we head for the gate onto the road. Up to now we've been discussing all things educational including recent parents' evening, prize giving events and the ways schools seem to want to celebrate mediocrity over genuine achievement. It's good to be able to let off steam (my turn this week) as we are then able to approach life with an enhanced sense of calm. It just shows how beneficial walking can be. Once across the road we're starting the long, steady climb up the slopes of Mam Tor. Since we're still talking (to be honest, we rarely stop talking) we hardly notice the steepness of the slope and we're at the base of the 'staircase' to the Mam Tor summit before we know it. We pause for a breather and to admire the far reaching views. And the view of the cement works!

Now we start the steady climb up the well maintained steps up the hill.
Inset into some of the steps are small brass plaques - we see a torq then one of a roundhouse. We've never noticed this one before (probably because we've always been going downhill and gathering speed) and it is particularly fine, so PC takes a picture.

Again, it takes us very little time to reach the summit but rather than go up to the trig point where everyone and their grandmothers seem to be gathering, we skirt the top hunting for a hollow in which to sit out of the wind and enjoy a coffee. Yes, the sun is shining and the sky is clear, but up here there's a stiff breeze blowing. We're unsuccessful on the Edale side of the slope so we cross over to hunt out somewhere on the Castleton side. We drop down a way to where the side of the hill has slipped away, peer cautiously over the edge, then find a convenient sitting place where the hillside has dipped but not yet fallen. We hope our weight won't provide the incentive for it to head downwards!

Naturally the secret flask comes out. After all, we have something to celebrate, we've done all the climbing well before lunch and with relatively little effort. We must be getting fitter, so a couple of nips of the Ramblers Restorative is our reward. Then we have a coffee and a natter (yes, we're still talking) whilst enjoying the view.

It's a wonderful wide vista from here and we can see for miles. The only blot is the ugly cement works - how on earth did they get permission to build such an eyesore? In its heyday Peveril Castle, whitewashed to stand out and be noticed, would have been considered ugly (and very threatening), but in no way could it compete with the monstrosity of the cement works.

By the time we've mused on the landscape, spotted a heron wading in a large puddle and watched a group of children way below us, no doubt on a geography field trip, we've passed enough time to consider getting out the sandwiches. Maybe it's a bit early (but not before noon, we don't want to upset the Picnic Police) but it seems preferable to eat now while we're comfortable than try to find a better spot. However, once the sandwiches are eaten we decide to wait a while for the buns (extreme willpower in force here) so we pack up and set off once more.

It's a long steady walk down towards Hollins Cross with us going against the flow of people. Most of them are puffing on their way up, which makes us feel quite smug. We have spectacular views to Lose Hill and Back Tor but by the time we reach Hollins Cross all we can think about are the buns. So we fine ourselves a wind free hollow on the Edale side and settle down. The buns today are fresh cream apple turnovers; just enough tart in the apples to balance the sugar on the top of the pastry and one of our five a day! They go down extremely well, along with another coffee, and we're glad that we waited a while for them.

After a long, lazy break we go back up to Hollins Cross and take the path that leads to the Hollowford Road. We've never been on this stretch of the path before and we're glad we're not doing it in the wet. Although it has been paved and repaired the steps are uneven and, in places, narrow which means we have to watch where we are putting our feet. It's also quite steep and is one of those cases where it is probably better going uphill than down. A couple pass us in a bit of a lather; they have half an hour to get to Castleton to catch their bus. We wish them luck and dawdle to let them get well ahead of us.

We come off the moor and onto the narrow gully which is the top part of Hollowford Road. It's narrow and running with water, but much better than the one and only time we'd been on this path before when it had been extremely muddy and very wet. At the bottom we come out onto a tarmac lane and pause to read an information board pointing out landmarks and explaining that we'd been on the 'coffin road' from Edale to Castleton from the time before Edale had its own church.

We wander down the road and are soon, seamlessly, back in the centre of Castleton. As we walk through the village we look in a few of the shops selling their Blue John jewellery before heading up the road towards our cars. The sun is dipping behind the hills now and the warmth is suddenly sucked out of the day. All the wonderful shadows and contrasts are gone and Winnats Pass is mired in gloom once again.

We're pleased we've done this reverse walk, it's meant that we've been able to look on it all with fresh eyes. And what's even better, we aren't even tired.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


This is a walk we've promised to return to for some time, and at last we're ready for it. Yes, the day is terribly gloomy with patchy fog and threats of rain, but we're treating it as atmospheric rather than murky.

We've parked at the side of the road near the Yorkshire Bridge Inn, and are careful of the traffic speeding past. I'm the later of the two, as usual, and PC is almost ready. As I'm hurriedly pulling on my boots she comes to join me at the back of my car, carrier bag in hand. I expect her to bring something out of it but no, she merely stands there a little forlorn, holding the bag. The reason: she's forgotten her rucksack! How can anyone forget a rucksack? Well, if anyone can, it's PC. At least she remembered the coffee. So we load her stuff into my now bulging rucksack (making sure the buns don't get squashed), and she offers to carry it at some point. I suggest she takes it when we come to the uphill bits!

We set off in the morning chill but are soon warmed up by walking. First we cross the oh-so-familiar path across the dam wall and turn right at the far side. The first part of the walk is by the side of the reservoir, level(ish) and easy, so we can chatter away without running out of breath. The trees are still managing to hold onto some of their golden autumn colour but the low cloud means we aren't getting much of a view across the water.

As we round the point at The Springs we get a clear sight of the creamy-white arches of the bridge which carries the A57 to Manchester, and we can hear the traffic noise too which carries loudly across the water. The tree colour on the hillside opposite looks quite promising, but we need the murk - sorry, atmosphere - to lift before PC can take any worthwhile photos.

We're pretty much alone on this stretch of the walk. We do pass a lone walker going in the opposite direction but other than that it's just us and the scenery. Every now and then we come up against pockets of bright autumn colour on the valley side, and an almost-break in the clouds lets us look up to Crook Hill and see the top.

Ladybower is narrowing now and just around the bend, out of sight, it returns to being the River Ashop (joined by the River Alport before it reaches Ladybower), a very narrow river to feed such a large, thirsty reservoir. Two cyclists disappear up a track to our left which means we haven't that far to go to reach the track we need.

Soon enough we see a white gate across the wide path (it wasn't there last time, was it?) with a sign saying Path Closed due to landslip. Fortunately, the path we want climbs up to the left so after a few sniggers at 'Council-Speak' on the notice we set off up the path. You will notice that, at this point, PC does not actually offer to carry the rucksack!

Once we're on the track, which is quite muddy in places, it all starts to seem very familiar. A large swathe of conifers has been cut down with just a few, single specimens jutting skyward. The path climbs quite steeply, but the views back are superb - except for the jutting conifers blocking the way. Three quarters of the way up PC pauses to take some pictures, and I press on to see if there's a better view from the top. There is, so PC joins me and then offers to take the rucksack! I refuse - I'd much rather talk about her (he he he).

From here we enter the wood; dark, dank and eerily still. PC says it's like Primeval. Very reassuring - not. The path is very wide, and to our left is a partly collapsed stone retaining wall. We remember that from last time and scramble over the fallen stones to walk on the broad walkway that must have been the proper path in the past. It isn't until we are clambering over the assault course of fallen trees that we realise that, even though we'd walked on here last time, it had been a bad idea. It's not such a good idea now, but with an inelegant amount of reaching, stretching, cursing and grumbling we do eventually reach the far end. We'll remember for next time - we hope.

Here we reach the ruins. There is no name on the map for this tumbled down and moss shrouded collection, nor it is possible to tell from looking at the remains what the purpose of the buildings was. But it is likely that it could have been a farmstead at some time, there are paths to and from here and Hope Cross, at a crossroads of old packhorse routes, isn't far away. The impenetrable conifers would not have grown so it would have been possible to farm here, although it would not have necessarily been a particularly hospitable location.

We leave the sad remnants behind and a little way past them take a sharp left hand path which is wider and smoother than the other boggy tracks. This climbs steadily upwards taking us high above the deserted buildings quite quickly. The trees form an enclosing tunnel around us with the promise of light in the distance drawing us on. It feels very earthy, very old.

As the trees on our right become wider spaced we see the features that so intrigued us on our last visit. Beneath the trees and damp grass are the definite curves and hollows of ridge and furrow ploughing. How old are these ghosts of farming practises? Who knows? Certainly older than the trees whose roots grow over and into the gentle mounds. Maybe they are linked to the empty buildings we've left behind, or possibly they were here already. It's certainly a tough spot for a ploughed field, without the trees as a shelter the wind would rip mercilessly across the land, but this is angled on the kinder side of the hill, so maybe the crop was worth the effort. Again, I've been unable to find any information on this patch of ground and we wonder if it has been overlooked since it is out of the way and easy to miss.

We amble on, pleased with ourselves. We've done most of the climbing now, and we've seen 'our' ridge and furrow field again. We pause to study and old unused gatepost, its partner nowhere near as substantial, then press on towards Hope Cross which is now in sight. A pair of walkers pass us, deep in conversation, and we look back to see if they notice the field. They don't even take their eyes from their feet - they'll notice nothing.

We see a perfectly formed red toadstool (fly agaric) which demands its own photograph then prepare to emerge into the open.

As always at this point, and I do mean always, it has started to rain. I don't think we've ever been to Hope Cross on a perfectly clear day. So since I have to down the rucksack (yes, I'm still carrying it) to get out my waterproof coat I fetch out the Secret Flask too. The Ramblers' Restorative does just what it says on the Flask. A couple of nips each and we're raring to go - after we've clambered over the two stiles.

Someone has left some yellow flowers on top of the cross which look very cheerful in the midst of the drizzle and low cloud. I go around the high wall to study the cross. It is dated 1737 with its four sides signed Shefield (yes, one f), Edale, Glossop and Hope. It is believed that this is a restoration or a replacement of an earlier cross.

The flat topped cross sits next to the ancient roman road which ran from Glossop to Brough and which is still, in places, a path. Here is one of the heavily used stretches and it has been said that, at certain times, roman soldiers can still be seen marching here. Never actually seen them ourselves, so we can't substantiate this!

We walk along the side of the path keeping between the high wall and the tree line to protect us from the rain. There are more walkers out on this side of the hill, though not a large number. Soon, though, the rain stops and we discover that we should have walked on the path this far, as we've come up against a no-stile. Basically, there are some fencing rails and a gap where the step should be. PC curses as she climbs over it, damning it as the worst stile in the Peak District, although she'll probably reallocate the title elsewhere in the future.

It's up and down underfoot next to the treeline, but we shun the well trodden path because we're a bit perverse like that. We do see a lot of fungi, though, ranging in colour from sickly cream to deep burgundy, and do benefit from shelter provided by the wall. Some of the sheep give us odd looks, but they're sporting purple splodges on their fleeces so they've no need to stare!

By the time we're in sight of our turn-off back down into the woods we're more than ready for our lunch, and fortunately there are enough tumbled sections of wall to provide somewhere comfortable to sit.

It's nice to get the rucksack off (yes, I'm still carrying the rucksack) and enjoy a cup of coffee. PC's made a good flask of coffee today (even though I've carried it all the way here) and as the first cup is downed the sky looks as though it might manage to clear. After the coffee we eat our sandwiches (yes, carried them too), have a second coffee, then fetch out the buns.

Mr Morrison has provided puff pastry fresh cream mince pies for us today. They're 'new', a welcome precursor to the Christmas season (unlike the infernal jingly songs blasted out in every shop and supermarket at this time of year which are only guaranteed to make goodwill to all men evaporate at super speed). The mince pies go down extremely well, and are washed down by the final dregs of coffee. At least when the rucksack is packed it is much lighter.

From here it's going to be pretty much all downhill. What a pity then that the path (a Footpath, not a Bridleway) has been churned into a slippery mess by mountain bikers. We pass two on our way down, but they don't seem even slightly ashamed that they are on a footpath and shouldn't be there.

The second part of the path through a young conifer plantation isn't nice to walk on; stony, rutted and churned in the centre, slippery at the edges. But when we can look up from where we're walking the views opening up across to Crook Hill are superb. The cloud has lifted and although the sun isn't shining at least it is clear.

We turn right on the broad track which contours the hill so remains fairly level, and since the trees to our left have been cleared we can see the patchwork woodland on the opposite side of the valley. Narrow lines of russet and pointed triangles cut through dark green blocks to make geometric shapes. We could make some interesting mathematical questions using the shapes - how many trees will you need to fill a space the size of...maybe not.

The path is a little soggy in places with one or two puddles, but we haven't walked too far when it suddenly changes and becomes a gouged hollow in the ground. Clearly diggers have been cutting a deep track though why the cut needs to be so severe is a mystery to us. From hereon we are walking below ground level on muddy (sometimes extremely muddy), stony ground. It isn't particularly pleasant as we have to watch where we're putting our feet as opposed to enjoying the view and when it starts to slope down we have to be doubly careful.

At one point, where a stream discharges on the track, we have to do a balancing act on a log to avoid being sucked into the mud. The potential for humour or disaster are great, but both are avoided. Eventually the path nose dives and takes us down to the broad path that skirts the reservoir. Now all we have to do is walk back.

We've made good time, but the clouds are gathering again and the light is fading. As we approach the path to the dam wall there's a biker repairing a puncture. Poor guy, hope he hasn't far to go afterwards or he may be caught out.

We're soon across the dam and back to the cars. I take off the rucksack and hand PC her flask (yes, I've carried it all the way and no, I won't let her forget it), but we don't have time to linger. Next week's walk is already planned so we're into our cars and away before the dusk swallows us up.

Friday, 4 November 2011



We're back after the enforced absence caused by school holidays and we've got a good one planned. Or rather, we'd planned a different good one, but you know what they say about the best laid plans...

Our original intention had been to go up onto Howden Edge - a long and pretty tough walk given the time constraints and our fitness (lack of) levels. However we'd decided we were up to it, until the torrential rain of the two previous days and nights planted the seeds of doubt and watered them thoroughly.

We meet up at the Fairholmes Car Park under glorious blue skies, avail ourselves of their excellent facilities, then return to our cars for the long winding drive along the western side of the reservoirs (this road is not open all the time although there is a bus service for walkers when the road is closed to traffic). On the way something becomes very evident. We have hit upon the perfect time to observe the most glorious autumn colour, something we hadn't expected to experience this year. So when we finally reach the end of the road (literally) and park up we decide on a change which will enable us to make the most of the sunshine and trees. We'll walk around the reserviours.

Naturally, being seasoned hikers we load everything into our rucksacks, just in case the weather changes or we get lost and have to camp out for a week. PC chooses the direction - clockwise - to make the most of the way the light is illuminating the trees.

We follow the bridleway, broad and easy walking, to the Stepping Stones bridge, and whilst PC stops to take some photos we realise that the sun has disappeared. Undeterred by this minor hitch we decide that it makes no difference, and it might clear up later, so we cross the bridge and continue on the bridleway which doubles back and climbs slightly up onto Cold Side (marked 'cycle route'). Below us the fledgling River Derwent is starting to broaden out, and the contrast between the dark green conifers, golden leafed beech, yellow birch and russet moors is stunning. It's a shame that the sun has gone, but the scenery is no less spectacular for it.

A few cyclists pass us, but there are never very many walkers on this part of the circuit - it's a long way from Fairholmes on foot and most people who drive up the valley as we have done tend to pause for long enough to admire the view only before heading back. So we're finding it extremely peaceful as we catch up on news and discuss everything from school awards to medical students.

We pause frequently to watch the changing scenery and colours, as well as take photos. We pass the path that leads up to Howden Clough, which would have been our downward route had we gone onto Howden Edge, and when we reach the stretch of woods known as The Coppice it's time to remove a layer. And naturally, since the rucksack has to be taken off, I delve for the Secret Flask and we treat ourselves to a swig of Ramblers' Restorative. Oh yes, that is so right, like a burst of sunshine in the stomach radiating out to all points and vying with the copper and golden leaves for brightness!

Suitably restored we trek on ignoring the light shower of rain that does absolutely nothing to dampen our spirits. It only lasts a few minutes and by the time we reach Howden Dam it has stopped. Here we meet the first of the walkers up from Fairholmes who are already turning back. It's funny to think that this is as far as we made it a few months back when PC was getting started after her hip operation. We're certainly doing a lot more today!

As we round the inlet where Abbey Brook joins Derwent we realise how low the reservoir is. There are huge swathes of greenery on the muddy ground which should, at this time of year, be underwater. This newly reclaimed land stretches almost all the way across the valley with only a thin river of water (and the mud) separating the two sides. It will take a lot of rain to re-submerge this area.

We're halfway down the length of the Derwent Reservoir on the eastern side and we're beginning to feel heavy legged and tired. There's no way we can stop to eat yet, we aren't even half way around, and we are wondering if we're tackling a bit too much for our first outing in 3 weeks, but we remain stoically silent about our discomforts (we'll only admit it later) as there's absolutely nothing we can do about it other than turn around or press on. We choose to press on, distracting ourselves with 'what we did on our holidays' which, for PC, seems to have involved a lot of water!

The rain makes a few more attempts to get going but it hasn't really managed very much and we soon reach the steps leading down at the side of the Derwent Dam. We've been here with the water gushing over the top but today the stones are dry. It will be some time before the water levels are high enough to produce the spectacular waterfall.

Once across the grassy field at the base of the dam wall we turn sharp right and up the steep, stepped path to reach the western road. It makes us puff a bit, but the good thing is that we have managed to push our way through the 'walkers wall' and no longer feel as though we're on our last legs. Good job too. Although we've past the turning point of the walk and are on the way back, we aren't yet half way around as the western road is considerably longer than the eastern track.

At the side of the dam wall there are relatively new information boards about the dam busters and mention of the Derwent Dam museum. We've never heard of it - but a quick trawl on the internet reveals that it is situated in the west tower of the Derwent Dam (yes, I know, we were stood right next to it) but it is only open on Sundays and on Bank Holidays, 10am - 4pm. Admission is free, although they welcome donations and they have an interesting web site (http://www.derwentdammuseum/).

There are a few more cars driving along the road now than earlier, so we have to be careful until we pass Gores Farm where there is a wide verge to walk on. We haven't walked far before the rain starts again, and this time it seems to be more determined, so we pause to drag on our waterproof coats. As soon as we're togged up and walking again it stops. Typical. But we decide not to bother removing our waterproofs because we've seen something interesting. A bench which beckons two very hungry hikers. (Us.)

Yes, we've sat here before, and enjoyed the same view - give or take some sunshine, tree colour, fungi etc - but today it seems especially welcome. First it's coffee, then sandwiches, then the buns. Oh, how we've waited for the buns. Today they are especially low calorie (honest) cream doughnuts. Plenty of jam in the bottom, and a convenient shape for eating. They go down extremely well, and very quickly. A second cup of coffee follows then we're packing up ready to go. No time to linger today. We still have a long way to walk, and if we sit for too long we're likely to sieze up!

We have cars coming at us both ways now, those intent on reaching the end to take a photo, and those that have taken their photos and are on the return. But there aren't too many of them. The rain is making more of an effort to keep going and although we're having drizzle then dry, it isn't they type of weather to encourage people to come out for a drive.

We turn the corner near Birchinlee and have a straight run towards Howden Dam. Here the trees are particularly spectacular, and PC stops to take lots of photos of their sweeping black braches laden with glinting golden leaves like pirate treasure.

It's a short haul up a slope at the side of the Howden Dam, then it's the long road along the narrow valley that ultimately leads to Westend Moor (although the road doesn't go that far). The worst thing about it is that we know we have to walk up the full length at the other side too. And it's raining again. Really raining. That doesn't stop us pausing to admire the cathedral arches of beech trees above the road at Hern Side, a marvellous sight despite the rain.

This is a long haul, especially now the rain has set in. The sky is dark and it feels like dusk rather than the middle of the afternoon. There are no cyclists, no cars and we passed the last walkers a while back. We're certainly on our own.

At the bottom of the road we cross the narrow stone bridge and double back on the opposite side of the valley. We know it isn't too far to go now and despite everything we manage to push the pace a little. When we round the point between Ridge Wood and Nether Wood Plantation we know that the end isn't too far away. It's a straight, easy stretch and our two lonely cars have never looked so welcoming.

Yes, it's been a long tiring walk. We're pretty much soaked and our feet ache, and we'll probably not be able to move like normal human beings in the morning. But we both have that silly smile on our faces that confirms that it's been a wonderful day's walking, with autumn colour that we'd have been daft to miss. Will we do it again? Definitely - but not until we've had a while to recover.

Thursday, 13 October 2011



We've met up (eventually - after getting lost somewhere above Matlock!) in the car park at Chatsworth, after negotiating the very poor signs into the car park (OK, so I went in the exit) and paying our £2. We both remember the days when it was free.

Today we are following another of our 'revisited' walks, one we haven't done in a very long time, and fortunately the weather seems to be willing to be a little kinder to us than last week. Still, PC is taking no chances and duly pulls on her waterproof trousers and woolly hat. I'm going to risk it.

The first trip is a quick visit to the garden centre loos where, as I wait for PC, I am being out stared by a frog. I don't like frogs. I dislike them almost as much as cows. So it is with great relief (no pun intended) that we set off.

Exiting the garden centre car park we gasp at the price label on a Betula jacquemontii and escape by taking a right hand turn down the bank through the trees. Almost immediately that wonderful heavy woody, loamy smell of autumn hits us. There are lots of fallen leaves on the floor already being crushed into the muddy path but around us the trees themselves are still very green. We debate the possibility of a colourful autumn, but both doubt it will happen. We're expecting it all to fade then fall. We'll see.

There's only a short stretch of road to negotiate to the single width road bridge over the River Derwent and we pause to look at the murky brown water surging beneath. It has rained quite heavily the last few days so it isn't surprising that the river isn't running clear. Once over the bridge we turn right through the metal gate and into a long, closely cropped field. There are sheep in the field, not cows as last time (thank goodness), and we walk along the clear, wide track to the gate at the other side which brings us to the road again, directly opposite Beeley Church.

We take the road up the side of the church, pause as PC removes her waterproof coat (it isn't even trying to rain), turn right then left, and we're on our way past the pretty old houses of the village. For some reason we start talking of a few people we went to school with, way back in ancient times, and trying to picture how they'd look now. Have they worn as well as we have? Doubtful!

PC is quite taken by some chickens and a cockerel, so stops to photo them. They're hurrying for cover. We've heard a buzzard, and maybe they have too, or they could just be camera shy.

The tarmac runs out, or rather it turns right towards Moor Farm, and we head straight on and up along a grass and mud track instead. Ahead is a heavy old gate, but fortunately there is a newish kissing gate next to it. At the other side it's time for me to remove my fleece - it must be getting warm!

The grassy track continues uphill and although the path actually follows the wall line there is another gate (and very nice stile although you need extremely long legs to use it) leading into Beeley Plantation. It is open for access and a more attractive proposition.

In the woods the path is wide and the trees bring that autumn smell with them. We're quite high up and down to our right is Beeley Brook on its way to join the Derwent, but at the moment the path is fairly level. We cross over the brook at some conveniently placed stones before the uphill starts in earnest. We pass a small group of school children wearing hard hats (why?) accompanied by their teachers and a very watchful border collie.

The path is quite boggy in places here and we have to be careful of prominent tree roots, but we're still climbing and beginning to feel warm. Once the boggy bits are cleared the path becomes easy again, though still steep. We've passed a few walkers on our way, perhaps a half dozen or so, but not so many as we thought would be out on a clear day.

When the path levels out PC has to stop to remove her jumper. She's really feeling the heat, especially as she's still wearing the waterproof trousers.

There are two options ahead, straight on or up to our left, and it's the left hand path we take, climbing steeply once more, but as it levels out we know that we're almost at the top of our walk. The brook has to be crossed in a little while, but there are lots of lovely large boulders here just begging to be used as seats, so we find a suitable one, sit down and fetch out lunch.

We were going to start with coffee, but decide that it really is time to sample this years Ramblers Restorative. It's spicy and warming with a promise of Christmas and intoxication. Perfect. We follow it with coffee, then it's lunch and buns. We're back to the fresh cream scones again, and again they're from Morrisons. Without any doubt Morrisons really do the best scones. Especially as these were on offer - buy one get one free. And no, we don't have two each (but we were tempted). Another coffee, and a long talk, and it's time to get moving.

It's easy crossing the brook up here, but the waterfalls promised on the map are very disappointing. They may look good during or shortly after a heavy downpour, but today they're an uninspiring trickle. We're walking across the head of the woods now, and to our right the trees thin sufficiently for the sunlit views beyond Rowsley to unfold. Yes, the sun is out.

When we leave the woods we turn sharp left onto the very rough track which leads down towards Beeley. We do debate, briefly, going across the strangely named Rabbit Warren, but since there isn't a path from it back down to this track (though I think there used to be) we decide not to bother.

We have some wonderful views across the fields and valleys from here, all illuminated by autumn sunshine. It even feels warm in the sun, surprising given the up and down weather we've been experiencing lately. The track widens and smooths out before turning lumpy again, and we see a 4x4 on its way up. We make way for it (there's not a lot of option) and wonder how it's going to cope with the deep ruts and gouges at the top of the track. Since it isn't a Land Rover we reckon the track will win.

The lane is a little muddy near the farm but once past it we're on tarmac again. There's a lovely collection of stone mushrooms (saddle stones) at the roadside and the houses here at Beeley Hilltop look very neat. We pause to admire the trees on the edge of the Chatsworth Estate, the colours are subtly different giving a textured effect rather than a great blaze of autumnal hues. In the foreground is a dead tree, pale and stark against the darker woods, with a parliament rooks perched on its bare branches. (Yes, the collective noun for rooks is parliament - I looked it up!)

We're nearing the bottom of the lane now and the road (B6012) is in sight. It's a sign it's a warm day, there are plenty of open topped cars driving past.

It's a bit tricky negotiating our way back to the bridge, there isn't a pavement and the verge is almost non-existent, but we manage not to be knocked down or crushed by cars, and we pause on the bridge to look along the length of the river. Then it's a short haul back up to through the wonderful smelling woods and to the car park.

Sadly, we'll be a few weeks before walking again due to school holidays and other commitments, but we're determined to do a good one when we meet again at the beginning of November.