Sunday, 23 January 2011



It's a seriously cold and frosty start this morning, especially at PC's house, but we drive carefully to our usual parking place at the side of Ladybower determined to make the most of the day. Cold it may be, but it is also perfect walking weather.

Suitably togged up we set off down the road towards Fairholmes (and the loo) but we pause briefly to admire the view and take some photographs of the frost and the thin sheen of ice floating on parts of the water. Except that PC has forgotten the camera! She tries to blame me (apparently I should have reminded her - as if. I have enough trouble trying to remember me) but I'm having none of it. Instead I produce my new phone with a flourish. It has a camera on it, not a good one, but better than PC's absent one! I wrestle with the technology and manage to take the photos. Next stop, the loo.

We watch the antics of the birds on the feeders for a while before walking down the bath towards the Derwent Dam. Last week we could hear the water thundering over it, today it is silent. The large stretch of grass in front of it is white with frost but rather than cross it to reach the steps which climb up the side of the dam we detour along the road and take the sloping path instead. Soon we're at the top of the dam wall and on the wide path that marks the beginning of our walk proper.

The light is beautiful, the sky impossibly blue and the water looks serene. It is a picture of tranquility. As we walk we discuss all manner of intellectual subjects: politics, physics, astronomy, the meaning of life, marmalade, orange gin.

We spot a house across the water hidden behind trees. It's the first time we have noticed it, but being mapless (much to PC's shock) we can't name it. We'll have to look when we get back to the car, if we remember. (I checked, it's called Birchinlee.) We also see a tree growing in the water. It's probably a sign of how high the water level has risen as we can't imagine it being able to survive for long being permanently semi-submerged.

We're walking in shade, this is the sunless side of the reservoir, and the bitter chill is becoming more pronounced. PC is getting ready for a sit down so we head for a bench where the path turns and brings us into sunlight. Our trusty sitter-onners stop our bums getting wet from the frosty bench and we open up the official flask (coffee) and secret flask (Ramblers Restorative). The combined effects of both drinks warm us up considerably.

The sun is very bright here and we can feel its warming rays even from 93,000,000 miles away (we're back onto physics again).

With our drinks finished we get up to go, only to have our pre-warmed bench immediately commandeered by another couple moving in with unseemly haste. Talk about fast movers!

We continue towards Howden Dam and even from a distance we can see the tell-tale sheen of white that indicates water pouring over it. Here, though, the water is perfectly calm and fragile swathes of softly rumpled ice break up the surface in random patterns. Very pretty, but lethally cold.

It isn't long before we're walking in shade again but we decide to press on to find more sun and also see the dam at close quarters. We cross a small stone bridge then make our way up a slight incline. It isn't very sunny here, and although we reach the top of the dam the fall of water is obscured by trees. We back track a little way to sit on a wall which is comfortable enough for lunch; sandwiches, coffee and fresh cream slices. They're hard to eat with the cream squelching out at every bite, but we are undeterred, and our persistence is rewarded. They were worth the effort.

Afterwards I run (yes, run) down the footpath to the base of the dam where I'm able to take a photo of the water cascade. Then I run (considerably slower and with lots of breathers) back.

Now all we have to do is retrace our steps. There are considerably more people out now, a lot of them on bikes at this far point of the reservoir circuit.

It isn't late and the sun is still bright but it is beginning to feel much colder as though the afternoon has robbed the sun of some its warmth. We pause on 'our' bench for a brief rest, but all the coffee is gone so we don't stop for long. There's another bench close to the top of the dam and we pause again for a few minutes.

From here it's a steady walk back to the car, and as we're in shade the chill is back in force. No doubt the icy fingers on the reservoirs will be extending their reach tonight.

We've done well, two good weeks with good walks and good weather. We're going to keep our fingers crossed that it lasts.