Monday, 28 March 2011


Glorious. There's no other way of describing the weather forecast for today and our glee at hearing it: clear skies and sunshine. And it's only the middle of March. Yippee.

We meet up at Burbage Bridge. We know it's going to be a pretty straight forward walk and with the promise of superb weather we're not surprised to find plenty of cars in the car park. We can't blame people for doing the same as us. We make a quick decision as to which way around we'll be walking, then set off leaving the hoards behind us.

We set off on the western side of Burbage Brook heading towards Higger Tor - one of our many favourite places - and cross the rocky patch of, what is called on the map, Fiddler's Elbow. I think this refers to the rocks as well as the stretch of nearby road, but even so, there's not a fiddler in sight. Nor are there any other folk about. They've dispersed and gone their own ways - brilliant.

There are a few rocks to scramble down then an easy to follow path leading towards the Tor. It's not unusual for parts of this path to be soggy but we haven't had any rain in a while and today it's bone dry underfoot.

With the sun shining we're warming up, even though we're hardly pushing the pace, so by the time we reach the steps up to the summit of the Tor we need to pause to admire the views - which are spectacular (if we ignore the ever present eyesore of the cement works) - and to strip off a layer. A man hikes past us and comments that he has to keep reminding himself that it's only March. We agree. The sun is bright and the air smells warm and rich, more like June than March. Quite a contrast to our last walk 2 weeks ago when we were faced with a howling gale!

With a spring in our step we pull uphill to the flatish, rocky top of Higger Tor and decide to park ourselves in a convenient place to enjoy the view in comfort. Out comes the secret flask - cointreau today. Mmm, tastes of southern orange groves and with the sun on our faces it's easy to imagine ourselves transported to the Mediterranean. But really, on a perfect walking day like today, who needs the Med? This has to be one of the best places to be.

As we're contemplating the horizon the compulsory school group complete with red hard hats shatter the peace so we pack up and set off again.

From the top of Higger Tor the views are extensive, and by habit, we look for the wood that isn't there. Nope. Still not there. (Make a mental note that I MUST write about it on the blog.)

By this time we're down to shirt sleeves, quite an achievement at any time of year for me so it's a sign of how mild the weather is. We make our descent down the rugged side of the Tor utilizing all necessary body parts to facilitate a safe landing (ie feet, hands, bums) only to discover that a few yards to our left is the 'easy' route down. Oh well, intrepid adventurers like us don't need to use the easy routes.

The path is clear across to Carl Wark and as we approach its massive boulder-built walls we marvel anew at the remarkable feat of engineering undertaken to construct the impressive fortifications.

We exit the rough plateau of Carl Wark via the 'south gate' and head for a crossing over Burbage Brook. The path disintegrates to a number of tracks, none of which are particularly promising. It's usually a quagmire here and today it is still boggy so we have to pick our way carefully so as not to get sodden. At least it hasn't been raining.

Once we reach the brook we have the usual task of getting across. At least the flow of water isn't too bad, but it's a real boggy mess on this side of the stream. I trudge downstream to find an easier spot for PC to cross, but it doesn't really get any better. When I turn back to tell her that we'll have to go upstream, I find that she's already at the other side looking smug. Typical.

I cross using a couple of stones and a brief paddle, then it's sharply up the far bank and across the sheep grazed grass to the path. Here we decide that we'd rather walk along the top of Burbage Rocks than on the lower, busier path, so again we head uphill through the maze of gritstone boulders and heather until we reach the narrow track that runs the length of Burbage Rocks.

We find a place to sit where the sun warms us and we can enjoy the panoramic views up the Burbage valley and across to Carl Wark and Higger Tor. The landscape seems almost prehistoric and a few grazing dinosaurs wouldn't seem too out of place. Naturally, sandwiches, coffee and buns bring us back to the present. And the buns today are magnificent; wonderful, summer-scented strawberry tarts (sweet pastry, creme anglaise, strawberries, fresh cream). They turn an excellent day into a perfect one.

It's hard to summon enough willpower to get moving again but eventually we manage it. The path wanders through the rocks, dips past the bisecting path running from Hathersage Moor to Houndkirk Moor, and onward through the peat (thankfully dry) to the top of Burbage Rocks. The terrain is less dramatic here, but the views back along the ridge are wonderful.

We drag ourselves along. Not because we're tired, but because we don't really want the day to end. We pause again overlooking the brook from a height, and as we sit we plan our next walk, extending for as long as possible our time out on this glorious day.

But duty calls and we're tugged back to reality and the car park. It feels as though spring is in the air and we hope it keeps up for our next outing. although really, it doesn't get much better than this.