I get a text as I sit in the car in the lay-by near the Grouse Inn near Longshaw. It's PC. She's in Baslow and the Grouse Inn isn't where she thought it was. After a hastily composed reply with directions I wait until I see her car steaming up the hill. Sadly, she brings the rain with her so we delay our start and sit out the heavy shower before setting off.
To say it's only just after Midsummer's Day it's pretty grim. Cold, windy, showery. Waterproofs are likely to be needed.
Crossing the first few fields at the side of Grouse Inn we are confronted by the wonderful sight of an old fashioned meadow full of summer flowers. The photo can barely do it justice, as the flowers look even better at close quarters. In the second field there is even a flush of spotted orchids, their pyramid spires peering out above the long grass. What a pity we don't see more meadows like this.
At the corner of the field we pass into the woods, and debate on which way to go. The last time we were here we took a wrong turn almost immediately and ended up on a meandering mystery tour. This time, though, we get our bearings and set off on the right track. It slopes steeply downhill between steep banks and beneath a green leafy canopy. It's easy to imagine this being a very old path.
We're in Hay Wood, which we only find out as we exit it and are on the track behind the nice houses of Nether Padley. The path takes us onto a tarmac road which we only follow for a few paces before veering right onto a path uphill again. We're in Oak Wood this time, and there are plenty of dog-walkers' paths criss-crossing the main track which climbs steadily uphill.
At the top we come to a familiar looking gate in a stone wall, and once through it we're pretty sure we've been here before. Of course, now it starts raining, so we shelter beneath a broad tree and wait for the shower to pass. And wait. And wait. In the end we decide to put on our waterproofs and venture out.
We (foolishly) ignore the indistinct track to our left instead choosing to go straight ahead through a gate and across a sheep field. Luckily the rain soon passes, the sheep ignore us and looking back we have the most amazing views.
By this time we've realised that we're on the wrong path but choose to carry on instead of back-tracking. We'll manage to sort out a route.
At the top of the field we go through a gate and walk behind the high drystone wall. We find some large bilberry bushes laden with fat, juicy ripe bilberries, so we have to stop for a healthy snack.
Then we follow the track uphill and into some trees which eventually bring us out at the back of the Grouse Inn. Not what we'd planned, but making the best of it we carry on, go through a couple of gates and out onto the road. So ends the first loop.
It's only a short distance along the road to the entrance to the Longshaw Estate. Here the path is wide, clear and very easy to walk on. Within a relatively short distance we find a conveniently place bench made from a fallen tree trunk, and we settle down for lunch. Out comes the coffee, the sandwiches and the buns. The secret flask is employed for purely warming purposes (the wind is really chilly) and it gives everything a rosy glow. However, even the contents of the secret flask can't compete with the fresh cream strawberry scones. Delicious. After a brief debate, citing examples from various sources, we come to the overwhelming conclusion that Morrisons definitely have the best buns.
It's time to move on, and there are more walkers about now on this popular path. It's straight, easy to follow and with no chance to make a mistake. PC stops to photograph some wonderful old trees and we walk a little faster when we spot a herd of cattle. There are far reaching views across to Higger Tor and Carl Wark, and close to there are the huge clumps of invasive rhododendron bushes.
The path takes us to the Lodge, where we pause for a few minutes, then we skirt around the back, past some children building shelters in the woods (it looks fun) and follow the wide track towards the Wooden Pole. We find another bench, and stop again to finish off the coffee. An inquisitive old Red Setter comes to see what we're doing, but is disappointed when we have nothing to give it.
We rejoin the path, but instead of heading to the Wooden Pole we veer right and take the track past the car park and through a narrow gate back into the woods. Here we make a slight error of judgement when we end up following a sheep track instead of the proper path. Well, it's an easy mistake to make. However, after having a lovely tour of the top of the Longstone Estate, we follow a fence line down hill to arrive - yes, back on the track that we came in on. So ends the second loop.
From here it's easy going. We retrace our steps, emerge onto the road then walk along it past the Grouse Inn and to our cars. Typically, the weather has eventually cleared up and there is the promise of some sunshine.
We feel as though we've walked quite a distance today although we haven't actually managed to go very far. Not that we mind. Despite the weather, it's been good to be out.