UNDER DERWENT EDGE TO LADYBOWER AND ASHOPTON
Summer is over and we're back - at last. There's so much to catch up on, so much gossip and so many happenings that we've planned an easy walk to give up enough breath to talk. Although we've both been keeping fit(ish) over the holidays (PC sailing and me walking) we've both managed to put on a bit of weight. Too many Cornish Pasties for PC while I've been enjoying the Cumbrian ale! Still, we're ready now, and raring to go.
Cutthroat Bridge is our familiar starting point and we have one of those wonderful autumn days where the air is crisp and fresh but the sun is bright. We had hoped that the heather would still be in full bloom - two weeks ago the moors were a vivid purple - but it's gone over and we've missed the best of the colour.
We avoid being run over on the A57 and make our way onto the bridleway at the opposite side of the road. We have an easy walk along this path which gives us plenty of time to start catching up on the last few weeks: holidays, exam results, family etc etc.
We haven't gone far before we have to stop - not to rest but to de-layer. The sun is starting to make itself felt and our fleeces and jumpers aren't needed. We're passed by some other walkers and a pair (or is it a tandem, brace, duo, couple?) of cyclists, and we remember that this time of the year is still the holiday season for many, especially those with no need to keep to the school term times.
It doesn't take us very long to reach the gap beneath Whinstone Lee Tor where we pause to take in the wonderful view, and to get out the map to decide what to do next. Our original plan (such as it was) would have taken us on the path over Lead Hill following the route of our very first blog. However, after a brief discussion we decide to continue on the bridleway which runs beneath Derwent Edge, something we can't recall ever having done before.
By now the sun really is shining and since we seem to have lost all the other walkers and cyclists (who prefer to keep high up on the Edge itself) we decide to find somewhere to sit for a coffee. Not quite as easy as we first thought as although there is a lot of heather and grass, all very wet from yesterday's rain, there's not much in the way of handy boulders on this part of the path. In the end we find a grassy platform where we make ourselves comfortable and fetch out the two flasks - the coffee and the secret flask. We savour the last of the Ramblers' Restorative (good job I have another batch almost ready at home) followed by coffee and enjoy the view along with a good talk.
We sit for longer than we intended, it's almost lunchtime, but buoyed up by our refreshments we press on, initially ignoring the path down to our left which leads to Ladybower and taking the narrow track straight on which flanks the drystone wall.
It's really warm now, and we're feeling peckish. Fortunately, there are a lot of boulders around here so we scramble through the bracken and heather to reach a huge slab of gritstone at convenient seat-height. Sandwiches, coffee and our first-of-the-season fresh cream scones are consumed with great satisfaction.
We don't really want to get up and move, it feels a really lazy day, but we know we can't sit around forever. Again, we consult the map and decide to retrace our steps and take the downward track towards Ladybower and Grindle Clough. We're onto the subject of books by the time we're on the broad path heading towards the woods.
The path is a bit stony, the usual case when a track is heavily used by mountain bikes, but it's easy enough to walk. We certainly wouldn't really fancy it uphill, though. We go through a gate then across the stream before reaching another gate which takes us into an old yard and barns, renovated by the National Trust.
The first building is Grindle Barn, now made into a shelter for walkers with a wonderful 'duck' bench and ceramic tiles set into the walls made by local schoolchildren back in 2002. Outside, above the entrance, is a carved wooden board showing life in the valley and on the hills. It really is worth seeing.
As we pass through the yard the last barn on our left has date carved into the lintel: 1647.
From here the downward path is paved, a bit strange and heavy on the feet, but it does stop erosion. By the time we're at the bottom on the Ladybower path we're onto the subject of the prices some charity shops charge for things they were given for free. Like £70 - yes, £70 - for a dress in Kendal. Needless to say, that one was left on the rack.
We're enjoying the view and the steady pace, but when we glance at the time we realise that we're later than planned and that we to get a move on. So we step up a gear, not fast, but we're making a bit more effort. Not easy when we've eaten all the food and drunk all the coffee (and the Ramblers').
It's a long, steady haul along the side of the reservoir, which is rather low despite us thinking we'd had a pretty grim summer. As we approach the long, multi-arched bridge we veer left past the houses at Ashopton and out onto the path beneath Ladybower Tor. It's single file on the narrow track until we're through the gate and in the shade cast by the trees behind the Ladybower Inn. The temperature is really high now and it feels more like mid-summer than early autumn.
It doesn't take us long to reach the broad stony path that runs parallel to, but above, the A57. Here I get a phone call from home - a sure sign we're late and with a fair walk back to the cars there's no likelihood of being home soon. Ah well, can't be helped.
The walk up the path is steeper than we remember, or maybe it's because it's so hot and we, quite honestly, are getting tired. Obviously, we ain't as fit as we thought! However, once we've hit the high point it doesn't take us long to yomp the rest of the way, completely ignoring the wide views and peace.
We make it back to the cars hot and sweaty, not a good look, and with the first rosy glimmers of sunburn. Yes, it really has been that hot. No time to hang around, though, so we make hurried arrangements for our next walk in two weeks time before heading our separate ways and a return to what passes for normality.