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.

Friday, 7 October 2011



It's hard to believe that exactly one week ago we were slathering on the suncream and worrying about the heat. Now, we're prepared to be battered, blown and soaked. Yes, autumn is well and truly here, and we're daft enough to be out experiencing it in all its fury.

We've driven through a few heavy showers to reach the Surprise View car park but the sky is clear as we struggle into our gear: extra jumpers, fleeces, waterproof coat and trousers. Add a scarf, woolly hat and gloves and the ensemble is complete. Then we turn around. The thick, dark clouds on the horizon look less than friendly, and the severe winds bring them and the accompanying rain towards us with alarming speed, so we retreat to the shelter of the car. PC has a moment of sparkling inspiration and brings a sample of her Sloe Gin with her.

As the wind rocks the car and the rain hammers down we cosily sip PC's brew. It is excellent, though different to mine. Less syrupy, slightly different taste. Odd really, as we used the same sloes and the same recipe, but we think she may have added more gin. Nothing wrong with that!

As last the clouds clear so we do battle with the ticket machine - credit cards only - but we know what we're doing this time after the last debacle. Then it's time for the off.

We are battling against heavy winds as we wander up the path through the heather towards Millstone Edge. The Surprise View here isn't very surprising at all. Another band of rain is sweeping in obscuring everything. Hoods up, heads bowed we plough on as the torrent hits us. Wow, it really means it. Not only are we being bullied by the wind and soaked by the rain, but we have the added discomfort of hail. Hail! In October. Urgh.

It's hard to keep our feet as we crest the high point of the edge opposite Mother Cap and we can feel the stinging hail though layers of waterproofs and trousers. A couple of walkers pass us from the opposite direction, heads bowed, and our cursory greetings are whipped away on the wind. We hope the whole walk isn't going to be like this.

As the path descends close to Over Owler Tor the rain stops, the wind eases and the sun comes out. It would be glorious if it wasn't so cold and our fingers weren't freezing inside sodden gloves.

Crossing the moor though the bracken and heather is easy, and we now have the far reaching view that eluded us higher up. Naturally, the eyesore of the cement works is prominent, especially when a stray ray of sunlight illuminates its stark pale presence. It really isn't a good advert for the Peak District.

We reach a small group of wind beaten trees and pause to inspect what appears to be a buried cairn and mound. We're at a point where 'the wood that wasn't there' would have been. I really must get around to writing about that.

We continue straight on as though heading to Higger Tor, but follow the path down towards the road. The drop from the stile here is a bit severe unless you have very long legs or are extremely agile. We can admit to neither. Then it's up the road a short distance, discussing Stephen Fry's autobiography, before crossing over to the path on the other side which marked on the map but has no sign post.

When we last came this way it was even colder and the deeply rutted track had a series of treacherous ice covered puddles along its length. The deep ruts are still there, and you have to walk carefully, but it seems that those who have caused the most damage (vehicles) have now been stopped by gates. The second part of the track is easy to negotiate and in the dip of the hills it is wind free and quite pleasant.

We pass Callow on our right and Mitchell Field on our left before reaching the road which runs from Hathersage to Stanage and beyond. There are a number of bends on the road which mean we have to be careful, but we also find a perfectly positioned bench up and to the right. It is too tempting to ignore so we climb the few steps up to and sit down, giving a thank you to Peter Townend in whose memory it has been erected.

We intend at first only to have coffee, but it is almost lunchtime and we know that picnic spots further on are pretty much non existent, so after our first drink we fetch out the sandwiches, and then the buns. We've gone retro today, and PC has brought for our delight some Apple Charlottes (although Tesco calls them Apple Custard Tarts or somesuch). It takes us back years to our childhoods when we would be able to buy these treats at the corner shop, not in packets but delivered by the bakery each day. Nostalgic, and good. We manage to finish them as another wave of heavy rain hits us and as it abates we finish off the coffee.

The walk down towards Hathersage is enlivened by PC trying to take a picture of an uncooperative goose, and a swan behind a fence that hisses at her when she turns her camera on it instead. Obviously not happy to be thought of as second best to a goose.

In Hathersage we make a detour to the loos, then we walk up the hill and out of the village, enjoying some good views across the fields towards Abney. It's sunny again, gloriously so, and we're looking forward to getting back onto high ground.

We're out of the village proper now and cross the road to a footpath which runs steeply up between some houses, easily missed if you're not looking for it. It's shaded here, but steep so we get warm very fast. However, we do manage to keep the pace up and make it to the top, where there's a stile into some woods, with only the briefest of pauses. There are two paths, one ahead, one to the right, and it is the one ahead we need. We take the right hand one. It does end up in the same place, but not without petering out half way leaving us to tread warily at the side of a stone wall.

As the path climbs out of the woods it starts to rain again, so wait for it to pass. Although the individual trees do not seem particularly ancient the woods themselves feel old. There is a fine gnarled, many trunked sycamore specimen and a lovely beech whose leaves have already turned into golden medallions of autumn. Why this tree alone has turned so wonderfully when the rest have not is a mystery, unless it is perhaps in a chilly spot where it catches the cold winds.

Breaking out from the woods we enjoy and fantastically clear view of Winyards Nick on the horizon. We wonder if this would have been a landmark back in the iron age to guide travellers towards Carl Wark and Higger Tor, neither of which are visible from here. We're intrigued.

Pressing on we walk across an open field and see, to our left and to our great surprise, a large house. It looks very 'Jane Eyre' but there's no name for it on the map.

Our route takes us down the driveway of the house, then across the minor road where we decide to go through the splendidly named Whim Wood rather than slog across the moor, a prudent move given the next wave of incoming rain.

It's a very pleasant walk through the wood, hugging the wall on our left, and although we're climbing we're sheltered from the rain and the extremes of the wind. At the top of the wood the path becomes a little indistinct but not too hard to follow, and it brings us to a wall and a gateway leading to the more open but still wooded land directly beneath Millstone Edge.

Ignoring the right hand option which would only take us back to the main road, we turn left and prepare for a steep clamber up to the edge. As it is, the path isn't too bad though the shoulder high bracken means you have to keep our eyes on where we're going. At least we don't have to actually climb the edge.

A stile leads us onto another path which in turn takes us up towards Over Owler Tor. We're retracing our steps now but the views behind us are spectacular.

Up a little higher and we're back on the top of the edge - and again being hammered by the wind and rain. Surely it can't have been like this up here all day! We detour from the path to take a more direct route through the heather towards the car park, arranging where to meet next week as we walk. There isn't much time to stop and chat now, dark grey clouds are looming and we've only just managed to take off boots and waterproofs before the rain hits us, so it's straight into the cars and away. We're a little soggy around the edges and windswept and hoping that the weather is a little kinder next week.

Saturday, 1 October 2011



Today we have something quite unexpected, even though it has been forecast. A stunningly blue, clear and hot late September day. This is what is called an Indian Summer. Long may it last!

We meet up in the large car park at Baslow keen to follow a route we last walked during our 'dog days'. After some memory dredging and using our fingers to help calculate, we reckon it must have been about 8 years ago. A long time to leave before revisiting a good walk.

Before we set off we sort out our rucksacks, and I pull out a small bottle of Sloe Gin - the final product from our walk back in October last year where we managed to salvage some sloes in Deepdale. Rather than carry an unsafe glass bottle around with us (or at least, that's the excuse we use) we feel it's better to sample the gin before walking. Who cares that it isn't yet 10 o'clock? Yes, it's a good one. Pity we haven't got PC's to sample yet (get it bottled, girl!) but this taster certainly puts an additional rosy glow on the walk.

We pay our dues at the parking meter, wincing a little at the cost, then don rucksacks and cross the main road. Where we pause to study the map. Well, it is 8 years since we last walked here and finding the way along residential roads is always harder than moorland paths. We think we're sorted, and set off up behind the italian restaurant (it looks nice, must go sometime) and talk about work, or the lack of it, for those leaving university.

Just as we begin to wonder if we're going the right way we see Bar Road ahead of us and turn up it. This should take us up towards Baslow Edge, and with a few more pauses to check our route we're soon on the tree lined track that presses steeply upwards. There are cows in the fields and walkers aplenty. There's also a heat haze covering the view so that PC is worried that her photos won't turn out.

By now we're discussing upcoming university choices and 6th form choices. Both are equally traumatic. We're also feeling the heat now, so PC ties her hair back with a shoelace and I zip off the bottom of my trousers to make them into shorts. We find a nice boulder to sit on and have a quick drink before we head on through the gate and onto the moor. Good job we have plenty of water with us.

We go through the gate and onto the well trod path up onto the moor. We seem to remember that last time it had been very muddy, rutted and churned up here, possibly by motorbikes, but maybe we're on a slightly different path. It doesn't look to have suffered much recently.

To our left it looks as though there are old quarries gouged out of the hillside, long disused now with tumbled stones being buried by heather and bracken. To the right are superb views across towards Birchen Edge and beyond. There are plenty of people out now, too. Hardly surprising given the glorious weather.

Ahead of us there's a bench, and it doesn't take any persuasion for us to go and take a seat, shrugging off our rucksacks and settling down to enjoy the view. We haven't been walking long, admittedly, but a comfy bench is just too good an opportunity to miss. Sunglasses and sunhat are now essential but we're not complaining.

We've obviously bagged a choice spot, quite a few couples and small groups hover close by for a while hoping we're going to move, but we could quite happily sit here all day. Eventually one party of three, plus dog, sidle towards us and as we start to sort out our rucksacks they stand so close we feel as though we should be on first name terms! The moment we move away, the pounce, and are on the seat before the bench has had time to cool.

Cresting the small rise in the path we can clearly see Wellington's Monument to our right and the prominent Eagle Stone to the left with someone at its base clearly considering climbing it.

We move to the right then realise that the path we need actually started somewhere back down the way we have come. We must have missed the turning since we were enjoying the view so much (or talking to much). Undaunted, and despite eating apples freshly picked this morning, (our concession to healthy eating, they counteract the buns), we follow a very steep narrow path downwards. We're obviously not the only ones to have missed the right turning, but this path would be a little bit scary if the ground was wet. It would probably produce a swift, slippery decent with an uncomfortable landing.

But today the ground is dry and with the help of a few tree branches we make it to the path beneath the Monument with minimum fuss.

Here it is cool and shady, and quiet. There's no one else to be seen or heard as we walk along the slowly descending woodland path. Moss covered boulders loom out of the undergrowth and there's a smattering of golden leaves on the floor. The tree canopy is thinning but most trees have yet to make the dramatic change into autumn colours. Apparently plant life has been lulled into thinking that this is another Spring, and in some parts of the country Spring flowers are already making an appearance. They'll be in for a shock. We see a toadstool the size of plate, then another 'fairy toadstool', the red and white spotted poisonous fly agaric (Amanita muscaria). PC duly takes a photograph.

We pass through a small gate which leads us to a path between a hedge and a wall. Beyond the hedge is a large house and garden which can be glimpsed from time to time. The path takes us down towards Bar Brook and a beautiful stone footbridge across it. From this bridge the dominating view is of the massive concrete bridge which arches over the brook to link the houses with the road. It's an eyesore, and one that we wouldn't like to have the expense of maintaining.

From the bridge we climb slowly up to the road (A621) and emerge into the sunlight once again. It's a fast road, so we have to be careful as we cross over to the stile adjacent to the cottage opposite. Once again we're amongst trees, but these are sparse and consist mainly of spindly birches. The path climbs slowly uphill with plenty of inviting boulders. Eventually we choose a conveniently shaped one to sit on for lunch which gives us good views despite having a stone wall in the foreground.

Salad, sandwiches and coffee are consumed along with the bun - iced cinnamon swirls. Not quite as good as they promised, a little on the dry side and very heavy, but full of essential calories. PC declines a nip from the secret flask (freshly prepared Ramblers Restorative), convinced that added to the earlier sloe gin it will be overkill. So the Ramblers is safe for another week.

It's hard setting off again on a full stomach with the sun beating down, but it isn't far until we've reached the highest point on this side of the walk where we inspect, but don't climb, the huge gritstone rock formation. From here it's all downhill, and crossing the close cropped grass we come upon the remains of an enclosure - clearly marked on the map but not so clear on the ground if you aren't looking for it.

Down the path to the road (A619) we have to negotiate and awkward (for us) stile before facing the traffic again. Swiftly crossing we plunge steeply downhill (via stone steps!) to the wooden footbridge crossing the beautifully named Heathy Lee Brook. The last time we crossed this bridge it was extremely slippery underfoot, but since that ancient time the bridge has been replaced - a plaque stating that it was put up in 2007 after the floods. We hadn't realised, though, that the waters had been so strong as to wash away the original bridge. Must have been scary.

(We remember the floods with stark clarity. We were actually out walking near Derwent not expecting the weather to be quite as bad as it turned out to be. In the end it took me 5 hours to get home as all routes were closed. Oh yes, very memorable.)

Now it's an easy stroll along the back-tracks of the Chatsworth Estate, with one or two rather high stiles to negotiate. We remember the last stile as being a real trial to the dogs last time, but this time we're on our own, and it's a trial for us instead. Then we're into the park with the afternoon sun beating down on us. In the distance we see a herd of deer running, the antlered stage bringing up the rear. Then I realised that we're in a 'field' with cattle. I make a quick dash for the stile, even though the beasties don't even notice us.

We follow the fence around to the Canon Gate which leads us onto the Baslow path. Not far to the car park now, and there are people coming along the path in droves. The good weather has certainly fetched them out.

Naturally, the car park is heaving when we get back, and the inside of the cars boiling. Just enough time to finish off the water and plan for next week. It's been so good revisiting an old walk that we'll try to do the same again.