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.

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