Sunday, 27 November 2011


After our great walk last week we decided that we really ought to carry on along the Great Ridge and go to visit Lose Hill so, in a repeat of last week, we meet up in Castleton (for the conveniences) then drive up the road to park past the turn off to Winnats Pass, close to Treak Cliff Cavern.

We're lucky, again, as we've managed to arrange for another fine day. Not quite so clear as last week, nor as mild, but an excellent walking day. We have to layer up against the wind but we're soon setting off up the road in good spirits. We haven't gone far (we're just across from the car park for Treak Cliff Cavern) when we spot a nuthatch in a tree, its plumage beautiful. It hops up and down oblivious to us, but as soon as PC has her camera ready it disappears. Obviously camera shy!

We're taking a familiar route today, past Odin Mine (a protected archaeological site) and its adjacent crushing circle which produced lead ore for a considerable length of time, along the old road then off on the path to the right near Mam Farm.

There hasn't been much rain lately but the narrow path is quite slick and slippery. PC pauses to remove a layer, we are going steadily uphill, and we pause to admire some vivid orange toadstools.There are sections of this path that are always boggy, and although we negotiate the first stretch easily the second is more problematical. Whilst PC pauses to take a photo of the view I forge ahead and after some nifty footwork manage to stand on uneven muddy ground which takes my feet from me. Fortunately I put out a hand to save myself, which sinks wrist deep into mud, but at least I haven't sat in it! Naturally, PC crosses without a hitch.

Once I've washed the muddy glove in a stream we carry on up the slope towards Hollins Cross.

We really aren't finding these climbs as difficult as we used to, which much be a good sign. At the top we pause to enjoy the far reaching views ahead to Edale, then decide it's time to sit down for a coffee, so we make our way to the shelter of a wall and the place we'd sat last week.

First out is the Ramblers Restorative - not that we need restoring just yet, but there are other treats in store for later in the walk and we don't want to miss out on our 'fix'. After sampling the warm, fuzzy glow left by the Ramblers we then have a coffee. PC's turn to make it today, which means it's scalding hot and the cups are too hot to hold.

While we sit waiting for the coffee to cool, and enjoying the view, and talking, a large group comes along the path from Mam Tor and turns down towards Edale. "Don't look now," says PC, "but they have Tigger with them." Sure enough, when I am allowed to look, there is Tigger, bouncing away down the path, and there seems to be a polar bear too. Well, at least they seem to be warm!Once the coffee is finished we pack up and set off again, this time up Barker Bank towards Back Tor.

This seems to be the busy time of day as there are quite a few people on the path here, most are coming towards us and most have come down Back Tor. As we approach the path veering off to the left towards the Tor a large dog comes snuffling up behind us, nudging the back of our legs. its owners completely unconcerned. It's a good job we aren't dog-phobic, and the hound seems genuinely docile, but it could quite easily have given someone a fright - and it's a shame the owners aren't very considerate of other walkers or of sheep.

Instead of going up Back Tor we decide to take the lower path which goes through Brockett Booth Plantation instead. A deliberate break in the trees would provide an excellent view of Peveril Castle if the sun wasn't shining so brightly in our eyes, but it isn't bright enough to block the view of the hideous Cement Works. Will we never be rid of the blight.

At the other side of the woods we clamber over a stile and cross some fields. The height of Lose Hill is ahead of us but we are skirting around its base first to approach from the SE. One stile forces us to perform near miraculous feats of athleticism to climb over it, as it seems it was made for giraffe-legged people, not mere mortals such as us.

Soon we're at the base of Lose Hill with the long 'flight of steps' leering down at us. There's nothing for it but to grit our teeth and go for it.

We surprise ourselves. With only a couple of stops (to admire the views, of course) we make it almost to the top. With the wind howling we decide to stop for lunch before reaching the summit to avoid being blown about too much, and we skirt around to the eastern side of the hill where the wind is barely a breeze and we can see for miles.

Out comes lunch - a celebration lunch as PC's birthday is approaching. 21 again! Sandwiches are accompanied by a glass (actually a plastic cup, but it doesn't sound so good) of red wine - very welcome. Then it's time for the special birthday bun. Excessively high calorie Belgian Chocolate Cheesecake complete with a white chocolate swirl on top. Under normal circumstances it would be too rich and too fattening, but somehow today it has the Goldilocks factor. It is just right!

After the wine and the bun it is very tempting to just sit and talk (and maybe have an afternoon nap) but time forces us on. We clamber up the side of the hill and once away from the cosy wind-free picnic spot we are hammered by the full force of the wind. Wow, it really has increased in strength, and has become bitterly cold too.We don't linger on the summit but press on down the ridge to a slightly less buffeted spot where we drag on an extra layer. Feeling warmer we continue on the path. There's hardly anyone out now and we have the strange sensation of having the whole ridge to ourselves.

As we make our way very carefully down the steep, rugged slope of Back Tor, we're talking about ballroom dancing. Probably not appropriate under the circumstances.

At the bottom of the Tor we take the path leading away from the ridge and downhill, and by now we're onto the subject of posh frocks. Not that we have a great deal of experience of posh frocks, but we share what experiences we have endured.

This track takes us to the Hollowford Road gate, exactly where we'd been last week, and all we have to do now is follow the same route to Castleton then back to the cars. In Castleton some of the Christmas trees are already lit up, and it's a pity we don't have the time to wait until dusk as we're sure it must look lovely.

As we press on up the road to the cars we make our plans for our next walk. Not for next week, family commitments, but the week after. Fingers crossed the weather will be kind again.

Saturday, 19 November 2011



On planning today's walk we realised that, although it is one of our favourites, we had never done it in reverse.

To remedy this oversight we meet up in Castleton (good loos) then drive along up the road to park near the Speedwell Cavern car park (no parking fees on the road except for weekends and bank holidays). We're quite giddy with excitement, the sky is brilliantly clear and blue with hardly a cloud in sight. And the shadows cast by the early sunlight are nothing short of spectacular sending the limestone sculptures of the rocks into sharp relief.

Another relief is that PC has brought a rucksack today - no need for me to carry double then!

And one more thing PC has brought is a bottle of Cointreau. No, the plan isn't to drink our way down it through the day (though it is tempting) but to fill up the secret flask. However, there's no need. There's still plenty of Ramblers Restorative in the flask, and it doesn't do to mix spirits, so instead we have a nip before we set off. Gorgeous. Just like breakfast orange juice, but with a glow.

Glowing, we set off along the footpath which crosses the field between the road and the Speedwell Caverns site. The grass is sodden with early morning dew so we get a little damp, and at the top we come out onto an area which is being tarmacked. As we gingerly tip toe across the still warm and springy surface someone hurries out of the shop opposite to stick signs on the footpath gate to say it is shut. So we were just in time, then, but we were given some resentful looks by the workmen.

Now it's all uphill. We usually come down Winnats in the afternoon at the end of our walk, and it is really good to see it in different light and from a different perspective. We notice things we've not seen before, like a huge fallen gatepost which would make a wonderful seat for weary walkers. We, naturally, aren't that weary, though the uphill is keeping us warm (or maybe that's the cointreau).

In a surprisingly short length of time we find ourselves at the top of the pass and adjacent to Winnats Head Farm. That was pretty painless but we don't congratulate ourselves too soon, we've plenty more uphill climbing to do.

We cross over the road and head for the footpath crossing Windy Knoll. There are two horses in the adjacent field, dozing in the sunshine, but they both manage to perk up when they see us, ever hopeful that a stray polo mint may come their way. They're disappointed, so we give them a consolation pat and continue on our way.

The disused quarry on our right is in deep shadow as we head for the gate onto the road. Up to now we've been discussing all things educational including recent parents' evening, prize giving events and the ways schools seem to want to celebrate mediocrity over genuine achievement. It's good to be able to let off steam (my turn this week) as we are then able to approach life with an enhanced sense of calm. It just shows how beneficial walking can be. Once across the road we're starting the long, steady climb up the slopes of Mam Tor. Since we're still talking (to be honest, we rarely stop talking) we hardly notice the steepness of the slope and we're at the base of the 'staircase' to the Mam Tor summit before we know it. We pause for a breather and to admire the far reaching views. And the view of the cement works!

Now we start the steady climb up the well maintained steps up the hill.
Inset into some of the steps are small brass plaques - we see a torq then one of a roundhouse. We've never noticed this one before (probably because we've always been going downhill and gathering speed) and it is particularly fine, so PC takes a picture.

Again, it takes us very little time to reach the summit but rather than go up to the trig point where everyone and their grandmothers seem to be gathering, we skirt the top hunting for a hollow in which to sit out of the wind and enjoy a coffee. Yes, the sun is shining and the sky is clear, but up here there's a stiff breeze blowing. We're unsuccessful on the Edale side of the slope so we cross over to hunt out somewhere on the Castleton side. We drop down a way to where the side of the hill has slipped away, peer cautiously over the edge, then find a convenient sitting place where the hillside has dipped but not yet fallen. We hope our weight won't provide the incentive for it to head downwards!

Naturally the secret flask comes out. After all, we have something to celebrate, we've done all the climbing well before lunch and with relatively little effort. We must be getting fitter, so a couple of nips of the Ramblers Restorative is our reward. Then we have a coffee and a natter (yes, we're still talking) whilst enjoying the view.

It's a wonderful wide vista from here and we can see for miles. The only blot is the ugly cement works - how on earth did they get permission to build such an eyesore? In its heyday Peveril Castle, whitewashed to stand out and be noticed, would have been considered ugly (and very threatening), but in no way could it compete with the monstrosity of the cement works.

By the time we've mused on the landscape, spotted a heron wading in a large puddle and watched a group of children way below us, no doubt on a geography field trip, we've passed enough time to consider getting out the sandwiches. Maybe it's a bit early (but not before noon, we don't want to upset the Picnic Police) but it seems preferable to eat now while we're comfortable than try to find a better spot. However, once the sandwiches are eaten we decide to wait a while for the buns (extreme willpower in force here) so we pack up and set off once more.

It's a long steady walk down towards Hollins Cross with us going against the flow of people. Most of them are puffing on their way up, which makes us feel quite smug. We have spectacular views to Lose Hill and Back Tor but by the time we reach Hollins Cross all we can think about are the buns. So we fine ourselves a wind free hollow on the Edale side and settle down. The buns today are fresh cream apple turnovers; just enough tart in the apples to balance the sugar on the top of the pastry and one of our five a day! They go down extremely well, along with another coffee, and we're glad that we waited a while for them.

After a long, lazy break we go back up to Hollins Cross and take the path that leads to the Hollowford Road. We've never been on this stretch of the path before and we're glad we're not doing it in the wet. Although it has been paved and repaired the steps are uneven and, in places, narrow which means we have to watch where we are putting our feet. It's also quite steep and is one of those cases where it is probably better going uphill than down. A couple pass us in a bit of a lather; they have half an hour to get to Castleton to catch their bus. We wish them luck and dawdle to let them get well ahead of us.

We come off the moor and onto the narrow gully which is the top part of Hollowford Road. It's narrow and running with water, but much better than the one and only time we'd been on this path before when it had been extremely muddy and very wet. At the bottom we come out onto a tarmac lane and pause to read an information board pointing out landmarks and explaining that we'd been on the 'coffin road' from Edale to Castleton from the time before Edale had its own church.

We wander down the road and are soon, seamlessly, back in the centre of Castleton. As we walk through the village we look in a few of the shops selling their Blue John jewellery before heading up the road towards our cars. The sun is dipping behind the hills now and the warmth is suddenly sucked out of the day. All the wonderful shadows and contrasts are gone and Winnats Pass is mired in gloom once again.

We're pleased we've done this reverse walk, it's meant that we've been able to look on it all with fresh eyes. And what's even better, we aren't even tired.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


This is a walk we've promised to return to for some time, and at last we're ready for it. Yes, the day is terribly gloomy with patchy fog and threats of rain, but we're treating it as atmospheric rather than murky.

We've parked at the side of the road near the Yorkshire Bridge Inn, and are careful of the traffic speeding past. I'm the later of the two, as usual, and PC is almost ready. As I'm hurriedly pulling on my boots she comes to join me at the back of my car, carrier bag in hand. I expect her to bring something out of it but no, she merely stands there a little forlorn, holding the bag. The reason: she's forgotten her rucksack! How can anyone forget a rucksack? Well, if anyone can, it's PC. At least she remembered the coffee. So we load her stuff into my now bulging rucksack (making sure the buns don't get squashed), and she offers to carry it at some point. I suggest she takes it when we come to the uphill bits!

We set off in the morning chill but are soon warmed up by walking. First we cross the oh-so-familiar path across the dam wall and turn right at the far side. The first part of the walk is by the side of the reservoir, level(ish) and easy, so we can chatter away without running out of breath. The trees are still managing to hold onto some of their golden autumn colour but the low cloud means we aren't getting much of a view across the water.

As we round the point at The Springs we get a clear sight of the creamy-white arches of the bridge which carries the A57 to Manchester, and we can hear the traffic noise too which carries loudly across the water. The tree colour on the hillside opposite looks quite promising, but we need the murk - sorry, atmosphere - to lift before PC can take any worthwhile photos.

We're pretty much alone on this stretch of the walk. We do pass a lone walker going in the opposite direction but other than that it's just us and the scenery. Every now and then we come up against pockets of bright autumn colour on the valley side, and an almost-break in the clouds lets us look up to Crook Hill and see the top.

Ladybower is narrowing now and just around the bend, out of sight, it returns to being the River Ashop (joined by the River Alport before it reaches Ladybower), a very narrow river to feed such a large, thirsty reservoir. Two cyclists disappear up a track to our left which means we haven't that far to go to reach the track we need.

Soon enough we see a white gate across the wide path (it wasn't there last time, was it?) with a sign saying Path Closed due to landslip. Fortunately, the path we want climbs up to the left so after a few sniggers at 'Council-Speak' on the notice we set off up the path. You will notice that, at this point, PC does not actually offer to carry the rucksack!

Once we're on the track, which is quite muddy in places, it all starts to seem very familiar. A large swathe of conifers has been cut down with just a few, single specimens jutting skyward. The path climbs quite steeply, but the views back are superb - except for the jutting conifers blocking the way. Three quarters of the way up PC pauses to take some pictures, and I press on to see if there's a better view from the top. There is, so PC joins me and then offers to take the rucksack! I refuse - I'd much rather talk about her (he he he).

From here we enter the wood; dark, dank and eerily still. PC says it's like Primeval. Very reassuring - not. The path is very wide, and to our left is a partly collapsed stone retaining wall. We remember that from last time and scramble over the fallen stones to walk on the broad walkway that must have been the proper path in the past. It isn't until we are clambering over the assault course of fallen trees that we realise that, even though we'd walked on here last time, it had been a bad idea. It's not such a good idea now, but with an inelegant amount of reaching, stretching, cursing and grumbling we do eventually reach the far end. We'll remember for next time - we hope.

Here we reach the ruins. There is no name on the map for this tumbled down and moss shrouded collection, nor it is possible to tell from looking at the remains what the purpose of the buildings was. But it is likely that it could have been a farmstead at some time, there are paths to and from here and Hope Cross, at a crossroads of old packhorse routes, isn't far away. The impenetrable conifers would not have grown so it would have been possible to farm here, although it would not have necessarily been a particularly hospitable location.

We leave the sad remnants behind and a little way past them take a sharp left hand path which is wider and smoother than the other boggy tracks. This climbs steadily upwards taking us high above the deserted buildings quite quickly. The trees form an enclosing tunnel around us with the promise of light in the distance drawing us on. It feels very earthy, very old.

As the trees on our right become wider spaced we see the features that so intrigued us on our last visit. Beneath the trees and damp grass are the definite curves and hollows of ridge and furrow ploughing. How old are these ghosts of farming practises? Who knows? Certainly older than the trees whose roots grow over and into the gentle mounds. Maybe they are linked to the empty buildings we've left behind, or possibly they were here already. It's certainly a tough spot for a ploughed field, without the trees as a shelter the wind would rip mercilessly across the land, but this is angled on the kinder side of the hill, so maybe the crop was worth the effort. Again, I've been unable to find any information on this patch of ground and we wonder if it has been overlooked since it is out of the way and easy to miss.

We amble on, pleased with ourselves. We've done most of the climbing now, and we've seen 'our' ridge and furrow field again. We pause to study and old unused gatepost, its partner nowhere near as substantial, then press on towards Hope Cross which is now in sight. A pair of walkers pass us, deep in conversation, and we look back to see if they notice the field. They don't even take their eyes from their feet - they'll notice nothing.

We see a perfectly formed red toadstool (fly agaric) which demands its own photograph then prepare to emerge into the open.

As always at this point, and I do mean always, it has started to rain. I don't think we've ever been to Hope Cross on a perfectly clear day. So since I have to down the rucksack (yes, I'm still carrying it) to get out my waterproof coat I fetch out the Secret Flask too. The Ramblers' Restorative does just what it says on the Flask. A couple of nips each and we're raring to go - after we've clambered over the two stiles.

Someone has left some yellow flowers on top of the cross which look very cheerful in the midst of the drizzle and low cloud. I go around the high wall to study the cross. It is dated 1737 with its four sides signed Shefield (yes, one f), Edale, Glossop and Hope. It is believed that this is a restoration or a replacement of an earlier cross.

The flat topped cross sits next to the ancient roman road which ran from Glossop to Brough and which is still, in places, a path. Here is one of the heavily used stretches and it has been said that, at certain times, roman soldiers can still be seen marching here. Never actually seen them ourselves, so we can't substantiate this!

We walk along the side of the path keeping between the high wall and the tree line to protect us from the rain. There are more walkers out on this side of the hill, though not a large number. Soon, though, the rain stops and we discover that we should have walked on the path this far, as we've come up against a no-stile. Basically, there are some fencing rails and a gap where the step should be. PC curses as she climbs over it, damning it as the worst stile in the Peak District, although she'll probably reallocate the title elsewhere in the future.

It's up and down underfoot next to the treeline, but we shun the well trodden path because we're a bit perverse like that. We do see a lot of fungi, though, ranging in colour from sickly cream to deep burgundy, and do benefit from shelter provided by the wall. Some of the sheep give us odd looks, but they're sporting purple splodges on their fleeces so they've no need to stare!

By the time we're in sight of our turn-off back down into the woods we're more than ready for our lunch, and fortunately there are enough tumbled sections of wall to provide somewhere comfortable to sit.

It's nice to get the rucksack off (yes, I'm still carrying the rucksack) and enjoy a cup of coffee. PC's made a good flask of coffee today (even though I've carried it all the way here) and as the first cup is downed the sky looks as though it might manage to clear. After the coffee we eat our sandwiches (yes, carried them too), have a second coffee, then fetch out the buns.

Mr Morrison has provided puff pastry fresh cream mince pies for us today. They're 'new', a welcome precursor to the Christmas season (unlike the infernal jingly songs blasted out in every shop and supermarket at this time of year which are only guaranteed to make goodwill to all men evaporate at super speed). The mince pies go down extremely well, and are washed down by the final dregs of coffee. At least when the rucksack is packed it is much lighter.

From here it's going to be pretty much all downhill. What a pity then that the path (a Footpath, not a Bridleway) has been churned into a slippery mess by mountain bikers. We pass two on our way down, but they don't seem even slightly ashamed that they are on a footpath and shouldn't be there.

The second part of the path through a young conifer plantation isn't nice to walk on; stony, rutted and churned in the centre, slippery at the edges. But when we can look up from where we're walking the views opening up across to Crook Hill are superb. The cloud has lifted and although the sun isn't shining at least it is clear.

We turn right on the broad track which contours the hill so remains fairly level, and since the trees to our left have been cleared we can see the patchwork woodland on the opposite side of the valley. Narrow lines of russet and pointed triangles cut through dark green blocks to make geometric shapes. We could make some interesting mathematical questions using the shapes - how many trees will you need to fill a space the size of...maybe not.

The path is a little soggy in places with one or two puddles, but we haven't walked too far when it suddenly changes and becomes a gouged hollow in the ground. Clearly diggers have been cutting a deep track though why the cut needs to be so severe is a mystery to us. From hereon we are walking below ground level on muddy (sometimes extremely muddy), stony ground. It isn't particularly pleasant as we have to watch where we're putting our feet as opposed to enjoying the view and when it starts to slope down we have to be doubly careful.

At one point, where a stream discharges on the track, we have to do a balancing act on a log to avoid being sucked into the mud. The potential for humour or disaster are great, but both are avoided. Eventually the path nose dives and takes us down to the broad path that skirts the reservoir. Now all we have to do is walk back.

We've made good time, but the clouds are gathering again and the light is fading. As we approach the path to the dam wall there's a biker repairing a puncture. Poor guy, hope he hasn't far to go afterwards or he may be caught out.

We're soon across the dam and back to the cars. I take off the rucksack and hand PC her flask (yes, I've carried it all the way and no, I won't let her forget it), but we don't have time to linger. Next week's walk is already planned so we're into our cars and away before the dusk swallows us up.

Friday, 4 November 2011



We're back after the enforced absence caused by school holidays and we've got a good one planned. Or rather, we'd planned a different good one, but you know what they say about the best laid plans...

Our original intention had been to go up onto Howden Edge - a long and pretty tough walk given the time constraints and our fitness (lack of) levels. However we'd decided we were up to it, until the torrential rain of the two previous days and nights planted the seeds of doubt and watered them thoroughly.

We meet up at the Fairholmes Car Park under glorious blue skies, avail ourselves of their excellent facilities, then return to our cars for the long winding drive along the western side of the reservoirs (this road is not open all the time although there is a bus service for walkers when the road is closed to traffic). On the way something becomes very evident. We have hit upon the perfect time to observe the most glorious autumn colour, something we hadn't expected to experience this year. So when we finally reach the end of the road (literally) and park up we decide on a change which will enable us to make the most of the sunshine and trees. We'll walk around the reserviours.

Naturally, being seasoned hikers we load everything into our rucksacks, just in case the weather changes or we get lost and have to camp out for a week. PC chooses the direction - clockwise - to make the most of the way the light is illuminating the trees.

We follow the bridleway, broad and easy walking, to the Stepping Stones bridge, and whilst PC stops to take some photos we realise that the sun has disappeared. Undeterred by this minor hitch we decide that it makes no difference, and it might clear up later, so we cross the bridge and continue on the bridleway which doubles back and climbs slightly up onto Cold Side (marked 'cycle route'). Below us the fledgling River Derwent is starting to broaden out, and the contrast between the dark green conifers, golden leafed beech, yellow birch and russet moors is stunning. It's a shame that the sun has gone, but the scenery is no less spectacular for it.

A few cyclists pass us, but there are never very many walkers on this part of the circuit - it's a long way from Fairholmes on foot and most people who drive up the valley as we have done tend to pause for long enough to admire the view only before heading back. So we're finding it extremely peaceful as we catch up on news and discuss everything from school awards to medical students.

We pause frequently to watch the changing scenery and colours, as well as take photos. We pass the path that leads up to Howden Clough, which would have been our downward route had we gone onto Howden Edge, and when we reach the stretch of woods known as The Coppice it's time to remove a layer. And naturally, since the rucksack has to be taken off, I delve for the Secret Flask and we treat ourselves to a swig of Ramblers' Restorative. Oh yes, that is so right, like a burst of sunshine in the stomach radiating out to all points and vying with the copper and golden leaves for brightness!

Suitably restored we trek on ignoring the light shower of rain that does absolutely nothing to dampen our spirits. It only lasts a few minutes and by the time we reach Howden Dam it has stopped. Here we meet the first of the walkers up from Fairholmes who are already turning back. It's funny to think that this is as far as we made it a few months back when PC was getting started after her hip operation. We're certainly doing a lot more today!

As we round the inlet where Abbey Brook joins Derwent we realise how low the reservoir is. There are huge swathes of greenery on the muddy ground which should, at this time of year, be underwater. This newly reclaimed land stretches almost all the way across the valley with only a thin river of water (and the mud) separating the two sides. It will take a lot of rain to re-submerge this area.

We're halfway down the length of the Derwent Reservoir on the eastern side and we're beginning to feel heavy legged and tired. There's no way we can stop to eat yet, we aren't even half way around, and we are wondering if we're tackling a bit too much for our first outing in 3 weeks, but we remain stoically silent about our discomforts (we'll only admit it later) as there's absolutely nothing we can do about it other than turn around or press on. We choose to press on, distracting ourselves with 'what we did on our holidays' which, for PC, seems to have involved a lot of water!

The rain makes a few more attempts to get going but it hasn't really managed very much and we soon reach the steps leading down at the side of the Derwent Dam. We've been here with the water gushing over the top but today the stones are dry. It will be some time before the water levels are high enough to produce the spectacular waterfall.

Once across the grassy field at the base of the dam wall we turn sharp right and up the steep, stepped path to reach the western road. It makes us puff a bit, but the good thing is that we have managed to push our way through the 'walkers wall' and no longer feel as though we're on our last legs. Good job too. Although we've past the turning point of the walk and are on the way back, we aren't yet half way around as the western road is considerably longer than the eastern track.

At the side of the dam wall there are relatively new information boards about the dam busters and mention of the Derwent Dam museum. We've never heard of it - but a quick trawl on the internet reveals that it is situated in the west tower of the Derwent Dam (yes, I know, we were stood right next to it) but it is only open on Sundays and on Bank Holidays, 10am - 4pm. Admission is free, although they welcome donations and they have an interesting web site (http://www.derwentdammuseum/).

There are a few more cars driving along the road now than earlier, so we have to be careful until we pass Gores Farm where there is a wide verge to walk on. We haven't walked far before the rain starts again, and this time it seems to be more determined, so we pause to drag on our waterproof coats. As soon as we're togged up and walking again it stops. Typical. But we decide not to bother removing our waterproofs because we've seen something interesting. A bench which beckons two very hungry hikers. (Us.)

Yes, we've sat here before, and enjoyed the same view - give or take some sunshine, tree colour, fungi etc - but today it seems especially welcome. First it's coffee, then sandwiches, then the buns. Oh, how we've waited for the buns. Today they are especially low calorie (honest) cream doughnuts. Plenty of jam in the bottom, and a convenient shape for eating. They go down extremely well, and very quickly. A second cup of coffee follows then we're packing up ready to go. No time to linger today. We still have a long way to walk, and if we sit for too long we're likely to sieze up!

We have cars coming at us both ways now, those intent on reaching the end to take a photo, and those that have taken their photos and are on the return. But there aren't too many of them. The rain is making more of an effort to keep going and although we're having drizzle then dry, it isn't they type of weather to encourage people to come out for a drive.

We turn the corner near Birchinlee and have a straight run towards Howden Dam. Here the trees are particularly spectacular, and PC stops to take lots of photos of their sweeping black braches laden with glinting golden leaves like pirate treasure.

It's a short haul up a slope at the side of the Howden Dam, then it's the long road along the narrow valley that ultimately leads to Westend Moor (although the road doesn't go that far). The worst thing about it is that we know we have to walk up the full length at the other side too. And it's raining again. Really raining. That doesn't stop us pausing to admire the cathedral arches of beech trees above the road at Hern Side, a marvellous sight despite the rain.

This is a long haul, especially now the rain has set in. The sky is dark and it feels like dusk rather than the middle of the afternoon. There are no cyclists, no cars and we passed the last walkers a while back. We're certainly on our own.

At the bottom of the road we cross the narrow stone bridge and double back on the opposite side of the valley. We know it isn't too far to go now and despite everything we manage to push the pace a little. When we round the point between Ridge Wood and Nether Wood Plantation we know that the end isn't too far away. It's a straight, easy stretch and our two lonely cars have never looked so welcoming.

Yes, it's been a long tiring walk. We're pretty much soaked and our feet ache, and we'll probably not be able to move like normal human beings in the morning. But we both have that silly smile on our faces that confirms that it's been a wonderful day's walking, with autumn colour that we'd have been daft to miss. Will we do it again? Definitely - but not until we've had a while to recover.