Thursday, 17 February 2011


It's going to be a simple, easy walk today. Time and transport issues mean we aren't able to stray into the Peaks so we've decided to take a turn around the Damflask Reservoir instead. As an added incentive we're stopping off at the pub in Bradfield.

The weather is particularly grim and murky. It isn't quite raining, but it's certainly under consideration.

Damflask is easily accessible on the W outskirts of Sheffield. It was completed in 1896 and covers the site of the village of Damflask which was washed away in the Sheffield Flood of 1864. Now it is home to sailing and rowing clubs, anglers and walkers.

We park on the road which runs across the dam wall and tog up against the biting cold. A short walk along the pavement takes us to the footpath which runs along the southern edge of the reservoir. It's easy walking, but a little muddy in places after the recent heavy rain.

On a few of the trees nearest to the road there are some bird feeders, and we watch a while as blue tits, great tits and nuthatches visit in a constant stream of airborne traffic.

There are a lot of people out this morning, despite the weather, but it's to be expected in such a popular, easily accessible location. Joggers (one with a pram), birdwatchers, couples, groups and dog walkers pass us in both directions.

We spot an interesting exotic-looking duck on the water and decide to capture a shot of it. Without success. As we close in on it the camera-shy fowl swims away thwarting our efforts. David Attenborough clearly need not worry about competition from us.

There are more people looming up behind us now so we decide to sit down on one of the conveniently placed benches and enjoy a drink from the secret flask until they pass. It warms us up wonderfully. Then we have a coffee too since we have time to spare. It's a pity there isn't much of a view though.

Suitably replenished we set off again, and soon find a couple of photographic Canada geese who are more than happy to pose for us. We continue walking and before we know it we've reached the end of the reservoir and Low Bradfield. It's only 11.15 am, far too early to go to the pub. After a brief debate we decide to walk back to the car along the opposite side of the reservoir then drive to the pub for a late lunch.

For a short distance we're on the road, but only one car passes us before we're on the path again. This must be the dog walking side as we see more of them here. The path is more undulating on this side too which must make it harder for joggers with prams. It's a pity visibility is still so poor as the views towards the Ughill Moors would have been worth seeing.

Then we spot the exotic duck again. It has paddled all the way to this side of the reservoir to avoid us, but PC whips out the camera before the startled duck can hide behind a shrub and manages to capture it and its white-feathered partner for posterity.

Next we're at the ranks of sailing boats, and the chance for another photo opportunity before we walk up to the road at Low Holdworth. We pause to admire the first house with a lovely stream channelled through its garden and snowdrops blooming on the grass verge.

It's only a short walk back to the car on a pavement muddy with decomposing leaves.

Then it's off to the pub for lunch, and it is only just past noon. We can't believe how quickly we've done the circuit of approx 3.5 miles. Our next walk will have to be a little more ambitious.

Saturday, 12 February 2011


We'd never tried to get to Stanton Moor before mainly because it's a long way for PC to travel and with her in-built sense of mis-direction it would be unlikely that she'd ever arrive. Also, we've always known that we'd not be able to do a long walk here because of time constraints, so given that I'd be doing the driving and PC still wasn't ready for any very long hikes we decided to take today as the perfect opportunity.

The first stumbling block is PC's unnerving ability to confuse left with right, an interesting quirk when she's the navigator for the day and decides on a route through the centre of Sheffield. Despite mounting stress and blood pressure levels we survive the city and continue along a route that I'm familiar with; Baslow, Chatsworth, Beeley, Rowsley then turn right. From here PC has to navigate again - panic ensues. It's a good job I'd checked the map before we set out and had tried to memorise the route. After losing the road completely then turning the map upside down we crossed over the swollen and fast flowing River Lathkill and turned up to the village of Stanton in Peak. Phew. Now I know why she always leaves the map reading to me.

We pass the long, high wall of Stanton Hall and enter the village's steep, narrow, winding road. A local bus coming downhill towards us makes us breathe in and whilst PC is enjoying the view of the quaint cottages I'm negotiating the parked cars hoping we're going in the right direction as she's abandoned all pretence of navigating.

Luckily the road opens out onto Birchover Road and we're heading for Stanton Moor. I knew the footpath we need and as luck would have it we managed to park right next to it where there is only room for one car. There is a lack of parking space up here although some of the verges have clearly been used so much that there is room for a few cars to park, particularly in the week.

It's drizzling with rain - our fair weather fairy has clearly deserted us - so we drag on our waterproofs and set off up onto the moor. The moor is fenced now so we go through the gate and along the well used path towards the prominent Cork Stone, a large natural gritstone monolith standing proudly against the elements. There are foot and handholds worn into the side and iron rungs for climbers. There must be a good view from the top, but not today with the murky, misty drizzle.

Stanton Moor is gritstone on top of limestone and an area of national archaeological importance. Not only is the well known Nine Ladies stone circle here, but there are at least 70 other cairns, circles and burial mounds, most now hidden beneath swathes of heather.

It is also an area with much evidence of past and more recent quarrying. Relatively recently a long-standing battle was won to prevent the re-opening of some quarries and a peaceful protesters' camp of 9 years (I think) eventually moved away.

There's a disused quarry next to the Cork Stone and we pass it as we head roughly north. There is a trig point over to our right, but we know that we won't get a particularly good view from there so we don't even attempt to push through the heather to get to it even though the rain has almost stopped

Next to the path is a twisted, stooped tree sculpted by the prevailing wind. It looks ancient, as though it has witnessed life up here for centuries and its knowledge has weighted down its branches, but it probably isn't actually very old.

At the next disused quarry we pause to look at a young silver birch with raindrops clinging to its leafless branches like purple twigs festooned with diamonds. It's quite magical.

Ahead are silver birch woods, quite sparse but very elegant in their winter state. They set us remembering another birch wood - one that doesn't exist. One we both saw and can both still picture with absolute clarity. A very eerie incident. We realise that we have to write about it, so with a bit of luck it will be one of our next blogs. Watch this space.

We wander through the trees towards the stone circle. So far we've only seen three people, all walkers, but at weekends it is probably heaving, so we really appreciate the tranquility.

Then we reach the King Stone, the outpost of the stone circle, and walk down to the Nine Ladies. The last time I was here there was a fence around the monument and people camping (probably the protesters although I didn't know that at the time) but now the fence has gone and it is a haven of peace. I wander around the stones as PC is drawn to the old oak, or Wishing Tree. There are all kinds of things hung from it; an old glove, ribbon, decorations.

We find somewhere to sit - not next to the charred remains of a fire - and fetch out the secret flask to make a toast. We enjoy sitting and contemplating the stones as we eat lunch undisturbed. The nine ladies are actually ten, one stone is 'fallen', and you can just make out a small mound or embankment too. There are lots of legends and myths about the site, but whatever the truth is, it was once a very important place and should still be respected.

Our peace is shattered when an enormous dog bounds up to greet us completely ignoring its owner. We don't really mind, but on its departure PC is left quite muddied. Tranquility descends again and out comes this week's buns. We plan to take a photo, but our eagerness to eat them takes over and the photo is forgotten.

Strawberry Tarts; sweet pastry, creme anglaise, fresh cream and strawberries. They smell of summer and taste divine. Wonderful.

It's time to move off, and we decide to investigate the tower of the east of the moor. It
rises up quite prominently although hidden at first by the trees, and PC remarks that it's like Rapunzel's tower. It is actually to commemorate the Parliamentary Reform Bill of 1832 - nowhere near as romantic as the fairy tale. And it looks in need of some maintenance

We're on the path back now, and we can see down the Darley Dale valley towards Matlock and Riber Castle in the distance. Lots of the fields in the valley are flooded, and we also have a bird's eye view of the ugly sprawling works between Darley Bridge and Warrencarr.

We detour a little to find that we're on a 'Drive' where the local gentry use to have themselves and their guests driven in their coaches to enjoy their estates. Thank goodness times have changed.

We climb uphill past an enormous clump of rhododendron bushes - an ideal spot for childhood hide and seek and the perfect spot for an ambush, but they are a very invasive non-native. A group of men pass us going in the opposite direction, PC thinks we've seen them before on one of our other walks, but I can't remember. I must have been reading the map at the time!

Soon we're back at the Cork Stone and it's only a gentle stroll back down to the car. All we have to do now is find our way back to PC's house but that, as they say, is another tale.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


There had been some early doubts about today's walk. Yesterday had been bitterly cold with a biting wind that had made us wary of venturing onto any high ground, but this morning all was clear, cool and relatively still, so we set off for Bamford Edge feeling optimistic.

We park up in the lay-by on New Road next to the access stile, pleased that no one else is there as there's only room for three, maybe four, cars.

Setting out we encounter our first (and hopefully last) problem. I bound athletically over the stile (only a slight exaggeration, honest) and wait eagerly at the other side for PC. And wait. And wait. The stile is eye-wateringly high and PC, conscious of keeping her bionic hip where it's meant to be, is struggling. However, with a suitable amount of cussing and contortions she heaves herself up and joins me on the far side. And we're off.

It isn't a very steep track up towards the disused quarry almost due north of the stile, but we're aware of the incline and keep using the bionic hip as an excuse to pause and admire theextensive views rapidly unfolding as we climb. The bionic hip, naturally, is fine. It's the lungs that seem to suffering. We're obviously carrying too much weight - in our rucksacks!

The light falling on distant Stanage Edge is wonderful, sculpting the rock face into sharp relief. Fingers crossed that the camera does it justice.

The quarry is quite overgrown now with a boggy morass in the middle, but there is a rough track up the side . I'm sent up first to try it out. If I fall PC won't follow, but hopefully she'll phone for help. As it is, I clamber up easily, it isn't as bad as it looks, and PC follows with ease. Once up there one side does drop away quite dramatically, but my remark about falling into the ravine is not appreciated, so we rapidly ascend to level ground before stopping again.

From here we admire the full length view of Stanage Edge. It's rare to be able to see all of it in one swoop of the eyes, and this is an excellent spot. PC tries out her magic camera skills, hopefully to be followed by magic computer skills, and I'm glad that I don't have to cope with the photos.

Then we skirt the top edge of the quarry and walk along a track following a slightly higher elevation than Bamford Edge itself. Here we're quite exposed and the wind is beginning to make itself felt. We walk along the well-worn track between boulders and the burnt-back heather. We wonder if this has been a controlled burning - it is extensive - or an accident. It's easy to see how moorland fires could quickly spread out of control up here on these barren, windy expanses.

We decide it's time to stop for a drink so we find a big boulder to sit behind out of the wind. Out comes the secret flask and the coffee flask. A couple of measures of Ramblers Restorative does just what is says on the bottle and PC, since she isn't driving, holds her cup out for a top up. Once the Ramblers has taken effect we enjoy a coffee and sit a while enjoying the view and feeling mellow. The buns are brought out for display - they're for lunch - but they prove an incentive to get moving and find somewhere to stop to eat.

A short distance further on we follow a path down onto Bamford Edge.
Whenever we come here we have to stop and stare. The views are spectacular. OK, so the cement works manages to rear it's ugly head - couldn't it be disguised, it really is a major eyesore - but ignoring that we can see a wonderful panorama taking in Abney, Castleton, Mam Tor, Win Hill, the distant Kinder range, and as we proceed along Bamford Edge's wonderfully rocky ridge the views of Ladybower and Derwent Edge open out. We can see the Derwent Dam, the Wheel Stones and Crook Hill, all places we've enjoyed walking, and will revisit again as soon as we can.

We have to keep stopping to enjoy the views. It is a must on this walk and it has to be one of the best places in the Peak District to get an impression of space. Perhaps we should keep it secret, though. It doesn't get as many visitors as it deserves, and it is all the better for that.

The ridge path descends and crosses a tumbled dry stone wall and heads across wilder Bamford Moor, until relatively recently the sole preserve of grouse shooters. The wind is blowing keenly now so we head up onto the moor a little way so we're less exposed. We find a comfortable nook and settle down for lunch. As we eat we see a lone walker trudging along the track towards Bamford Edge. He waves, we wave back, he continues on his way. That is the only encounter we have we another soul all day. It's wonderful up here.

At last the buns emerge. Lemon Muffin Cheesecakes: muffin pieces, creamy tangy cheesecake, white chocolate flakes, biscuity base. Perfect. Thank you Mr Morrison, you've done us proud.

Suitably replenished we set off back, the first part of our return journey retreading the path we've just been on. In the time it's taken us to eat (and drink, and chat) the wind has gathered strength. There is always the chance of strong gusts on this exposed edge, but now those gusts are powerful. We keep well away from the steep drops wherever possible. For some reason the smell of the burnt heather is very strong now although we didn't notice it on the way out. Perhaps the cheesecake has sharpened our senses.

We ignore the path up to higher ground and start the long, steady decline passing an old quarry with an almost-complete millstone abandoned in situ. What a lot of skill wasted, but it is rather a poignant monument. Much better than it being stuck in someone's garden as an ornament.

As we lose height the wind loses its ferocity. Looking back, though, we can see the clouds racing across the clear blue sky. PC quotes a line from a film, I immediately recognise it. Oh, how wonderful to be film buffs! (Actually, it was from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - not exactly highbrow but a classic in it's own way.)

Crossing the brown, bracken-covered slopes we notice a number of square stakes stuck into the ground, some in lines, others in squares, some seemingly randomly placed. We're curious, but have no idea what they're for. Perhaps on a later walk up here we may reach enlightenment.

It isn't long before we're in sight of the car, with only the stile to negotiate. It's easier this way, fortunately, so there's no opportunity for a humorous photograph. Never mind.

We did well today. Later in the afternoon the wind's strength began to build and by late evening a gale was howling and the rain was beating down. It makes a change for luck to be on our side but we won't complain . We've had brilliant weather. The big question is, how long can our luck hold out?