Monday, 28 March 2011


Glorious. There's no other way of describing the weather forecast for today and our glee at hearing it: clear skies and sunshine. And it's only the middle of March. Yippee.

We meet up at Burbage Bridge. We know it's going to be a pretty straight forward walk and with the promise of superb weather we're not surprised to find plenty of cars in the car park. We can't blame people for doing the same as us. We make a quick decision as to which way around we'll be walking, then set off leaving the hoards behind us.

We set off on the western side of Burbage Brook heading towards Higger Tor - one of our many favourite places - and cross the rocky patch of, what is called on the map, Fiddler's Elbow. I think this refers to the rocks as well as the stretch of nearby road, but even so, there's not a fiddler in sight. Nor are there any other folk about. They've dispersed and gone their own ways - brilliant.

There are a few rocks to scramble down then an easy to follow path leading towards the Tor. It's not unusual for parts of this path to be soggy but we haven't had any rain in a while and today it's bone dry underfoot.

With the sun shining we're warming up, even though we're hardly pushing the pace, so by the time we reach the steps up to the summit of the Tor we need to pause to admire the views - which are spectacular (if we ignore the ever present eyesore of the cement works) - and to strip off a layer. A man hikes past us and comments that he has to keep reminding himself that it's only March. We agree. The sun is bright and the air smells warm and rich, more like June than March. Quite a contrast to our last walk 2 weeks ago when we were faced with a howling gale!

With a spring in our step we pull uphill to the flatish, rocky top of Higger Tor and decide to park ourselves in a convenient place to enjoy the view in comfort. Out comes the secret flask - cointreau today. Mmm, tastes of southern orange groves and with the sun on our faces it's easy to imagine ourselves transported to the Mediterranean. But really, on a perfect walking day like today, who needs the Med? This has to be one of the best places to be.

As we're contemplating the horizon the compulsory school group complete with red hard hats shatter the peace so we pack up and set off again.

From the top of Higger Tor the views are extensive, and by habit, we look for the wood that isn't there. Nope. Still not there. (Make a mental note that I MUST write about it on the blog.)

By this time we're down to shirt sleeves, quite an achievement at any time of year for me so it's a sign of how mild the weather is. We make our descent down the rugged side of the Tor utilizing all necessary body parts to facilitate a safe landing (ie feet, hands, bums) only to discover that a few yards to our left is the 'easy' route down. Oh well, intrepid adventurers like us don't need to use the easy routes.

The path is clear across to Carl Wark and as we approach its massive boulder-built walls we marvel anew at the remarkable feat of engineering undertaken to construct the impressive fortifications.

We exit the rough plateau of Carl Wark via the 'south gate' and head for a crossing over Burbage Brook. The path disintegrates to a number of tracks, none of which are particularly promising. It's usually a quagmire here and today it is still boggy so we have to pick our way carefully so as not to get sodden. At least it hasn't been raining.

Once we reach the brook we have the usual task of getting across. At least the flow of water isn't too bad, but it's a real boggy mess on this side of the stream. I trudge downstream to find an easier spot for PC to cross, but it doesn't really get any better. When I turn back to tell her that we'll have to go upstream, I find that she's already at the other side looking smug. Typical.

I cross using a couple of stones and a brief paddle, then it's sharply up the far bank and across the sheep grazed grass to the path. Here we decide that we'd rather walk along the top of Burbage Rocks than on the lower, busier path, so again we head uphill through the maze of gritstone boulders and heather until we reach the narrow track that runs the length of Burbage Rocks.

We find a place to sit where the sun warms us and we can enjoy the panoramic views up the Burbage valley and across to Carl Wark and Higger Tor. The landscape seems almost prehistoric and a few grazing dinosaurs wouldn't seem too out of place. Naturally, sandwiches, coffee and buns bring us back to the present. And the buns today are magnificent; wonderful, summer-scented strawberry tarts (sweet pastry, creme anglaise, strawberries, fresh cream). They turn an excellent day into a perfect one.

It's hard to summon enough willpower to get moving again but eventually we manage it. The path wanders through the rocks, dips past the bisecting path running from Hathersage Moor to Houndkirk Moor, and onward through the peat (thankfully dry) to the top of Burbage Rocks. The terrain is less dramatic here, but the views back along the ridge are wonderful.

We drag ourselves along. Not because we're tired, but because we don't really want the day to end. We pause again overlooking the brook from a height, and as we sit we plan our next walk, extending for as long as possible our time out on this glorious day.

But duty calls and we're tugged back to reality and the car park. It feels as though spring is in the air and we hope it keeps up for our next outing. although really, it doesn't get much better than this.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


It's a late start this morning due to an accident on the M1 which has closed the motorway and sent all it's rush hour traffic my way, doubling my journey time. Still, the sun is shining - or it was when I set out, but by the time I manage to meet up with PC I've driven through a number of heavy showers and the sky isn't quite so bright any more. And there's a strong breeze blowing. Not that it will stop us.

We trudge down the busy roadside to the familiar Cutthroat Bridge and go through the weighted gate which is being swung on its hinges by the wind. Ominous.

Our route takes us along the footpath heading NE so our first obstacle is Highshaw Clough, an attractive stream running down to join Ladybower Brook. The difficulty is in the rocky drop down to its crossing point, which we achieve with a reasonably amount of agility and no witnesses. Once on the far side of the brook we pause on a wall for a quick break. A nip from the secret flask (Ramblers Restorative) and custard tarts. They're not our usual high calorie fare - those buns come later - but a treat is needed after the long haul to reach here, and they do a wonderful job of replenishing our enthusiasm and sugar levels.

Off we go again at a good pace. The track is well defined and easy to follow, and once we have scrambled over a large ladder stile we know why. At the far side of the stile, nestling in the protection of two walls, is an old stone milepost: Sheffield on one side, Stockport on the other.

We wonder if this track was, in fact, the old 'main road' or turnpike. It seems highly likely. During the reign of William III an Act was passed stating that in remote or rural areas signs should be put up for travellers as they were often unable to ask for directions. Back i the 1700s it would have been the middle of nowhere, and a signpost would have been more than welcome. There is another milepost further along the A57 which is, in fact, Grade II listed! I can't, however, find any more information on this lovely example.

Once past the milepost and across some boggy ground we go through a gate, turn N then NW onto a track that takes us up onto the moors. As soon as we manage to ascend a few feet the wind hits us, rolling off the moors like a wave and hammering us in the face. It's as though it wants us to turn around, which we do, but only briefly to admire the view back towards Stanage Edge and to fasten up our coats.

Walking along this relatively easy gradient is like ploughing uphill through treacle. With every strep we're not only having to contend with the slope, but the relentless and ever increasing force of the wind. For once we're grateful for the grouse butts that line this walk and we stagger from one to another seeking a few moments respite from the elements. At least it isn't raining, and the few light showers trying to fall are whipped away before they can make any impression on us.

This is a 'heads down and trudge on' kind of walk, but being forced to stare at the ground only means that PC sees something she thinks interesting.

Shouting at me (she has to shout to be heard over the wind) to "Look" I peer at what I think, at first, is a large leaf then realise to my horror that it's a frog sunning itself. I make a rapid detour to avoid it as PC hunkers down to take a photo and chides me saying, "It's not a man-eating frog, you know." But you can't be sure, not out here, in the wilds!

In our next refuge (grouse butt) we see, far below, a large group staggering up in our direction. Some poor school kids being dragged out on a field study - today of all days. Poor them. We decide to head away from the path for a while as the group is bound to move faster than us and eventually catch us up, which we don't want so close to lunch time.

We cross the brown, springy heather and shelter behind a tall, turf-topped wall which is clearly another place for shooters to hide before bravely filling small birds with lead shot.

But as we sit down we're grateful to be out of the wind (more or less) while the sun is shining and there's a brilliant view to enjoy.

We empty the last dregs from the secret flask (that didn't last long) then enjoy a coffee before tucking into our sandwiches. Then we fetch out second buns. Fresh cream scones, something of a stalwart on our many walks, and they are always enjoyed. They're followed by another coffee which, since the wind has sneakily turned, is in danger of being blown out of the cups. We're liberally splattered with coffee flavoured spray - talk about storm in a tea cup.

Suitably full and in danger of needing an after-lunch nap, we pack up our things and head back across the heather towards the path, our way guided by a tall standing stone which, when we approach it, appears to be a natural feature.

The track isn't as steep here but that's just as well because the wind is, if anything, getting stronger. It's taking a huge effort to make progress and otherwise unnoticed leg muscles are beginning to complain.

Close to the top we see three people coming along the broad ridge from our right, reach the moorland cross-roads then choose to descend down to the Ladybower valley. It's a sensible option but not one we can take as we turn left to head South along Derwent Edge.

If we thought it was windy before, we were mistaken. It's gale force up here. We're forced to lean into it just to keep standing and it's impossible to make ourselves heard. Looking down to Ladybower reservoir we can see angry white-tipped waves on its inky surface.

When we look up we can see, rolling in from the direction of Alport, a grey curtain of heavy rain heading towards Derwent Edge, but we judge that it's going to miss us, thank goodness. But as we watch its rapid progress a rainbow appears behind the massive Wheel Stones and arcs all the way towards Bradfield. Magical. Somehow PC manages to take some photos despite the wind trying to rip the camera out of her hand.

We head off again, fighting for every footstep. We can only every remember it being as windy as this once before on a walk, and that was years ago when we were on Stanage Edge, and had to come down before we were blown down. Fortunately the wind isn't blowing off the edge here so we're relatively safe, but it's little comfort whilst trying to cross rocky ground.

The path dips slightly and, absurdly, the wind drops to almost nothing. But we can hear it thundering against the rocks of the edge. I think it sounds like waves crashing into a rocky coastline, PC reckons it sounds more like helicopters coming in to land. It's probably a cross between the two.

As soon as we leave the calm of the dip we're forced back into the gale. At the Hurkling Stones we decide to skip the path completely and head across the heather and short cropped grass to meet our return path. Going downhill with the force of the wind behind us is a bit like moonwalking, and suddenly a gust takes my feet from under me and I sail gracefully (honest) through the air and land quite gently, cushioned by the wind that toppled me. Getting up isn't easy, but I'm unhurt. I wonder if it counts as unaided flight!

On the path the walking is easier. The wind is behind us and its strength lessening slightly as we descend. Three bikers come up the path towards us, very macho and very determined. We wish them luck as they pass. Ten minutes later they cycle down behind us, and as they pass they admit that they couldn't cope with the wind. Can't say we blame them. But why didn't we ask for a piggy-back down the slope. What a missed opportunity.

By the time we reach Cutthroat Bridge again it is only mildly breezy. It's hard to imagine how bad it is up at the top. At least we've made it, although we expect some aching muscles in the morning.

As we drive away from our rendezvous point the heavens open and the rain falls. But it doesn't matter now. Excellent timing all round.

Sunday, 6 March 2011


This is to be a bit of a landmark walk, not because of where we're heading, but because it's the first time since the op that PC will be driving both ways. We've planned to meet up at the side of the road near the Yorkshire Bridge Inn but end up meeting at the nearby loos. As PC says, "Great bladders think alike!"

After our brief rest-stop, which includes pausing to watch the antics of the squirrels and birds on the feeding stations in the car park, we move to park up in the lay-by on the A6013.

Although we've had rain recently it's dry today, though murky and bitterly cold. The temp gauge in the car reads a measly half a degree - and we can well believe it, so we layer up against the chill.

We've a low level walk planned so as not to put too much strain on the bionic hip, so we head up to the dam then take the footpath that cuts sharply downhill towards a sparse woodland which leads us to the Yorkshire Bridge over the River Derwent. It's easy to forget how close we are to millions of gallons of water (6.1 x 1 000 000 000 gallons apparently).

We cross the small road, pausing briefly to admire the river, then take the footpath heading gently uphill. It's obviously well-used and churned up after the recent wet weather. It crosses the old railway line (built to facilitate the building of the Ladybower Dam) which is now a path and will be our return route, and continues uphill.

It's a steady climb which soon warms us up - but PC is finding it hard (which she doesn't admit to until much l Edge ater on) and we keep stopping to admire the views across the valley
towards Bamford.We cross open ground, a broken down wall, a stream and mud before entering some woods. Here a flock of oblivious sheep approach us, pause photogenically for a moment, then panic when their leader suddenly realises that we're real live people. I didn't think we were that scary.

Pretty soon we hit a crossroads of paths - although it is hard to tell - and decided that, since we're doing so well that we'll head straight on across the fields.

In the first field we encounter more sheep, but these are more intelligent than the last lot as they get out of the way sharpish and we're left admiring the views and the sun on Offerton Moor and Shatton Moor whilst trying to avoid the hideous cement works. For once we're grateful for the hazy mist.

The next few fields provide a series of challenges with each one having a cunningly devised stile to test the resilience, leg length and girth of any walker. But we have ways of surmounting such obstacles despite not being Size 0 nor having legs up to our armpits and we soon reach the lane which runs between Thornhill and Aston.

Here we make a fundamental error. We turn right instead of left. I take full responsibility for the mistake, and can only put it down to giddiness or lack of oxygen to the brain (I'd already mistaken a fence for a gate). So, rather than heading along the road towards Thornhill we actually walk towards Aston instead.

It's a pleasant enough walk between the high roadside banks and oblivious to our error (despite consulting the map frequently!) we pass through the pretty hamlet of Aston and take a seat at the roadside to enjoy a drink from the secret flask (Ramblers Restorative today - perhaps I should have had some before we set out) and a cup of coffee.

Suitably refreshed we press on and when we see the railway line ahead and the sounds of the main road I start to have some doubts. Pausing on the bridge over the railway I consult the map and realisation dawns. After a few choice curses we decide it will be easier to continue to the main road, follow it to the Thornhill turning then climb up to our intended destination. PC is adamant that she's feeling fine so off we go with a brief pause for PC to photograph some snowdrops.

The main road is busy and noisy, and we have to cross it frequently as the footpath dodges from side to side, but we make good time and are soon on the road up to Thornhill. It's deceptively steep but we push on and arrive at the very attractive hamlet - only having added 2 miles to our total!

Now we're back on track and we pass a house on our left with a glorious display of snowdrops - singles and doubles - completely carpeting the ground beneath some trees. The look absolutely beautiful and must have been there years to have covered so much space.

A short distance further we cut across a steeply sloping field to reach the dismantled railway line where there is a conveniently place bench. We sit down gratefully. The sun is shining and our stomachs are rumbling. Time for lunch while enjoying the views through the trees. With sandwiches and coffee out of the way we fall on the buns with relish; wonderful fresh cream eclairs loaded with calories. Essential eating!

It's easy walking now, the old railway line causing no problems. We follow it to where it ends at the dam wall, and cross over it and back to the cars. We've walked further than we intended but PC has done well and we're really encouraged as we plan something a little more adventurous for next week.