A CIRCUIT FROM CHATSWORTH TO BEELEY AND BEYOND
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.