This is to be our last walk before the festive feast and we're delighted not to have a repeat of last week's weather to look forward to.
We meet up in the Chatsworth car park (Calton Lees) and have saved ourselves a couple of pounds as the ticket man isn't there. A Christmas present from the Duke, perhaps?
There's some snow on the higher ground but Chatsworth Park is a snow-free-zone and all we have to contend with is mud and slippery leaves. Reports that we'd be driving through drifts and blizzards has proved unfounded, and despite the cold it isn't even icy.
After a quick trip to the garden centre facilities we take the muddy track down through the trees to Beeley Bridge, pause to admire the view of the river,
then head along the road towards Beeley Lodge and the lane running up towards Beeley Moor. This lane is tarmac as far as Beeley Hilltop so it's easy walking, if a bit steep. PC pauses to remove a layer. This is the therapeutic part of the walk where we vent our moans, groans and grumbles (Grumpy Old Women style) so we can put them behind us and enjoy the rest of day surrounded by an aura of calm and serenity. (Honest!)
We've been past Beeley Hilltop numerous times, and have noticed the lovely stone mushrooms or staddle stones) before, but we'd never seen how many there actually are. We thought they were only next to the lane, but walking uphill we can see that there are many more in the garden. They really are very attractive, even if they aren't being used for their intended purpose.
Just past the farmhouse/yard gate the lane turns to mud, and it's pretty obvious from the tracks that it's being heavily used at the moment. The next minute a tractor comes looming up, but the driver considerately slows down past us as we hug to wall trying to keep out of the way. At least he turns into the next farm gate which means the way ahead for us is clear.
The path here, which is an "other route with public access" can be used by vehicles, so it is deeply rutted in places, but it's quite free draining so isn't boggy. There are plenty of puddles
though, and a fair amount of slushy snow. A couple of walkers stride past us so we pause to let them go, looking around at the view whilst pulling out one of our Christmas treats - a bar of Green and Blacks ginger chocolate. We aren't sharing it with any other random walkers!
The chocolate is a good way of kick-starting the Christmas spirit and we head up the track with a new bounce in our steps. Half way up the lane PC suggests that we use a convenient gate to lean upon to enjoy more of the chocolate (is really is very good) and a nip of Cointreau from her secret flask. This is definitely a good mix: the orangey Cointreau blends perfectly with the dark gingery chocolate. We must remember it for the future.
As we continue on our way PC relates the saga of the Piccalilli (don't think she'll be making any more in a hurry) and follows that by the enticing description of a most intriguing cake tin (and the cake to be made in). That prompts a discussion about how to fill the cake - PC is considering sweeties, I opt for fruit in alcohol with cream. I am beginning to suspect that I know why we don't do well with diets.
We come to the point where the lane turns sharp right, but we go left onto the moor. However, although there is a gate, it's locked so we have to go over the high, very high, stone stile. The steps are covered in slush but aren't slippery, but it feels very exposed on top.
Safely on the far side we head on the wide path over the moor marked 'Rabbit Warren' on the map. No sign of rabbits today, but excellent, far reaching views in the Bakewell direction with the sun shining and a liberal sprinkling of snow. We finish off the last of the ginger chocolate (we need the energy) and consider finding somewhere to sit for lunch. But it is rather exposed up here and there are three more walkers striding up behind us. Greetings are exchanged and they continue, only to slow their pace once they're in front.
We stop to look at the landmarks: Edensor church, Froggatt Edge, and the tip of the chimney from the ****** cement works! There's even a faint rainbow, a sure sign that murkier weather is on the way.
The walkers in front turn and ask us to take a photo of them. PC obliges (she's the technical one) but the camera plays up, the battery is low and she can't get a shot before the camera dies on her. The walkers don't seem to be too upset as they retrace their path, leaving us alone on the moor.
By now we can see a great, grey bank of cloud rolling towards us from the NE so we head towards the woods with added incentive. A runner sprints over the high stone stile in the wall (yes, actually sprints over it, then runs past us with enough breath left to speak) as the first drops of rain plop to the ground. I clamber over the style with considerably less grace than the runner and use one of the trees for shelter as I drag on my waterproof coat. PC stays at the far side to put her coat on first.
This is quite a heavy downpour, but the trees do give us some shelter. We walk forward then turn left onto a grassy track. This in turn skirts the edge of a dense conifer plantation which will give us excellent protection from the rain and wind. Beneath the trees we find a large boulder where we can sit in comfort. OK, so we don't have much of a view, but on the outside the rain is coming down quite heavily and we're only feeling the odd spot.
Out comes lunch and coffee. The sandwiches are eaten, the first cup of coffee drunk, then we have our buns. Yes, we've had them before, but they are so christmassy that we had to have them again. Fresh cream puff pastry mince pies - and yes, they are excellent. We follow these with more coffee and a liqueur - some of the Ramblers Restorative (which started life as a Christmas drink). After all that we are feeling decidedly stodged, but we're also feeling the cold so we have to move on.
We emerge from the trees into rain, but it doesn't last for too long as we make our meandering way down through the Chatsworth Estate woods. Nearer to the house there are workers cutting back some trees and burning branches, and the woodsmoke smells particularly fragrant. PC is drawn to the fire, and not just for the warmth.We're not far from the House now, and as we make the final few turns on the road we are amazed to see so many cars in the main house car park. There must be hundreds of them. We decide to amble into the Stables area to look at the water feature and the horse statue, and for PC to test the facilities. There are hoards of people about, and most are dressed considerably more smartly than we are. We emerge from the Stables and walk down through the car parks, past the House entrance and on over the old bridge.
Here we turn left and head out across the park towards Calton Lees.
The light is fading and although the rain has stopped it has turned very cold. It's also slippery underfoot, and boggy in places. We watch a few ducks, oblivious to the cold and wet, before following the narrow track back to Calton Lees.
So that's it for another year. An excellent walk to round off this 12 months, and far better than we could have hoped for given how short a time it is since PC went bionic. We've been able to do everything we could have wanted, and more, and now we're looking forward to next year with enthusiasm.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.