Thursday, 29 March 2012


The unbelievable has happened. Today, our last walk before the Easter holidays, is sunny and warm. This must be the longest stretch we've had without a rainy walk. Ever. Good job too as we've planned a long one for today.

We meet up in our favourite car park at the side of Derwent, just up from the Fairholmes car park. We're early but the good weather has already dragged people from their snug hidey-holes and there are more folk around than usual. We tog up, stuffing as much as possible into our already bursting rucksacks, deposit a very exciting parcel in my car (to be opened on my birthday in a few days time - 21 again, plus some) and set off, almost immediately encountering a frog on the path. Ah yes, we'd forgotten about the abundance of frogs around here in Spring.

After a brief but necessary visit to the Fairholmes facilities we walk towards the dam, passing another frog before crossing the grass to the base of the dam wall. The steps up the side of the dam are quite steep and we're part way up before PC suddenly realises that she's left her walking poles in the car. She bravely decides to press on without them, even though this walk won't be an easy one, but the thought of sprinting back to the car for the poles was too off-putting.

Once we're up onto the top road we can relax. This is easy walking on a wide, surfaced track. Mollie is let off the lead and she immediately finds a log to carry, bringing it to us from time to time to throw for her. It's like tossing the caber! However, there is too much traffic here - cyclists, walkers and even a couple of rangers' Landrovers - so Mollie has to go back on the lead. Not that it stops her finding something heavy to play with. We keep stopping to enjoy the views, but the brightness does tend to prevent high quality photos as there is a slight heat haze over everything. Maybe it will burn off later.

Passing the first right hand footpath we continue on towards Howden Dam. Before we reach it we take the sweeping path up to the right at Abbey Tip Plantation, through a mass planting of daffodils. They may not all be native (there are some doubles here) and they aren't in full bloom yet as they are in shade, but they do look stunning. Amongst the daffodils are snowdrop leaves. Their flowers are long gone, but we must try to remember to come and see them at snowdrop time another year.
The path rises steeply through the trees up to a gate which opens onto moorland and here we have a choice of three paths; right to Abbey Bank and Derwent hamlet (the hard way), straight on across Greystones Moss towards Lost Lad or left circling Little Howden Moor. We have to study the map to make sure we choose the correct path (we have picked the wrong one here before) and once we're sure that the left hand path is definitely the one we want we pause to remove our jumpers. The day is warming up seriously.

This is a good path quite easy, running level with the contour lines and following a wall. We've never been on it before but as soon as we're around the first curve of the path and see the view opening up ahead we know we've picked a good one. There's a gate and a stile to negotiate, the stile has a handy rail to pull up to make it easier, and once on the other side it's time for me to unzip the bottom part of my walking trousers thereby exposing my legs to the whole world. This is not a decision I take lightly, and is a sure sign that temperatures are at a real high.

We're above the Abbey Brook valley with the melodious running water below us contrasting with the sound of the curlews calling. It's very peaceful here and we're all alone. Across the valley is New Close Wood and above the trees, circling high in the blue sky, is a buzzard. Magical.

The path is a gentle incline taking us upwards with minimal effort, which is good on such a warm day. At Cogman Clough the path dips sharply towards a ford, although today it isn't much more than a gentle stream easily crossed, even though PC manages to find the only wobbly stone to step on, then it's steep uphill again. However, when the short pull is over we're back on a moderately level path which leads us around the moor towards another stile.

Over the other side and we're circling Howden Dean in a steady, clear sweep high above Abbey Brook which we can only see if we peer downwards. The track turns slightly and on the other side is the sharp cleft of Gravy Clough. Presumably the water running down it is usually stained peaty brown, hence the name, but today it's clear and not a bit gravy-like. Our path winds away ahead of us and looking, as PC points out, like the road to Rivendell and it does have that otherworldly feel: no man-made structures in sight, just us and nature.

We are climbing a little now, and the path is becoming rockier in places. But the payback is that we're getting better views of the high moors and prominent features. With Berristers Tor across the valley our path turns sharply to the right and then splits: left over the stream of Sheepfold Clough or straight ahead on a track made for moorland management. We ignore the temptation of sitting by the stream and take the right hand track which leads across the moors. Yes, we're climbing now but it isn't too strenuous and the views are becoming more and more impressive as the panorama opens up around us. Pity about the heat haze which is shrouding everything, but we aren't complaining. There's quite a bit of fencing here, probably to segregate the areas used for rearing grouse, and there are plenty of grouse about with their strange croaking call and pantomime long-johns.

This is a wide swathe of a track and Lost Lad looks a very long way off, but it's surprising how quickly we're making time. It must be hunger driving us on, we've made a pact not to sit and eat until we know the bulk of the climbing is over. Too often we'd paid the price of eating early then lethargy setting in. We can't afford to do that today so we'll eat when we reach Lost Lad, and not before. We crest another rise and see the domed mound of Lost Lad with its prominent cairn over to our left, and know we haven't far to go. This is clearly a popular route as the path, which is peaty underfoot and will be grim in wet weather, has been paved. Not pretty but probably essential. A pause to admire the view then it's the push for the top. We race for it - Mollie is the outright winner (naturally), and I stand at the top with her as we wait for PC to catch up. She was spending longer admiring the views, obviously!

It's a splendid all round panorama here and we spend a few minutes taking it all in and savouring the feeling of accomplishment before finding a well placed rock to sit on. Lunch time, and do we need it!

PC pulls out a small bottle of pink champagne (what style!) and even has ice in a flask to chill the bottle and two posh glasses. This is high living at its very best! We pull on an extra layer of clothing (it's a bit breezy up here) then have a coffee before rapidly consuming the heavy salad and sandwiches, the chilling champers encouraging speed. Then PC does the honours and we're toasting my impending 21st (and some) as some other walkers reach the top of Lost Lad and give us a few curious glances. We don't care. This is good! Everything has taken on a mellow, rosy glow as we sip our drinks and smile at the world. Once we've lingered over the champagne we start on the sweet treats. Choc chip cookies smothered in the new Philadelphia cheese with chocolate. Sounds awful. Tastes wonderful. Then it's bun time - fat choux buns filled with fresh cream and topped with chocolate. They're like huge profiteroles and taste just as good. Suitably replete with finish off with another coffee, look at the time and realise, sadly, that we had better make a move. We're running short of time.

We head east towards the prominent rock formation of Back Tor with its white trig point (538 m) on top, firstly dropping down off Lost Lad then climbing sharply uphill before the paved path levels out. A few more steps up and we're level with Back Tor and walking along the edge towards our next path which turns right at Bradfield Gate Head. The path takes us gently down and we're disturbing plenty of grouse as we go. To our left are some weathered rocks and one looks surprisingly like Jabba The Hut from Star Wars. PC gives a shudder, obviously not one of her favourite characters.

Once we've dropped down a bit the path is long and descending steadily and it isn't long before we're all alone again. We're glad we didn't come up this way, it would have been a pretty featureless slog with little indication of progress. In poor visibility this route would be a nightmare. It's a longer path on the ground than it seems to be on the map, but eventually we meet up with the track coming off of Lost Lad (the shorter route) and we're heading on a clear, level track towards the reservoirs.

It's bleak and barren up here, although we're returning to the land of dry stone walls again and we can see across the Derwent Valley to the hills opposite. The path begins to dip and we reach the crossroads of paths above the derelict Bamford House and we have no option but to take the one straight down. The start of this path is not good; badly eroded, steep, rocky and with plenty of loose stones to catch under your boots and send you falling. If any path around here needs some work doing to it, this is the one. We're too busy watching where we put our feet to admire the scenery and PC is having to be especially careful as she doesn't have her walking poles to support her. However, we manage to make it down unscathed and we're soon through the gate which signals the end of the moors and the start of the reservoir.

It's just a steady walk back along the track now, though we're feeling a little weary. Even Mollie can't muster the enthusiasm to find a stick. Then it's down the steps at the side of the dam wall, across the grass at the bottom and rejoining the people who haven't wandered far from the car park. There are still frogs on the road (urgh) but we side-step them on our way back to Fairholmes then it's a short haul along the road to our cars.

Today has been amazing. The sun is still bright, it's still warm and we've had better walking conditions today than we've had on many summer walks. We're reluctant to leave, but we're already late so we have to pack up and go back to real life and responsibilities. The Easter break is close too, which means a break for us while the schools are out. But we have a great walk to look back on and sustain us during the lean weeks ahead.

Friday, 23 March 2012


Wow! We've done it again. The early fog has lifted and we have another fantastic day in prospect. This straight run of good weather is nothing short of miraculous, at the very least we expect a couple of walks leaving us soaking wet and squelching at this time of year (any time of year, to be honest) but we're not about to complain.

I'm late so PC is sat patiently in the car park at Upper Burbage Bridge waiting for me. Unfortunately she's forgotten the camera but has promised to take photos on her phone. Good job she's the techno one!

Despite the sunshine it is bitterly cold and at this high point (398m) we can really feel the wind. We both bemoan the fact that we'd been lulled into leaving one of our extra layers at home but with pull out hats, scarves and gloves as compensation. Mollie is clearly bored with waiting and is keen to be off, so much so that she's not too bothered by the traffic whizzing past.

We cross over Upper Burbage Bridge then turn through the gate onto the well-worn path which is part of the Sheffield Country Walk. However, instead of following the 'low road' we strike off to the left on the footpath which runs along the edge of Burbage Moor and Burbage Rocks.
It's a familiar route to us with its wonderful far-reaching views, but it is not as well used at the lower path, possibly due to the rougher terrain and the longer length. However, we enjoy being away from the crowds, and there are plenty of people about today.

We keep pausing to look over to Higger Tor and Carl Wark, and we can clearly see the spot where The Wood That Wasn't, isn't! (Must, must, must write about this at some point.)

The path descends to an unnamed stream, and Mollie pauses to have a drink before we hop over. It can be a little boggy around here, but today it isn't too bad and we're able to keep dry footed and mud free. Then it's up the slope at the other side and crossing the long path which runs from Hathersage to Whitelow at the other side of the Peak Park boundary. Once at the top of the slope we're amongst the rocks and find ourselves a suitable place to stop for a nip from PCs secret flask. Mine, alas, is empty as I forgot to refill it after last week, but PC has saved the day with her flask of Cointreau. It takes a bit of effort to unscrew the top, but the promised reward ensures our success and we're soon savouring the flavour of the Mediterranean whilst gazing over the Derbyshire Moors!

The breeze is still brisk so we pack up and move on. The path on this part of the walk is narrower with higher rock formations on the western side providing some shelter from the wind. Since the path is heading gently downhill we catch our first glimpse of Fox House in the distance and after a quick consultation we decide that we'd better stop for lunch here as there doesn't seem to be many promising spots further on.

We find ourselves an excellent seat and 'round table' amongst the brittle, brown bracken. A huge millstone, seemingly complete, lays abandoned and forgotten so we spread out on it for lunch. The usual sandwiches, heavy salad and coffee (biscuits and water for Mollie) are followed by fresh cream strawberry tarts - our bun of the day. The pastry is lovely and crisp, but it does make eating a little messy and Mollie is on the lookout for crumbs. We linger over coffee (longer than we should) then have to drag ourselves upwards and onwards.

The path leads us past a large, incomplete water trough - the outside perfectly shaped but the inside only partly hollowed - then down towards a gate onto the A6187. Mollie isn't so happy now that we've come to the road so we cross over and take the path through the top part of the Longshaw Estate to avoid the traffic. Even though the trees are yet to come into leaf it still feels like spring here and it is a lovely place to walk, although at weekends it is probably heaving with activity. The path leads us out onto the Grindleford Road (B6521) which we cross to skirt through the top edge of Longshaw to reach Fox House.

It's pretty grim trying to cross the road here, and the cars tend to hurtle past at a fair pace despite the blind bend, but we make it across then trudge up the A6187, cursing the parked cars which force us to walk on the road, until we reach the left hand unmade road (Byway open to all traffic) which is Houndkirk Road. Here we're able to walk danger-free again, unless we're assaulted by 4x4s.

Houndkirk Road seems to be a turnpike road built sometime in the 1750s, although I have seen a reference that it may, in fact be a Roman road. However, it's hard to find any detailed information on the internet due to the high number of forums etc devoted to the recent resurfacing/improvements to the road and the opinions of the wheeled community.

When we walk along the road, lovely and quiet today, we can see the evidence of the 'improvements' which includes the placing of large boulders to prevent motorised vehicles widening the road or driving on the moor. It is clear that the road has suffered greatly from heavy use and erosion making it a long winding scar across the landscape.

We're finding it quite pleasant, the wind has dropped (or maybe we've dropped out of the wind), and Mollie has plenty of stones to keep her amused. The landscape is pretty bleak and featureless but soon we see the distinctive mound of Houndkirk Hill which shields us from the sight of Sheffield's suburbs. The road seems to go on forever, but since it is reasonably evenly surfaced we make good time.

Eventually we turn left on another track which crosses Houndkirk (this is, I believe, Jumble Road) and we meet a man walking his huge 11 month old Great Dane. What an impressive dog! Very strong too, and it's owner has to keep a tight hold on this 'youngster'.

A little distance and we reach the edge of Lady Canning's Plantation, an extensive conifer wood filling the space between this track and Ringinglow. Although conifer woods are not the most attractive of places the lovely fresh pine scent (real, not manufactured!) fills the air.

We plan to walk the length of the lane, but are sidetracked (literally) by a narrow but distinct path through the heather. It isn't marked on the map but we decide to give it a go. It is running roughly in the right direction and if it turns out to be a blind alley we can always turn around.

As we walk forward we see a trig point (419m) and the huge wind sculptured stones known as the Ox Stones. These are definitely worth the detour as we wouldn't have known they were here if we hadn't made the effort. After a look around we decide not to follow the very muddy but vague path westwards (we aren't sure it actually goes anywhere useful) but follow a very clear path which takes us back towards our original destination, depositing us very nicely at the end of Jumble Road where it joins Ringinglow Road.

Now for the worst bit. We have to walk along the road back to the car park, but as it turns out it isn't that bad - although it seems less of a distance on the map than on the ground! The sun is dipping in the sky by the time we make it back to Upper Burbage Bridge and we've run out of time. We probably dawdled a bit too much on the outward stretch of the walk, then had to push the pace on the return, but we've thoroughly enjoyed it. Next week's walk will be a surprise - we haven't had time to plan it yet!

Friday, 16 March 2012


A bit of a departure from the normal for us this week, visiting parts we've never reached before. Not that they're far away, quite the contrary, but somehow we've never ventured here.
We meet up in the large car park in Eyam, across from the museum (worth a visit if you can avoid school-trips), and with large, pleasant public loos. Except that today they are closed for improvements. We pay the parking fee, consoling ourselves that the high charges are still a fair return for a full day's outing, and prepare to leave.

It isn't a particularly bright start to the day, low lying mist and fog have lain over much of the route here, but there has been a few promising patches of sunshine which we hope will gather strength as the day progresses. Even as we are pulling on our rucksacks the sky seems to be clearing, although that doesn't stop PC putting on gaiters and tying her heavy waterproof coat around her waist - just in case.

We walk out of the car park and turn left around the little corner shop to go through the village. We're still pretty early so the tourists keen to partake in a little plague history are few and far between. We have to keep crossing the road to keep on the pavement which, for some reason, doesn't keep to one side. Mollie fancies a trip into the church yard (probably to get away from the road, she has an aversion to traffic) but we persuade her to carry on with us.

Past the school and we take the 'high road' where the road splits, then once we reach the point where the road rejoins the 'low road' we cross over them both to a small tarmac path on the far side (Mill Lane). Behind us is a group of walkers, studying their maps and chatting. We don't really want to be caught up by them, although they seem
unsure as to which way to go.

A little way up this lane we come to the Lydgate Graves. Since church burials were suspended during the plague this became the burial site for plague victims, George and Mary Darby (father and daughter). There is a web site for Eyam village if anyone is interested at: which gives more information.

We pause to take a photo then continue on our way. By now the sun is out and it seems pretty obvious that the waterproofs aren't going to be needed. A little way on and we have a choice - there is a footpath straight ahead (with the possibility of cows in the fields) and a lane to the left which is a 'route with public access' (which usually means 4x4s). With minimal debate, and a promise to retreat if cows are encountered, we take the path straight ahead. Through a few gates next to some attractive cottages and we're crossing an open field with views towards woods on our left.

Soon the open field narrows through a narrow crush-stile for narrow people (with an option to divert over a broken down wall) into an enclosed track. By now, however, the group of walkers we'd seen back in Eyam are closing in on us at a fair pace, but they are strung out so we don't feel inclined to slow down to let them pass. When we reach the end of the track and go through the next gateway (fortunately not so narrow) the group have stopped somewhere and are nowhere in sight.

Ahead the path goes straight and slightly uphill towards the Eyam Boundary Stone which, in all honesty, could easily be overlooked if it wasn't for the indentation around it made by many reverential feet. We pass the boundary stone and walk up the slightly higher rise named The Cliff. Calling it The Cliff does seem an over-exaggeration but the views are pretty good. Behind us the walkers have caught up again and are now debating the finer points of the boundary stone.

As we set off down the hill towards Stoney Middleton the hoards descend upon us so we stand aside to let them pass. They seem very intent on getting somewhere very quickly so it seems better to let them get on with it. Once they're out of earshot we continue on our way, meandering down the hill at a more seemly pace, then through the gate at the bottom. We've now joined the 'route with public access' that we chose to ignore earlier. We take the looping back road at Stoney Middleton and pass near the church which, if it wasn't for the walking group clustered in a huddle in the churchyard, we would have photographed.

We press on, cross the A623 which isn't too busy at the moment, then on up the steep hill between the village cross and the pub. By now the early mist has more or less burnt off and the sun is shining. We're only a few yards up the steep slope (bet it's murder in winter) when PC calls a halt to the proceedings to allow her to remove a couple of layers. Yes, it's warming up.

This is the part of Stoney Middleton you seldom see. From the main road at the bottom the overriding impression is of a dark, gloomy village, flanked by glowering cliffs and best passed through as quickly as possible. However, here the perpetual shade of the valley bottom has been exchanged for an open aspect which only improves the higher up the hill you go. By the time we turn left onto the footpath towards Coombs Dale we are able to stop to enjoy the broad distant views from our vantage point. There's still some haze in the distance making Froggatt Edge indistinct, but there's still plenty to look at.

We keep on the obvious path, pass through a field gate then on until we come to another new gate. It seems that this walk, new to us, is popular enough to have had it's gates and stiles upgraded. Through the gate the path remains obvious, sweeping down to our left, although we had hoped that the right hand path (on the map) would have been clear on the ground. Since it isn't, and the terrain makes it impossible to see it anywhere, we decide to the follow the left hand path as it will still take us to where we want to be.

Down across an open field, then a couple of stiles and a dried up stream bed and we're in Coombs Dale. This is a really pretty, wooded spot with a stream on the right and a few carefully placed benches. We make for one and sit down, not particularly in need of a rest but determined to enjoy a nip of Ramblers. The secret flask is emptied (must remember to refill when I get home) and we savour the drink as we watch Mollie play with sticks and stones whilst failing to notice a rabbit hopping nearby.

We stroll on a little further marvelling at the quiet. This dale is right on the edge of Stoney Middleton and easily accessible so we expected to see a few locals walking here, but no. We eventually come across the path we had hoped to take at the top of the hill, and a quick peek to see how clear it is shows the bottom of it (this end) fairly distinct but where it goes from there is anyone's guess.

We keep to our path and as we reach some beautifully structured cliffs with the stream running beneath we spy another bench, and decide that fate has placed it here for us. We sit down and fetch out lunch. Sandwiches, heavy salad, coffee and the buns. A very healthy option this week. Fresh Cream Apple Tarts with a custardy base. Surely these must count as one of our five a day! They are devoured with alarming speed (why don't buns last longer?) and since we can feel a chill here in the partial shade we decide to pack up and carry on.

This kind of walking is so easy. Yes, we see a herd of cyclists, a couple out walking, then two singles, but that's it for other people. We can stroll along without having to bother about finding our way (although a slight miscalculation in the map reading does mean that we're not as far on as we thought) and we're hardly taxing ourselves.

As we reach the end of the woods I see cows ahead but PC reassures me that they are all safely behind a fence. Fine for her to talk! When we get closer we see that one of them has escaped its boundary and is standing on our side!. I walk past at an increased pace whereas PC stops to take a photo. She has no fear.

It's at this point that I make the discovery that we aren't as far on in our walk as I'd thought, but the sun is shining, the cows are behind us and all feeling right with the world. We've plenty of time and we don't have to rush.

The path here is stony and is leading us gently uphill with the shape of the valley becoming more distinct as we leave the last vestiges of the woods behind. There's a barred-off mine entrance on our left leading to Sallet Hole Mine, now disused (I believe). The next stretch of the walk is known as Rough Side and soon we're at the top of it and going through a gate to a junction of paths. This is Black Harry Gate and we'll be turning right and walking up Black Harry Lane.

Who was Black Harry? Well, it seems that he was an 18th Century highwayman who preyed on travellers and mule trains crossing the moors. Tradition has that he met his end on the Gallows Tree, Wardlow Mires, where he was hung, drawn and quartered for his crimes, but it is equally possible that he was executed at York. And it is more likely that he took his name from the lane, rather than the lane being named after him, since this was one of his favourite haunts.

So much for Black Harry, we press on up the lane which is steep(ish) and bounded by drystone walls. From here there are excellent views of the rolling limestone plateau. Looking back we can see the enormity of the Blakedon Hollow, a 'lagoon' constructed in the 1970's (after demolishing Black Harry Farm) to take the waste from local fluorospar workings.

The lane levels at the top for a while before starting to descend to meet the minor road from Stoney Middleton To Cavendish Mill. We cross the road and are now heading downhill toward the Darlton quarry. The shadows are lengthening now but the sun is still warm and we're still meandering at a steady pace. The quarry comes into view, not pretty but essential to the local economy, and there is an explanatory board for anyone who is interested.

The lane narrows to a path and we have to be careful as it emerges onto the main driveway of the quarry. A lorry passes us, then we take the narrow, steep and slippy path through the trees to the main road. There, we're back at the side of the A623. Now it's a trek up the B6521 road to Eyam. At least there's a walkway, of sorts, at the side of the road, but that only extends halfway up. After that we have to be cautious of traffic coming towards us, and there is quite a bit of it.

Soon we're up at the top and on the level again. Eyam village is busier now, the plague visitors are out in force, but we're intent on getting back to the cars, even though it would be good to linger.

It has been a brilliant walk, great weather, varied terrain, different things to see, and not much of a strain. We're wondering how long our luck will last, surely we're due a deluge soon! Fingers crossed it won't be next week.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Moors, Reservoirs and Stone Circles

Last week must have been a fluke so it's a good job that we aren't exactly expecting bright sunny skies and sub-tropical weather. And although it is clear, more or less, we can see potential rainclouds on the horizon and when we emerge into the open at our meeting place we are hammered by a bitterly cold wind. Thankfully we've brought extra layers, just in case.

Today we're pretty close to the edge of the National Park boundary and we've parked our cars at the small, high car park at Shillito Wood. (Grid ref 295 750). It's wonderfully deserted as we arrive, but by the time we're organised three more cars have pulled up.

We spend a little time debating on today's buns. In an uncharacteristic rush of indecisiveness I'd been unable to choose our treat this morning, so ended up bringing three kinds of bun for PC to make the final decision. What a shame there's only room for one each in the rucksacks, I'll have to eat the others later!

There are lovely views from the car park and there's also a handily placed information board which we wander over to so as to take in a few details. Apparently this is part of an old route across the moors.We turn around and set off through the woods, allowing Mollie off the lead to run off some of her energy.

The peaty path here is quite deep underfoot and heavily churned up by horses' hooves so it's much easier walking on the grass between the trees.

A little way into the wood is an old stone cross, 13th or 14th century and attributed to Beauchief Abbey. It is known by various names, Shillito Wood Cross, Bole Hill Cross and Shepherds Cross, but would have provided a way-marker in the days before maps, road signs and tarmac roads!

We walk through the wood then emerge onto the road at the bottom and crossing over to the gate at the other side which leads onto Ramsley Moor. The path is smooth and wide, but wet and muddy in places. At the side of the path is a carved stone, relatively new, and as we look at it and read the words (PC commenting on the carving that 'hands are hard to do' - I'll take her word for it) we are unaware at that point that we'll meet up with more of this stones on our walk. (There is a web site and more detailed guide to the stones, if anyone is interested, at: )

Despite the path being wet it is easy walking. The moor is a fairly barren place, all dead dried out grasses and patches of bog. The land rises up to our right, and there's another cross up there, and the correct line of the path goes there too but we follow the easier track which curves around and takes us over a small stream which runs into the larger, (nameless, so far as I can find out) stream which runs beneath Hewitts Bank. The path runs through some trees, mainly birch to our left and fenced off mixed woodland to our right, and here the path deteriorates dramatically. Deeply churned and extremely boggy we're forced to bank-hop to keep our feet dry. Mollie, naturally, doesn't care and splashes straight through the middle of it all.

The sogginess extends quite some distance before we rise up out of it and by now we can almost see the end of this stretch of the walk. Luckily the sun is trying to break out, not that it is much warmer, so we debate a while on what to do. Our original plan, we now realise, would have us returning to the cars far too early, so after a quick consultation with the map, and some hasty calculations, we decide that we should press forward and extend our planned walk by - well, quite a lot actually.

We go through the gate (why are gateways always so boggy) , cross over the rocky track called Carr Road, and clamber over the opposite stile that leads us through Greaves's Place with Smeekly Wood away to our right. This is a less used path than the one across Ramsley Moor (the gates are locked shut so access is only via the stiles - no horses, bikes or 4x4s) so we're dry shod now as we climb slowly uphill. We keep looking back as the higher we climb (it's not a hard climb, more of a gentle but persistent gradient) the more of the rear view opens up to us.

Eventually we come to a stile onto the main A621 - if it can be called a stile. The step has disappeared, leaving a short post to balance on. Mollie seems confused, so I go over first, showing all the agility of a world class gymnast (thank goodness no cars were coming), Mollie seems to get the idea and follows. Then it's PC's turn and she's cursing even though it's not much of a struggle for her.

We cross over the road and are faced with a stile of stone steps then a tarmac track onto Big Moor. We haven't gone very far before we come upon a large stone waymarker (with Shefield on one side, and something illegible on the other) accompanied by one of the new stone carvings. This is a very cold, bleak and desolate place, and we don't hang around.

The tarmac path leads us towards Barbrook Reservoir and it's accompanying works buildings. However, the reservoir is almost empty and looks to have been like that for some time. We walk along the eastern edge of the once-reservoir with the intention of finding the stone circle nearby. At the northern corner I head off onto the moor looking for the circle, with PC providing the line of sight, essential since I have to avoid a huge area of undrained bog. Alas, the circle could not be found due to the very deep, tussocky grass (we weren't the only ones looking for it, a group of four were hunting around and seemed to be equally unsuccessful). It's a shame it has become buried by the grass as it is apparently one of the largest in the Peak District (see Barbrook 3 for more details and photos).

I struggle through the grass to join PC and Mollie and we wander back to the bank of the defunct reservoir to make use of its wall as a comfortable seat on which to relax and eat lunch out of the ever present wind. Sandwiches (PC) and heavy salad (me) are eaten first then out come the Chosen Buns. Fresh Cream Banoffee Pies, and we even have forks to eat them with. No calories written on the packaging, so they are fat, sugar and everything-free, and we're even getting one of our 5-a-day (well almost). They are positively healthy - and very yummy too. We finish off with coffee and are feeling more in need of a nap than getting up and walking again.

But we have to make an effort, so we set off down the track past the reservoir works and southwards. We're following the line of Bar Brook now and even though there isn't much water in the reservoir there's plenty in the brook. We'd seen a sign warning us of machinery and we finally spot a digger way over to our right, almost out of sight - too far away to be much of a hindrance to us.

The brook leads us towards another, smaller and unnamed mini reservoir which is very reminiscent of tarns in the Lake District. On the edge of the outflow are two ducks participating in, what can only be called, extreme bathing. They are submerging and splashing about whilst avoiding being swept over the edge. When we get closer they swim off, trying to look nonchalant, but we'd seen them. At the base of the outflow is a pretty little copse of trees which must be a welcome shady spot in summer.

We continue on the path, and come upon yet another newly carved stone, along with one a little way down the bank, but after trying to decipher the words we give up. We're out for a walk, not for mind-stretching activities. (Check the web site above if you're interested.)

A little way further, though, and we are rewarded with the discovery of another Stone Circle. This one is very clear and easily accessible so we spend a little time looking around it before continuing. The light is slanting across the moors now and we have left some of the barrenness behind us as the vista ahead opens up.

The track leads us to a stile next to a white gate back onto the A621, and across the road we have the same to negotiate again to return onto Ramsley Moor. The path is at a slight angle to the road and curves gently around until it reaches Ramsley Reservoir. We pause to look around, remarking how good the views have been today for relatively little effort. Yes, we've walked quite a distance but it hasn't exactly been difficult. No hard climbs at all.

Ramsley Reservoir, like Barbrook, is almost empty, and we climb the stile to walk across its dam, then over another stile to reach the short stretch of path which takes us to the road. Then we've only a short distance on the wide road verge to walk before we're back at Shillito Woods and the cars.

This has been an extremely rewarding walk and one that we're sure we'll be repeating at some time in the future, and for next week we're planning a trip into the great unknown (for us, anyway).

Friday, 2 March 2012

OUTLAWS AND HEROES - Robin Hood to Nelson

Wow! This is unbelievable. Another fine day on the horizon, and our walking day too. Are we lucky or are we lucky? (Perhaps it's time we starting buying lottery tickets!) Yes, the sun is already shining even though it's only just past 9.30 am and it feels like SPRING, even though it isn't, officially, for a while yet.

We pull up in the car park at the side of the Robin Hood pub, the well known hostelry on the Chesterfield side of Baslow nestling beneath Birchen Edge. There's plenty of room for our cars even though there are already four mini-buses here and some other vehicles too. On sunny weekends this car park is usually full to overflowing with a scrubby field across the road being pressed into use for the excess, but no such problems mid-week.

Today's walk is going to be much shorter than usual - family commitments demand attention - but we're still looking forward to it, and so is Mollie. She's quickly settled down to the idea of these outings and seems delighted to be with us (the dog biscuits in my pocket have nothing whatsoever to do with her enthusiasm).

No need for waterproofs today but somehow the rucksacks don't seem to be a lot lighter as we leave the car park and walk the few yards up the road to the beginning of the path to Birchen Edge. As we walk up the slight slope PC has a moment of consternation - is that a stile at the top? She had an injection in her hip yesterday and has been told to 'take it easy'. Somehow a stile doesn't quite fall into that category, but she needn't have worried. It's a gate (phew) and we're straight through it and onto the broad path.

It's light woodland here and, for now at least, sheepless so Mollie is allowed off the lead to chase sticks and stones - one of her favourite hobbies.

Meanwhile we walk along catching up on what has been a hectic week on the domestic front. Oh, is it good to talk.

There's a path up to the right, climbing steeply up onto the Edge, but we decide to keep to the 'low road' where the going is easy. We'll be able to go up to the Edge later on and with less effort. Even from the lower path, though, we have fantastic views down towards Baslow and of the surrounding moors.

The rocks of Birchen Edge rise steeply on our right and there's already a group of hard - hatted climbers making their way up.

Seems too much like hard work to us, but to each his own.
After a while the woods (if the sparse clusters of birch trees can really claim to be serious woodland) thin out even more and the moor unfolds before us. It isn't late and we aren't planning to walk too far but it seems the spot to fetch out the flask so we make our way across the tussocky bleached grass to find an appropriately sized rock to sit on. Out comes the coffee (no Ramblers today, the short walk doesn't warrant it) and we sit in the sunshine enjoying our drinks, watching the horses in a field up ahead and enjoying the peace. There isn't another soul about. Probably just as well really, we wouldn't want them listening in on our conversation.

It's a very mellow feeling, and one that we'd love to prolong, but we decide we'd better move on so we retrace our steps to the path and begin to look for a spot where we can go up onto the Edge. There isn't a clear path but we're pretty good at finding our way and eventually we spy a possible route up. It's one of those paths that you can't see from a distance but when you're on it you can follow it fairly easily, and it takes us up onto the Edge with relative ease. Then we turn and look back. The view from here is stunning. So much reward for so little effort.

Then I notice cows grazing down below. Effectively they are on the same part of the moor as us, there are no field boundaries or walls, and they have left 'evidence' all along the Edge, which means they are no strangers to the view from here, but I am really really glad that today they are a long way off.

Firstly we amble along the path running NE but it doesn't really go anywhere, or rather it doesn't go anywhere we want to go, so we turn about and set off towards the trig point (310m) on the Edge. Just before we get to it, though, we find the perfect spot to sit down for lunch. A slight landslip near the edge of the ridge has left a bench shaped depression on the ground. It's as though it was made for us and it would seem ungrateful if we ignored it.

So we eat our sandwiches and drink our coffee (Mollie has her water and biscuits, naturally, although she does seem hopeful that she'll get something better) whilst enjoying the sun-enhanced view. Then it's bun time. PCs turn today, and because we're having to forgo the Ramblers she's brought chocolate cheesecakes as a special (super-high calorie) treat. And a treat they are, even though we only have one spoon between us and I have had to fashion another 'spoon' from some plastic packaging with my trusty boys-own knife. Ray Mears would be proud.

We check the time and know we can't linger too long, so up we get and continue along the path, past the trig point and towards the huge mounds of rock ahead. They are very impressive when approached from this direction and we can almost see why they were chosen to be the 'Three Ships'.

On the right, on the edge of the Ridge is Nelson's Monument, a tall obelisk with a sphere on the top commemorating Nelson's death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The three ships are named after three of those in Nelson's fleet at Trafalgar:

Defiance and Royal Soverin (yes, that's the spelling). The Victory and Royal Soverin were 100 gun ships whilst the Defiance carried 74 guns. At the base of the Defiance is another carving in the rock, much eroded, with the initials ?EC? and the date 1766. We can only speculate what this relates to the date of birth of the carver or of someone on one of the ships, or some other significant moment in time for someone completely unrelated to the Battle of Trafalgar with the carved date predating any notion to erect a monument to Nelson.

We leave the ships, the monument and the climbers (who seem to be using the monument as a focus) and continue on our way, conscious that we have to make it back to the car park early. This section of the walk is level (apart from the rocks in the path) and easy whilst still maintaining the wonderful views.

The path does become quite narrow in places (we have to step aside to let someone pass in the opposite direction) and since we've found it easier to let Mollie run loose instead of tripping us up she rewards us by rolling in some cow poo! Ungrateful dog - glad she's going home in the car with PC and not me!

Eventually the path curves around and we make a quick descent down the steep path we'd ignored on our way out. Then we're back on the 'low road' again and only have a short stretch back to the car park.

To say it has only been a short walk it has been an excellent one. The weather has been great and the views spectacular for minimal effort. It's no wonder this is such a magnet for the weekend walkers or less adventurous, but mid-week it's a pretty good choice as the crowds are out of the way.

Fingers crossed that the Spring weather continues for next week.