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!