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.