Tuesday, 27 November 2012


We're going for one of PC's favourites this week as it's her pre-birthday walk, so even though we've done it before we're doing it again - and choosing the harder route.

As usual we meet up in the layby near the Yorkshire Bridge Inn, giving ourselves plenty of time for the walk. With the cold, wet weather we aren't surprised to be the only ones out today, although for now the overnight deluge has ceased. And we have Mollie today too.

First of all we walk up towards the huge dam wall then take the footpath sharp left which zig-zags downwards through the trees to the road and the Yorkshire Bridge over the River Derwent. 

We pause for a moment to watch the fast flowing river, then walk up the road on the western bank. We come to an attractive water run-off beside some stone steps. These are the beginning of what will be a steep climb.

This first flight of steps gets the leg muscles warmed up and as we reach the disused railway line Mollie hurtles off to play with a couple of other dogs. Their owners offer dire warnings to us when they realise that we're continuing upwards rather than taking the level track. It's easy to see why.

Once Mollie has come back to us we embark on the climb up the side of Parkin Clough; a steep unrelenting slog up that reminds us of the Secret Stairs at the Pass of Cirith Ungol (Lord of the Rings fans will know exactly what we mean) and has us re-enacting scenes from the film ("Come on, Mr Frodo."  "I can't make it, Sam." etc etc). It's a good job there isn't anyone around to hear or see us!

Despite the steepness of the path, and the slippery stones, we do make relatively good time and aren't struggling as we did some years ago when we last came this way (and yes, we did the Sam and Frodo scenes then, too!) We may be getting older but we must be getting fitter by way of compensation.

A couple of women walkers pass us going down - we don't envy them making their way down the slippery path - then PC remarks how unusual it is for us to see women walkers out. She's right. It's very rare for us to see pairs of women (even rarer to see single women) out on the hills. It's usually men, or women with men, or mixed groups.

After pondering that for a while we press on upwards, and the path becomes less challenging once it has been crossed by the Ladybower to Aston footpath. It's still uphill, though, but we soon pass through a small gateway and onto the slope of Win Hill.

There are neatly laid steps here for erosion control. They do a good job protecting the path, but are less gentle on the knees. As we press on up the steps the full force of wind - which had only filtered down to us earlier - starts to make itself felt. We drag on another layer and plod on.

As we are struggling to find armholes that are flapping around in the gale a single walker (male) strides past us on his way to the top. He only has on a thin waterproof jacket and we both bet that he's feeling the cold. We're wearing about 5 layers each and we can still feel the chill.

The last time we were up Win Hill we had walked up from Hope, it had been snowing and the wind was howling. It was quite a feat of endurance back then, but today we only had the wind to contend with even though it was constantly buffeting us and trying to blow us off our feet.

We slipped over the top of the hill, ignoring the Trig Point, and found a hollow in which to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee (and a nip from the secret flask). We had a lovely view over the reservoirs and the long ridges beyond. It feels really good to think, yes, we've walked there, and there, and the views from that spot are wonderful.

We can also see the lone walker now running down a path below us, heading for the trees. We wonder if, perhaps, he is running to keep warm!

After our coffee we set off again and on our way down the western slope of the hill we see two more walkers coming towards us from the Hope Path. And they are two young women. So that's twice in a day that we've encountered women walkers. Excellent.

We find the narrow, indistinct path through the heather to our right and turn onto it. The peaty path is quite slippery and we manage to put up a grouse from its cosy spot, it rises clucking and chuckling with annoyance as its stubby wings propel it a couple of feet off the ground.

As we reach the bottom of the path we come to a fence, and a choice. Straight ahead is the path directly down to the reservoir, but we know from experience that this path can be muddy and slick at the best of times. Also, it will takes us back far too soon - we've made extremely good time and it isn't even lunch time.

So instead we turn left and take the path that skirts to the top of the wooded valley. We decide not to walk right next to the fence line but keep to the moor path which, whilst being less well-trod, is more direct, cutting out a sharp up-and-down that we're happy to avoid.

There are a couple of 'interesting' bits (PC's words, not mine) where we have to cross small streams, but the ground isn't as boggy nor the streams as deep as they could be.

It's quite a long way, on the map, to our turn-off path but we find that the reasonably level ground (if you discount the heather, stones, rocks and general moorland obstacles) makes for easy walking. We're contouring rather than climbing so we cover a lot of ground fairly quickly.

We turn right through a gate in the fence line which takes us back into the woods. There's plenty of grass beneath the trees here, the plantation isn't too dense, and we soon find ourselves a fallen tree on which to sit and enjoy lunch.

I did say it was PC's pre-birthday walk. So out comes the (small) bottle of wine for a toast. It's nicely chilled - naturally! - and we enjoy it in not-quite-cut-glass plastic cups. Doesn't affect the taste one bit.

We eat our sandwiches quickly, because we want to get to the puddings. Fresh cream and jam scones - PC confesses that she likes scones in all their many varieties - and these are good ones. Loads of cream and very stodgy. Yum. Mollie is allowed to lick out the carton they came in - makes a change from her dog biscuits. We follow the scones with coffee then, because it's birthday time, we each have a small tiramisu. By the time we've managed that we are well and truly full and feeling in need of a post-lunch nap to sleep off the excess calories.

But we can't have a snooze, so we pack up - rucksacks much lighter - and set off downhill. The light seems to be fading. It's a lot darker under the trees but maybe the clouds are gathering too, and of course dusk does fall much earlier at this time of year.

We walk down the rutted path and through the large gate at the bottom, turning left on the wide bridleway. Very easy walking now as we go steadily downhill until, at last, we reach the broad track which flanks the long arm of Ladybower. From here it's a straight, easy to follow if not quite level walk back along the length of the reservoir and around to the dam wall.

By the time we reach the dam the light is fading fast and the wind catches us anew as we leave the shelter of the trees. We don't think we've ever been out so close to dusk and we can see the lights of cars and houses clearly. As we walk across the dam path the wind is howling, and it is blowing through the hollow railings making an eerie, whistling sound - our very own wind orchestra!

It isn't far from here back to the cars, and by the time we have removed our gear and prepared to set off we have to use our headlights. It's been an excellent, long day and, for the time of year, a remarkably fine one too.


  1. I enjoyed reading this account of your walk and the landscape you covered is one that is very familiar to me. I enjoyed your use of present tenses in the writing. You seem to have taken a helluva lot of food up there with you! Perhaps you should have hired a sherpa for the day!

    1. Well, we certainly do enjoy our food, but the extra buns were for a birthday treat. And a sherpa might be a very good idea, given the amount of gear we deem necessary in our rucksacks!

  2. I certainly concur that Parkin Clough is very steep and slippery, especially the tree roots.

    I, too, have noticed a lot more women out walking in the Peak District these last few weeks; I wonder if there is some sort of organised initiative.

    1. Yes, Parkin Clough can be a bit grim, but the stream running through it is lovely. No idea why there are more women out and about, but it's good that they're catching on, it is certainly the best form of exercise.