Thursday, 6 December 2012


It's bitterly cold and icy but the clear skies mean it is a perfect walking day, although it is a bit tricky on some of the roads as the temperature has only just touched 0 degrees!

We meet in the car park in the middle of Hathersage. Although we've parked here before, and managed to walk through Hathersage on a couple of walks, this will be the first time we have chosen to actually centre our walk here.

First we debate on our route, something we didn't have time to plan in any detail last week, and once that minor issue is settled we try to decide how long we're going to take so we can feed the greedy parking machine. We opt for the maximum time - and maximum cost - as we don't want to rush. Then it's on with our gear, get Mollie out of the car and set off.

There is a path from the bottom of the car park leading through the grounds of the methodist church to the main road, which we cross over and turn right, skirting the post office before taking the small back lane up to join Baulk Lane.

Here we pause to check the map, it is always more confusing finding the right route in towns and villages with their tiny lanes and hidden corners. As we study the map another walker comes up to us and relates his 'near miss' on the black ice as he drove here, then he strides on his way.

Satisfied that we know exactly where we are we head off up Baulk Lane, turning right onto a footpath heading uphill towards the church. At the side of the gate leading to this path is a plaque stating Shuttleworth Memorial Path.

We assume (but may be wrong) that it is in memory of the local squire, Captn James Shuttleworth, who, in 1784 opened the supposed grave of Little John (he of Robin Hood fame) and found a thigh bone 32" long. Whether the character of Little John is fact or fiction, it's a good story, and PC is keen to visit Little John's grave in the churchyard.

We head up the path towards the church, enjoying some lovely views NW. The chuchyard is entered through a gate and we're surprised at how large it is, and how neat. We walk up towards the church and pause to look at the weathered gargoyles up above us. Then we turn right towards the famous grave. But before we get to it we are confronted by a parking meter! No, it isn't to make sure anyone who outstays their welcome is fined, but a novel collecting box to help with the upkeep of the church and yard. Just beyond the parking meter is the grave, yew trees at its head and foot, and impossibly long.

We retrace our steps to the church and continue through the churchyard, stopping at a tree with gnarled and twisted branches which must provide a haven for wildlife, then we step out of the churchyard to ponder our way again. Fortunately PC spots a footpath sign so we turn left and though a small gate into a field.

It's lucky that it is such a frosty morning or we'd be walking through a quagmire. The ground is rutted and covered with fallen leaves, but we can tell that it would be pretty grim underfoot if it wasn't so cold.

We walk uphill through the field, have another choice of paths, and decide to take the one on the tarmac road. It's a quiet lane, more of a long driveway to a farm, so we aren't likely to meet much - if any - traffic. It's a steady uphill climb and soon we're at another fork. So many decisions to make!

We turn right, leaving the tarmac behind and entering what feels like an ancient lane, a hollow way between two high banks. It's muddy at the top, where we pause to admire the view, and as it continues uphill we walk on the right hand bank instead as the hollow path is tangled with brambles and saplings, clearly no longer used.

As the path brings us below Toothill Farm we struggle to find the way ahead. 

From here it seems to be blocked, although there is a path to the right so we decide to follow that instead as it shouldn't take us too far out of our way. Again we have some spectacular views behind us: Abney, Mam Tor, Hathersage, the cement works!

We follow the path to where we can walk up to the access land behind Toothill Farm, going though a gap in the wall. Here we struggle through the dead bracken and brambles, keeping the wall on our left and sending Mollie on ahead, but she's more intent on finding interesting things to sniff.

Eventually we make it to the proper path and can just about tell where it goes down to the farm. From this side it can be seen, from the other - no chance. We pause for long enough to have a drink from the secret flask - well, we need warming up on a cold day like today - and the Ramblers Restorative goes down extremely well. I'd filled up the flask this morning and know that I only have one more refill left in the big bottle. Time to start making some more - PC will never forgive me if we run out.

Suitably lubricated we continue uphill on a clear path though the bracken which soon brings us out onto a rough track which will take us to the road. At the end of the track is a huge, flat stone boulder begging to be used as a seat, so we settle down for a while to enjoy a coffee and one of PC's homemade mince pies. Just enough to fuel our next leg of the journey.

We turn left up the road and keep to the verge, although Mollie isn't too keen on the traffic whizzing past. The views here are superb; Stanage Edge, Higger Tor, Hathersage Moor. And they are even better given that we have wonderful early-winter sunlight which adds a golden hue to everything.

At the top of the lane we turn left onto the lane running along Cattis-side Moor and beneath Stanage Edge. There are a few walkers up on the Edge today, but not as many as we would have expected.

We follow the road, do our own impromptu interpretation of Dancing on Ice when we discover that part of the road has turned into a skating rink, pause at the conveniently situated toilets, then head down to the car park to commandeer a picnic table for lunch.

The sun has started to dip, a few clouds have gathered and it has suddenly turned bitterly cold. Lunch is eaten quickly although the coffee warms us up. Buns for today are chocolate pecan cheesecakes - a new 'special' range from Morrisons - but they don't really live up to expectations. PC likes the thick biscuit base, I think it's too thick, but neither of us can taste a hint of pecan, although the chocolate is good. Perhaps we're getting too choosy!

We don't linger, so after leaving some biscuit crumbs for the birds we set off back, picking up the footpath behind the toilets which go sharply downhill. We pass a group of walkers straggling uphill as we negotiate the rubbly path which has enough water run-off running down it to turn it into a temporary stream.

At the bottom we go through a gate onto a smooth, green field path and stop for photos. Then we look around. Wow! 

There is Stanage Edge, lit by the sun and framed by the trees. This view is sudden and startling, but if it was seen on the way up it would be slowly uncovered and the wow-factor would be lost. It serves to remind us though, that when out walking it is worth looking back every now and then.

We follow the grassy path gently downhill and come to North Lees Hall. It is the first time either of us have seen this lovely Elizabethan building, made famous in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre as Thornfield Hall, and we spend some time admiring it. There is a lovely description of the property, along with historical notes at:

Yes, this is a site for renting the Hall (it is now a holiday let) but the site is very interesting.

We walk down the long drive from the Hall until we come to the road and turn right. We pass Bronte Cottage (doesn't look terribly Bronte-ish) then take the footpath across the road. It's level here, running at the side of the Hood Brook then skirting Brookfield Manor, and what could possibly be an old mill.

The path here narrows as it squeezes between a hedge and a fence, and in places it is completely submerged. At the far side we go though a narrow gate and into another long field.

The sun has well and truly lost its glow now and the breeze is feeling chillier. We cross the field and pass a group of houses on our left. Ahead is a coal lorry delivering to one of the houses, completely blocking the lane, but there is a small gate to one side so we are able to get past. We've reached the allotments now and it is only a short distance along Baulk Lane before we're back in the centre of Hathersage.

There are still plenty of people about but we swiftly cross the road and head up past the Methodist Chapel to the car park.

It has been an excellent day in an area that we really haven't covered before, but it has been well worth the effort. Although the temperature can't have been much above freezing all day it hasn't felt too bad with the benefit of sunshine and we're left wondering how much longer our luck will hold out!


  1. Some lovely photos of an area I know well...I too also regularly stop and look behind me to admire the view.

    1. Thank you. And yes, you see some real gems by pausing to look back - as well as giving you an excuse to stop for a breather, especially on an uphill slog!