Monday, 17 December 2012


It's a grim morning; frosty, murky and cold. And we've both managed to be late. Quite an achievement even for us.

When we eventually manage to haul ourselves to the main Baslow car park it is very quiet. Clearly the prospect of a freezing cold walk has dimmed the enthusiasm of all but the hardiest of souls. First of all we consult the map as we're both a bit vague as to our planned route. With memories refreshed we decide that we'd be better parking nearer Bubnell since Mollie hates roads and starting from the centre of the village will mean having a fair walk on the main road. So, no sooner have we arrived than we're back in the cars again.

We drive down to West End where we turn onto the Bubnell road where we find somewhere to park next to the curb without obstructing any houses or the bus stop. Probably on a busy day this wouldn't be possible, or even fair on the locals, but there aren't many cars about today.

As soon as we're ready we head up the road for a few paces before stopping to look at the bridge. Baslow Bridge is a Grade 1 listed building (and a scheduled monument) dating mostly from the early 17th century (1608 is inscribed on one wall) and is easily missed by traffic thundering through Baslow on the A623.

We spot the footpath we need directly across the road from the bridge, and it's a good job we have a decent map as the path is narrow and the sign obscured by rampant ivy. We walk up the path and into a large field - the first of many - and as we climb gently uphill we keep pausing to admire the views; the village in the foreground, Baslow and Curbar Edges behind. To the north we can see the distinctive 'E R' letters where plants with contrasting foliage have been grown in huge rectangles. It seems these were planted in or around 2002, probably to commemorate the Queen's s golden jubilee.

The path is pretty direct and easy to follow even though it isn't particularly distinct on the ground, but it does have a couple of leg-stretching stone stiles and a very narrow crush.

Eventually the path veers gently to the left leading us down to Wheatlands Lane which is narrow and, in parts, icy. It dips and rises a bit and we're careful to avoid the slippy bits, and we get well out of the way when the odd car comes past.

As we pass Toost Wood we turn right over another stile next to a gate, then we cross a small rough field before going through a gate into a long, narrow wood. This is Bank Wood (South) and at last Mollie can go off the lead for a run and to terrorise some sticks.

There are some lovely views from here across to the Edges, although the village is lost in the dip. It feels colder in the wood, even though we are sheltered from the wind. At the far end of the wood we can see a clearing - and a bench. Lunch beckons!

As we enter the clearing we can see the huge 'cliffs'  of a quarry - Back Dale Mine - not a particularly inspiring view but at least the bench faces away from it so we can enjoy views over farmland and what appears to be some very degraded ridge and furrow ploughing.

We have a nip from the secret flask first to warm us up, then a coffee to help a little more. Then we eat the sandwiches - never terribly inspiring - followed by double chocolate chip muffins (Co-op brand). These are seriously chocolaty, very rich with a good number of chocolate chunks on top for good measure. The cold has made them very hard, which I like, although PC would prefer to have them warmed up in the microwave! All we 'll need then is the cream (brandy cream for preference) and she'll be more than satisfied.

We finish off with more coffee then make haste to set off again. It really is too cold to hang around.

We leave the clearing and enter the northern part of Bank Wood, and again Mollie can run. Fortunately we have now lost sight of the quarry. Mollie chooses a branch of extreme proportions then tries to squeeze past us with it. Not a good idea!

The path turns right and goes through a gate in the wall then drops down to Bramley Lane, a minor road. Here we dog-leg slightly as we cross over to enter Bramley Wood, another linear wood but with a lighter, airier feel. As we near the end of the wood we come to a low, dark tunnel in the rhododendrons where the path cuts through them - it's actually rather nice and quite magical. We bet children must love it.

Out at the other side and PC pauses to photograph frost covered bracken; it is more exposed here and more like moorland than woodland, although it is only a few paces before we're back into woods again.

We have a choice of right (back over the fields to Bramley Farm and Baslow) or left towards Calver. We choose the left hand path and are very quickly on a slippery, downward slope. The frost hasn't helped a great deal and we have to pick our way down with great care, but we manage it in one piece.

It's stiles and fields again now, and as we dip down and climb up again heading towards the village our rambling conversation has turned to an 'O' level photography project we undertook whilst studying for our 'A' levels (many, many years ago) when we visited what was then Sheffield Polytechnic. We had to produce a couple of short films, and after we've reminded ourselves how awful our attempts were we sincerely hope that our endeavours were swiftly erased. Thank goodness there was no internet back then.

By now we're almost in the village and despite the multitude of paths we carry straight on to a dark and winding path with, thankfully, markers at every junction. We successfully negotiate all the twists and turns, continuing downhill all the time, then squeeze through another crush-stile into a very waterlogged field. As we do so the first tiny flakes of snow begin to fall. It isn't much, thank goodness, and it soon stops as we cross the iced-over boggy field, thankful for once for the sub-zero temperatures that have kept us free of the quagmire.

The path leads us down some stone steps and along a little lane to one of the larger roads through the village. This is another pretty village that, so far, has managed to stay off our radar.

We find a footpath to our right and follow it, hoping to reach the River Derwent, but we are thwarted when we come to the next field which has cows in it. And they are milling around in the gateway as the farmer tries to persuade them to do whatever it is he wants them to do. Given my aversion to all things bovine we hot-foot back down the path and back to the safety of the road which we follow until we reach the main A623.

Thankfully Mollie is tired now and isn't too troubled by the traffic, so we walk swiftly along to the bridge and go down the steep steps at the side of it which take us to the river path. The bridge has an underpass, but it seems very low, gloomy and claustrophobic.

The path follows the river through a field, and on the right is a large pond (courtesy of the recent heavy rain) which has frozen over and looks like an ice rink. As we leave the field we are suddenly confronted with our first bog where the land drains down to the river. We pick our way with extreme caution - PC's walking poles come in very handy - and we do an excellent balancing act on a fallen branch. Success. We aren't too muddy at all.

It's easy to follow the path now even though the river winds away to the left. It's a single straight line, though we do have another waterlogged field to contend with. Behind us, though, the clouds are gathering and it is hard to tell whether they are going to bring rain or snow. The air does feel very damp, so it could be either.

We press on, through the last field and onto the tarmac lane which takes us, eventually, down to Bubnell and Baslow.

It has been an interesting walk, but not one to do in very wet weather unless the ground is frozen. But today the weather has worked in our favour, and we have managed to avoid being snowed on (although overnight snow will cover the hills by morning), and the rain didn't start until we were in our cars and driving home.

It's two weeks to our next walk, then it will be a Christmas Break.

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