Friday, 27 January 2012


As promised we meet up in the Bakewell car park again, relieved to be out. What a lot has happened since our last walk, and not much of it good, so getting out will be perfect therapy. We've hardly pulled on our boots before we're exchanging news, views and sympathy and even the moody Pay and Display machine doesn't put us off our stride as it spits out proffered coins one moment only to accept them the next! As last we're ready for the off, and despite a clear day we've wrapped up warm. The unseasonally mild weather has drifted away and although the sky is clear (more or less) it's feeling bitterly cold.

We leave the car park and head up the gently sloping road to the left which winds around to the old station which is now on the Monsal Trail. We cross the car park (and note that parking here is 50p cheaper for the day) and emerge onto the Trail. There's a tempting sign at the side of the path. Handmade Chocolates. Very very tempting. PC suggests we call on the way back, even if it means making a detour. But showing admirable willpower we decide to forgo the delights that only chocolate can provide, and set off.

The Trail is very easy walking but we aren't tempted to move beyond a gentle ambling pace. We know it isn't going to be a long or taxing walk, and we need our breath to talk. A few cyclists pass us - they must be chilly in all that Lycra - and we see a few dog walkers, but it isn't very busy.

To be honest, this section of the Monsal Trail isn't particularly inspiring. There are no long-distance views as the high railway banks hide the scenery, and at this time of year there isn't a great deal happening in the hedgerows. Good job we have lots to talk (and rant) about.

We walk under the road-bridge (A619) and soon spy some picnic tables and benches ahead. Naturally they beckon to us, and we're soon sat comfortably if not warmly. Coffee is on the menu, but the immediate necessity is for something a little stronger. Out comes the Ramblers (not that we're doing much in the way of rambling today) and the Secret Flask is emptied into our plastic cups. Perfect: warming and mellowing, and we're in need of both. As a special treat we have extra buns so out come some fruit slices, and they go down very well with an excellent cup of coffee. A boisterous and inquisitive young bull terrier comes up to see what we're up to, and snuffling for any treats. It's owner catches up with it and takes it away, though it goes reluctantly.

We decide to crack open the second Secret Flask (things must be bad when we have to delve into our emergency supplies) and enjoy a nip of cointreau. It finishes off our snack perfectly and as we pack away a toddler along with Mum and Gran are hovering - apparently we have been sitting at 'their table'. Suitably stocked up we leave them to it.

A little way along and we come to another old station, this time it has been converted into a cafe and bookshop. PC needs to avail herself of their facilities and the bookshop exerts a strong magnetic pull, but I resist. Again PC suggests visiting on the way back (even though we aren't coming back this way) and again we resist temptation. Aren't we doing well? (If you don't count the extra buns and the Secret Flasks, that is.)

After leaving the cafe/bookshop and regaining the Trail we realise that we have seriously miscalculated. The walk is going to be much shorter than we had anticipated. Our intention had been to walk up the path to the left, opposite Toll Bar House, but after a brief pause for photos across the fields we decide to stroll up to the next bridge

to see what we can see. Not a great deal, as it transpires, although we note one field running with water. By now we've mellowed and have managed to discard most of our angst so we're talking about less stressful subjects, such as exams and therapy!

There doesn't seem to be much point continuing along the Trail, especially as we'll have to back-track, so we return the few yards and take the path that climbs up above the trail. It's narrow and well defined, though a little muddy in places since it isn't surfaced. As we gain height the wind cuts across the fields and we can feel the temperature drop.

It's quite a long path, a public bridleway, and at last we're getting some views but there isn't anywhere sheltered enough for us to stop for lunch. We crest the hill and start to descend towards Bakewell, finally crossing a field full of sheep before reaching tarmac. We're on the edge of the town now and we go to have a look at the beautiful old footbridge, so similar to the one at Ashford in the Water. This is Holme Bridge, built in 1664 and an old Pack Horse Bridge, probably built here to avoid the middle of the town and the tolls payable over the main crossing over the River Wye. The river is running very high and fast today, and whilst it is possible to see where there may have been a ford crossing, the prospect of doing so isn't a pleasant one.

As luck, or providence, would have it, there's a bench at the far side of the river so we cross over the narrow bridge and plonk ourselves down. It isn't warm, but at least the sun is out. We eat our sandwiches quickly so as to get to the buns: fresh cream choux buns with thick chocolate on the top. They aren't very big, but they are satisfying, especially when washed down with the last of the coffee.

It's too cold to linger so even though we're well ahead on time we return over the bridge and head towards the town. There's a path across a field and we have a good view of the main Bakewell bridge in the distance, as well as the height of the river. Some hopeful ducks come scooting up to us as fast as their legs can paddle, but they are to be disappointed.

It's a short stroll back to the cars, but since we still have time to spare we decide to spend half an hour in the town, dumping our gear in the cars before setting off around the narrow streets and some of the more interesting shops (particularly the Apothecary - wonderful smells). But we don't have time to do the whole town justice, and duty beckons, so we head back to the car park.

It has been a particularly easy day today, no stress, no strain and no mad dash. Perfectly theraputic, in fact. Next time we'll head back to the Dark Peak, and hope the promised snow keeps away.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Happy New Year on a Bakewell Walk

It's time to boldly go where we've never been before. We tend to avoid the White Peak area, primarily due to the abundance of cows and a surplus of walls to negotiate, but it's winter and we needed to find somewhere easy to reach, and hopefully easy to walk. And with luck all the cows will be indoors.

So we meet up in the main car park in Bakewell. It isn't a starting point we've used before, although we have managed to touch the edge of this lovely Derbyshire town (or is it a village?) on other walks, especially when we've used the Monsal Trail, but this time the town will be our main point of contact.

We pay our parking fee, pleased to note that it is a little cheaper than some other Derbyshire Pay and Display car parks, and pull on as many layers as possible. Overnight it has become very windy which, in turn, has made it seem very cold.

We take the path down towards the River Wye, cross a bridge, then follow a path running beside the river and past the huge tented-roofed cattle market. Then we have to study the map. It should be a straight-forward walk along a footpath, but the parking area for vehicles visiting the weekly market has obliterated the path, and other parts are roped off. There is a path at the far side of the hedge running parallel, but we choose to stick to our planned route, though we walk on the tarmac road instead. Signs are, to say the least, minimal, but as the tarmac curves to the right we manage to spy a walkers gate over to the left. We have to step over ropes to get to it, but we're on the proper path.

A little way along and a local dog walker is behind us, but they take the parallel path on the far side of the hedge which angles uphill. We assume that they want to keep our of our way, which may be true, but we discover later that they probably intended to keep our of the mud!

Now we're away from the market area the views are improving, but we're starting to pay the penalty for a choosing a low-level walk in winter. The river is only a few yards away to our right, and the ground underfoot is muddy. We tip-toe elegantly around the sloshy bits, but it isn't pleasant. At times it is hard to see a path underfoot (although it's obvious where it is, sandwiched between the hedge and river) and at a particularly wet and boggy section we're relieved to see a narrow footbridge. From here we cross a stile, another boggy field and some broad steps up to join the drier path. Not that this is easy. Being on a slope the churned path is very muddy and we struggle to keep upright. At last we reach the end and come out onto a tarmac bridleway/drive.

We pause to look around, but admit that so far we aren't terrible thrilled with the walk. We're used to far reaching views and wide open spaces, whereas all we've had to contend with is mud. Still, the sun is making an effort and if we can gain some height all may not be lost.

We follow the path uphill and, just before it turns sharp left, look down on the final abandoned section of railway line that forms the Monsal Train. Here it is a narrow path terminating at a bricked up tunnel. It doesn't look very appealing. We continue along the path then pause again to check the map - we seem to be doing a lot of that today. Whereas the tarmac continues straight on there is a path to the right which is the bridleway we need to follow. This goes through a gate then turns right again to follow the fence line uphill.

We're really climbing up now and with the brightening sky we're beginning to get some good views across the Wye Valley towards some very obvious earthworks buried beneath green grass. Through another gate and we know we're somewhere above Haddon Hall although all we can make out is a solitary building that must stand somewhere in the grounds, the Hall itself is hidden from view.

The path is very distinct here, and easy to walk. The sun is shining and the wind has eased, and it seems that the day is going to turn out OK after all. There's a wall ahead which forces the path left. Directly in front is another wall which seems - after consulting the map - to indicate the line of a path, road or driveway directly to Haddon Hall from the farm here. There's no public access, so we can only guess.

We walk between a hedge and the high wall which shields Bowling Green Farm from view, and continue uphill. This is still a bridleway so it is easy walking, broad and firm underfoot. The path dips down, and we ignore the track to the right which would take us towards Rowsley. Instead we go left and pause to enjoy the view down the valley (with Coombe Farm) towards Bakewell. This is more like it. A squirrel, disturbed by our presence, takes flight from its hiding place and scoots out of the way.

This track is very reminiscent of Forestry Commission paths, but we soon reach the end and have to make a decision. The path we thought we'd take is left, but although it is a public bridleway it seems to end at Coombe Farm and we doubt the farmer would appreciate us walking through his yard. We don't want to turn back (all that mud!) so we decide to take the obviously well-used bridleway straight ahead and uphill through Rowsleymoor Wood. We're making good time so we reckon we can easily cope with this slightly extended route.

Part way up the path we see evidence of wind damage - a huge tree has had one of its heavy high branches split from the main trunk leaving creamy white timber exposed. We walk under the fallen branch and push on up to the top of the path, which turns left and levels out. Ahead is an ornate sign inviting us to walk along a Permissive Path in Manners Wood. We decide to accept the offer.

This is a wide, level and easily walked path shielded by trees but offering tantalizing glimpses of the views beyond. It is probably an especially lovely place in Spring. Eventually we find somewhere to sit for lunch, up the slope a little and using a ground level branch to prevent us sliding down.

Out comes the secret flask with the Ramblers - it is our first walk of the New Year after all and we need to celebrate it in a suitable fashion - followed by coffee, sandwiches and our New Year Bun. It's the old stalwart, the fresh cream scone, but no worse for being familiar. The scones are eaten with alarming speed and relish before we finish off with another coffee.

Time to pack up and move on, so we continue on our way. At last the path splits, and we take the downward section which leads us to a couple of streams which we have to negotiate before depositing us on the edge of Bakewell Golf Course. After reading the signs exhorting us to take care we set off, only to see another sign next to a bell telling us to ring it to warn golfers of our presence. We race for the bell (well, lumber purposefully) and I win, giving it a loud ring to warn the non-existent golfers. I think we're the only people on the course!

However, once we've left the course and are following the path down to Bakewell, we look back and see a handful of golfers, so maybe they were just keeping out of our way.

We cross over the Monsal Trail bridge, then along the side of a field of sheep before seeing some animals in the adjoining field which we debate over. Are they llamas, or alpacas? We settle on alpacas, not that we have any specialist knowledge of them and are just as likely to be wrong as right.

At the bottom of the path we meet the road and it's only a short way to the car park. We've made excellent time, and it has turned out to be a good walk after all, leaving us time to go to look at an interesting arty shop on the edge of Bakewell before we leave. Next time we'll return to Bakewell, weather permitting, to walk the other way.