Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Well, we've done it. We've achieved the near impossible - we've actually chosen the one fine day this summer. No rain, hardly any clouds and the slightest possibility of a sun tan (OK, not much chance there but we are forever hopeful). The only downside to the day is that PC has injured her foot so we're keeping the walk steady (hence the choice being Chatsworth) and away from hard ground. At least that isn't too difficult given the amount of rain we've had recently.
We meet up in Calton Lees car park and duly pay the nice man in the kiosk who informs us cheerily that the rain is due back tomorrow and that we need to make the most of today. We don't need telling twice.
Mollie is back from her holidays and happy to be out of the car with the prospect of a good walk in front of her. We load our rucksacks with gear (coffee, buns and a waterproof coat - you never know when it might be needed) then debate on a route. We choose to leave the car park in the direction of the House but once we're through the gate at the side of the cattle grid we head uphill on the grass rather than crossing the road then walking down to the river.
We're so busy catching up on gossip that we hardly notice how steep the hill is. The narrow track is easy to follow though, as it is well worn by sheep. In parts it's quite boggy despite being on a sharp slope so we manage muddy boots, but at least PC is getting the soft ground she needs.
This is such easy strolling that we have loads of time to pause and admire the (sunny) scenery but even with plenty of looking around we're going too fast. What we need is somewhere to sit a while, and as we come up to the turn in the path which leads through the woods there are three benches lined up with their backs to the wall, facing the view. We head for the far one, it has a back rest, but it also has a huge puddle at its foot so we choose the second one instead and settle down with the secret flask. Raspberry Gin again today, a genuine taste of summer on a genuine summers day. It couldn't be better.
It would be easy to linger here for most of the day but we decide we ought to press on so we go through the gate and onto the wooded track leading gently uphill.
Mollie can run off the lead for a short distance, and she immediately finds a rock to play with before darting off to greet some other walkers. This can be a bit of a problem with Mollie. She's a beautiful, friendly dog who, unfortunately, treats obedience as optional and since she doesn't belong to us she doesn't seem to sense any permanence in our relationship. Hence, if she sees someone interesting she's off to investigate, possibly in the misplaced hope that it could be her owners or someone she is more attached to than us. After a quick greeting she's happy enough to return, but not until she's satisfied her curiosity, which is why she's usually kept on the lead. At least today's people were doggy-folk who, coincidentally, do the same as us and take someone else's dog for walks and thought Mollie delightful.
After that it's back on the lead for Mollie as we reach the top of the woods and go through the gate into the field beyond. There are lovely views here as we cross large field on the grassy track, dipping down to the gate near to Calton Houses and the rough track that takes us past them.
At the bottom we go through yet another gate where two small dogs yap ferociously as their owners sit in the sun, and we take a small spur of a track to a bench where we can sit out of yapping distance and eat lunch.
The sun is quite bright now as we have the first cup of coffee followed by sandwiches. Then come out the buns. PC's choice today, and she calls them her end-of-summer Wimbledon buns. Strawberry shortcakes: sweet shortcrust pastry, creme anglaise, juicy strawberries and fresh cream. They are eaten in complete, reverential silence. A second coffee finishes off lunch in a very civilised manner.
Once we've lingered we set off down the slope only to be approached by a couple who need some directions. They have a small card with a route on it, and an unopened OS map, but are wondering if they are on the right track. They aren't. By quite a considerable distance. They thought they were near the Emperor Lake above and behind the House, and were quite surprised that they weren't even on the right side of the river. After a discussion they decide to forgo the visit to the Lake and instead follow the path we've just walked then extend it down to either Edensor or the House. They asked if it was possible to get lost again, and we said no, use the House as a landmark. Easy. But we did wonder.....
We continued on our way down the sloping rough track with PC trying to walk on the grassy verge. There are plenty of people walking up the hill, not surprising given this one, fine day, and we can hear buzzards over to our left even though we can't see them. The stream is full and fast flowing, hardly surprising, and Mollie refuses to have a drink from the stone water trough, choosing to drink out of puddles instead. Typical dog.
At the bottom of the track we come out onto road at Calton Lees village, admire the gardens then pause to study one of the trees at the back of the garden centre which has heavy clusters of palest green papery flowers along its branches. It seems that it is probably the Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), but whatever it is it has been well worth seeing.
We're back at the car park far too early, so we dump some of our gear into the car and amble down to the river where we sit for a while enjoying the last of the day and watching ducks bobbing about on the fast flowing water.
We don't seem to have had much of a season this year with all kinds things conspiring to erode our walking time, and it's over all too quickly. The summer holidays are upon us but although we'll not be out on the hills together we will try to get some walking in with our families. By the time we meet up again (early September!) the long, stressful wait for exam results for our daughters will be over, and the next few years mapped out for them depending on those results. We're keeping our fingers crossed for them both but feel sure that their hard work will have paid off.
Until we return in September we hope that everyone has a lovely summer.