We're back. The prolonged (wet) summer break is over and we have emerged at the other end of it blinking mole-like in the unaccustomed sunshine.
Before we start the blog, though, a quick CONGRATULATIONS to our daughters. This exam season saw PC's youngest taking her A levels and mine taking her GCSEs. After all the stress, tension and angst (and that was just us) their hard work has paid off with both girls getting the results they needed. PC's daughter is off to her top-choice university to follow her chosen course, and mine has secured her place at a first rate 6th form to study for A levels. Well done girls - and maybe we can relax a bit now!
Back to the walk. Our enthusiasm to return is high, but we're a bit stumped as PC is still having trouble with her foot. Turns out it is tendinitis (painful) so we need to tailor our walk towards softer ground (shouldn't be too problematical given the amount of rain we've had) and something relatively short. She hasn't been walking at all over the summer whereas I did a little hiking in Scotland earlier on, but nothing more recent. So, after some careful thought we decided on a circuit of Eyam Moor.
We meet up on Sir William Hill Road where the tarmac gives way to rubble. It's a steep drive up from Grindleford but the views are worth it, and I have plenty of time to enjoy the views as PC is uncharacteristically late. She's had trouble locking the door at Mollie's house so ends up having to leave Mollie at home on guard after taking her for a brief consolation walk. Which means that today we're dogless.
Naturally we spend a while catching up with news and gossip as we put on our walking boots and shoulder our rucksacks. Mine's new. Or rather, it was new over a year ago but I have only just got around to swapping all the stuff from my old rucksack to this one. It's a little larger so there's more room for all my 'essentials', but unfortunately it has fewer pockets. Not sure if it will be an entirely suitable replacement, time will tell (but I haven't thrown away the old one, just in case).
The first obstacle is the stone stile over the wall (signed for Abney and Stoke Ford). It needs longer legs than ours, and an agility that we seem to have misplaced, but fortunately there's no audience so we can huff, puff and grunt as we hoist ourselves over. The next part of the route is steady, level and grassy underfoot. PC isn't having any problems so far, which is encouraging.
There's plenty of evidence of the wet summer, even up here. Boggy areas cross the track and new ways around them have been trodden down by earlier walkers. No doubt these will soon become favoured way.
The sunshine is glorious even though there is a brisk breeze, and we're spending so much time talking that PC almost forgets to take photos of the wide ranging views.
To our left is the more prominent point of the moor (marked only on the map as Rock Basin) where there are large boulders of grit stone, so we detour along a narrow track at the side of what appears to be a small quarry and push through the heather to the boulders. We find a suitable flattish rock and remove the rucksacks. No, we haven't walked far yet but we have plenty of time, PCs foot to consider and we haven't exactly got miles to travel. I have a quick look higher up on the moor as PC makes herself comfortable, but the lure of elevenses is too much so I return at a jog.
As I pour out the coffee PC brings out a couple of chocolate chip cookies. Wow! They are huge, the chocolate chips are more like chunks and the cookie dough is obviously only there to hold as many chunks together as possible. Needless to say, they are wonderful and go down extremely well.
We linger rather a long time before repacking our belongings and retracing our steps to the small quarry where we rejoin the path. We're going downhill now and the path is heavily eroded in places, we can imagine a small river running down here during heavy rainfall. Eventually, though, it swings left, levels off and becomes easy underfoot again.
At the stile ahead there are a multitude of paths to choose from, but we have our route planned and turn left, slightly uphill and skirting the wall. The sun is hot now and we have some shelter from the breeze, and soon we are walking on the cushioned ground beneath the canopy of trees that make up Gotherage Plantation.
The path keeps to the edge of the trees then dog-legs through Big Moor Plantation to come out (over yet another stile) on the track beneath Stanage House. The sheep in the field are blissfully unaware of us as we meander up the middle of the track (softer underfoot for PC) and continue to yet another stile which, this time, brings us onto a very rough crossroads. Here we turn left with PC having to walk on the verge as the track is rubbly and uneven.
It isn't long before we reach the Bretton-Eyam road and within a few paces were on the western end of the Sir William Hill drovers road again - and we haven't even stopped for lunch (although we haven't walked off the cookies yet).
The track is very rough and the verges aren't exactly even, so we take it steady. We can see the huge phone mast ahead on our right (excellent mobile coverage should we need it) and as we reach the summit of the track we can pinpoint the trig point on our right. The verges are covered in late summer flowers (scabious and harebells) which are proving to be a magnet for the bees.
Down the track and we turn left to go over the wall (yes, another stile) and back onto the moor where we eventually find some comfortable tussocky grass to sit on. We're aren't particularly hungry (did I mention that they were HUGE cookies?) but undaunted we eat our sandwiches after a fortifying nip from PC's secret flask of cointreau - mine having gone AWOL sometime during the holidays. Then out come the buns - extra chocolaty chocolate chip muffins - and we finish off with coffee. Certainly a Death By Chocolate day today.
It would be good to sit here for longer but we have a timetable to stick to, so we set off back just as another couple of walker, plus dogs, pass us on the path. We hang back to let them get over the stile first (no point us humiliating ourselves in front of strangers, much better to let them provide us with the amusement) then we amble down Sir William Hill road towards the cars.
Our timing is perfect. We have just enough time to plan our next walk (another 2 week break first, though) before we have to leave. PC declares that her foot is feeling fine so we are keeping our fingers crossed that she may be on the mend.
We've been really lucky with the weather today; is it too much to hope that our next walk will be equally bright?