Tuesday, 27 November 2012


We're going for one of PC's favourites this week as it's her pre-birthday walk, so even though we've done it before we're doing it again - and choosing the harder route.

As usual we meet up in the layby near the Yorkshire Bridge Inn, giving ourselves plenty of time for the walk. With the cold, wet weather we aren't surprised to be the only ones out today, although for now the overnight deluge has ceased. And we have Mollie today too.

First of all we walk up towards the huge dam wall then take the footpath sharp left which zig-zags downwards through the trees to the road and the Yorkshire Bridge over the River Derwent. 

We pause for a moment to watch the fast flowing river, then walk up the road on the western bank. We come to an attractive water run-off beside some stone steps. These are the beginning of what will be a steep climb.

This first flight of steps gets the leg muscles warmed up and as we reach the disused railway line Mollie hurtles off to play with a couple of other dogs. Their owners offer dire warnings to us when they realise that we're continuing upwards rather than taking the level track. It's easy to see why.

Once Mollie has come back to us we embark on the climb up the side of Parkin Clough; a steep unrelenting slog up that reminds us of the Secret Stairs at the Pass of Cirith Ungol (Lord of the Rings fans will know exactly what we mean) and has us re-enacting scenes from the film ("Come on, Mr Frodo."  "I can't make it, Sam." etc etc). It's a good job there isn't anyone around to hear or see us!

Despite the steepness of the path, and the slippery stones, we do make relatively good time and aren't struggling as we did some years ago when we last came this way (and yes, we did the Sam and Frodo scenes then, too!) We may be getting older but we must be getting fitter by way of compensation.

A couple of women walkers pass us going down - we don't envy them making their way down the slippery path - then PC remarks how unusual it is for us to see women walkers out. She's right. It's very rare for us to see pairs of women (even rarer to see single women) out on the hills. It's usually men, or women with men, or mixed groups.

After pondering that for a while we press on upwards, and the path becomes less challenging once it has been crossed by the Ladybower to Aston footpath. It's still uphill, though, but we soon pass through a small gateway and onto the slope of Win Hill.

There are neatly laid steps here for erosion control. They do a good job protecting the path, but are less gentle on the knees. As we press on up the steps the full force of wind - which had only filtered down to us earlier - starts to make itself felt. We drag on another layer and plod on.

As we are struggling to find armholes that are flapping around in the gale a single walker (male) strides past us on his way to the top. He only has on a thin waterproof jacket and we both bet that he's feeling the cold. We're wearing about 5 layers each and we can still feel the chill.

The last time we were up Win Hill we had walked up from Hope, it had been snowing and the wind was howling. It was quite a feat of endurance back then, but today we only had the wind to contend with even though it was constantly buffeting us and trying to blow us off our feet.

We slipped over the top of the hill, ignoring the Trig Point, and found a hollow in which to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee (and a nip from the secret flask). We had a lovely view over the reservoirs and the long ridges beyond. It feels really good to think, yes, we've walked there, and there, and the views from that spot are wonderful.

We can also see the lone walker now running down a path below us, heading for the trees. We wonder if, perhaps, he is running to keep warm!

After our coffee we set off again and on our way down the western slope of the hill we see two more walkers coming towards us from the Hope Path. And they are two young women. So that's twice in a day that we've encountered women walkers. Excellent.

We find the narrow, indistinct path through the heather to our right and turn onto it. The peaty path is quite slippery and we manage to put up a grouse from its cosy spot, it rises clucking and chuckling with annoyance as its stubby wings propel it a couple of feet off the ground.

As we reach the bottom of the path we come to a fence, and a choice. Straight ahead is the path directly down to the reservoir, but we know from experience that this path can be muddy and slick at the best of times. Also, it will takes us back far too soon - we've made extremely good time and it isn't even lunch time.

So instead we turn left and take the path that skirts to the top of the wooded valley. We decide not to walk right next to the fence line but keep to the moor path which, whilst being less well-trod, is more direct, cutting out a sharp up-and-down that we're happy to avoid.

There are a couple of 'interesting' bits (PC's words, not mine) where we have to cross small streams, but the ground isn't as boggy nor the streams as deep as they could be.

It's quite a long way, on the map, to our turn-off path but we find that the reasonably level ground (if you discount the heather, stones, rocks and general moorland obstacles) makes for easy walking. We're contouring rather than climbing so we cover a lot of ground fairly quickly.

We turn right through a gate in the fence line which takes us back into the woods. There's plenty of grass beneath the trees here, the plantation isn't too dense, and we soon find ourselves a fallen tree on which to sit and enjoy lunch.

I did say it was PC's pre-birthday walk. So out comes the (small) bottle of wine for a toast. It's nicely chilled - naturally! - and we enjoy it in not-quite-cut-glass plastic cups. Doesn't affect the taste one bit.

We eat our sandwiches quickly, because we want to get to the puddings. Fresh cream and jam scones - PC confesses that she likes scones in all their many varieties - and these are good ones. Loads of cream and very stodgy. Yum. Mollie is allowed to lick out the carton they came in - makes a change from her dog biscuits. We follow the scones with coffee then, because it's birthday time, we each have a small tiramisu. By the time we've managed that we are well and truly full and feeling in need of a post-lunch nap to sleep off the excess calories.

But we can't have a snooze, so we pack up - rucksacks much lighter - and set off downhill. The light seems to be fading. It's a lot darker under the trees but maybe the clouds are gathering too, and of course dusk does fall much earlier at this time of year.

We walk down the rutted path and through the large gate at the bottom, turning left on the wide bridleway. Very easy walking now as we go steadily downhill until, at last, we reach the broad track which flanks the long arm of Ladybower. From here it's a straight, easy to follow if not quite level walk back along the length of the reservoir and around to the dam wall.

By the time we reach the dam the light is fading fast and the wind catches us anew as we leave the shelter of the trees. We don't think we've ever been out so close to dusk and we can see the lights of cars and houses clearly. As we walk across the dam path the wind is howling, and it is blowing through the hollow railings making an eerie, whistling sound - our very own wind orchestra!

It isn't far from here back to the cars, and by the time we have removed our gear and prepared to set off we have to use our headlights. It's been an excellent, long day and, for the time of year, a remarkably fine one too.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


Or at least a fair amount of mud ... a round walk from Hope to Brough and Bradwell
Pastures new for us this week with only a vague plan of our exact route. The title of the post is courtesy of PC's husband, and when we hit the muddy patches we couldn't do any more than agree with him.

It isn't a particularly inspiring day; overcast in places, foggy in others, and cold. We're without dog again - Mollie nowhere to be found when PC went to collect her (she must have been hiding since she was in her basket when PC checked on her return journey!) so we know we don't have to worry too much about traffic, which Mollie hates.

We meet in Hope and as soon as we're booted up we head to the toilets, only to find them closed. And on a cold day too...

We amble past the church then walk down the narrow lane at the side before coming to the bridge over a wide stream (Peakshole Water?) and pause to admire the admittedly small Pinfold on the opposite side of the road. Then we're off up the road and taking the first turn on the left.

It's uphill at this point but once we've passed a huge, steaming pile of manure (yes, really) we turn left again and climb over a stile into an only-slightly muddy field with excellent views back 

towards Hope and up towards Lose Hill and Win Hill. The large grassy field is full of sheep, and I'm only grateful that they aren't cattle, or we'd be looking for another way around.

Marked on the OS map is an old cross (remains of) and we wonder if we have found it when we come up against a single post standing in the ground. PC takes a photo for our records then we're on our way again.

The indistinct path takes us slightly uphill and through a gateway, which is a little muddier than the last one. Soon we crest the small rise and can look along a broad sweeping field with sparse woodland on our right and the River Noe away to our left. We keep close to the tree line as the path is invisible here, and soon we are rewarded with the sight of a wooden bridge.

The colours of the leaves, deep buttery yellow, stand out against the dark background of the enclosed bridge. The bridge, however, is not the easiest to cross since it doesn't have a stile, just some rails to clamber over. The stream which it spans appears to be lined with stone, so once over the other side I decide to consult the map. That is, after I have ploughed through the mud! In the field on this side of the stream are horses. Nothing wrong with that, but they do have a tendency to churn up the ground and they have made a spectacular job of it here.

Once I'm through the mud I wait for PC and peruse the map, coming to the conclusion that we have, in fact, found the roman fort of Navio. All that remains now is a raised square platform with some broken stones in the centre - and although they don't look too impressive these mark the entrance to the roman underground strong room. There is quite a bit of information on the web for Navio, and some good ariel photos, but for some background information that isn't too heavy try looking at:

After spending a little time wandering around the old fort, and fending off the curious horses who are determined to act as our guides, we continue south into the village of Brough. Here we turn left on the road, over the swift running Bradwell Brook, then cross the road and take the lane opposite.

Here we head uphill, and it really is uphill, all the way!

Part way up the hill the road turns at a right angle, and continues to climb. We push on, enjoying the opening views, though we aren't so thrilled about the sight of the cement works. It is cathedral-like in stature, and dominates everything. But so ugly.

There are some walkers ahead of us, and we deliberately keep our pace slow so that we don't catch up with them. For if we did, and then overtook them, we'd be forced to push our pace, and we don't want to do that! As we follow in their (slow) footsteps we discover that they have dropped a piece of paper. Picking it up we see that it is a walk description from The Sheffield Star newspaper. Well, there's no way we're sprinting after them to return the paper but we tuck it into our map holder just in case we catch up with them at some point.

It's a long haul up the steep hill but the views are good, if not particularly photogenic. It is probably an old pack horse road, and is called Brough Lane on the map.

Sure enough, as the track levels off a little we see the three walkers ahead pausing at a stile. It's the route they should be taking (if they are following the Star walk) but after a discussion they ignore the path and carry on. We're determined not to rush to catch up. We know the path we want, and it's the next one along.

By the time we reach 'our' path the three men are dithering at the stile. As we approach (there's a limit to how slow we can walk) one of them says that he hopes we aren't following them as they're lost (bloody cheek!) At that we produce their scrap of paper - to their great delight - and we explain to them where they are and where they need to go. Needless to say they don't have a map with them, assuming that the vague newspaper route is sufficient. Hmmmm.

We point them in the right direction and let them go on ahead as we saunter behind and look for a place to stop for lunch. At last we squeeze through a gate and find a lovely spot with our backs to a drystone wall and a view over the village of Bradwell and the surrounding countryside. Even the sun has started to shine for us.

We start off with a nip from the secret flask. The sun may be shining but it isn't exactly warm. Then it's coffee before the sandwiches. We eat the sandwiches quickly, mainly because we're keen to get to the buns which are, hopefully, better than last week's.

Sticky Nutty Cheesecake Wedges. There's a first time for everything and although these don't look too impressive they do taste very good. A gooey caramel topping and a very tasty nutty and caramel cheesecake filling. We proclaim them to be excellent, and decide to finish off with another coffee. At this point, PC's husband comes in for a fair amount of stick since there isn't enough coffee in the flask for another cup, and he's the one who so generously made it this week - for the first and last time! So we are forced to have another nip from the other secret flask to compensate for the lack of coffee.

By now it's time to move on so we haul ourselves upright and set off down the hill. The path is very distinct, though narrow, and most unpleasant. It is extremely muddy with a high potential for slips and slides. We manage to stay upright but at times it's a close run thing. It seems a very long way to walk when you're having to watch every step, and avoiding some of the worst sections isn't easy. Finally, with very muddy boots, we make it to the tarmac road at the bottom of the hill.

We've never been to Bradwell before and as we walk through the village we are surprised at how lovely it is. Narrow streets, attractive cottages, and quiet. And you can't actually see the cement works.

We meander down to the main road, pause at the bridge crossing over the Bradwell Brook, and admire the curious street names. It really is a lovely village.

We have to follow the main road for a while before crossing over and turning left onto a narrow road. This will take us all the way back to Hope. It passes between some old quarry lakes, and we read a sign on a fence post about a boy who fell into one of the lakes and drowned as emergency services were unable to reach him. Tragic.

There is quite a bit of traffic on the road, probably because it provides a perfect short cut between the two villages but there is enough room to walk too. It doesn't take us long to arrive back at the large manure heap - a steaming beacon to mark our way - then drop down to the main road into the village.

It's only a short walk now past the church and to our cars. We're muddy, but we've been worse, and we're pleased to have done the walk although we wouldn't really call it one of our favourites. PC is keen to set off to check if Mollie is OK (she is, and seemingly very sheepish for a collie!) but we have time to plan our walk for next week. Since it will be PC's birthday week she has chosen one of her favourites, Win Hill, so we're keeping our fingers crossed for good weather since the last time we were there it was pretty grim! Hopefully we'll avoid the snow and the sun will shine on us.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012



We're well into autumn now, not our usual time of year for visiting the grounds of Derbyshire's most prominent stately home since we tend to reserve its easily accessible parking for more unpredictable weather, but we were wanting to try to catch some autumn colour. We've missed some walking again - holidays and viruses - so we have fingers firmly crossed that the trees  have held out just enough for some good photos.

We park in the Calton Lees car park, pleased that the little man isn't collecting money on this bitterly cold morning, and attempting to avoid the massed ranks of an organised walk. We hope they aren't going our way.

By the time we have donned our many layers the group has disappeared and we meander down to the garden centre loos before setting off. We have Mollie with us today, and she's raring to go.

We drop down to the road bridge over the River Derwent as two dogs at the adjacent cottage bark frantically at us and chase us along the fence line. The Alsatian looks as though it means it, but we can't really take the giant poodle seriously! Mollie ignores them both.

At the far side of the bridge we walk up the road and turn left at the side of Beeley Lodge and take the lane that rise up to Beeley Hilltop. We're able to see some good colour in the trees when we turn to look back, but it isn't as spectacular as we had hoped.

We continue upwards past the farm and onto the rough, rutted "other route with public access" - which tends to mean vehicular access. Fortunately we see no 4x4s today and we pause half way up to admire the view towards Matlock with the sun illuminating the hills.

At the top of the lane we clamber over the extremely high stile onto the path through Rabbit Warren. 

We're very exposed here and we feel the intense chill of the wind. And rain clouds are gathering too.

When we reach the end of the path we climb another high stile to enter the woods at the top of the Chatsworth estate. 

Here we are in a beech grove and these trees do not disappoint with their burnished brassy leaves.

We decide to walk along the top path towards the ponds, something we have never done at this time of year, and we're surprised at how soon we come to Swiss Lake. There are some ducks bobbing about on the water but there is nowhere for us to sit so we press on until we come to the Emperor Lake, which ultimately feeds the Emperor fountain in the grounds of the House.

There is a bench here, so we sit down as Mollie investigates the water and keeps the ever-hopeful ducks away. Coffee first, to warm us up, then our sandwiches before the buns. This week PC had only a limited choice, so it's chocolate and vanilla cupcakes. They look very good, but sadly don't quite live up to their promised delights, although they redeem themselves slightly by having gooey chocolate in the centre of the vanilla bun. We finish off with more coffee then set off again. It's very cold sat here and we're both feeling the chill.

The path takes us past the hunting tower, now (we believe) used as a holiday cottage, and continue on until we reach a left hand track which drops down to a wall beyond which is the parkland.

Once in the park the sun comes out and it feels surprisingly warm after the chill of the woods. Sadly it doesn't last very long and by the time we reach the house the sun has disappeared.

The car park to the house is full and we wonder if it is time for the Christmas decorations to be up yet. We drop down to the bridge, cross over then set off across the park.

The house is on our left on the opposite side of the river, and we see the gilded window frames glistening in the weak sunlight. We're not sure if the expensive gold leaf suits the house, or just looks trashy. It certainly makes a statement!

We take the straight route above the river and soon find ourselves on the road a few yards away from the cattle grid next to the Calton Lees car park and only a short stretch from the cars.

We've done quite well with our aim of finding some colour, though the trees are by no means as spectacular as they have been in previous years. Maybe we've just mis-timed it, though we tend to think that it isn't a particularly good year for colour.

Next week we hope to go exploring somewhere new again!