PRE-CHRISTMAS WET WEATHER WALK NEAR HADDON HALL
Deluge. That's the best word to describe the weather this morning. The roads are awash, the drains cannot cope and rivers are running down the white lines. It's going to be a wet walk.
We meet up in the Haddon Hall car park. The hall is closed and the car park is only supposed to be used for visitors to the hall, but there are some men selling Christmas trees from the car park and when PC asks (she's the first to arrive, as usual) they're happy enough to let us leave our cars there.
Admittedly, we're a little reluctant to leave the shelter of our cars and venture out into the storm, but this is our last walk before the festive season and it has to be a short one because daughter has a music exam later in the day, so we have to make the most of it.
Naturally we layer up, all the waterproofs come out of the car and when we're dressed our rucksacks feel quite light. Mollie seems unperturbed by the weather and is happy enough to be out.
We trudge across the car park and go through a gate leading onto the uphill bridleway towards Conksbury and, ultimately, Youlgreave. The bridleway slopes gently uphill, but flowing swiftly downhill is a small river. It's hard to avoid the water so we splash our way through, but we do have to be careful as some of the underlying limestone is exposed and this is very slippery.
We pause a couple of times to look back at the view, Haddon Hall is peering above the tree line, but we wonder if the poor weather will make the photographs a washout.
With the driving rain we are tending to keep our heads down and our hoods up, so we aren't having much of an opportunity to look around. However, looking down at our feet sees us squelching through streams and mud-baths. At one point we're in a field with cows, but they are far off to our right and pose no threat, although an open gate to our left is an invitation for more cows to join them, so we pick up the pace a little.
Then it's a stubble field, thank goodness it isn't ploughed, and by the time we reach the top we've so much mud on our boots that it feels like a particularly sadistic kind of weight training for the legs.
We go through a gate, and PC does some interesting gymnastics with her walking poles as she tries to fasten the gate shut without paddling in a deep puddle. Pity I don't have the camera.
There are only sheep in the next fields, and the grass is well knit so at last we have something half-decent underfoot.
However, at the end of this stretch we reach the mud again where it is all extremely churned up next to a barn. We paddle through the mud to a gate and go through, pausing to consult the map and the finger-post. A few moments of puzzling and we return through the gate. We need to turn onto the track on the Haddon Hall side of the hedge.
Although the track is obviously well used by farm tractors it is, at least, relatively clear. Yes, there are some deep puddles, but these are easily avoided. At the far end is another gate out onto the small road leading from Conksbury to Bakewell.
We walk down the road, manage to avoid the flood in the dip in the bottom, then after passing Noton Farm Barn we take the right hand path down Intake Lane. At first this is just a path down the edge of a field, but it goes through another gate and turns into a proper lane with hedges on either side. It also has a lot of puddle and dips, and quite a bit of flooding.
But it is an easy track to follow so we don't have to think much as we bemoan the amount of work the Christmas preparations entail, and wonder why so many people buy so much food for just two days!
We decide not to take the right hand footpath leading through Burton Ashes Wood - it isn't clear on the ground and the ground looks very squishing and uninviting - so we walk down to the main road. We know Mollie won't like it but at least she has already had a decent run.
At the main A6 we turn right, pleased that there is a pavement to separate us from the heavy traffic thundering past. Naturally, Mollie isn't happy, but she is staying close.
We have to cross over to the other side of the road when the pavement swaps sides, then we decide to see if the footpath through part of Haddon Park is worth walking.
We turn left up the bridleway and cross the bridge over the swollen River Wye. On either side the fields have been turned into small lakes, complete with ducks, and the bridge itself is carrying its own pond. We reach the footpath turning at the side of the river but, as we suspected, a few yards along it the path disappears beneath the rising river. There is no point even attempting to go through so we back-track to the road to complete our journey.
It isn't long before the car park is in sight. The Christmas tree sellers have already packed up and gone home but the car park barrier is, thankfully, still open. We have a brief debate (we haven't eaten yet and our buns beckon) and we decide on driving to the Calton Lees car park at Chatsworth where we are able to change out of wet clothes and settle down for lunch.
We have a small toast from the secret flask - today it is a nip of Danzy Jones, a wonderful welsh whisky liqueur made by the Celtic Spirit Company, and the closest I have managed to find to the now unavailable scottish Wallace liqueur. PC gives it her approval, then pours out the coffees which we drink with our sandwiches.
The second coffee is shared with the buns - a festive treat of puff pastry fresh cream mince pies. Perfect.
Our day, and our walking year has ended too soon. Family festivities take over for a couple of weeks so we'll not be out again until the New Year when we will try to walk off the inevitable newly gained weight.
WE WISH A HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A PEACEFUL NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE.