The weather couldn't be more different this week from last. Instead of sunshine with pockets of crispy snow we have fog, drizzle and a bitterly cold wind to contend with. And PC's unerring ability to lose her way!
We eventually meet up in the lay-by near The Grouse Inn on the A625 (Froggatt to Fox House) after PC has enjoyed a scenic drive-around in the area courtesy of her SatNav! The fog is pretty widespread and has been for some days, and though there is a cutting wind blowing it isn't actually clearing the murk.
It doesn't take us long to layer up then head up towards the pub where there is a stile into the adjoining field. We've been here in spring/summer and the field is a beautiful meadow, but today it is covered with a layer of farm-muck. Fortunately it has been down a while so there it isn't actually unpleasant, but it was probably a bit grim when it was first spread.
At the bottom of the path there is a rough crossroads and again we go straight on and continue descending. It is very pleasant in the woods, we're out of the wind and the fog seems to be clinging to the tree canopy rather than filtering down to us, but it is very popular. We've already seen more people out walking in the first half hour - mainly dog walkers - than we tend to see on a whole day's outing.
The downward path continues until it is following a wide stream, then we go through a gate and onto a lane with a little more substance to it. At the first house PC spots a clump of snowdrops at the entrance to the driveway, so goes up to photograph them. Once satisfied we continue between a number of cottages and a moss-covered drystone wall.
At the bottom of the lane we come to the village's 18th Century 3-arch bridge crossing the River Derwent, but rather than cross over we take the gate into the adjacent flat meadow and follow the footpath across it, which is part of the Derwent Valley Heritage Way. We cross over small but deep stream, a bit muddy on the far side, then follow a path to a gate where, on the other side, we are in woods again.
After the break we continue through the woods, then across a few fields (thankfully livestock-free) before coming to a gate and an extremely narrow crush-stile. Folk must have been a lot thinner in the days when these were first erected!
Further along we find swathes of snowdrops at the side of the path, and PC is in her element! They look wonderful, and despite being white they do brighten up the monochrome day.
It is very different here, with marsh and wet-lands and a newt pond. We haven't gone far before we find a suitably placed bench where we sit down for lunch. We have a lovely view of the river and bridge as we eat our sandwiches, drink the coffee and enjoy the buns. This week we have fresh cream doughnuts with enough jam in them to dribble out stickily.
We know we are lingering for too long, so as soon as we have eaten we pack up (rucksacks lighter) and continue along the path. It is a broader path here and more open. We soon pass the spot where Ratty had been exploring, but no sign of the vole now, then we're at Froggatt Bridge.
Once across the bridge we retrace our way, meeting a four-month collie pup out with its owner. Mollie and the pup - young and (not too) old - sniff and make friends. We walk along Spooner Lane, renegotiate the narrow crush then cross the fields and into the woods. Soon we come to a right hand footpath which will give us some height, and the path higher in the wood is well marked on the map so we're feeling very confident.
We should have known better! After climbing the clear path turns right, which is fine, but then begins to deteriorate into a series of muddy quagmires. We manage to keep following the route though, the path appearing and disappearing from time to time with us making a few detours to avoid the mire.
Arriving at a fence and wall we cross the stile (if it can be called that) then follow the barely visible path at the other side. It skirts a wall, then we cross a stream via a very high stone culvert/bridge before continuing until the path peters out. We press on, encounter a vast area of swollen water/mud and are forced to pick our way the best we can, holding onto overhanging branches and using partially submerged stones so we don't sink without a trace.
Eventually, after crossing another stream, we come to a broken section of wall with a clear path at the far side. We take the path which, naturally, disappears into nothing. We've come too far to turn back so we take our bearings, decide that we know what we're doing and where we're heading, so push on uphill through the trees and brambles.
The fog still hasn't lifted, but we aren't too bothered. It has been a good day, we've been pretty well sheltered and we have seen some interesting wildlife.