Saturday, 23 March 2013



This is a seriously cold day with high winds and a smattering of snow on the high ground. First thing this morning everything was white; snow coupled with a heavy frost, but underfoot it was wet and slushy. Not exactly perfect walking conditions, but we are nothing if not hardy!

We meet up next to the Grouse Inn, as we did on our last walk, but our route is to be different. We layer up - plenty of layers given the driving wind - then cross the road and head for the path which cuts across the field opposite the Inn. It takes us a while to get from one side of the field to the other, nothing to do with the conditions but more to do with numerous texts from daughter relaying the outcome of a (thankfully good) school report.

With that little drama out of the way we cross over a makeshift bridge of stone slabs, then go through a gate and walk up what appears to be a semi-permanent stream-bed. We're in sparse birch woodland here, but the path is clear. When we reach the wooden signpost we turn right then almost immediately left, clambering uphill over some gritstone boulders. 

As we gain height we get some excellent views all around, but we are already finding quite deep pockets of snow and the muddy bogs are covered with ice. When we come level with White Edge there is another useful wooden signpost, and we turn right onto the edge.

We can really feel the cold wind here. It is extremely bitter, and the edge is very exposed. To our left is the broad, relatively flat expanse of the aptly named Big Moor, to our right the edge drops away to Stoke Flat.

A short distance along the edge we come to a sculpture, a gritstone inscribed  'cube'. We've seen similar before on a walk (see: Moors, Reservoirs and Stone Circles - posted 8.3.12), and they are the result of the endeavours of Arts In The Peak: see

This looks as though it should turn (like a Rubik's Cube), and the photographs on the above website seem to support this, but the stone is weathered and a little mossy and we couldn't move it! And, as with most of the other stones we have encountered, we struggle to make sense of the poem inscribed on it.

We pass the stone and continue along the edge, trying our hardest to avoid as much of the mud as possible, but that is a hard job. The path starts to rise and we start to feel some snow blowing on the wind; the hard kind of snow with ambitions to become hail! Fortunately it doesn't last long and we - at the point of no return - are relieved.

Although it is still too early for lunch we decide to stop for a 'snack'; ie a nip from the secret flask and some home-made Florentines. We descend from the ridge to find a suitable boulder to sit on, and as we are preparing our elevenses PC spots a pair of deer. They are large, but quite hard to see until they start to move. They don't seem unduly worried about people, until some walkers on the ridge with a loose dog come along. The dog scents or sees the deer and sets off after them. The deer run, but don't put too much effort into it, obviously conserving energy. They are right to do so, too. The dog soon gives up and the deer saunter away.

We enjoy our nip from the flask (home-made Ramblers Restorative) with a ginger Florentine, then some Cointreau from the second flask with a glace fruit Florentine. Mmm, they bring a glow to the cold day.

Back up on the ridge we head towards the trig point, surrounded by snow, then continue onwards and slowly downwards as the path grazes the corner of a field and gives us a choice. Ultimately we want to go right towards Curbar Edge, but it seems like a good time to stop for lunch as the sun is making a feeble, half-hearted effort to emerge, so we go straight on looking for somewhere suitable to settle down to eat.

There are fewer comfortable looking boulders here, but there is a lot of dry, dead bracken which should make an adequate cushion for us out of the wind. We choose a likely spot and start the long process of remove rucksacks, cameras etc prior to settling down. That's when PC sees it. Right where she would have sat down is a snake, an adder, basking in the weak sunlight. It is sluggish with the cold (thank goodness) and about 2 foot long! Urgh. As we watch it slowly burrows back into the bracken and within five minutes it is completely hidden from sight.

Our mind is made up. No sitting in the bracken. We'll wait until we can find an adder-free spot for lunch.

We go down the hill, cross over the extremely muddy patches near Sandyford Brook, then climb gently upwards towards the road and the car park at Curbar Gap. Before we go through the gate to the car park we spot another Companion Stone with a more understandable poem.

We cross the car park, climb up the few steps and head on the path towards the gate which gives access to Curbar Edge. Before we reach it, though, there are some picnic tables and a bench. Perfect. We settle down for lunch with a good view, and no chance of sitting on a snake.

It seems to have become colder, there is no hint of sunshine now and the wind speed seems to have increased. We hurry up with our lunch, and even the very good fresh cream eclairs are gobbled rather than savoured. After eating we huddle over our coffee cups trying to leech some warmth from the hot brew, but forgo a second cup in favour of getting moving.

Once on Curbar Edge we press on. I don't think I have ever been so cold on a walk before, despite wearing five layers, as well as scarf, hat and two pairs of gloves. The wind really has managed to get through everything.

There are more people here on this edge, but they are all walking pretty swiftly to keep warm. We keep pausing for PC to take photos, and once we start to descend it starts to feel better.

As we come up toward some trees we notice some stones poking out of the ground, and they appear to be in a roughly circular shape. Sure enough, checking with the OS map, this is a stone circle. We're both surprised that we have never seen it before, it is very close to the path, but maybe it has been covered with bracken before. Anyway, we have to stop to look at it and take some pictures. See:  (Stoke Flat - Froggatt) for more details and photos.

Leaving the circle behind us we continue on the path and through a gate. The path gets extremely muddy in places but with trees growing all around it is, at least, sheltered from the wind and we feel much more comfortable.

It doesn't take us long to reach the main A625, but we cross over and down the steep steps which firstly cross over a stream then take us up into Hay Wood where we were last week. From here it is only a short walk across the fields and back to the cars next to Grouse Inn.

Despite the bitter cold, and the close encounter with the snake, it has been a very enjoyable walk. We may have a few interruptions to our walks over the next few weeks, but we'll definitely get out when we can.

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