Thursday, 25 April 2013


PC is off sailing the seven seas with her husband so, for now, it's just me and my camera.

Well, this is it. My first lone walk so I've chosen a familiar route to help me get into the swing of it. I've also had to take into account the perils (real or perceived) of 'a woman walking alone' and I need to know how I feel.

So, Stanage Edge beckons. I'm a bit later than usual, not actually having an appointed time to meet someone has meant that I've done a lot of catching up at home before setting out. But I've missed the heavy build-up of early morning traffic through Chesterfield and made good time.

There are a few cars and a couple of mini-buses in the Hook Car car park, and I can see people already walking up on the edge. I can also hear the shouts and calls of rock climbers, mainly children doing outdoor activities.

I gather my gear, manage to remember my camera, and set off  only to stop at the end of the car park to take my first photograph. I've decided to walk along the road first then up onto the edge from Dennis Knoll as returning on the road always seems such a trudge, especially the last couple of hundred yards uphill!

It's quite chilly so I've put my waterproof coat on though I don't feel as though I need my gloves or hat yet. Over the sound of voices on the rocks and my own, lone, footsteps I can hear the distinctive call of a curlew but I've never been able to see one around here.

It is very strange walking alone, not having anyone to talk to or any news to catch up on. I'm stuck with my own thoughts and my own company, and not sure if that's particularly comforting!

A quick stop at the conveniently placed conveniences and I'm on my way again, surprised at how quickly I seem to be covering the ground. I pass the car park at Stanage Plantation and pause. The road stretches ahead and I'm reminded words from a Beatles song, 'Long and Winding Road'.

Maybe I should be thinking 'These Boots Were Made For Walking' as I continue along the road. See how my mind wanders when there is no-one to keep me in check!

There is a small lay-by and a gate leading down to access land, but the views to Hathersage with Abney beyond are lovely. Sadly my camera doesn't do the view justice.

A little way further along a stream cuts through the landscape at Sheepwash Bank (the name may possibly be used to describe the area and woodland below) and there was once a settlement here, with a field system marked on the OS map.
I step down to have a look at the stream which runs beneath the road, then pull out the (not-so) secret flask and make a toast to absent friends. Then I have an idea, and take a photo of the secret flask with a backdrop of Stanage Edge, just for PC! Hope she appreciates it.
From here it's a short walk up the road to Dennis Knoll where the small car park is full of County Council vehicles and a huge pile of rubble. As I reach it a lorry pulls up to dump another load. From the road I had been able to see a JCB and a digger high up on the Dennis Knoll path near to the Buck Stone and assumed that they were repairing the path which had become badly eroded. Sure enough, when I reach the end of the car park I see the sign saying that the whole lane is closed as far as Stanedge Pole and will be for some time. Fortunately, it is only closed to vehicles (ie the 4x4 brigade who have caused so much damage to the track) and walkers/cyclists/horse riders will be allowed access.
As I set off up the track the JCB comes down, followed by the digger. It's lunch-time for the men and they've come back to their base for a break. Luckily for me it gives me a clear stretch without having to dodge vehicles.
I pause to take off my outer coat. I know it's going to get warm as it's all uphill, so better to do it now. The road is already in much better repair than it was on our last visit here so although there is a gradient it isn't too bad underfoot, and I can keep pausing to look at the widening view.
Not only are the workers repairing the track but they are also adding drainage ditches, which are really very impressive. There's even boulders at the side to stop vehicles from by-passing them. Let's hope that the 4x4s don't undo all the good work when they start using the lane again.

A little way further up the lane and I reach the point where the work hasn't progressed so far. Although they have filled up some of the huge potholes with coarse rubble the fine surface hasn't been laid or rolled which means having to watch where I put my feet.
It isn't far now and within a few minutes I'm on the Edge with all the uphill walking behind me. The path is deserted here as I veer right onto the track that runs along the top of Stanage Edge, but as I come up to the path meeting it from Stanage Plantation a large group of walkers haul themselves up onto the path just in front of me. Fortunately they need a rest from the climb, so with a brief 'hello' I overtake them.
The wind is pretty fierce up here, nothing new there, and I know that when I stop I'll have to put on my top coat, though for now I'm fine. I keep pausing to look at the view from the edge which is, as usual, spectacular.
My stomach tells me it's lunchtime so I find myself a spot out of the wind between two huge buttresses of rock, drag on my coat and hat, then settle down for lunch. A heavy salad and a small flask of coffee. The coffee is good, but not overly hot; the small flask doesn't seem to keep the heat in very well. I shall have to either insulate it or buy a better one. I finish off with a pecan and maple syrup muffin (which I made this morning). It tastes good, but is more like a Battle Muffin (anyone who reads Terry Pratchett will know of the Dwarf Bread Museum in Ankh Morpork - this muffin could be an exhibit) and could do someone a serious injury.
It doesn't take long to eat lunch, and with no-one to chat with there is no need to linger. I re-pack my rucksack, take another couple of pictures, then rejoin the path.
There are more people up on the edge now, but looking behind me I can see clouds gathering. In fact, it is virtually impossible to see the Blot on the Landscape (the cement works) because of the rain at Hope. Not good.
I step up the pace, pausing only briefly to look at the views. I can already feel a few drops of rain - a good job I put on my waterproof trousers after lunch. Fortunately the rain doesn't come down in a torrent, more of a fine misty drizzle, nothing too bad but I decide I don't really want to be out in it for long. I don't have far to go, and soon find the path leading down off the edge towards the car park. I'm reasonably dry when I reach my car, though I notice that one of my coat sleeves is wet, and I need to use my windscreen wipers straight away.
It's been a pretty good walk, and completed in record time, but it hasn't been half as pleasurable as usual. I'm going to keep at it, though, and I'm already trying to think up some alternative walks. Next week, though, it looks as though I may have Husband with me as he has a day off work. That will be novel! But if he thinks I'll let him off easily he has another think coming.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


It's windy, there are still pockets of snow on the hills, but the sun is out and we intend to make the most of it. We've had a long absence due to Easter and family demands, and this will be our last walk together for quite some time, so we want it to be a good one.

We park in the Hurst Clough car park, the first one at the side of Ladybower, and layer up in preparation for the onslaught from the wind. Mollie is eager, she has obviously missed coming out with us. First, though, PC has to chase a carrier bag down the slope that has been whipped out of her car by the wind. Fortunately it snags on something so she can retrieve it. 

Once we're finally ready - it does seem to take us some time - we go down the grassy slope to the reservoir-side path and head south towards the A57. Everything is turning lush and green as though Spring is hurrying to make up for time lost to the overlong Winter

The sun makes everything very enticing, but we notice that the water is iron grey and extremely choppy.

We walk along the grassy area towards the bridge, angle up to the road then cross over and take the footpath that climbs steeply up towards Crookhill Farm. As we round the first hump in the field we see a flock of ewes and their newborn lambs spread out in front of us. A definite photo opportunity! Keeping Mollie close PC snaps away and we try to avoid disturbing them too much, although there is some half-hearted bleating going on.

Into the next field we come across more sheep, and once we're through the next gate there are even more, with barely enough
grass to keep them all. Then we see the farmer hovering, clearly unhappy that we are there although we are on the footpath and keeping Mollie under very close control. The sheep don't actually seem too concerned about us.

PC struggles with the gate out of the field, she'd obviously not eaten her Weetabix this morning, so we have to swap dog duties for gate duties. Once through, and the gate secured behind us, the farmer waits at the next gate, opening it for us. He's clearly not very happy and replies to our 'Good Mornings' and 'Thank Yous' with a taciturn 'You should have gone the other way'.

Whenever we have walked this way before we have been coming from the other direction and 'the other way' is very clearly marked. Coming uphill, however, we saw no indication whatsoever of 'the other way' (a white-arrowed alternative route) and could only follow the obvious (and legal) footpath. Maybe we just missed it, or maybe it wasn't signed very well (or at all), as ideally we would have preferred 'the other way' to avoid the sheep and farm yard. But we certainly didn't do anything wrong, and I half wonder if that displeased the farmer, robbing him of any opportunity or justification to have a go at us!

We returned to our route though the fields across the lane from Crookhill Farm, then out onto the access land beneath Crook Hill and our next encounter. Highland Cattle. As you may know, I have a severe aversion to cattle in any shape or form, but PC promised to put herself between them and us. Fortunately, only one relatively small beastie was near us, scratching on a route marker, and giving us only scant attention. I gave him a wide berth as we set off up the bridleway that took us past Crook Hill.

By now the wind was getting very strong and we know that we'll soon be on the highest part of the path, near Bridge-end Pasture, where we'll be totally exposed. With this in mind we decide to find somewhere to sit for a drink and a natter.

The slopes of Crook Hill provide a sheltered spot with enough boulders to find a comfortable seat. I fetch out the new secret flask (a birthday present from PC) and we christen it - enjoying a nip of the Ramblers Restorative - and help ourselves to some Turkish Delight chocolate thins too. Well, we need to keep our energy levels up!

We stay for quite a long time enjoying the sunshine, the chocolate, the mellowing effects of the Ramblers and catching up on all the news, but we must move on so gather our things and set off again into the teeth of the wind. By the time we're walking up the broad grassy slope to the top of Bridge-end pasture we're finding it hard to keep on our feet, and not because of the alcohol. It's gale force up here and we have to hold on tight to our hats.

Fortunately as soon as we begin to drop a little the wind eases and we're able to pause to enjoy the views again. The gateway as we approach Hagg Side is waterlogged and muddy, the only real evidence of last night's rain, but we manage to shimmy around it by clinging onto a gate post. From here the path is very dry.

At Open Hagg we can look down to the A57, then follow its course as it bends along the valley heading for Manchester. We continue along our path then turn right on the Lockerbrook path.

It's wide, easy walking and we're soon passing Lockerbrook Farm. A little way beyond the farm is a path leading downhill towards Fairholmes, and we decide that this is as good as any. There are sheep and cows in the field but they are at the other side of the small stream, so I feel safe.

We walk to the bottom of the field and up onto a small mound where we drop our rucksacks and sit down next to the wall. It's still windy, but we're out of the worst of it, and we can enjoy the sun.

We're in need of coffee, so we have a cup first before eating our sandwiches. Then we have a mini-orange (healthy) and a chocolate chip & banana cookies (not so healthy) each before having our official buns. One of our favourites today, though we can't get them often enough. Fresh cream strawberry tarts; sweet pastry, creme anglaise, strawberries and cream. Yum! It is almost a shame to have another coffee after them, although the coffee is very good today, too.

Whilst we're eating we are joined by an uninvited guest. No, not an adder this week, but a duck. A female mallard waddles over to us and waits patiently, hopefully, but in vain. Mollie, observant as she is, never even notices the new arrival who eventually waddles away in disgust.

With our late lunch over we go back to the path and through a gate into the woods at Lockerbrook Coppice. The path is very clear, and is probably waymarked from Fairholmes, although you have to look carefully for the signs going downhill. To be fair, it must be quite a pull if you're approaching it from the bottom.

We have a fair few photo opportunities, the reservoir looks very inviting through the trees, but we're travelling downhill quite rapidly and we're soon by the road across from Fairholmes. We cross over to visit the facilities and aren't too surprised to see how many cars are in the car park. It is a lovely day, after all.

Once we've finished at Fairholmes we head back to the road, follow it a little way then veer off to pick up the reservoir-side path. It's quite a long walk back to the cars, but a very pleasant one. PC stops to photograph a clump of miniature daffodils growing at the side of one of the fences, probably planted deliberately as a memorial, and at one point we have to side-step a frog in the middle of the path.

When we reach our cars we have enough time to sit on a bench and enjoy a late-birthday celebration drink along with the last of the Turkish Delight.

It has been an absolutely fantastic day and we have both thoroughly enjoyed it. But we're a bit sad too. PC is off to sail the seven seas (well, maybe not all seven!) and will be away for some time which means our walking, for now, is over. I'll try to keep going out, though it will feel very strange being on my own and until I get used to it I'll feel quite vulnerable too. But I'll continue to post - just to let her know what she's missing!

Bon Voyage, Cate, and have a great time.