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.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a bit scared of cows; they're bigger than me and usually gang up on me...the Highland cattle are very placid though.

    Quite often when I'm walking past a farm and not sure of the exact route of the path I almost wish that the farmer would confront me so that I'd be able to tell him that the only reason I've gone the wrong way is because he hasn't made the right way obvious enough to see.