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.