Friday, 29 November 2013


Yes! We've made it. Another walk out. However, I've forgotten the map and my camera. Well, you can't have everything.

Today's plan was very last minute, so much so that we have decided where to meet, but not where to walk. So as we stand in the Fairholmes car park in the perishing cold we quickly make a plan. Since we are without a map it does mean doing something we are familiar with, so we move the cars up to the side of the Dam (no parking fees) and get ready.

The cold is biting, the temperature gauge has struggled to keep above freezing, and we are pulling on a multitude of layers. We're keen to get going, if only to warm up.

We walk down the staggered steps that lead to the road that passes in front of the dam wall. Crossing the grassy area towards the steps at the far side, Mollie is allowed to run off some of her energy.

Once up the steps at the far side of the dam wall we put Mollie back on the lead as we go along the path and through the gate onto the rough road. You don't see much traffic on here, but there are usually quite a few walkers and cyclists. Today, though, there are very few people about and we seem to have this whole side of the reservoir to ourselves.

When we reach a bench we turn right onto footpath which climbs up at the side of a stream, and up Walkers Clough. It's quite muddy in places, churned up especially by mountain bikes which aren't even supposed to use this Public Footpath. Through the gate at the top we pause for Mollie to have a drink at the fast flowing stream, then we press on uphill.

It is quite tricky walking up here. Normally we come downhill, which is really grim, but the problem with the uphill is more from the mud underfoot which is very slippery rather than the steep incline. There is a stream running down, which isn't helping, and Mollie is constantly 'rescuing' stones to throw at my feet.

At a bend in the path the soggy section stops and we are able to press on dry foot. Pausing to admire the views behind us is compulsory and today they are spectacular with the clean, clear late autumn light. How I wish I had remembered my camera, but it is a good job PC has hers.

We meet two walkers coming carefully downhill, steadying themselves with their walking poles. They will certainly need them further down the slope. The path has a sprinkling of white on it, tucked into the shadows where the sun can't reach. It could be the result of a heavy frost, but it does look suspiciously like snow.

One final pull and we reach the signpost close to the derelict Bamford House, then after another pause to admire the views we turn right. The path is level and relatively straight, but with a gentle incline. It is very fresh up here, but the sun makes it feel a little less cold.

We walk until we cross over a stile, from where we have wonderful all-round views. Derwent Edge looks particularly spectacular in the light.

By now we are ready for lunch (we did set off late) but not far from the stile we find a deep hollow which is a perfect spot out of the wind. We settle down and I fetch out a mini bottle of wine. Today is PC's pre-birthday walk and we need to celebrate in a suitable manner. After all, she'll be a year older on our next walk.

The wine makes a lovely starter, then we eat our sandwiches, enjoy a KitKat chunky (so much better than the ordinary ones) and the buns. Today they are crumble topped pies, one apple and one rhubarb. And for a change they are completely filled with fruit, not like the pies that seem to be pumped up with air! After all that, and two cups of coffee, we are feeling very mellow.

Sadly, we can't sit here forever, as tempting as that seems, so we set off. As soon as we are out of the hollow the cold air hits us again, it is surprising how sheltered we were. The path here is very broad, and springy underfoot, and in places it is very boggy though it is easy enough to skirt the muddy bits.

The path curves and follows the line of a partially broken dry stone wall which looks very stark with the afternoon sun emphasising the shadows and shape. Very quickly we reach the end of the moorland path, cross over a stile and start to descend. We look down into Dovestone Clough and can follow the line of Mill Brook.

We drop down Briery Side, past Lanehead and down the steep hollow track to Wellhead and the tarmac road on the east side of Ladybower.

It is really cold down here; completely in shadow it feels as though this road has not felt the sun all day. We walk briskly to keep warm.

Just past Jubilee Cottages we turn into the woods where, we know, there is a small nature trail. We discover that we have entered the woods a bit too early and have to negotiate a couple of very steep banks but we land safely without falling then follow the path through the woods pausing to admire some of the wooden sculptures.

We come out of the woods on the road to Fairholmes and only have the steep steps back up to the cars to negotiate. At the top we find that this side of the reservoir is in shadow too, and the tops of the cars have frost forming on them.

It has been a superb day, despite the cold, and as we drive home along the road at the side of the reservoir the sun continues to paint the ridges and edges in brilliant russet hues. Magical.

Monday, 25 November 2013


We really haven't been doing terribly well lately. Yet another gap has occurred in our walking due to unforeseen circumstances, so we've missed another week. But sheer determination has us out today, despite being under the influence of a streaming cold. And we are lucky. The weather is relatively mild, and we are able to ignore the wind and the sogginess from previous rain.

We're a little late meeting up; road works on the A57 (for PC) and a slow photocopier for me (long story) sets us back a bit, but it doesn't really matter as we don't have a long walk planned. There aren't many vehicles in the car park next to the Robin Hood pub (just off the A619) but there is a new Pay and Display machine. They seem to be creeping in everywhere.

A brief catch up then we're pulling on the layers, even the woolly hats make their first appearance in a while. Mollie is put on the lead and we make our way down to the road for the short walk up to the footpath.

We know it isn't long since we were last here so it is all very familiar, but that doesn't stop Mollie bounding off when we let her have a run in the woods once we are through the gate and on the path. Mollie loves stones and rocks, picking them up and tossing them to us to throw for her. They aren't good for her teeth, and we won't play, but that doesn't curb her enthusiasm.

We don't let her run too far before we put her back on the lead again, and we're climbing up through the rocks onto Birchen Edge. As soon as we're up the views open up around us and we're really glad of the clear skies, although the wind is a bit strong.

It's a steady amble along the edge, although one worrying aspect is the large number of cow pats! My aversion to cows is well known, and I am not particularly keen on meeting the depositors of these overlarge dollops of manure. They are not made by diminutive beasts.

We head towards the monumental rocks - the three ships - (see our walk Outlaws and Heroes dated 2.3.12) to celebrate the success of Nelson's fleet at Trafalgar. There are a couple of groups of climbers working on the edge so we amble up to the ships for a closer look before continuing on our way, happy that we have had no sightings of cows.

It isn't long before we reach the trig point and decide that we need to descend if we want to eat our lunch out of the wind. We drop down and scout around, eventually settling on a rock sheltered by a few spindly trees.

As Mollie tucks into biscuits we have the last of PC's Cointreau followed by a nip of my Ramblers. I'll have to make some more before winter sets in, there isn't much left. Then it's coffee and sandwiches before the buns come out.

These are new to us; chocolate tarts with fresh cream and orange curls. At first sight they seem to be quite light but when it comes to eating them they turn out to be seriously calorific! Shortcrust pastry cases, a thin layer of thick chocolate custard covered with moist chocolate brownie topped with fresh cream and orange chocolate curls. (PC should have taken a photo, but she was half way down hers before she thought of it!) They are seriously good, but would have been filling had they been half the size. PC is undaunted and eats all of hers, but I end up sharing that last of mine with Mollie, who doesn't complain.

Feeling very over-stuffed we decide that we had better get going. We make our way back to the path and walk beneath the ridge, watching some of the climbers as they work their way up the rocks. The narrow path broadens out and soon we are heading back towards the road, the car park and our cars.

It hasn't been a very long walk, nor an eventful one (thanks to the lack of cows) but it has been good to get out. It has been chilly and breezy, but that has helped to keep the head cold at bay. Fingers crossed we'll be able to get into some kind of walking routine again.

Monday, 4 November 2013


We haven't been doing terribly well lately with our walking. Injury, illness and absenteeism have all taken their toll so it was with huge relief that we were able to arrange a trip out. Except that we were having problems sorting out where. PC came to the rescue with a walk suggested by her husband (one of his 'training walks' for his Coast to Coast jaunt) and to be on the safe side I drove up the motorway to meet her at her house so she could lead the way to the parking point.

We park up in Worrall, a place I don't know at all but one that PC is fortunately quite familiar with, and make preparations for a soggy day. It rained heavily last night and although it is clear now the wind is cold and we're not expecting a dry run. 

Mollie is eager to go so once she is out of the car we set off up the road, turn onto Kirk Edge Road heading towards Bradfield School then look for the footpath on our left at the end of the houses. The sign has a number on it (we discover that all the footpaths around here are numbered, useful if we'd known about it or known which numbers to follow!). It's a narrow ginnel and at the end the path goes right through a (very) narrow crush and over a wall. The crush certainly lives up to its name, we have to remove our rucksacks to get through it, and go through sideways too. It is on the tight side and anyone who is heftily built would really struggle.

At the other side we cross a very soggy field, waterlogged from last night's rain, then it is a series of stiles, gates and bizarre obstacles designed to keep stock in and make walkers think carefully. We pause to rescue and warm up a sad looking butterfly which is languishing in the damp grass. PC cups in her hands until it flutters off, and promptly lands in the next damp field!

We eventually go through a muddy field which brings us out at Low Ash Farm where we turn right, then left as we reach the road. We've only a short walk down the road to the next corner where we take the track to the right. We are following part of the Sheffield Country Walk and it is clearly quite well used.

We're doing well with the weather now, though. Although it is still windy the sun is out and we are starting to enjoy far reaching views across the Loxley Valley.

The track we are on now is broad and runs across Low Ash Common with mounds of illegal tipping on the right now covered with vegetation to make it look innocent, though goodness knows what is under there. The track carries on towards a farm but the path we need veers off to the left and over a stone wall. We're certainly getting in a lot of stiles on this walk - the exercise must be good for us.

The path runs straight ahead following a stone wall with a few more stiles ahead crossing intersecting walls. Unfortunately there are cows in some of the fields. And in the final field there are cows RIGHT ON THE PATH. I hand Mollie's lead to PC, let them go over the stile first, then sprint past using Mollie and PC as a shield between me and the cows. Phew. Safe! Though the cows don't seem to have noticed me at all.

We have a small wooded area to walk through, then another field (and stile) before we come out on a quite road at Holdworth, a sleepy little hamlet. We don't meet any traffic as we walk up the road then down another small lane before finding the path on the right though fields next to Holdworth Hall which is the continuation of the Sheffield Country Walk.

The path is easy to follow, even when we have to walk through the yard at Cliffe House Farm, and we are soon on a distinct lane descending towards Loxley Road which leads to High Bradfield. Before we reach it, though, we see a steep path up on our right which leads, enticingly, towards Castle Hill. We decide to take it; it looks like it will provide a good stop for lunch, and the Castle name is intriguing.

It is a short, steep climb up through the bronzed bracken and we emerge on the top of the hill next to a ladder stile with excellent views all around. Balancing precariously on top of the stile I attempt to take a panorama shot, and hope it comes out well because I'm not doing that again.

On the far side of the stile we are walking on level ground and soon come to Castle Hill where there is evidence of plenty of activity (mounds, ditches etc) but no stonework. It is marked in English Heritage's records as a Motte Castle, though the nearby Bailey Castle (behind the church in High Bradfield) does offer more prominence and interest. It seems possible that they may have been linked in some way, although the site at Castle Hill may be earlier. Sadly there is insufficient information on the site.

However, we do decide that it is a perfect place to stop for lunch, so we find a comfortable place in a hollow where we are sheltered from the wind, and celebrate our return to walking with a nip of Ramblers before having a warming cup of coffee. (Note: new flask this week as the old one was, as PC put it so nicely, 'developing a personality of its own'!)

Then we quickly eat our sandwiches, Mollie enjoys her biscuits, as we are eager to get to the main event. Muffins, but no ordinary muffins. These are apple and blackberry fresh cream muffins, and are really rather splendid. They are devoured with undisguised glee then followed by a second coffee and a final tot of Cointreau.

Suitably re-energised we pull on our rucksacks and return to our walk.

We descend from Castle Hill and at the next ladder stile we find the take off and landing very soggy as a small stream runs past. We trudge through it then across the next field to yet another stile which takes us, via a very steep descent, onto the road in High Bradfield. We have some road walking to do here, but it isn't too busy. But we do have a lovely view of the very attractive parish church of St Nicholas.

The road takes us down to Low Bradfield and Damflask Reservoir. We take the small road on the northern side of the reservoir until we are able to drop onto the reservoir path. It's lovely in the afternoon light with the sun filtering through the leaves. And down here the wind has dropped so that we aren't surprised to see so many people out running and walking.


We pass the sailing club then ascend the slight slope to return to the road. It can be very busy on here, but there is a good pavement and Mollie doesn't seem as worried in traffic as she used to be. It's a fair walk on the road, but easy going, and soon we have to cross over to another stile at the side of the imposing gates leading to Loxley House. This path runs very straight, though a field of three donkeys (the Three Amigos) who are very friendly, then over more stiles as it steadily climbs uphill. We have to cross the immaculately tarmacked Myers Lane (soon to be part of the Tour de France route, apparently) then climb some more until we come out close to Low Ash Farm.

From here we have to retrace our steps; stiles, stiles and more stiles then the final crush where we still have to remove our rucksacks to get through. Clearly we haven't lost that much weight on our walk!

The sky is starting to turn dull, not from rain but from the early dusk we will have to get used to now that the clocks have been altered. But we have had a really good day. A bit soggy around the feet at times but not a drop of rain, and an area that I, at least, don't know at all.

Fingers crossed, we'll be able to get out again next week and begin our autumn/winter walking in earnest.