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.
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.
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.
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.