Saturday, 23 March 2013



This is a seriously cold day with high winds and a smattering of snow on the high ground. First thing this morning everything was white; snow coupled with a heavy frost, but underfoot it was wet and slushy. Not exactly perfect walking conditions, but we are nothing if not hardy!

We meet up next to the Grouse Inn, as we did on our last walk, but our route is to be different. We layer up - plenty of layers given the driving wind - then cross the road and head for the path which cuts across the field opposite the Inn. It takes us a while to get from one side of the field to the other, nothing to do with the conditions but more to do with numerous texts from daughter relaying the outcome of a (thankfully good) school report.

With that little drama out of the way we cross over a makeshift bridge of stone slabs, then go through a gate and walk up what appears to be a semi-permanent stream-bed. We're in sparse birch woodland here, but the path is clear. When we reach the wooden signpost we turn right then almost immediately left, clambering uphill over some gritstone boulders. 

As we gain height we get some excellent views all around, but we are already finding quite deep pockets of snow and the muddy bogs are covered with ice. When we come level with White Edge there is another useful wooden signpost, and we turn right onto the edge.

We can really feel the cold wind here. It is extremely bitter, and the edge is very exposed. To our left is the broad, relatively flat expanse of the aptly named Big Moor, to our right the edge drops away to Stoke Flat.

A short distance along the edge we come to a sculpture, a gritstone inscribed  'cube'. We've seen similar before on a walk (see: Moors, Reservoirs and Stone Circles - posted 8.3.12), and they are the result of the endeavours of Arts In The Peak: see

This looks as though it should turn (like a Rubik's Cube), and the photographs on the above website seem to support this, but the stone is weathered and a little mossy and we couldn't move it! And, as with most of the other stones we have encountered, we struggle to make sense of the poem inscribed on it.

We pass the stone and continue along the edge, trying our hardest to avoid as much of the mud as possible, but that is a hard job. The path starts to rise and we start to feel some snow blowing on the wind; the hard kind of snow with ambitions to become hail! Fortunately it doesn't last long and we - at the point of no return - are relieved.

Although it is still too early for lunch we decide to stop for a 'snack'; ie a nip from the secret flask and some home-made Florentines. We descend from the ridge to find a suitable boulder to sit on, and as we are preparing our elevenses PC spots a pair of deer. They are large, but quite hard to see until they start to move. They don't seem unduly worried about people, until some walkers on the ridge with a loose dog come along. The dog scents or sees the deer and sets off after them. The deer run, but don't put too much effort into it, obviously conserving energy. They are right to do so, too. The dog soon gives up and the deer saunter away.

We enjoy our nip from the flask (home-made Ramblers Restorative) with a ginger Florentine, then some Cointreau from the second flask with a glace fruit Florentine. Mmm, they bring a glow to the cold day.

Back up on the ridge we head towards the trig point, surrounded by snow, then continue onwards and slowly downwards as the path grazes the corner of a field and gives us a choice. Ultimately we want to go right towards Curbar Edge, but it seems like a good time to stop for lunch as the sun is making a feeble, half-hearted effort to emerge, so we go straight on looking for somewhere suitable to settle down to eat.

There are fewer comfortable looking boulders here, but there is a lot of dry, dead bracken which should make an adequate cushion for us out of the wind. We choose a likely spot and start the long process of remove rucksacks, cameras etc prior to settling down. That's when PC sees it. Right where she would have sat down is a snake, an adder, basking in the weak sunlight. It is sluggish with the cold (thank goodness) and about 2 foot long! Urgh. As we watch it slowly burrows back into the bracken and within five minutes it is completely hidden from sight.

Our mind is made up. No sitting in the bracken. We'll wait until we can find an adder-free spot for lunch.

We go down the hill, cross over the extremely muddy patches near Sandyford Brook, then climb gently upwards towards the road and the car park at Curbar Gap. Before we go through the gate to the car park we spot another Companion Stone with a more understandable poem.

We cross the car park, climb up the few steps and head on the path towards the gate which gives access to Curbar Edge. Before we reach it, though, there are some picnic tables and a bench. Perfect. We settle down for lunch with a good view, and no chance of sitting on a snake.

It seems to have become colder, there is no hint of sunshine now and the wind speed seems to have increased. We hurry up with our lunch, and even the very good fresh cream eclairs are gobbled rather than savoured. After eating we huddle over our coffee cups trying to leech some warmth from the hot brew, but forgo a second cup in favour of getting moving.

Once on Curbar Edge we press on. I don't think I have ever been so cold on a walk before, despite wearing five layers, as well as scarf, hat and two pairs of gloves. The wind really has managed to get through everything.

There are more people here on this edge, but they are all walking pretty swiftly to keep warm. We keep pausing for PC to take photos, and once we start to descend it starts to feel better.

As we come up toward some trees we notice some stones poking out of the ground, and they appear to be in a roughly circular shape. Sure enough, checking with the OS map, this is a stone circle. We're both surprised that we have never seen it before, it is very close to the path, but maybe it has been covered with bracken before. Anyway, we have to stop to look at it and take some pictures. See:  (Stoke Flat - Froggatt) for more details and photos.

Leaving the circle behind us we continue on the path and through a gate. The path gets extremely muddy in places but with trees growing all around it is, at least, sheltered from the wind and we feel much more comfortable.

It doesn't take us long to reach the main A625, but we cross over and down the steep steps which firstly cross over a stream then take us up into Hay Wood where we were last week. From here it is only a short walk across the fields and back to the cars next to Grouse Inn.

Despite the bitter cold, and the close encounter with the snake, it has been a very enjoyable walk. We may have a few interruptions to our walks over the next few weeks, but we'll definitely get out when we can.

Sunday, 10 March 2013


The weather couldn't be more different this week from last. Instead of sunshine with pockets of crispy snow we have fog, drizzle and a bitterly cold wind to contend with. And PC's unerring ability to lose her way!

We eventually meet up in the lay-by near The Grouse Inn on the A625 (Froggatt to Fox House) after PC has enjoyed a scenic drive-around in the area courtesy of her SatNav! The fog is pretty widespread and has been for some days, and though there is a cutting wind blowing it isn't actually clearing the murk.

It doesn't take us long to layer up then head up towards the pub where there is a stile into the adjoining field. We've been here in spring/summer and the field is a beautiful meadow, but today it is covered with a layer of farm-muck. Fortunately it has been down a while so there it isn't actually unpleasant, but it was probably a bit grim when it was first spread.

We cross the fields diagonally then pass through a gate onto a path at the top of Hay Wood. After getting our bearings (we've been here before and have found the multitude of paths criss-crossing the wood quite confusing) we head more or less straight ahead on a narrow path that starts to go downhill almost immediately. It's fairly muddy and we're careful not to slip. The trees surrounding us are mainly birch; tall, thin and spindly.

At the bottom of the path there is a rough crossroads and again we go straight on and continue descending. It is very pleasant in the woods, we're out of the wind and the fog seems to be clinging to the tree canopy rather than filtering down to us, but it is very popular. We've already seen more people out walking in the first half hour - mainly dog walkers - than we tend to see on a whole day's outing.

The downward path continues until it is following a wide stream, then we go through a gate and onto a lane with a little more substance to it. At the first house PC spots a clump of snowdrops at the entrance to the driveway, so goes up to photograph them. Once satisfied we continue between a number of cottages and a moss-covered drystone wall.

At the bottom of the lane we come to the village's 18th Century 3-arch bridge crossing the River Derwent, but rather than cross over we take the gate into the adjacent flat meadow and follow the footpath across it, which is part of the Derwent Valley Heritage Way. We cross over small but deep stream, a bit muddy on the far side, then follow a path to a gate where, on the other side, we are in woods again.

We don't walk far before we cross over yet another stream and pause at some boulders on the far side to sample one of my treats - not a nip from the secret flask today, but I've some of my Blue Russian (home-made Blueberry Vodka). I've tried it before, but I wanted PC's opinion, and I'm pleased to say that she considered it a success!

After the break we continue through the woods, then across a few fields (thankfully livestock-free) before coming to a gate and an extremely narrow crush-stile. Folk must have been a lot thinner in the days when these were first erected!

We follow the lane (Spooner Lane) to the bottom of Froggatt where the cottages cluster close to the river. We ignore Froggatt Bridge for now and go through a wooden gate when leads us to a path at the side of the river. We haven't been walking for long before we pause for PC to take a photograph of the bridge, and as she is preparing her camera I spot something on the other bank. A water vole! Ratty himself from Wind in the Willows. We are entranced, watching the well camouflaged wee beastie as it scuttles up and down the river bank, eventually slipping into the water and swimming gracefully downstream a little way. It is such a joy to see this rare and elusive creature, and we are seriously tempted to stay watching it for far longer than necessary, but eventually we move on.

Further along we find swathes of snowdrops at the side of the path, and PC is in her element! They look wonderful, and despite being white they do brighten up the monochrome day.

The path continues at the side of the river to New Bridge near Calver Sough, we climb up the stone steps onto the road, cross over the river then take the path along the opposite bank of the Derwent.

It is very different here, with marsh and wet-lands and a newt pond. We haven't gone far before we find a suitably placed bench where we sit down for lunch. We have a lovely view of the river and bridge as we eat our sandwiches, drink the coffee and enjoy the buns. This week we have fresh cream doughnuts with enough jam in them to dribble out stickily.

We know we are lingering for too long, so as soon as we have eaten we pack up (rucksacks lighter) and continue along the path. It is a broader path here and more open. We soon pass the spot where Ratty had been exploring, but no sign of the vole now, then we're at Froggatt Bridge.

Once across the bridge we retrace our way, meeting a four-month collie pup out with its owner. Mollie and the pup - young and (not too) old - sniff and make friends. We walk along Spooner Lane, renegotiate the narrow crush then cross the fields and into the woods. Soon we come to a right hand footpath which will give us some height, and the path higher in the wood is well marked on the map so we're feeling very confident.

We should have known better! After climbing the clear path turns right, which is fine, but then begins to deteriorate into a series of muddy quagmires. We manage to keep following the route though, the path appearing and disappearing from time to time with us making a few detours to avoid  the mire.

Arriving at a fence and wall we cross the stile (if it can be called that) then follow the barely visible path at the other side. It skirts a wall, then we cross a stream via a very high stone culvert/bridge before continuing until the path peters out. We press on, encounter a vast area of swollen water/mud and are forced to pick our way the best we can, holding onto overhanging branches and using partially submerged stones so we don't sink without a trace.

Eventually, after crossing another stream, we come to a broken section of wall with a clear path at the far side. We take the path which, naturally, disappears into nothing. We've come too far to turn back so we take our bearings, decide that we know what we're doing and where we're heading, so push on uphill through the trees and brambles.

Our endeavours are rewarded when we eventually reach a clear path - one marked on the map! As we reach it PC spots three deer amongst the trees ahead and to the right of us. They aren't far from the road, and they are moving away from us, but they do seem quite large. We weren't even aware that there were any deer around here.

On this path the walking is easy, but it is starting to rain. We continue until we come to the ragged crossroads we encountered this morning, so we turn uphill but then take an easier path that leads us past what was possibly an old quarry before passing a small car park and finishing at the gateway out of the woods. Then it is a short stroll across the fields and back to the cars.

The fog still hasn't lifted, but we aren't too bothered. It has been a good day, we've been pretty well sheltered and we have seen some interesting wildlife.

Monday, 4 March 2013


It feels like forever and a day since we were last out walking, we've had illness, injury and half term to contend with, but we're out again with something simple just to get us back into the swing of things without pushing our depleted fitness levels too far. And the sun is shining!

We park up at the popular spot at the side of the road from Grindleford, close to Granby Barn, and as soon as we're togged up it's photograph time. We have a wide sweep here to choose from, with wonderfully clear views of Higger Tor and Carl Wark. Photos finished we walk a short way along the road and take the path down towards Burbage Brook. Despite the glorious sunshine it is very cold and there is ice on the stream edges and coating exposed boulders. There is even some snow lingering in sheltered, sunless spots.

There are a lot of people out today, and we have delayed a little to avoid a large, strung out walking group. For some reason groups seem to be cropping up everywhere we go - we barely missed being drafted into one at Baslow a few weeks ago.

With the last stragglers of the group out of sight we go down to the Brook, pause again for some photographs then follow its banks upstream. We're ambling along at a very leisurely pace. Not having walked for some time we do have a lot of catching up to do so we need to conserve our breath!

We cross the water again and start climbing up the surfaced path towards the Longshaw Estate, go through the gate then walk along the wide track through the trees. The sunlight makes the tree trunks and boulders cast long shadows, and there are a lot of gritstone boulders wedged into the hillside here. (PC has a particular fondness for boulders!)

At the end of the path we go through the narrow gate, cross the road and head up the driveway towards Longshaw. There are certainly a lot more people here, but the cafe is open (as are the toilets) which undoubtedly provides an attraction.

Most people are walking on the paths in front of the big house, but we head behind the Visitor centre and cafe complex onto the quieter path. PC can't resist nosing over the wall to look into the large kitchen garden, so Mollie and I wait patiently as she satisfies her curiosity.

Further along we pass through a large gate and come out on a broad, grassy track leading towards the aptly named Wooden Pole. There is also a very inviting bench, and our secret flask and a bar of chocolate beckon! We sit very comfortably enjoying the distant views and listening to the sound of tinkling bells. Turning around we see a tree festooned with wind chimes. The tree is fenced in, but I can't find any details as to why the tree has been decorated.

Leaving the tree behind us we stroll along the path towards Wooden Pole, then detour slightly down to the car park and onto the path next to the entrance. Then we're on a clear track going through the sparse woodland of the estate leading down to rough moorland.

We're on the lookout for somewhere to sit for lunch, and soon we find it by crossing the dead, buff-coloured grass to park ourselves on a suitably sized flat boulder. We're comfortable, sat in the sunshine and still have a good view.

Out come sandwiches and coffee for us, biscuits and water for Mollie. Then we have our buns, fresh cream eclairs which, as noted on a previous post, are the perfect shape for walking buns.

We know we don't have a long way to go now so we don't rush, but it is a bit chilly sitting around so we pack up our things and amble on. It's extremely easy walking, probably why this area is such a magnet for families out for a stroll, and as we walk we notice signs to entice youngsters: the ant walk, the boggart hole.

Eventually we come to another gateway and at the far side of it we reach a path which gives us two options, either up towards the Visitor centre or down towards Granby Barn. We take the left hand route towards the barn, and from there the road and our cars.

The sun is still out when we get back to the cars so we have time to sit and reflect, and chat some more. We know how lucky we have been to have been out on such a bright, clear day and we can only keep our fingers crossed that our next walk will be just as good.