Today's walk has been postponed a couple of times, but finally we are going to make it, hoping that the ground isn't too soggy and that the promised rain doesn't fall.
We park at the side of the road at Bubnell, managing to find enough room despite there being plenty of cars parked there already. Many will undoubtedly belong to residents, and we are careful not to park in the residents' bays or blocking the bus stops, but we are pretty sure that some of the visitors' aren't parked quite as considerately as they could be.
The sky is pretty overcast and it is a bit chillier than it was earlier in the week, but nothing can stop our eagerness as we pull on the layers then manage to strap on Mollie's harness. Yes, Mollie is back with us today and seems to be looking forward to the walk.
It is a narrow, hemmed in path to begin with which comes to an awkward stile (there are many awkward stiles on this walk, some considerably worse than others) then we follow the path straight ahead adjacent to a wall. The views behind us over the village and towards the Edges is quite something, and there is even a hint of a rainbow too.
We come to a particularly nasty 'stile' (although it is more like a scramble over a wall with particularly unstable stones) and manage it with more aplomb than we could have expected. Then it is a case of straight on until the path veers left through a field of sheep to reach Wheatlands Lane.
We are getting into our stride now; muscles have warmed up and the conversation is in full flow. There is so much to catch up on!
Despite Mollie not liking roads, or rather the traffic on them, we have a fair way to walk down Wheatlands Lane, but it is a quiet road and we only meet a few cars. Eventually Wheatlands Lane turns into School Lane (not signed on the road, but it is on the map) and as we pause on the verge for a horse-box to emerge from a farm PC spots a buzzard above us. Then, once the horse-box has gone the other way, we can safely scan the skies and see three buzzards circling around quite low. I curse that I haven't brought my camera (good for zooming in) but PC snaps away hoping for a good shot of these wonderful birds.
Satisfied we continue on our way only for PC to pause again to happily take pictures of Highland Cattle.
We are careful walking through the village as the main road is fairly busy, but we soon find our next path - up a very muddy track and across an even muddier tractor track adjacent to Home Farm. Once through the mire, though, we are on a steady track leading straight on. However, we soon come to a stream (unnamed on map) which we need to cross, and we have to use our skills, agility and ingenuity (yes, I am joking) to get across dry shod as the recent heavy rain has made it much wider and muddier than usual, evidenced by the narrow bridge over part of the water.
Once at the far side the track takes us uphill for a short stretch and through a wooded area. Soon the woods are only on our left and since the sun is out (again!) we decide to make the most of it by settling down on a broken stretch of drystone wall for lunch.
The nip of Ramblers is much appreciated, and that is washed down by our first coffee of the day which is more than welcome. Sandwiches are eaten quickly, and partly shared with Mollie as I have forgotten her biscuits (I know, I feel guilty, and her accusing puppy-dog eyes make sure I won't forget again), then we have our buns. Not actual buns today, but Danish pastries filled with custard and almonds. Very yummy - and very crummy too, much to Mollie's delight!
We don't sit around for long, it is a bit too chilly for that and the sun has gone in again. It is clearly only going to make brief appearances today, so we head on along the track, through a gate then down toward the road.
We ignore the footpath on our right which climbs steeply up a field, but continue on this path as it winds around and eventually reaches the same spot but with less effort. There are wonderful views behind us and the tantalising scent of woodsmoke as well as clumps of double snowdrops. However, there are also some very grim clouds and we find some sparse shelter beneath a spindly hawthorn as it starts to hail. Yes, it seems we are to have all four seasons in one day!
Once the hail has stopped we press on to the top of the track and turn left into the village of Pilsley. Once again it starts to hail, but we ignore it. It isn't really wetting us and it is coming at us from behind so it isn't stinging our faces, although a rogue hailstone down the back of the neck is less than pleasant! Here there are more snowdrops all over the verges too.
Pilsley is another very pretty village, and its links to Chatsworth are apparent in the blue colour scheme. There are some lovely gardens and an interesting looking pub. We keep on the left hand road out of the village and continue some way before finding the path we need leading left through the fields.
This, we discover, is the easy bit. As we reach a small gate into the next field we see our route - steeply, muddily downhill. A test of balance and endurance we expect to be skiing downwards at any moment and visions of the recent Winter Olympics spring to mind - although less elegant.
With a considerable amount of surprise we reach the bottom of the slope without mishap and congratulate ourselves as we cross Rymas Brook and the A619 to start our ascent of the footpath on the other side of the road. Here we discover that going up on a slippery path can be almost as taxing as going down! But again we both make it up without any dramatic incidents.
Our path is at the diagonally opposite corner of the field and leads us back to Wheatlands Lane. We go down the lane and cross over to our next path, then pause. The sound of birds, hundreds of them, is coming from a nearby tree. We wait and watch as eventually small squadrons of starlings fly off until there are only a few left. Perhaps by evening there will be a huge coming together, or murmuration, of these birds making wonderful patterns in the sky. There certainly seems to be enough of them.
It has been good to get out again and the ground hasn't been as wet or as treacherous as we had anticipated. Now we are keeping our fingers crossed that we will be able to get out a bit more often.