Sunday, 9 March 2014


Two weeks in a row - very good going for us at the moment, but we have managed it although we have chosen what appears to be the only dull, damp day in the middle of an unseasonable clear spell. Well, we can't have everything.

We park up near the Monsal Trail just off the A6020 where the minor road (a B road, I think, but not numbered on the map) heads for Great Longstone. There is enough room for two or three cars here, and another couple of spaces at the far side of the bridge. Ample room in the week but not likely to provide much luck during weekends.

Once we are togged up ready to go, and with our waterproofs on due to the misty rain that is already falling, we walk under the bridge then take the path on our right which leads us straight up onto the Monsal Trail, a familiar place for us and easy walking. It isn't going to be a good day for photographs, particularly since PC has forgotten her camera (!) but I have mine so we should manage something even if they won't be particularly spectacular.

From a vantage point we can see the first part of the route we are planning to take, not realising from here that the distant ridge is where we will be ending up.

We come to a 'cross roads' on the Trail where we often turn right to take the path towards Bakewell, and Mollie is very keen to go in that direction, but today we go left and drop down to cross a lower field that leads to the road and Toll Bar House. On the gate someone has put up a copy of an old document relating to the Tolls.

We cross the road and go left for a little distance to the next stile - a nice easy one compared with the ones we had to negotiate last week. The only downside is the huge boggy area immediately next to it, but we manage to skirt it then set off up the long slight incline of the field. 

Although the rain has stopped the view is still obscured so we concentrate on our conversation instead. We cross more stiles and end up adjacent to a long, tall wall in an extremely muddy field. The field has been ploughed and the path sort-of reinstated, but isn't particularly good, although it could have been much worse. We come out of the field onto a slightly better track that takes us onto the Hassop-Great Longstone road where we turn right.

We haven't walked far along the road before we are stopped by a very polite White Van Man (Openreach) asking for directions! Have they not been given SatNavs? In the end the trusty OS map comes to the rescue and we are able to send the van driver (and his colleague in a following van) in the right direction. They were lucky to catch us, a little way along the road we find our next turning on the left and cross over to it.

Here things start to become a little tricky. The map shows the footpath crossing a field adjacent to a wall. On the ground, no wall, no visible path.
Undaunted we head off in what we assume to be the general direction of the would-be path and find, once we have passed the lone tree, that we can see where we need to go. Then, once more, we have a confusion of path choices in front of us, none particularly obvious on the ground. We are close to the village of Rowland now and wonder if there is some kind of conspiracy to keep hikers away! In the end we skirt the next field, ignore a promising looking crush-stile (no obvious path or exit from neighbouring field), continue along the bottom edge of the field and find an almost-new gate. Through here a short way and we come to another nearly new gate which leads onto the village road.

A quick consultation with the map (we hadn't planned a precise route today as we guessed we may have to do a bit of 'make it up as we go along') and we turn right along the road. Before long the tarmac road peters out and we are on a track leading gently uphill. On our right is a 'reservoir' which looks uncannily like a bronze-age round house on top of a hill but capped with concrete instead of thatch. 

The path we need is on our left and although it climbs quite steeply it isn't hard going as it has a roughly laid surface. Sadly the increased elevation doesn't afford us better views today, which is what we had been hoping for. On a clear day it would, undoubtedly, be excellent.
As we near the top of the incline we can hear diggers, then realise that we are coming out near a quarry. And what a size it is too. This is the Deep Rake quarry, an enormous ugly blot on the landscape, and it is almost inconceivable that an operation of this size could be allowed within the Peak Park. (If you want to read more about the quarrying around here, and what local residents have been trying to do to put a halt to it, please go to this link.)     

At the top we turn left and walk along the wide 'roadway' avoiding one massive tractor then having to skirt a huge machine parked (complete with unconcerned driver in cab) right across the track. We have reached, and passed, the high point of the walk (still no view but plenty of noise from the quarrying) and are now on a downhill stretch. We pause to look at some windswept trees

then continue on our way until we find our next path which is on the left. And yes, there is a confusion of paths to choose from but we manage to find the right one. 

We are on a steep mossy bank and decide that we have found the perfect place for lunch. Avoiding some straggly yet prickly young hawthorn saplings we manage to find a comfortable spot just out of the wind. The Ramblers first, naturally, then a warming cup of coffee. Mollie is pleased to see that this week I have remembered her biscuits.

PC has her sandwich and I have a heavy salad, then it is bun time. Or rather, pudding time as this week it is profiteroles. Very yummy, very sticky, and very filling. So filling, in fact, that Mollie has to help us by finishing off the excess cream and sauce.

   Once we have had our second coffee we set off again, and it is all downhill. So downhill, in fact, that part of the path has been washed away in a lot of places. The photo doesn't do it justice, but it wasn't the easiest of paths to negotiate (although Mollie managed perfectly well!)
It is an interesting walk down the long slope, to say the least, but we manage to stay upright which is a consolation. At the bottom we reach a grassy track which is not noted on the OS map, so another brief debate follows. In the end we head along a narrow footpath and eventually come out exactly where we want to be. You can call it good luck though we prefer to think of it as good judgement.

A straight path through a field lies ahead of us and although there are cows in adjacent fields thankfully this one is clear. Still not much of a view, though it is probably lovely on a clear day.
At the bottom of the field we go through a gateway, turn right then left down a narrow green valley. 

The path veers to the right and up to another stile from where we can look back on the route. From here we cross a couple of fields and are soon on a track leading us into the village of Great Longstone. We have a reasonable distance to walk on the roads here, but they are quiet and the village is pretty. We pass the church then at the bottom of the street turn right before looking for, and finding, our left hand road. This is a fairly long road, but we are able to cut out a corner by using a footpath across a field which brings us out close to the Monsal Trail at Thornbridge.

Feeling very pleased with our map reading skills on this walk we descend to the Trail and turn left heading back towards the cars and our starting point.

Despite the weather, which has been pretty dull and chilly, it has been a good walk. Perhaps not one of the best - too many confusing paths for that and not enough of the wide open views that we enjoy, - but certainly worth doing. And when we get back to the cars, it starts raining again!

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