Sunday, 21 December 2014


This is to be our last walk before Christmas, and the last one of the year, so despite a postponement and the rough weather of the last few days we are looking forward to be out.

 We have chosen Castleton with the vague hope that a late finish may enable us to see the Christmas lights, and also knowing we have plenty of choices for walking. We park up on the road close to bottom of Winnat's Pass (free parking except at weekends and bank holidays) and decide, since we don't have Mollie but we have had a lot of rain, that a road walk will be in order. Mollie's fear of traffic makes it hard to do roads with her, and although the prospect of treading the tarmac doesn't usually appeal, nor does slogging through rivulets of water or bogs.

So after our exchange of prezzies (not to be opened until Christmas Day) we don our waterproofs - just in case of rain but also to keep the biting wind at bay - over many layers of clothes then set off up the road.

Yes, it is easy walking but we are also lucky that it is quiet - not the tourist season any more and a bit late in the year for the hoards of schoolchildren on geography field trips. It means we have lots of time to talk - something we are very accomplished at!

The road leads us past Treak Cliff Cavern and the disused Odin Mine then around the bulk known as Little Mam Tor. We ignore the turn off that we usually take across towards Hollins Cross and instead keep on the old road, now disused and broken up, courtesy of the unstable 'Shivering Mountain', Mam Tor.

The broken sections of road dip and twist but it is easy walking. Higher up there is a vehicle turning circle and a couple of benches. We decide to have a sit down, enjoy the view and have a sip from the secret flask (orange gin today) and share a box of Maltesers Well, it is almost Christmas.

As we sit we are visited by a hopeful jackdaw so we reward his (or her) persistence with some pieces of bread from my lunchtime sandwich. Ever hopeful he waits around until we are ready to leave, and gobbles down a couple more chunks as a parting gift.

The road makes easy walking past the Blue John Cavern then up to where it joins the main road. Here we decide to cross over the field at Windy Knoll then we do a quick right and left onto the track leading past Rowter Farm. We pass some walkers, only the second we have seen today and the last we will see until we get back, then find, to our surprise, snow. We knew there was snow on high ground during the very cold snap last week, but we weren't quite expecting to see any today. Admittedly there isn't a huge amount left, but sufficient to prove how cold it is. So here we are, above Castleton, and able to make the first snowball of the year.

We carry on along the track, and when we have a choice to drop down to Cave Dale we instead continue straight along towards Dirtlow Rake. On our left is a magnificent stretch of drystone wall currently under construction, and we pause to admire the wonderful workmanship. However, we also notice that, in the distance, the clouds are gathering so we press on.

As we approach the road that circuits the massive quarry - an offshot from Brough going through Smalldale to Pindale then Castleton - we see a stile on our left and, across a field, another stile in the fence line. There are no signs but, curiosity getting the better of us, we decide to see where they lead to and if there is anywhere to sit for a late lunch. 

Over the first stile (a bit of a stretch) then up the field to the second we find we are entering access land, not marked on my current map, which covers a large area from here to Castleton. The views from the highpoint pole are superb and well worth seeing, even though a camera can never do the 360 degree panorama justice. We hike over to a broken drystone wall hoping for shelter from the wind for lunch, but the only suitable places have been overused by sheep so we hunt around for somewhere else.

Eventually we are comfortably sat in a deep hollow with a cup of scalding hot coffee to keep us warm. Sandwiches are eaten then we have spiced apple and fresh cream muffins - the most Christmassy bun I could find this morning. They go down extremely well, followed by more coffee which helps to keep the dropping temperature at bay.

By now the clouds are really massing and we decide to continue ahead to meet the path at the head of Cave Dale rather than returning to our original route through Pin Dale. 

We follow a little-used vehicle track and then find a grassy slope that takes us easily onto the Cave Dale path. Then we come to a small junction with Cave Dale ahead and an upward sloping path onto access land to our left. In a spirit of adventure, and knowing how slippery the decent into Cave Dale can be in wet weather, we choose the path onto access land. 

Then it starts to hail.

Fortunately the hail doesn't last too long and we are out on the expanse of land at Cow Low. There is a footpath here, crossing the moorland straight to Castleton, but there is no clear sign of it on the ground so we start to make it up as we go along. By now the hail has turned to rain and we are careful of where we are walking. 

Eventually we find the straight track that appears to point directly to Peveril Castle, although it is hard to tell since the rain has turned to freezing cold sleet and it is coming at us almost horizontally. This part of the walk is grim, and we are extremely glad of our waterproofs.

When the castle looms at us from the murk we hunt around for the next path which is not particularly clear in the conditions. But find it we do, an almost 180 degree turn and going steadily downhill. The sleet has slowed to heavy rain now so we are careful not to slip (we do have a couple of 'Dancing on Ice' moments) and by the time we reach the bottom of the slope the rain has stopped and there is even some blue sky!

We take the muddy path next to the wall in the direction of Castleton and soon we are through a gate and into the village, looking rather muddy around the edges - so much for it being a road walk!

As we wander back through the village we browse in a few of the shops - Blue John is so pretty - and take time to look at the lights which, to be honest, are a bit of a let down. There are Christmas trees outside some of the shops with bright lights on them, but no central tree nor any other trimmings. A sign of austerity we suppose, not many places seem able or willing to provide the kind of Christmas show we remember from our childhoods.

Now all we have to do is walk the short stretch back to the car. It is dark now, both with the encroaching nightfall in the shortened day and because the rain clouds are back. We barely have time to divest ourselves of our outdoor gear, say our goodbyes and jump into the cars before the deluge starts again.

So that is it until next year.

We send everyone our Best Wishes for a Very Happy Christmas.

Sunday, 14 December 2014


Another last minute choice for us today, basically a route we have done before, but in reverse and chosen because it is at 'my end' of the Peak District as I have to meet a train at a certain time this afternoon.

So we meet up in the almost deserted car park next to the Robin Hood pub at the intersection of the A619 & B6050. The car park is free to use for members of the NT or RSPB, so we are spared the fee.

Before we gear up we do our bit for recycling: swapping clothes that are outgrown, no longer suit, or no longer fit. Between ourselves and our daughters we manage a few good wardrobes changes through the year.

With Mollie eager to go we go through the gate to the pub and cross their car park and onto the main road, heading towards Baslow. A short distance past the farm we clamber over the stile in the wall and into the large moorland field which is, in places, boggy underfoot.

This has an easy gradient, and a large but mostly obscured enclosure (possibly bronze age though I have been unable to obtain details), along with a few spindly birch trees. There are also ponies and horses grazing but they are not interested in us.

We cross through into the next field area and start the very slow descent across rocky ground and through trees beneath Gardom's Edge. As we approach the main Sheffield road (A621) we meet our first walker out for the day.

It's a narrow stile onto the road, but once across we go through onto a wide track that cuts down to Bar Brook and crosses the small bridge beneath the much larger bridge leading to the picturesque house high on the opposite bank.

We wind our way up the steps (pausing to admire the house's lovely gardens even though we only have a glimpse) and into the woods at Jack Flat. We keep on walking upwards, the path is fairly clear most of the time and there is a drystone wall on our left to guide us. 

We are soon looking for a path to take us up to the ridge where Wellington's Monument stands but none of the tracks look particularly inspiring. Finally we find a steep (very) path uphill and go for it. With the help of a few trees we hoist ourselves up and emerge a little further along than we had intended, but within sight of an enticing bench for lunch.

Once settled we start off with a nip from the secret flask (strawberry vodka) we have a coffee (spiced vanilla latte) followed by sandwiches/salad then our buns (custard danish) and mince pies washed down with more coffee. We are certainly building ourselves up for the festive season.

Suitably replete - and feeling more in need of a post-lunch nap than a walk - we set off again before the chilly breeze makes us even colder. It is all downhill now on the wide, rutted track and we eventually make it back to Baslow village. 

Here we wind through the streets until we come out at the main road (and the conveniently placed conveniences) where we once again take the back lane over the river then right past the cottages (Were these used in the film version of Pride and Prejudice, PC wonders?) and into Chatsworth Park.

We turn left and follow the fence line for a short distance until we turn uphill to cross the entry road, which is lined with coaches waiting for the numerous day-trippers in the house itself, and continue to the stile in the fence line and past a huge flock of disinterested sheep.

The grassy track is wide and easy to follow and soon we are at the extremely high steps-in-the-wall stile which takes us onto a broad wooded path. We are making good time now as the path runs parallel to the road, an eventually we veer left to go down a muddy path to the sturdy bridge over Heathy Lea Brook.

Once over the bridge we negotiate the very steep steps up to the road, pleased that we weren't doing these downhill as they are muddy and slippery. At the busy road we cross over then it is only a short walk back to the cars in the car park.

Surprisingly we have made far better time than we anticipated and are able to pause for a chat before it is time to set off again. Our next walk will be our last before Christmas intervenes so we have fingers crossed for good weather.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


It is one of those days where we are setting off with a half-baked plan and only a vague idea of where to go. We have a starting point, the small lay-by at New Bridge at Calver, our intention being to walk alongside the River Derwent towards Calver and then, well, that's when we will start making it up.

At least the weather is fine, although it has rained overnight so we expect some mud to cope with. And today is PC's pre-birthday walk, so first of all she is pressed into trying one of my concoctions, this time apple vodka which she struggles to identify.

Once we are ready we set off through the gate and onto the narrow path at the side of the river. Very soon we come to the large S-shaped weir which has the water flowing over it in a white torrent. From here we expect a longish stroll but we are disappointed as it isn't long before we reach the gate onto the road. Cue map.

After some debate we set off along the road to Calver, cross over the bridge then take the continuing path beside the river and beneath the underpass and coming out at the fields behind the houses. It is a straight path here and though we see cows they are not in the field we are in! 

This path follows the Derwent Valley Heritage Way and as we move away from the river on the well-used path it does become quite muddy. We meet a couple who are out for a walk wearing trainers, and they ask us how bad the path gets after attempting to pick their way around the muddiest sections. We can't offer them a great deal of encouragement and hope they are prepared to get muddier.

We pause where a stream rushed beneath the path just before we go through a crush into a field, and debate again where to go. This time we cross the field then turn sharp right up the lane towards Bramley Farm on Bramley Lane. To our surprise we realise we are very close to the large plantings which spell our E and R, easily read from a distance but not so clear close up.

We continue up the fairly steep lane and soon come close to Bramley Wood on our right, and we turn into it on the well-trod path. The path skirts the top of the wood and once out of the trees and rhododendron bushes it has a good view.

But it is lunchtime so we find a comfy spot on a wall and stop to eat. First is the celebratory mini bottle of vino which we savour before eating sandwiches and preparing ourselves for the birthday bun - chocolate cheesecake. The after-lunch coffee warms us up as it has now turned distinctly chilly.

We pack up and set off again, the path taking us straight for a few yards then turning left to head pretty sharply downhill. Here is the problematic stage and, due to the recent rain, this path is a muddy slalom that takes us much effort and concentration to negotiate whilst remaining upright. Not until we reach the stream are we able to guarantee safe footing.

There is a field to cross now, then we come up to the backs of the houses where the path winds around a little, though by following the signs we are able to make our way into the centre of the village. We walk down through the village and head for the main road, which we cross then take the path which runs along the road towards Mill Farm.

From here it is a simple case of crossing fields and following the river, and before long we are back at New Bridge.
To say that it has been a made-up walk with no specific route or destination in mind it has turned out to be a very pleasant one. And the wine helped too, of course!