Sunday, 23 March 2014


Our planning for today went a little awry, so it was a last minute decision to meet up at Yorkshire Bridge then make it up as we went along. Not usually the best way to sort out a walk but we were confident that we would come up with something worthwhile.
To start with the lay-by at Yorkshire Bridge is closed. The County Council's end of year rush to spend their road repair budget has targeted this lay-by (among many other stretches of the drive here!) which means driving up to the Heatherdene car park (excellent toilets but now a Pay and Display) and re-planning. Fortunately there is a lay-by a little higher up near the fishing centre, so we duly head there to park.

Already it is getting windy, blowing papers out of PC's car boot which then have to be chased down the road and recaptured. And it is pretty chilly, but the sky is clear and if it is going to rain it won't be soon.

We have a quick look at the map, devise a sort-of route, then head off back down the road (A6013) to the dam wall. There is a fair amount of traffic this morning, which doesn't please Mollie, but when we take the path running away from the dam and down the slope she begins to relax. 

On this stretch we meet some other dog walkers (one with a very friendly Jack Russell terrier) and a couple of small groups of hikers - looks like it could be a busy day.

When we come out on the small side road we turn right and pause on the bridge over the River Derwent to admire the view before turning left and looking for our next footpath. This path, on our right in a few yards, climbs upwards and brings us out onto the old railway line which now runs level and straight for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

It is pleasant, easy walking and despite the wind it is also quite mild. We are able to indulge in conversation without being troubled with map reading or too much of a view. 

The trail (it is the linear Thornhill Trail apparently) dips to cross a minor road, then rises again at the far side. We spy a bench with a rather ugly pictorial monument next to it and decide to pause for a nip of Ramblers. OK, so we haven't been out long, and we were late setting off, but we feel the need! We sit, enjoy our drink and a chocolate treat, then some coffee, and as Mollie eats her biscuits we are greeted once again by the fussy Jack Russell terrier.

It is tempting just to sit here and gossip, we aren't that far off lunchtime, but if we stay we won't get going again so we press on.

The trail isn't too long, and it is straight, but we keep our eyes open for a path on our right which will take us up to the Thornhill road. Before we reach it we meet, yet again, the Jack Russell looking far dirtier than before. Mollie is ecstatic and greets the terrier like a long-long love. It's owner wryly informs us that the dog has rolled in something smelly and will be having a bath as soon at it gets home!

We soon reach our right hand path, a short but robust climb up a field, and emerge onto the road. Here we turn left and begin to walk towards the village of Thornhill, admiring the last of the snowdrops, the first of the daffodils and the hellebores which are flowering in abundance. The road loops around to the right and, ignoring the left hand turning, continues straight on, past the small church and to where the road becomes 'unsuitable for traffic'.
At least we know that we are unlikely to be dodging many cars on here even though there are some isolated houses. Once again we are looking for a right hand path, one we have been on before but in the opposite direction, and eventually we spot it half hidden in a hedge. It's a pretty steep stile from this direction - the field it leads into is a good 4 foot higher than the road - but we manage it before pausing to take our bearings.
Clearly not a terribly well used route we do manage to make out where the path leads to, which is across several fields and a number of stiles and extremely narrow crushes. One is so narrow at the bottom that Mollie cannot squeeze through and we have to take her along the field wall to a broken-down section where she can hop through easily.
We wait at one stile for a flock of suspicious and scraggy looking sheep to scamper out of our way before we proceed to the end of the path and a narrow gate which leads to a boggier section of path. Not too bad, though, as it hasn't rained much recently.
Emerging from this we come to a vague 'crossroads' where, after a brief debate, we plan out the rest of our walk, heading left and following the signpost pointing towards Win Hill. 
This first section of the path is very boggy although some stepping stones have been considerately laid. Further on though the path has been churned up by less-than considerate cyclists. Surely they should be aware that cyclists are not allowed on Public Footpaths!

The path starts to climb a little but as we enjoy the opening views we are both quite surprised at the height we have reached with minimal effort. Of course, before long we do have a steeper stretch to negotiate, but overall it is a pretty painless ascent.

We can certainly feel the breeze up here, but it is sunny and it feels wonderful to be out. As we continue in a generally uphill direction the path runs along Thornhill Carrs - steeply up to our left, steeply down to our right. Mollie spots some sheep meandering along the right hand bank and trying to hide beneath a stunted tree. It isn't working.


Further on we decide it is time for lunch, so we find a comfortable spot sheltered from the wind and with wonderful views ahead. I have a traditional 'heavy salad' whereas PC is on the sandwiches. Mollie, of course, devours her biscuits then looks longingly at us as we eat our buns. Today's choice, an early Easter treat, fresh cream hot cross buns. With jam in them too. They are extremely good and Mollie is disappointed not to be asked to help.

As we finish our coffee we become aware of the chill; darker clouds are looming and the temperature has dropped. We pack up and return to the path which leads us straight to the base of the final climb up Win Hill. But that isn't our destination today, instead we head down, but rather than negotiating the steep Parkin Clough path we veer off on the track that angles away from it to the left. It still goes downhill and, as we hoped, meets the straight(ish) and gently descending path through the woods.

It's very easy walking now, an easy meander, and being in amongst the trees keeps off the wind. Soon we come to a gate on our right which, once through it, takes us down a rutted track to the road which runs alongside the western edge of Ladybower. Not far now fortunately as there is a distinct feel of rain in the air.

It doesn't take too long to reach the gate leading onto the dam wall, but not before I have skirted, and PC has studied, three frogs, two of them in a very amorous position!

We cross the walkway over the dam, the wind whistling through the railings and making a musical hum to accompany us. Soon we are on the road and walking back to the cars. We have enough time to take off our walking gear and sit for a while to plan our next walk, then the heavens open. Talk about lucky. Another 5 minutes and we would have been soaked.

So, despite not having had any particular plan for today, it has all turned out rather well. Fingers crossed that our next walk (semi-planned) is just as good.

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!

Monday, 3 March 2014


It is a while since we were walking with events conspiring against us yet again, the weather not the least of the problems we have encountered.

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.

We set off a short distance along the road towards the old bridge, then take the almost hidden footpath directly opposite. Blink and you might miss it, but the stone posts that almost block the path are wide enough for a dog and our slim-selves to pass through.

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. 

I, naturally, am less enthusiastic. But the sun is starting to shine and a short stroll further on we see some beautiful snowdrops next to a lovely house. As we stop to look at them we spy a riot of Spring colour beneath a tree in the house's garden. The flowers are absolutely stunning and really lift the spirits. A little way further on and there are even more snowdrops under a boundary wall and we feel really cheerful, even though the sunshine seems to have been only a brief interlude as the sky now looks full of rain.

Sure enough, the rain starts to fall, but it doesn't last for long. It is only a shower, and as we continue along the road we come to the small village of Hassop. It is the first time I have been here, although PC recalls having visited the pub some years ago. It is a pretty little village with its monumental Catholic church and Hassop Hall.

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.

The road we meet is the A619 to Bakewell, the so-named 13 Bends. (No matter how many times I have been on this road I have never been able to count 13 bends, nor have I been able to find out why it is so named. It does seem to be a notorious accident spot but its naming is a mystery to me.) We go up the road a little way, then cross over to the next path (currently an open access track that will soon be downgraded to a bridleway) which leads easily uphill.

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.

The path turns right and we are back retracing our outwards steps, including the awkward 'not-really-a-stile' which is worse approached from this side. Still, we manage it in a fashion (hopefully no one is watching from nearby windows) and make our way back to Bubnell.

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.