Friday, 21 November 2014


Winter is coming and the weather to match it; cold, windy, damp and murky. We have decided on an old familiar route today, one we haven't done for a while, but when we meet up at the Upper Burbage Bridge car park we are quite surprised to find very little company. This is usually extremely popular at all times of year so it is most unusual for there to be only two or three cars there.

We pull on plenty of layers this morning, the wind is distinctly chilly, the sky is very overcast and rain is a constant threat, so we add our water proofs on top to make sure we aren't caught out. Mollie is eager to walk, this is her first with us for a while.

Braving the road we cross over the bridge and onto the path choosing to go up onto the lesser used Burbage Moor track. There are plenty of puddles and boggy bits from the overnight rain, and we meet a few walkers too. The path down below Burbage rocks seems to be unused (it is usually the 'busy' path) and we soon discover why. Diggers, workmen and even a helicopter are down by Burbage Brook clearing the conifers and making 'improvements'. The path will be closed - in the week only - for quite some time.

We are untroubled for now by the closed path and continue on our way admiring the view and (no surprise here) talking. We decide not to stop to eat until we are on the far side of the brook, but that doesn't stop us pausing for a warming nip from the secret flask. Today PC attempts to guess the contents, without success. It is Sloe and Apple Vodka made with apples from the garden and some sloes left over from the gin making. It has turned out well, and I certainly prefer it to the Sloe Gin.

Suitably warmed we press on to the end of the trail, out of the gate and onto the road for a short stretch. We cross over the brook at Burbage Bridge and take the stile at the other side, clamber uphill at the side of Toad's Mouth then find ourselves a sheltering rock face where we can sit and eat lunch.

The rain is making more of an effort now so we don't linger too long. Spiced vanilla latte makes a change from ordinary coffee, then sandwiches, followed by lovely custard Danish pastries. The pastry is so light we feel as though we have hardly indulged, but we don't inspect the calorie count!

From here we continue up to the top of the small ridge then follow a path along Hathersage Moor, picking our way carefully and reflecting on how easy it would be to become lost. We walk up onto Carl Wark and admire the huge boulder-like stones on its northern side. Then it is a straight path to Higger Tor which, as usual, defies a straight and easy ascent as we make our own route and scramble through the rocks.

The view from the top, though, is superb. But the cold makes sure we don't linger. Although the top of the Tor is a mix of rocks and small tracks, once we reach the far side we are onto the straight path leading us back to the car park. There are few people out now, and the car park is deserted apart from our cars. Daylight on this murky day is waning fast, a sign that soon it will be dark by mid-afternoon. We are cold, and a little damp, but it has been another excellent walk.

Monday, 17 November 2014


This morning we are greeted by fog, in some places thick, in others thicker, but undeterred we set off from our respective starting points to meet at the Grouse Inn which sits on the A625 above Grindleford. By the time we meet up some of the fog is beginning to disperse, so we are hopeful of a clear day.

The lay-by is pretty full of cars but none of the walkers seem to be going our way. We head over the stile at the side of the Inn and cross over the fields and into Hay Wood, admiring the lingering mist as we go. For some reason we always have to puzzle our way in the wood, but mutually decide to set off downhill on a very muddy path. Then a brief retreat to try to find PC's lost lens cap for her camera, and for a change we are in luck, then retrace our steps again.

The wood is very attractive even though many of the leaves have already fallen, and we continue downhill ignoring the many paths leading off left and right. As we come to a high stone wall on our right we meet a dog walker and stop for a chat before continuing  down towards Grindleford. A gate and a rough surfaced path later and we reach the main road in Grindleford village. We turn left and just before the bridge we go left again through another gate and across a field of sheep.

We are surprised that this low-lying field isn't boggy after recent rainfall, but pleased nonetheless. The small stream is easily crossed and we head uphill into Horse Hay Coppice. We are now following part of the Derwent Valley Heritage Way.

There are a number of lovely streams running down the hillside, one with a calm reflective pool, so we reflect a while with a nip from the secret flask. My home-made Ramblers again!

This part of the walk is very straight forward and easy underfoot. We eventually pass out of the wood and go through a couple of fields (one with cows, but they are not close) then through a potentially very tight crush - depending on your weight - and onto a narrow track. A little way along a tractor and trailer is parked almost blocking the track, the farmer is cutting back some overgrowth, but we manage to get past.

We are now in the pretty village of Froggatt, still following the Way, and admiring some of the gardens. We cross over the bridge and keep on the track that runs at the side of the River Derwent. We recall that further along there is a secluded bench, and when we find it we settle down for lunch.

We have a good view of the larger bridge over the Derwent, and are surprised how many heavy lorries use it. We start off with coffee, then sandwiches - always a non-event - then the buns which, today, are Spiced Apple Fresh Cream Muffins. Not too stodgy, they go down very well followed by a second coffee.

We sit and chat for a while, and as we are talking we see a disturbance in the water. To our delight we are able to watch a water vole swimming along, it surfaces, sits on a semi-submerged branch for a few moments, then slides into the water to swim away. Magical.

Time to go, though, and we are aware of the nights drawing in, so we continue on our path, climb up the slope then over the bridge, descending by the steps at the opposite side of the river.

Now we have a gentle amble along the river bank back to Froggatt village. Here we decide to take a small road uphill, turn left, then right then straight on until we see a footpath on our left. Once again we are in the woods.

This part of the woods seems less well used, probably mainly by dog walkers, but it is lovely, especially with the low light slanting through the branches. A way along we see some rocks, which appear natural, but have an inscription carved into them relating to the dedication of 16 acres of Froggatt Wood. It is almost hidden and it is difficult to take a good photograph.

In places the path along here is fairly boggy, and we have to make a few minor detours, but after a while we come up to some 'shelters' and an outside camp area complete with branches for seats and a fire pit. It looks wonderful!

We descend now and are soon retracing our steps down towards Grindleford. We make our way back up to the woods, and the uphill climb certainly makes us warm. Mainly due to good luck rather than good judgement we end up on the right path and come out exactly where we entered the woods this morning. Only a short stretch now across the fields to the cars, with ours being the only two left.

As we ready to leave we notice that the sunlight is giving the surrounding moors and trees a spectacular burnished glow. They look amazing, their brilliance keeping up for the most of the journey home, a lovely end to a good day.

Monday, 3 November 2014


We seem to have stumbled upon a pocket of murky weather in the midst of fine clear days; typical luck for us!

Today we are revisiting a familiar walk, but in reverse, and park up at the side of the Longstone road at Monsal Head. There is a thin fog all around, not sufficient to block the view entirely but it makes everything a little hazy and damp. Knowing that rain could fall at any time we decide to pull on our waterproofs to be ready.

We set off to the top of Monsal Head then take the left hand path signed Monsale Dale which descends gently through the woods. We pause at the weir then follow the path to the bridge where we cross over.

I have spied cows so am on the alert! However, that doesn't stop us standing by the side of the river to watch the white-chested dippers busy on the water. And to have a nip of my latest concoction - Blackberry Vodka. Very warming!

Overnight rain has made the paths muddy and wet but we are surprised that there are not more people out. It is half term, after all. PC has a (totally justified) rant about people hanging bags of dog poo on the branches of bushes - seriously, what do these misguided idiots think is going to happen? Do they think wardens will follow them around to clean up their mess? Town mentality in a country setting.

Just before we reach the end of the Dale at Lees Bottom we take the right hand path which climbs up out of the valley. It is warm work so we have to remove a layer before continuing. The path is quite steep - we are more used to descending than ascending - and the rain has increased the potential for slipping though we reach the top without mishap.

Here there is a deal of scrub before the path scoots around to the right, so we find ourselves a mound on which to sit and eat lunch. We are pretty sure we have sat here before, though there isn't a great deal of a view.

The sandwiches are unremarkable, the coffee is good but the buns are excellent - fat choux buns stuffed with fresh cream with chocolate swirled on top. Definitely the highlight of the meal.

We experience a brief, unenthusiastic shower of rain (easily ignored) and a visit by a charming Dalmation (it's owner suitably apologetic but the dog wasn't a slobbery pest so it was fine).

Then we hoist ourselves up from our seat and press on. The next obstacle is the high stile over the wall at Brushfield Hough. Normally this wouldn't present a problem but since I have trapped a nerve in my back the height of the step is a significant problem. Eventually, with much grimacing, cursing and gritting of teeth I am over, and PC follows majestically.

We pass through the fields, a gate and then the farmyard of Brushfield Hough before taking the track out of the yard and to the path following the ridge. The rain has cleared the sky so we have a good view of Fin Cop across the valley as well as a good view of the valley itself.

The track is reasonable until we reach a long, wide flooded area. Rather than paddle through - and it would be over our boots - we spy a path in the next field that has been made to avoid this clearly permanent feature.

It's easy walking now, until the long steady downhill which is rubbly and uncomfortable underfoot. However, this soon gives way to a softer surface again, and as we descend to Monsal Viaduct we hear children shouting and the sound of harassed parents. Ah yes, half term.

The viaduct is crammed with people, walkers and cyclists. We have never seen so many people on here at once before. Most seem to be using the tunnels and riding or walking a long stretch of the trail, but we turn left off the bridge and onto the path that leads up to Monsal Head.

Once here there are, again, loads of people and the ice cream van is doing a roaring trade. Well, the weather isn't too bad now, and is isn't too cold so they are clearly making the most of it.

We go back to the cars and plan our next walk, preferably without any very high stiles!