Friday, 10 April 2015


The best laid plans have been thwarted again and our promised hike from Hope up Win Hill has had to be postponed. This time, gales, heavy rain, sleet, hail - the works! A power cut where I live means no hot water and, worse still, no coffee. Fortunately a quick text to PC resolves this and she gamely brings along coffee as well as bun, and we also rearrange our walk; we don't want to be on high ground in these winds.

So, with Hope abandoned we decide to meet in Castleton instead and are surprised, given the weather, how busy it is. Already there are groups of bedraggled schoolchildren/Duke of Edinburgh walkers out, along with the Easter holiday-makers. 

As usual we park up on the road just past the Peak Cavern, drag on all our waterproof gear, then set off down the road heading towards Cavedale. 

As soon as we turn up between the houses to the dale entrance we have a taste of what is to come. The tiny lane is awash and the wind is funnelling down strongly. We push on through the gate and start our upward paddle, leaning against the wind. Strangely enough, the photos do not show how wet it really is!

We pause beneath the castle as a group of youngsters ahead of us stop, seemingly lost. Their discussion lasts a while before they set off again, on the only path ahead!

When we reach the spot where the group had been we realise why they had paused. It feels as though all the four winds have congregated in this one spot and it is extremely difficult to move forward. No wonder they were debating whether to go on or not. For us, though, there is no dilemma. We have every intention of forging ahead. I promise PC (without anything to back up my assertions, naturally) that further up the valley the wind will be less forceful. 

As we fight our way upwards against the wind and through a wide stream-bed there is a brief glimmer of sunshine. PC captures it perfectly. It makes the whole landscape look benign and pleasant.

 So, just to put the record straight, and get rid of the idea that maybe we were just making it up about the weather, I have added one of my own photos (from my phone) below. Yes, the river is the footpath!

As we climb up Cavedale against the tide (it certainly feels that way) the wind does actually lessen although there seems to be more and more water. It cascades over the limestone in a manner that would undoubtedly have made Capability Brown jealous, although he would probably have made the path around it rather than through it.

Eventually we make it through the gate at the top, relieved to have made it over the worst of the river-cum-path. A natural spring is gushing from the woods a little lower down on our left and beyond it is relatively dry (relative to the downpour and soggy ground). We pause to admire the view, have a nip from the secret flask as a reward, then press onwards.

It is nearing lunchtime so we decide to find somewhere sheltered to have food. It isn't easy, but eventually we managed to huddle up behind some rocks that give us sufficient protection from the wind. We are very close to the path, sadly, but that can't be helped. 

My first hot drink of the day (thank you, PC) goes down extremely well, then we follow with sandwiches and, joy of joys, yummy buns and a drink (it's my birthday walk, and PC is treating me!). The buns are fantastic, fat choux buns with fresh cream and sticky chocolate icing on top. And the drink is fizz. Bliss.
A surprising number of walkers come past us, most just say a quick hello, but one couple have no idea where they are or where they are going. The have come up from Castleton, they tell us (no, really!) but wonder where the path leads and if they can get back to Castleton, and how far, and where do they go, and how far have they come and how long will it take.........the questions go on. They have no map, no food, nothing to drink (they tell us with a kind of misplaced pride) and are hoping we will provide directions and instructions. We do the best we can and send them on their way whilst refraining from telling them to be better prepared next time.

The wind is still keen but the rain has stopped by the time we have finished lunch, so we carry on up the valley along the gentler, wide path. It is quite muddy in places and when we come to one of the gates we are in for a paddle. Mollie is the only one who is happy about it.
We continue ahead, avoiding the mud, then veering to the left where the wide swathe of the path climbs up. It is well walked (this is the Limestone Way, after all) but still grassy. As we reach the top of the rise the wind hits us again with renewed force. We are walking into it and feel as though we are pushing against treacle.

Through the gate and we turn right, then right again heading towards Winnat's Pass. The group of hikers we had remarked on earlier (and seen a couple more times) are at a standstill again close to Rowter Farm. It looks as though this time we might be in danger of catching up with them, but they set off again.

However, a few hundred yards later and they are, once more at a standstill. This time we do catch up and overtake them; a group of older teens debating their route. However, there isn't much choice, other than straight ahead.

They follow us to the end of the lane and as we open the gate to get onto the road they decide to take the stile. Seems a waste of energy, especially since they appear to need to stop every few hundred yards or so.

We turn right and head for Winnat's Pass, the group disappear to who-knows-where. The wind is behind us now but at least the rain has stopped.

It is a familiar walk down the winding Pass, and we keep to the left hand side where there is a path behind a wall. Slippery in places over the worn limestone it is important to be cautious.

Once through the gate at the bottom and onto the wide verge running alongside the road we realise that this might be the hardest part of the walk. The whole verge is a sodden mass with running water and slippery mud. PC has her walking poles which she needs to keep herself upright, and I eventually step onto the road with Mollie as it seems the safer option.
With the wind behind me I find myself being pushing into a jog, PC is quite surprised as I pass her but anything we might say to each other is whipped away by the gale.

Eventually I make it back onto the verge, steady myself against the wind which is pushing like crowd of schoolchildren trying to get onto the bus home. When PC catches up we round a small outcrop in the hope that it will protect us. It affords little help, and there is even more water here.

And then it happens: my turn to bite the dust - or rather, the mud and slush. A combination of wind, mud and rain has me on the skating rink to nowhere. I'm not hurt, fortunately, but it is a struggle to get enough purchase to stand up again, even with PC's help. 

No harm done, so we continue carefully down the slope towards the Speedwell Cavern car park. From here there is a pavement to lead us safely back to the cars. However, looking over our shoulders we see a storm coming, and our final stroll becomes a rush to get back before it reaches us. 

Hail and sleet, driven by the battering gale, hits just as we are getting into the cars. Within a couple of minutes the windscreen is white rimmed and visibility is down to a couple of hundred yards. It would be safe to say that we have made it back in the nick of time.

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