So we have managed it again; the worst possible day sandwiched between two glorious walking days. Rain, heavy cloud, wind and snow on the hills greets us as we park up in Hope and rapidly adjust our plans for the day.
Instead of heading up the Edale valley and onto the Win Hill ridge we choose instead to take a circuit along Hope Valley towards Castleton. Suitably dressed for the conditions (full waterproof gear, gloves and hats) we take the road at the side of the church, wary of the heavy lorries that thunder down this narrow road on their way to the cement works.
There is a footbridge over the river here which keeps us off the road, and we pass the old Pinfold on our right. A short climb up the road and we spy the footpath sign on the opposite side of the road. Across we go just as another huge lorry lumbers down the hill. We are glad to be out of the way.
The path is clear here, and fenced off from the adjacent fields, which means that we can let Mollie have a short stretch off the lead. She immediately picks up a stick (log!) and tries to persuade us to play with her. Nope, not going to happen. We are following the small, fast flowing river (is it big enough to be a river?) called Peakshole Water as we make our way towards the railway line.
Both PC and I are certain we have walked this way before, but neither of us can remember crossing the railway! Clearly our memories are playing tricks on us; either we have never walked here before, or we have forgotten a major part of the walk. (And looking back at the blog list I can't find it! Maybe we only thought we walked here.)
We reach the crossing, descend a few steps and, seeing that the amber lights are not flashing, proceed to cross. A couple are stood at the side of the line, waiting, and remark that they thought a train was coming. If they had read the sign (amber flashing lights mean a train is approaching, no lights = no train) they would have been well on their way but instead they stand there, slightly confused. They may be in for a long wait.
The next part of the walk crosses sheep fields, some of which have recently been spread with muck. They are fragrant, to say the least, but at least the footpath area is relatively clear. There are also a fair number of stiles on this stretch, either awkwardly high ones that require a fair amount of agility (which, sad to say, Mollie does not seem to possess in abundance), or narrow ones that necessitate great sucking-in of stomachs!
It is not an unpleasant stroll, though, providing you discount the rain, and we are soon on the edge of Castleton. The path becomes a little muddier, then skirts a farmyard before emerging onto the road. Here we turn right, and a little way along cross over to the take the footpath heading straight towards Losehill Hall.
As we walk up the path PC notices something in the adjacent field, partly screened by trees and a high drystone wall. It is a replica of Stonehenge - along with a roundhouse. Bemused to find this in the middle of Derbyshire we nevertheless admire it. PC attempts to find a good spot to take photographs then, as she wonders aloud how on earth Losehill Hall managed to get this construction past the Health and Safety police, a sudden gust of wind sends one of the massive 'stones' rolling through the site like tumbleweed. We have our answer. Polystyrene - or something similar. Well, we were fooled! Though it was certainly very well done, painted to look like real, rough-hewn stone and undoubtedly great fun for those staying at the Hall.
At the top of the track we turn right and keep going until we come to Spring House Farm. Here we do a left turn, then right onto the footpath behind the stables. Mmm, this is clearly the bad part of the walk; boggy, muddy and deep puddles. We squelch and paddle our way though, watched by ponies in the next field, then once out of the mire we cross through the hedge line to see a sign telling us to take the path on the drier side of the hedge! Wish we had known that at the other end.
From here we are crossing grassy fields that, in places, are quite slippery, though none as wet as before. And, as luck would have it, the rain has stopped and the sun is even trying to shine. Behind us the views are lovely, and in front of us lies Hope. Unfortunately, though, we are unable to find somewhere suitable to have our lunch, which is long overdue and we are already feeling very hungry.
We come to a choice of two paths, and although they both seem to lead to the same place (they do!) we decide to follow the one with the yellow footpath arrow on it. PC goes first, and as I try to persuade Mollie to go through the kissing gate I hear PC make a soft exclamation and look up to see her on the floor. She says it was a graceful slide down rather than a fall, and I believe her. She is rather muddy though.
As soon as we are across the field and through the exit we realise we could have avoided the slippery patch - ah well, live and learn. We are close to the outskirts of Hope now, and there are small groups of teenagers walking past - probably Duke of Edinburgh students (Who else would be out walking on a day like this? asks PC. Er, us, actually.)
We come to a bridge over the railway, it dips ominously in the middle although it must have been constructed that way, but the sign saying no more than 20 people on the bridge at once makes us pause to wonder.
At the far side the next stile is a broken, ramshackle and quite dangerous affair with a deep, steep sided muddy puddle at the far side. From here, though, it is a fairly easy walk crossing numerous small fields, into Hope.
We come out adjacent to the school, make our way to the Edale Road then it is a short walk back to the cars.
It is late for lunch, but we have no intention of missing it. Once divested of our muddy outerwear we settle down in the car to superb coffee, sandwiches and fresh cream eclairs. It all tastes wonderful, probably because we have worked up such an appetite.
By the time we are ready to leave the sun is out and the last vestiges of snow have melted. We are hoping to meet here again next week to do the walk we originally intended. Fingers crossed.