Friday, 8 May 2015


We couldn't have known as we fought the gales at Castleton that we would be on our last walk of the season. Sadly, we are both of an age where elderly parents cause more loss of freedom than our children ever did, and we have both had to cancel too many times due to the demands of PC's father and my mother.

After much nail-biting and frantic phoning PC finally managed to call someone in to help with her father just before she was due to go out to her boat. So she has escaped. I, alas, have not.

I had been hoping to get out walking for a few days but have been unable to, and this morning seemed to be going the same way. But in the end I decided that I needed to get away, if only for a couple of hours, so instead of the Peak District I headed for the Dukeries, and Clumber Park, which is less than half an hour away.

It is at this time of year that PC always wants to go on a bluebell hunt, so with the sun shining and a small bag packed, I set off with a mission. This walk is for her! (I know she will understand).

I drove into Clumber at the Carburton end; the main road that bisects the park is a national road, known as Lime Tree Avenue, so is free to drive on, though parking anywhere in the park will cost you £6.80 unless you are a NT member (or can avoid the cash collectors on their bikes). Luckily today is a quiet day so even though I park between the trees just off the road there doesn't seem to be anyone about.

I decide to try to bed in my newish boots. I've had them a while but they steadfastly refuse to turn comfortable, and as such I have been wary of using them on anything other than gentle strolls. So on they go - nope, still not comfortable - grab my camera and bag and set off.

Within a couple of minutes I am in the trees on a tiny path, enjoying the silence and the freedom that comes of being alone.
Of course, what I am looking for is that quintessential English spring flower, the bluebell, and from regular walks in these woods in years gone by I know there should be some nearby.

The path takes a couple of turns and then I spot a large clump over to my left. A few paces and I am close enough for some photos.
But I know that the best is yet to come. A little way further along the tiny path meets a larger one, and there in front, and to the right, is the huge swathe of bluebells I have been looking for. They are superb, and the camera cannot even begin to do them justice.
 I stand in the middle of them an inhale the soft sweet scent. It is quite magical.
The flowers are all around me, and a panorama shot is called for.
I find it really hard to give up on the flowers, there is no one around and I wander through the bluebells enjoying the scent, the silence, the feeling of peacefulness. 
It is hard to take my eyes off the carpet of blue at my feet, but when I do I see the soft, zingy-green leaves of new beech trees. Their colour contrasts sharply with the flowers.

Eventually I wander back to the path and set off deeper into the woods. The bluebells are still on my left, along with beech and pine. I hear my first cuckoo too!

The path is straight, easy to follow and completely hemmed in by trees. I know some people find woodland eerie, probably a throwback to tales of Red Riding Hood and the like, but I feel totally at ease here.
A take a right turning and wander along another path. The bluebells are diminishing now but there is still plenty to see. A butterfly decides to accompany me, fluttering alongside, stopping a while, then flying again.
After a while it gets bored of my company and disappears. 

I have a number of tracks to choose from, and eventually take one one my right. Then the cuckoo starts calling again, and this time keeps it up for a considerable length of time. The echoes amongst the trees make it hard to work out where the sound is coming from, at first I thought it was ahead of me but I eventually realise that it is somewhere behind. 

This path is very rough and there are a lot of tall, spindly birch saplings here, replacements for the occasional clearance of older trees. There are a few other trees too, including pine, showing off their young cones.
I am pretty sure that I am not far from the car now, even though the woods have thickened up all of a sudden and the path seems to have diminished into nothing. I look around, spot a clearing through the trees and head for it. Sure enough this clearing opens out and there are a number of paths radiating from it. I get my bearings and walk towards, what I hope is, the direction of the road.

Yes, I'm right. I emerge onto Lime Tree Avenue only a few hundred yards away from my car. I walk between the trees and enjoy the birdsong, the greenery, the sunshine.
I haven't been out for long, and I haven't walked very far, but it has been a much needed and very enjoyable walk nonetheless. With luck on my side I might just manage to get out into the Peak District again sometime soon.