Sunday, 8 November 2015


Yes, autumn is upon us and I give thanks to the poet John Keats and his Ode to Autumn (which I studied for A level English Lit oh so many years ago) for the title of this post.

We've had another break for late holidays, but now we are both back for the forseeable future, and whilst we have been away autumn has snuck up. Sunny, dry days and chilly nights have pushed the trees into showing their glorious firey colours and we are hoping to capture some of this on today's walk.

After a brief debate we decided to head for Cressbrook Dale. It's somewhere we usually visit earlier in the year to see the orchids and wild flowers, but there are plenty of trees so fingers crossed we'll have something worth photographing.

We meet, as usual, at the Monsal Head car park behind the pub, to avail ourselves of the local conveniences, then back to our cars to drive down the steep narrow road into the valley bottom. Already we have lovely views of the golden leaves, but it certainly isn't safe to take photos whilst driving!

The little car park at the side of the River Wye is empty so we pull up and get ready for our walk. And yes, we have plenty of catching up to do so we are talking twenty to the dozen. It is a lovely crisp and sunny day, but we have had rain over the last couple of days so we are not expecting it to be totally dry underfoot, but it doesn't look like rain is a possibility now even though we pack our waterproofs.

We head up the road towards the very smart Mill, admiring the ponies in the fields and the trees on the opposite hill. We take the right hand road at the Mill and start the steady climb upwards. There are some lovely trees here but a good photographic view of them tends to be blocked by others that, so far, have refused to do anything other than stay green.

At the sharp hairpin in the road we walk straight ahead on a wide track which leads to a gate. It's a bit muddy at the far side of the gate, but at least there aren't any cows here - there had been on a previous walk, and I'm not fond of cows.

This field stays reasonably level for a while before decending in a slippery slope to the bottom. At the side of the slope, though, are blackberry bushes and we debate stopping to pick some. But there aren't too many fruit on them, no doubt others have been here before us, so we leave them and carry on. 

At the bottom we slide a little towards the small gated bridge over a completely dry stream bed (but we have seen this flooded and been unable to proceed) and at the far side we are into the woods. Yet again the vivid colour we were hoping for isn't particularly evident here, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a lovely walk. It is. It's a narrow winding path with a few undulations and rocky patches which comes out into the open, sheep and rabbit nibbled valley of Cressbrook Dale. It is completely dry here and with the sun shining it is warm enough to remove layers. 

We walk up the valley until we are beneath Peter's Stone (or Peter's Rock if you prefer) then scramble up to the rocky knoll that sits beside it where we find somewhere to sit for lunch. The sandwiches/salads are of little interest, but the coffee is superb and the buns - fresh cream eclairs - are perfect. We have an excellent vantage point here in the sun so we sit for some time putting the world to rights.

Eventually we descend via the longer, easier slope towards Wardlow Mires, double back on the main track beneath Peter's Stone, and head for the footbridge and stile which takes us up into Tansley Dale. We haven't ever walked up here before, but it is an easy stroll despite it being uphill, and part way up there is a huge warren full of rabbit holes.

At the top we study the map a while before rejoining the path behind a man and wife, and they are making very heavy weather of it. We have to keep waiting for them to get far enough ahead as we are walking much faster. At the next stile the lady struggles to get over then walks on while her husband stands and waits. As we approach the stile he asks if we need help! I give him a curt No Thank You, seething with indignation at his assumption of our ineptitude, and go over the stile in short order. He wanders off to join his struggling wife.

The path goes through a field and soon we are at the field gate onto a lane. The couple are there before us, and standing in the gateway with the gate open, looking puzzled. They are following a guidebook rather than a map, have one small rucksack between them and are clearly not regular walkers but there are signs here so they shouldn't be lost. I tell them we'll close the gate, but they just stand there looking vague, so I pull the gate shut as they shuffle foward. We then turn left along the track which runs between two stone walls and keep our eye open for our next path, which is across some fields. The husband and wife trail along a little way behind us.

Just before the track meets the road there is a stone stile and a footpath sign pointing across the fields. Again, we are over in no time and heading across the field at a good pace, determined to get well in front. We need not have bothered, the couple seem to have continued onto the road which leads to Litton. 

The fields slope down a little, then start to climb giving increasingly good views across Cressbrook Dale. We cross another track, with a very steep stone stile, then we reach the field with the cows. Time to be brave. These seem to be quite young, and a curious Jersey ambles towards other while the others look on with interest. PC takes some photos and I manage to walk past without running. The cows had been clustered around our next gateway but most have them have moved away so our way is clear.

Part way across the next field we turn to admire the view behind us and discover that we are being followed. Keep calm! 

Soon enough we are out of the fields and into the woods at the top of the Cressbrook Dale valley. This is quite a precarious walk, the path has been cleared a bit but although it is narrow it is on a definite slope, and there are still plenty of brambles trying to snag at our legs. 

We pause for a moment to enjoy the view which opens out through the trees to the opposite side of the valley and the rock faces at Wardlow Hay Cop, which look magnificent and very prehistoric. Further along we decide to take the path that goes downhill with the benefit of a stepped section, rather than keep to the high level track, and we eventually find ourselves back on the track near the hairpin bend.

From here it is a steady downhill walk along the road, although there do seem to be a lot of cars all of a sudden, and the return to the car park which is now, understandably, full. And we have time to sit and chat (even more) before making plans for our next walk in a couple of weeks time.

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