Friday, 11 December 2015
ENCORE WINNATS PASS
For some reason we always seem to gravitate towards Castleton when the weather is grim, and today is no exception. But it would be nice to see the area in nice weather for once!
We meet, as usual, in the big car park where there is only one coachload of unfortunate schoolchildren today. This place is a Mecca for school groups, either from primary schools or those doing GCSEs and A levels. From this car park we head up the road towards Mam Tor where we can park on the roadside for free during the week.
It is cold but at least the early rain has stopped so we don't feel the need for the full waterproof gear. We don't have Mollie today though, as she has moved house and PC isn't quite sure where she lives now.
We hadn't planned a route before arriving here so we have a quick discussion, decide on something not too ambitious due to time constraints, and head on up towards Winnats Pass to do a familiar walk, but in reverse.
And by the time we are pulling up the steep grass verge of the pass we remember why we usually come down instead of up!
One thing that we did see on our way up, that we usually miss as we slip and slide our normal descent, is this commemoration plaque dedicated to those who campaigned for our national parks and public access. It is worth remembering, and being thankful, that without these forward-thinking and hardy people we would not be enjoying our hiking as we do.
The water is running down the road and the verge in small rivulets so it is pretty heavy going walking up the steep hill whilst trying to maintain our footing. At least it isn't windy though, and it is good to see the views in the opposite direction.
We take a gate onto a path that runs beside a stone wall and climbs through a field adjacent to the road. We usually emerge from a gate higher up, we had never noticed this before - another sign of how different things can be in reverse order.
Careful of the slippery limestone underfoot we come out back onto the road just before the cattle grid then continue up to the main road where, after a brief discussion, we turn right. We keep on the road then go right again towards the Blue John Cavern. This is a road that goes nowhere, the old road destroyed by the Shivering Mountain, yet there are still a few cars trying their luck, then turning around. The cavern doesn't seem to be doing much business.
We find a bench with a good view (which sadly includes the cement works) and settle down to eat, drink and gossip. But first we layer up. There is a keen breeze up here which, coupled with the cold temperatures, is biting.
A nip from PC's flask warms us up, then it is coffee, sandwiches and lovely gooey fresh cream choux buns. The buns can make anything worthwhile!
We sit talking for a while but eventually the cold gets too much so we pack up and set off again, this time we are going down the destroyed road. At one point we wonder how we usually get up it as there just appears to be a huge drop, but the footpath is at the side and is a gentle route. Again, it is surprising how different somewhere familiar can appear when approached from the opposite direction.
We wonder if the road has shifted some more since our last walk here. It is hard to tell, and it may just be our different approach, but it seems to have moved a bit.
Despite the murkiness, though, we do have splendid views over to the Great Ridge.
Eventually we are back on stable tarmac, although that too appears to be a little more undulating than last time. We have a good view of the rear of the old Odin Mine which looks like a promising place to look at some time in the future.
The gateway to the area in front of the mine is a mini-lake but we decide to go and have a closer look. We find that, not only is the gateway a paddling pool, but the whole grassy area is waterlogged and we have to skirt around it on slightly higher ground to avoid being soaked.
The path behind the mine entrance looks intreguing but doesn't appear to go anywhere. Exploration today, though, is out of the question. We do clamber up to the main mine entrance to have a nosey, but it is dark and eerie. Perhaps another time.
From here we backtrack and it is only a steady walk downhill, past Treak Cliff Cavern, towards our cars. It hasn't been a terribly long walk but already the light is leeching out of the sky. Getting home to the warm feels like a very good idea.