After our walk last week we decided to go for one that we had done, in part, before but had not managed to complete the whole circuit due to bad weather. With a fair wind and reasonable chance of sunshine we meet in the car park at Baslow before I lead the way to the parking spot near Ramsley Reservoir at Shillito Wood.
There are quite a few cars here today, and we do wonder if there is some kind of organised event going on, but before we have finished togging up a couple of the cars leave and it becomes much quieter. As we remarked last week, this is peak holiday season so we shouldn't be too surprised to see more people about.
We head off 'Into The Woods' (thank you Meryl Streep et al) where the going underfoot is soft and springy. The old cross is on our right as we walk diagonally to the bottom corner where we leave the woods and cross over the road to the gate at the other side.
Almost immediately on our left we see in the grass on of the inscribed artist stones that we have photographed before on our walks. This one is starting to look a little weathered, but the moss growing on it gives it a rugged charm.
We only take a couple of steps before we see a pair of horses and their riders coming towards us along the track at a brisk canter. Prudently we stand to one side but fortunately the riders rein back to a walk as they approach and we pass a friendly 'good morning' before heading on our way.
The track is wide and easy to follow, used by walkers, riders and by woodland management vehicles. Foxlane Plantation and Ramsley Moor are on our left and a little further on there is the steeper slope of Hewetts Bank, but for now the track is fairly straight and level, though a little muddy in a few places. There is a sparse covering of birch trees with denser woodland to the right.
It doesn't take us very long to arrive at the gate onto Car Road (which is a bridleway at this point) and we realise that if we do our planned walk we will be back at the car park in no time. It is time for a re-think, and a quick scan of the map gives us an alternative, so we set off up Car Road towards Unthank then turn left onto the next footpath, which takes us into Smeekley Wood.
The stream on our left is very attractive, and running quite fast. There is also a very convenient fallen tree next to it, so we decide to stop for a coffee break which, naturally, ends up lasting long enough to turn into lunch time.
Coffee, sandwiches and fat fresh cream scones do nothing for the waistline, but contribute greatly to a sense of contentment and satisfaction.
We spend some time sat on our log before deciding to move off along the woodland path. It is wide enough to follow easily, although these woods are clearly used by locals who know their way and have made myriad shortcuts and small paths that are ready to snare the unwary. We make sure we keep an eye on where we are going with constant references to the map.
These are very attractive woods with streams running through, a variety of trees and some fallen trees too. We wonder if there are bluebells in spring.
As we continue we do spot something on a tree ahead, and as we near it we see that it is Tinky Winky of Teletubbies fame fastened to a tree. Whether he is a lost toy fixed there by a kindly passer-by so that it can be easily spotted by its owner, or some kind of bizarre sacrificial victim, we really couldn't say. Of course, it does set us off remembering children's TV, both of our era and that of our children.
There is a slight hesitation as we consult the map again, we have a gate ahead and a bridge on our right, but the ahead path is the one we need as it skirts Bank Wood and, after crossing meadow, brings us onto Horsleygate Road.
It is only a short walk down Horsleygate Road to Eweford Bridge and from here we decide to take the footpath, marked on the map, which cuts out a huge bend in the road and takes us up towards Unthank and Unthank Hall. However, the start of the path takes some finding, it isn't signed and only a derelict gate hints at the way, and then we have to wade through overgrown brambles and weeds for quite a distance until we cross a rickety stile beyond which walking becomes a little easier. The path still isn't clear on the ground, and an absence (deliberate or otherwise) of signposts mean the map is crucial, but we follow what we hope is the path, through a gate and a couple of fields, eventually climbing slowly upwards.
Eventually the way does become a little clearer as another path joins from the right, and we go through fields that are used to graze horses as we head towards the road. Just as we reach it we see an interesting water trough for the animals: complete with goldfish.
We come out onto Unthank Lane across from the Hall, turn right and begin the steady uphill slog along the road and past Burrs Wood. It has become very warm, and quite humid too, so we are soon taking off layers and having to rest. It isn't particularly difficult walking but the combination of heat and humidity soon saps the energy. It's a good job we still have plenty to talk about.
As the road rises up and beyond the wood there are fields to either side of us, and everything becomes very level again. There is hardly any traffic and the circulation of a breeze makes the walking easier. It is a straight road now, taking us to Far Lane where we turn right and come to Shillito Wood again. We pause to admire a 'den' built with branches and sticks, which even has the luxury of a seat inside, before heading back to the car park.
So it hasn't been quite the walk we had originally planned, but it has turned into a better one. The last part was a bit of a slog, road walking always is, and accompanied with the heat and humidity it was never going to be pleasant, but we have had a really good day out and ventured to places we haven't visited before.
How long it will be before our next walk, though, is something we can't plan for just now.