Friday, 11 December 2015


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.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015


Today's walk is our closest to PC's birthday, so she has the honour of choosing where to go so we are off around Lathkill and Conksbury on one of her favourite walks.

Unfortunately the weather doesn't seem to be too promising as we pull up in the car park at Over Haddon after we have both suffered from slow, tedious journeys to get here. Rain seems to be a distinct possibility too, so in order to be prepared I've brought the big brolly. If nothing else it will shelter our birthday buns when we are eating them.

This is a very familiar walk and we hardly need the map, but we bring it along with us, just in case. Like boy scouts, we like to be prepared.

Leaving the car park we head off down the sloping lane towards the valley bottom. The lane winds around a bit before we reach the bottom and find that the river is flowing briskly, but beautifully clear, thanks to recent rainfall.

We cross over the narrow bridge and onto the track at the far side which is a muddier mirror of the one we came down on: climbing steeply with a sharp bend. Mollie is allowed off the lead for a little while here, there are no sheep or livestock for her to bother with and she is completely engrossed in a game of find a stone to play with.

At the top of the track we go through the gate and into the field leading down to Meadow Place Grange Farm. At least the field isn't muddy (nor has any cows in it) but the farmyard, which we have to pass through, is most certainly muddy. But fortunately not deep.

We are soon on the hard-surfaced lane leading away from the farm and passing, on our left, the remains of the medieval village, the humps and lumps in the far fields less distinct on this murky day than they are in full sun.

Before long we are onto the tarmac road, and quite surprised at how quickly we are walking. We decide to try to find somewhere to stop for a drink which means taking a small path through a copse of trees on our right. We climb over a stile and down a slope with a hill on our right with small limestone crags and trees. It seems the only possible place to stop so we clamber up the hill and find a table of sorts cut into the crags. Alas there is nowhere to sit but that doesn't stop us. We break out the flask (orange gin) and a packet of maltesers while Mollie crunches up her biscuits. Well, it is PC's birthday after all.

Suitably replete, and after saying a Good Day to a few other walkers, we carefully go back down the hill and retrace our steps to the Conksbury Road. It is a narrow road, and some cars travel far too fast on it, so we are very careful and wary on the tight bends.

It doesn't take long to reach the lovely Conksbury Bridge where we pause to take a couple of photos and another couple race to pass us. They make a bee-line for the benches on the upward side of the bridge, clearly determined to stake their claim before we get there, although they can't know that we don't plan to sit there this time.

At the far side of the bridge we go through the gate at the side of the river and find the bench part way along vacant. We sit down and prepare for lunch.

Salad and sandwiches, coffee, a glass of birthday wine (red, to keep the chill at bay) and banoffee pies with fresh cream are the bun of the day. We start off with gusto, but gradually slow down as we get fuller and fuller. PC stoically manages to eat everything of hers, but I end up giving the last of my pie to Mollie - who isn't complaining.

We are well ahead of schedule so linger for  quite a time over our coffees as a few wakers pass us. Then we pack up our things and head on up the river.

We pass the tree with its fallen bough up on our right where we often sit on this walk, and Mollie heads towards it, clearly remembering. But not this time.

The river and its weirs are full today, and we watch with amusement as some ducks half paddle, half fly up the mini waterfalls. And we see a dipper as well as a grey wagtail. Clearly the late season hasn't put them off.

The path climbs up above the river and where it becomes rocky there is a fence-cum-handrail on the left hand side, very useful given the slickness of the boot-polished limestone when it is wet. Once down on the level again it is only a short walk back to the bridge where we set out. 

It does seem to be getting chillier, and duller, but as yet I have not needed the brolly at all (though no doubt if I hadn't brought it along we would have had to put up with a deluge). Then we are off up the last pull of the lane up to the car park. We see a lost balloon tangled in a shrub, its Happy Birthday message upside down but still amusingly appropriate.

Then we are back at the cars with enough time to sit for a while under our fluffy blankets (always handy when waiting around in a cold car) and chat some more.

No walking next week, PC is away for her birthday, but we are hoping to manage the week after.