This is our pre-Christmas walk, from now life just becomes too hectic to allow us the indulgence of escaping for a day, so we intend to make the most of it.
Of course, the best laid plans and all that...I overlay (my alarm didn't go off, I'd set it for the wrong day!) so am half an hour late, but I'd managed to let PC know so at least she wasn't waiting in the the cold for me.
We park on the main A57 near the Yorkshire Bridge Inn after visiting the facilites at Heatherdene first. Our usual parking spot is full, there are a few walkers out today, but there is another pull-in a little further down.
Then I discover that in my rush I have left my boots, and I am only wearing canvas sneakers. Fortunately PC is wearing stout walking shoes so she lets me borrow hers, or it would have been a very short walk!
We have Mollie today, but she isn't happy next to the road so we hurry up and head for the path over the end of the Ladybower reservoir. There's a keen wind blowing across the water which makes it feel even colder. At the end of the path is a large group of people, and as we approach we see that it is a party of youths with a leader. At least they are all dressed properly for the outdoors so it must be a well organised group.
Once we are off the reservoir path we turn right with our 'make it up as we go along' attitude. There is a straggling group of much older walkers coming towards us, they must have set out early to be on their way back already, even given that we are later than planned.
It is an easy stroll along the wide path at the side of the reservoir, not taxing on legs or route-finding. We reach a path that leads into the Wiseman Hey Clough plantation and think 'why not?', so head on upwards.
It is a distinct path to begin with though it eventually deteriorates into a weed strewn, branch tangled mess. We press on, though, slowly climbing upwards. We know where we want to go (upwards) so despite the confusing array of paths, half-paths and sheep tracks we continue in pursuit of our goal.
We see a stone wall and head towards it, climbing steeply uphill, only to see a distinct path a little higher up. We reach it and follow its dips and curves as it heads slowly (and easily) up the hillside. We disturb a trio of sheep, their backs purple sploged with the farmer's mark, from their shelter amongst the trees. Surely they are supposed to be on the moor.
Eventually the path emerges from the trees at a distinct corner that I immediately recognise. The only issue is that we are on the 'wrong side' of the high wire fence and their isn't an easy way across. Not to worry though, others have clearly been faced with the same dialemma as their is a faint but obvious path at this side of the fence, and I know that there is a stile or gate further up beneath Win Hill.
We press on upwards, and there are some superb, far reaching views from up here. It was certainly worth the effort.
We reach the gate, and find that we have options. No, we don't want to go up Win Hill today, not go back the way we came. We could go directly downhill, back to the reservoir but it seems too early for that (and probably too slippery, we know that path) so we go through the gate and turn left.
Surprisingly we haven't been on this short stretch of path before, which forms the base of the triangle with two other paths leading up to the summit of Win Hill. The path runs next to a small plantation which seems ideal for a place to stop. So we clamber over a broken wall and find a convenient fallen tree to sit on.
Now it is time for lunch, and a celebratory mini bottle of vino that just happened to be in the car boot. Well, it is nearly Christmas. And still in the Christmas spirit our buns for the day are fresh cream mince pies. Definitely a worthwhile celebration, especially with the coffee to finish warming us up.
When we set off again we soon reach the familar, well used path that is the usual route up Win Hill, but we turn downhill instead. There is a broad path to the left almost immediately, and we take that rather than the steep and slippery route down Parkin Clough. This path is much easier, although there is a tree down over the path and we have to clamber over the end of it. Also we have to get out of the way of a cyclist who clearly doesn't know (or chooses to ignore) that he has no right of way on a footpath.
It is a pleasant stroll downhill, the trees shelter us from the worst of the wind and there isn't too much mud. We turn sharp right at The Springs through another gateway and are soon on the main track next to the reservoir. There is the tantalising smell of woodsmoke in the air where forestry workers are clearing away old timber.
Very quickly we reach the path over the reservoir again, and we discover an information board with a speaker to give a verbal history. Sadly the wind is too loud to hear the narrator properly although we do catch the odd word being carried away as we walk off.
In no time we are back at the cars having really enjoyed our walk. I return PC's boots to her, and it is time to go. We've been really lucky with the weather (it starts to rain within 10 minutes of me getting home) and we wonder what will greet us in the new year.
So, it is the end of another year's walking.
Merry Christmas to everyone out there, and a properous New Year.