Saturday, 27 May 2017


Working on the principle of third time lucky, and with a weather forecast in our favour, we are heading up to Lost Lad today, our last chance and last walk before PC heads off onto her boat for a few weeks of guaranteed sunshine.

We are going up by the same route we used last time, a few years back now. It is quite a long way around, nothing like the shorter routes that  most people use, but we are looking forward to it, especially given the sunshine.

There are a lot of people out today, most of them clustered around Fairholmes, but we doubt that many of them will be heading up on our route.

We take the usual path away from Fairholmes and along the bottom of the Derwent Dam wall, then up the steps at the side. When we emerge on the track at the top of the wall we can see the low level of the water. It is some time since we have seen it this low and we wonder if it is partly due to the recent hydroelectric works around here, though it is pretty extreme.

Derwent Reservoir
The waterline is so low, it looks as though there are huge beaches to lounge on. And approaching the Howden Dam it is even more apparent, though the top and bottom reservoirs (Ladybower and Howden) are pretty high.

Approaching Howden Dam

We find our path on the right of the track and walk up to the gate at the top leading onto access land. Although there is a clear path straight ahead which, yes, goes up to Lost Lad, we take the left hand footpath which follows the line of trees and a stone wall. Soon, we are over a stile and onto a path surrounded by the open moors.

We have superb views down to Abbey Brook in the valley below, and the Howden Moors ahead.
The path has a fairly steady incline, though in places there are some quite big downs, with big ups to follow - which does mean we end up divesting ourselves of as many layers as possible. It is warm enough with the enclosing hills adding to the heat, though in reality it is very pleasant. A 'no-coat' walk is a real treat.

Cogman Clough

 We have a dip down to Cogman Clough, then back up again. We see a pesky grouse up ahead, which keeps on bobbing up and down on and off the path. Though it did pause long enough to have its photograph taken.

We are finding that this route is longer than we remember it. Still, it doesn't really bother us. The day is wonderful and there isn't another soul in sight. Just us, a path and the moors. Perfection.
Once we've done most of the ups and downs the path is pretty much smooth and level. There is an immense feeling of freedom when the only sound is from the slight breeze, the curlews and the occasional bleat of a sheep - oh yes, and our conversation, naturally!
The path narrows and begins to wind a little as we begin to circuit around Howden Dean with Howden Edge over to our left. We must get back up there again sometime soon.

We look back the way we have come, and realise that the next time we'll do this walk in reverse and get the different views.
Looking down the Abbey Brook valley
From here it is a short walk to the small crossing over Abbey Brook, but although this is the route of the footpath we veer off to the right and up Sheepfold Clough. There is a path of sorts here, or rather, more than one path, and a number of fences for the sheep but with the gates open, so a bit of careful navigation is needed to keep on track. Basically, go straight ahead, through the first fence in front (the gate was open, but there is a flimsy stile) then keep the second fence to your right and it's plain sailing.

Panorama from Sheepfold Clough

 (The stile can just been seen on the far left of the panorama shot above)

From here it is a bit of a slog. Not because the walking is particularly difficult, but because we haven't stopped to eat. This is mainly because if we do, we won't want to get going again. We prefer to enjoy our food when we know all the climbing has been done. I have, however, succumbed to a piece of Kendal Mint Cake but PC declares that she isn't that desperate. She really doesn't like it one bit. Mollie has had a few biscuits to keep her going.

We debate stopping for a coffee, our pauses are getting more frequent, but Lost Lad is on the near horizon and we know that we will be better just keeping going. 

Sure enough, with a last pull uphill we make it. There's only the three of us (PC, Mollie, Me) and we are, honestly, quite surprised. It's a wonderful day, why aren't there more people up here? Never mind, we take some photos, enjoy the views, then drop down to a comfy spot to enjoy a very very late lunch.
Lost Lad summit
Mollie enjoys a drink and biscuits, then finds a clump of coarse grass and promptly does the sensible thing, and falls asleep!
Remarkably, PC has found a small bottle of wine in the bottom of her rucksack so we not only have coffee, sandwiches and buns (strawberry and fresh cream charlottes) but a welcome tipple too. Bliss.

Panorama, Lost Lad cairn in centre, Back Tor on right, Howden Dean on left with Howden Edge beyond

There is a huge temptation to sit here for hours. After all, there's plenty of daylight, and we have earned a linger. But eventually we decide we ought to pack up and move along.

As we set off a young couple reach Lost Lad from Back Tor. They pause for just a moment before starting to descend. We stand aside and let them go past. They clearly have no intention of hanging around to enjoy the views, they aren't even walking closely together. It's yomp on.

PC and I have never really understood the need to complete a walk as fast as possible, unless you're in training for something. After all, who are these speedy walkers competing with? Themselves? The clock? Life? They must miss out on so much, all those magic moments to breathe and look, those small easily missed treasures, the chance to talk and enjoy shared companionship. Ah well, everyone to their own. Perhaps age helps you to reflect more, and be more thankful for such simple pleasures.

Down from Lost Lad

It is, as they say, all downhill from here. The path continues along then curves around to the left heading towards Green Stitches before joining the footpath from Bradfield Gate Head.

From here it is simply a case of following the path. It splits and we take the right hand footpath which soon brings us up above Derwent Reservoir and very familiar territory.
The large cairn gives us an option of routes and PC opts for the 'straight down, it isn't that steep' route.
Actually, it is that steep, and rutted, but it is the quickest way down. To our surprise we pass two sets of walkers on their way up, neither particularly well shod for such a rough path.

However, we soon reach the bottom, where we hit the path at the side of the reservoir, and more people than we have seen all day. The lovely weather has brought people out in droves, and who can blame them. It is a perfect late afternoon for a stroll with the family.

We, however, head back to the cars extremely satisfied with our walk, and a little tired. But it has been worth it. A perfect walk on a perfect day.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Taking the Low Road

So, the plan is a second attempt to reach Lost Lad, and for the second time we accept defeat. Rain, drizzle and more rain, although it might clear later, apparently!

We're parked in our usual spot at the side of Ladybower deciding on an alternative. We aren't in any rush so decide to do the long circuit of the reservoirs; Derwent and Howden. 

Our route is predictable and easy to follow, so we cross beneath the Derwent Dam wall, climb the uneven steps and start along the track on the far side of the reservoir. It's already drizzling with rain and the dogs, Mollie and Scamp, are soggy.
Needless to say, we don't have much of a view, although the low level of the reservoir is a bit of a surprise. Then it really starts to rain and we seek refuge beneath a stand of trees where I dig out my waterproof trousers from the bottom of the rucksack.

We stand there a while, hoping it will pass over, but it really is bucketing it down. In the end we decide to go for it. We have waterproofs, we shouldn't get too wet. Should we?

To our relief the rain does start to ease off to a light drizzle and a potential of some clear - or rather, not wet - spells. We pass the point where out walk up to the Lad would have started and we admire the rather soggy daffodils.
We pass the Howden Dam wall and continue along, not meeting another soul. Perhaps the weather is keeping everyone under cover.

Mollie finds a discarded ball at the side of the path and gleefully picks it up to play with. She plays fetch for a while, with Scamp's little legs whirring to keep up.
We pass the stream running down from Howden Clough and the dogs have a paddle before we turn the bend with the view down to the dam. It looks as though the water stops in mid-air, like at some upmarket hotel with their suspended swimming pools. Although this is undoubtedly much colder!
We see our first couple of walkers, then go through the gate where we put the dogs back on their leads. There's always the possibility of sheep.

And we see a helicopter coming down the valley - the first of a few we see through the course of the day.
Then, as we are walking along the long length of Cold Side, the sun comes out and the view clears. We have a superb view up the valley.
There's been a lot of planting done on the slope down to the water, and some up on the hillside on our right too. Mollie tires of carrying her ball and leaves it for some other fortunate hound that may follow in her pawsteps.
Soon enough we see the bridge at Slippery Stones and we know that we'll soon be able to stop for lunch. We go for the huge log cum bench at the far side of the bridge where we can sit in some comfort and enjoy our food, including quite messy but very nice custard slices.
There are sheep around here, good job the dogs are on their leads.
But as we walk around the views improve again.
Though the dogs are a little tired, there's still a way to go.
We are on tarmac now, much more tiring underfoot. The gorse is in glorious bloom though, and we hear a curlew up on the moors.
The dam wall looms ahead, and another helicopter goes overhead. As we pass the wall, and the cottages beneath, we enter into the woods where Tin Town was: the construction village for the dams. It's mainly wooded now, with little indication of the industry. A

And we hear a cuckoo - our first of the year. Does this mean it's Spring?
The last stretch of the walk always seems the longest, and is undoubtedly the slowest. But at least it isn't raining anymore.
It's a good job we weren't in a rush. We are quite late getting back to the cars. So late that we hit the rush hour traffic on our way home.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017


The vague plan of hiking up to Lost Lad today is scuppered by the weather, too much intermittent fine rain and low cloud along with patchy fog. But all is not lost, even if the Lad is, and there is always somewhere to walk around Derwent.

We park in our usual spot, and notice as we drive down that a lot of the smaller car parks now have the dreaded parking meters, though not ours, or not yet! A quick walk down to the centre at Fairholmes and we discover that all facilities are closed as there is work being done higher up the dams which has cut all the power. Ah well, onward.

We cross under the dam wall and head along the far side reservoir.

The blossom is starting to come out on a few of the trees, soon the branches won't be so bare.

This is a pleasant easy lane to walk on, and although there are usually quite a few people doing the circuit of the dam, today we are pretty much alone. The weather certainly has a lot to answer for.

Look for the left hand path that will take us uphill, and we clambler over the stile and onto the track. It starts off steadily, but after a patch of gloopy mud we are climbing. It's a rather lovely, if steep, lane but one thing it does do is encourage us to pause to admire the views (and catch our breath).
Despite having no leaves the trees look superb, their structure seen with greater clarity.
The views more or less in the direction of Lost Lad look as though it might be a bit clearer up there.
But there is general murk everywhere.
We reach the top of the lane and go through the gate next to the wonderfully situated farmhouse. Then another short stretch of uphill (with a fortifying nip from the secret flask to give us encouragement) and we come to some lovely views, and a stone wall to sit against to have lunch. 

Today is my 'birthday' walk, so as well as coffee and sandwiches, it is treat time! A small bottle of fizz, mini chocolate pots, and a gloriously large slab of carrot cake (my absolute favourite) make for a very decadent and much appreciated picnic.

As usual after such a lovely feast the temptation is to linger (is a post-lunch snooze in order?) but it is rather chilly so we pack up and set off again across the top of the moor.
There are wonderful views all around, including a good one of the Lad in the distance.
We pass a group of walkers up here, coming from the oppposite direction. It's quite unusual to see many folk up here, and even rarer to see a group.
The incline here is pretty negligible, and as soon as we reach the top we start the slow decent, with Derwent reservoir gleaming greyly in the distance.

We keep the steady descent until we come to the point where the path becomes steep - and the rain arrives in earnest. Deep ruts and runnels, along with loose stones and slick ground mean we have to be cautious, but we soom manage to arrive at the bottom wall and the gate through to the reservoir track.
PC takes a photo just to remind us of the not-so-well signed path that we'll be taking when we next decide to try for Lost Lad.
Naturally, by the time we are on our way back the rain has almost stopped, so we are pretty much dry when we get back to the cars. Hopefully we'll get to walk up to the Lad soon.