Search Results : “Peak District”

Jul 032010
 

It was one of those Peak District days you can only dream of: a gauzy blur of sunlight over moors and pastures, enough bite in the wind to fill the blood with oxygen, and the great reservoirs of Ladybower and Derwent winking cheerfully to fishermen and walkers alike. ‘I’ve been absolutely longing for this,’ Jane said, looking up at the Derwent Moors, ‘a day up somewhere high and wild.’
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The broad moor paths glittered with mica, their sandy gritstone pebbles rumbling quietly under our boots as we climbed to Whinstone Lee gap and a most stupendous view up Ladybower Reservoir, a long blue tongue caught in the lips of the hills. The wind blew like a mad thing, making the tears fly from our eyes as we followed a dark stone wall north towards the tors of Derwent Edge. Wheel Stones and White Tor, they stood out in drama on the skyline, piled towers of rocks shaped and slit by wind and frost.

We passed a shallow pool full of mating frogs, the males piggyback on the females in a bubble-bath of spawn. Climbing across Access Land through trackless heather up to the Edge tested our leg muscles and lungs, but once up there in the wind and sun we grinned like fools at a thirty-mile view streaming away in all directions, a magically spinning topography.

Red grouse whirred like clockwork projectiles across the heather, landing with a plump bounce to give out their manic giggle of a call, followed by a staccato go-back! go-back! go-back! Warning calls, I thought. ‘No,’ said Jane, ‘that’s definitely a party animal’s shout: Where’s-the-action? Where’s-it-at?

A paved path led north up the length of Derwent Edge, and we followed it past the outcrop of Dovestone Tor where weathering had sculpted a pair of monstrous lovers’ heads, for ever petrified, their protruding lips fated never to touch. Beyond stood the Cakes of Bread, flat folds of stone like giant piles of pancakes. It was quite a wrench to leave these outlandish stones, but a great wide moor was beckoning to the north-west, a dun and black blanket of utterly empty country.

The moors are the antithesis of virgin country. The hand of man lies emphatically on them. Through deforestation, sheep grazing, mining and abandonment they have been stripped to the barest of elements – heather, moor grass, rock, water. By rights they should be dismal, frightening places. But for a walker in search of huge horizons, of absolutely nothing between him and his Maker, they are sublime. Descending the rough lane to Ladybower Reservoir and the long walk home, I felt like a man in the company of friends.

Start & finish: Ladybower Inn, Ladybower Reservoir, Bamford S33 0AX (OS ref: SK 205865). NB Please ask permission to park, and give the inn your custom!

Getting there:

Bus: 51A, 241, 242 (www.travelsouthyorkshire.com) from Sheffield, Castleton, Bakewell, Chesterfield

Road: Ladybower Inn is on A57, at its junction with A6013 on Ladybower Reservoir.

Walk: (9 miles, hard grade, OS Explorer OL1):

From Ladybower Inn climb steep path to north-east. At top of incline, don’t fork left; keep ahead, to descend almost to A57 at Cutthroat Bridge (213875). Turn left uphill, then left (west) along bridleway for 1 mile to Whinstone Lee gap (198874). Path splits in 5 here; take marked bridleway to right of National Trust ‘Whinstone Lee Fields’ sign, following wall north along fell side. In ¾ mile pass ‘Derwent, Moscar’ sign (198884); aim half right uphill across trackless Access Land to White Tor on ridge (198888). Left along ridge track for 1⅓ miles by Dovestone Tor to Bradfield Gate Head. 200 yards before trig pillar on Back Tor, left at stone marker pillar (198907) on stony path going NW over moor. In 1 mile (185912) join wide grassy track on Green Sitches. Go through ruined wall; in 100 yards fork left (182911); almost immediately left again, aiming for fingerpost (180905). Follow ‘Ladybower’ and ‘Footpath’ fingerposts, with tumbled wall as guide, past plantation (182903) and on for ¾ mile to Lanehead Farm (184892). Descend (yellow arrow) to road at Wellhead (184887).

Left on lakeside track for 1⅔ miles to bridge (195865). Left fork uphill between houses becomes hillside track, descending to Ladybower Inn.

Refreshments: Ladybower Inn (01433-651241; www.ladybower-inn.co.uk), or picnic on Derwent Edge

NB – Online maps, more walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk.

www.visitpeakdistrict.com/walkingfestivals (5 walking festivals in the peak district in 2010)

www.ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 00:00
May 152010
 

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A milky sky, a cold wind, and the chaffinches going crazy in the trees around Castleton. Maybe it was the promise of a long-delayed spring implicit in the tender leaf buds sprouting at the tip of every twig, or perhaps they were just getting their mating chops together. Whatever about the birds, the nip of the wind and the scud of the sky had Jane and me stepping out sharply enough as the church clock chimed half past eleven.

Castleton lies cradled in a natural amphitheatre of hills whose rocks are seamed with rich deposits of lead. The mineral was mined from a series of caverns along the line of the hills – Peak, Speedwell, Treak Cliff and Blue John itself, its name derived from the beautiful pale purple bluejohn stone so popular with jewellery makers and ornamental carvers. This early in the year there were few visitors in the show caves and bluejohn shops. Most folk moving in the hills around Castleton today were walkers like ourselves, only too delighted to be stretching the winter slackness away.

Below the rocky gorge of Winnats we looked back across fellsides striped with dark stone walls and dotted with small stone barns, to see the black ruin of Peveril Castle perched like a raven on its crag above the huddled houses of Castleton. In the chill dark mouth of Peak Cavern below the stronghold once squatted a whole tribe of rope-spinners, their lungs and joints sacrificed to the dampness they needed to tease the fibres together. Lead miners lived and died in even worse case. What desperate conditions our ancestors put up with, just because they had to.

A bunch of schoolchildren were munching sandwiches at tables outside Treak Cliff Cavern. ‘We’ve done our big walk already!’ they squeaked proudly. Tired? ‘Naah! We’re going to play football when we get back to the hostel!’

We crossed the bumpy old mine-spoil ground with its velvety nap below the striated cliff of Mam Tor, and went crabwise up the long slope to Hollins Cross on the ridge, where ant-like figures were striding. Up there the wind blew at double strength, smacking and shoving us along the flagged pathway towards the big dark cliff of Back Tor. Here with a Kit Kat apiece we snuggled down in the lee of a handy peat hag for a few minutes, and took in the view north up the long valley of the River Noe. Edale village was a scatter of toy houses far below, and the old purgatorial start of the Pennine Way up Grindsbrook Clough cut a deep dark scar into the fellside.

A step more along the ridge to the summit point of Lose Hill, and we were looking down on the whole glorious length of the Castleton valley – our forward view for the homeward path.

Start & finish: Castleton Visitor Information Centre, Castleton S33 8WN (OS ref: SK149830)

Getting there:

Rail: (www.thetrainline.com; www.railcard.co.uk) to Hope (2 miles); buses (www.derbysbus.info/times) from Bakewell, Matlock, Sheffield.

Road: From A57 at Ladybower Reservoir – A6013, A6187.

Walk: (5½ miles, moderate grade, OS Explorer OL1):
Cross road; up lane by 3 Roofs Café. At road, right (148828); uphill (‘Speedwell Cavern’), then field path to cross road at Speedwell Cavern (140827). Left-hand path (yellow arrows) above Treak Cliff Cavern (136831) to Blue John Cavern (132832). Right to road; right to car park; across waste ground under Mam Tor Cliff to Mam Farm (133840); up hillside to Hollins Cross (136845); ridge to Back Tor and Lose Hill (153854). Paved path down to cross stile (155851); bear right for 100 yards to cross another stile; left along fence, then downhill through trees (157848). In 30 yards, just before fingerpost, right downhill to bypass Losehill Farm. Lane downhill to Spring House Farm. Just past house, right along lane (156840, ‘Castleton’ fingerpost) past Losehill Hall. Where drive swings left, keep ahead through wicket gate (152838). Ahead across fields, then along lane to road (148835). Ahead into Castleton.

NB – Detailed directions, online maps, more walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk.

Lunch: Picnic on Back Tor

More Info: Castleton Visitor Information Centre (01629-816572; www.peakdistrict.gov.uk); www.peak-experience.org.uk; www.ramblers.org.uk.

Peak District walking festivals 2010: www.visitpeakdistrict.com/walkingfestivals

 Posted by at 00:00
Feb 022019
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window

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Abdon’s little red church of St Margaret stands within the bank of a circular graveyard, the sign of a very old, probably pre-Christian site. People have been working and living for many millennia here in remote rural Shropshire below the Clee Hills – and on top of them too, in the steeply ramparted hill forts that crown their basalt peaks.

Looming at the back of Abdon is Brown Clee, at 1,770ft the highest peak in Shropshire, a great weighty whaleback of green, purple and red that rises in the east to blot out half the sky. On this bright winter morning big clouds came bustling across from the sunlit uplands of Wenlock Edge out to the west.

A field path led us from the straggling houses of Abdon down to Cockshutford where the cocks and dogs combined to give us a loud welcome. Clee Liberty Common beyond lay pitted with the hillocks and holes of former coal pits and quarries. Above stood the neat oval ramparts of Nordy Bank, rare among hill enclosures hereabouts in having been left undamaged by the quarrymen.

Twisted old silver birches flanked the sunken track that meandered up across the common to the radio mast at Clee Burf. From this great ringfort we had a fine view south to the stepped profile of much-quarried Titterstone Clee.

We sat in a rushy hollow out of the wind, eating tangerines and listening to the sigh and rustle of a beech hedge. Then we headed north on the Shropshire Way along the spine of Brown Clee, passing the poppy-strewn memorial to flyers, both Allied and German, killed nearby in plane crashes during the Second World War. Weather and conditions can be treacherous up here, and the Clee Hills claimed the lives of more flyers than any other hill range in these islands.

Up at the topograph on Brown Clee’s summit rampart we stood and marvelled at an incomparable prospect, 300 miles all round the circle of the horizon from Cader Idris and the Berwyns to the west and Brecon Beacons to the south, to the Peak District hills in the north-east and Birmingham’s towers in the east. The Wrekin, the Malverns, Cannock Chase and Wenlock Edge. All drenched in sun under a china blue sky, a once-in-a-lifetime view on such a winter’s day.

Start: Abdon Village Hall, Abdon, Craven Arms, Shropshire SY7 9HZ (OS 576868)

Getting there: B4368 (Craven Arms – Much Wenlock); at Beambridge, turn off for Tugford; from here, follow signs to Abdon.

Walk (7½ miles, moderate hill walk, OS Explorer 217) From village hall car park, left down road past church (575866). Left at junction (574863); in 600m, opposite last buildings on right, turn left off right bend (577862), and fork right along level track between hedges (yellow arrow/YA, blank fingerpost). Follow YAs through fields south for ¾ mile to cross lane at Cockshutford (579851).

Up steps opposite, through kissing gate; right (YA) with hedge on right for ½ mile (stiles, gates) to stile into green lane (573852, YA). Left to road, left past Clee Liberty Common notice on right. In another 150m, right through gate at another notice (573850); up gravelly track past Nordy Bank hillfort (577848) for 1½ miles to Clee Burf radio mast 593843).

Left along Shropshire Way/SW with wall on right. In Five Springs Hollow go through right-hand gate (596864, ‘SW main route’) and on past flyers’ memorial (596855). In ¾ mile, with gate on left, bear right (591863) to topograph on Abdon Burf (594866).

Back to go through gate (blue arrow); follow grassy trackway downhill; in 150m it turns right and descends for ½ mile to road (586869). Right to junction; left (‘Abdon Village Hall’). In 100m, left on bridleway (584870, fingerpost). Follow it across fields with hedge on left. In 400m pass Marsh Farm on your right; in another 200m, right to cross stile (578867). Up fence to stile into road beside car park.

Lunch: Tallyho Inn, Bouldon SY7 9DP (01584-841811, thetallyho.co.uk) – 3 miles.

Accommodation: The Crown, Munslow SY7 9ET (01584-841205, crowncountryinn.co.uk) – 5 miles.

Info: Ludlow TIC (01584-875053); shropshiretourism.co.uk; ramblers.org.uk; satmap.com

 Posted by at 02:43
Jan 192019
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The trains of the Cromford & High Peak Railway – first drawn by horses, then by steam locomotives – ran through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Derbyshire Peak District. Where horses once plodded with coal and limestone, and tank engines puffed with sparse numbers of passengers, cyclists and walkers now follow the narrow curves of the line, rechristened the High Peak Trail.

On a superb morning, crisp and cold, we joined the trail at Hurdlow. Either side the limestone landscape rolled away, intensely green under the low sun, an upland broken into sharp peaks and shadowy valleys.

At the vast open chasm of Dowlow Quarry we left the High Peak Trail for stone-walled lanes with wonderful high prospects south into a countryside so fractured it resembled a choppy sea. A knobbly path led us in the shadow of High Wheeldon, a conical knoll presented to the National Trust as a war memorial to men of Staffordshire and Derbyshire killed in World War Two.

Down in the lane to Crowdecote they were herding cattle between field and farm. Those in the lane bellowed and trumpeted, and those in the adjacent fields returned the compliment. ‘Bit lively,’ grinned the farmer waiting to turn them into the farmyard.

Crowdecote clung like a limpet to its steep, sunny hillside. Beyond the hamlet there was ice in the hoof pocks of the bridleway, and frost blanketing the fields on the shadowed side of the dale. Limestone outcrops scabbed the high slopes. Pale grey field walls striped the pastures, footed in their own black shadows, resembling giant claw scratches in the ground.

The path led past the crumpled hillocks where Pilsbury Castle once stood – a pair of baileys and a motte, built by the Normans shortly after the Conquest to levy tax on the traders that used the ancient packhorse route through the dale.

We followed the old way through uplands of sheep fields, past standing stones whose edges had been rubbed shiny by sheep easing their manifold itches. A dip and climb past Vincent House farm, another past the farmyard at Darley, and we were bowling along the High Peak Trail towards Hurdlow with sublime hill scenery unrolling on either hand.

Start: Hurdlow car park, Sparklow, Derbs SK17 9QJ (OS ref SK 128659).

Getting there: Bus 442 (Ashbourne) to Bull-i’-th’-Thorn (½ mile by footpath)
Road – Hurdlow car park is off A515 between Pomeroy and Parsley Hay.

Walk (9½ miles, cyclepath and well marked field paths, OS Explorer OL24): North-west along High Peak Trail for 1½ miles to end (111673); left on Cycleway 68. In ½ mile, right on lane (109665) to cross road at Wheeldon Trees (102662). Through gate (fingerpost) down to NT High Wheeldon notice; right downhill (yellow arrow/YA) to road. Left to Crowdecote. Just past Packhorse Inn, left along lane (101652, ‘South Peak Loop’ bridleway). Follow SPW (blue arrows) through fields. In 1 mile pass Pilsbury Castle mounds (115639); left through gate; fork left up footpath; follow YAs over hill, crossing one road (121634), then another at Vincent House farm (137632). Through farmyard (YAs); up right-hand of two parallel tracks. Follow ‘Parsley Hay’ and YAs to cross road at Darley Farm (142637). YAs through farmyard, up field edge to High Peak Trail (143639); left for 2 miles to Hurdlow car park.

Lunch: Royal Oak, Hurdlow SK17 9QJ (01298-83288, peakpub.co.uk) – busy, friendly pub near car park.

Accommodation: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Longnor SK17 0NS (01298-83218; robinsonsbrewery.com)

Information: Ashbourne TIC (01335-343666); visitpeakdistrict.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:13
May 122018
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A beautiful, bitterly cold late spring morning of blue sky in the southern skirts of the Peak District. Carsington Water lay glittering in the sunshine, early joggers already limbering up by the Visitor Centre. Once we’d crossed the Wirksworth road, though, we met no-one on the field paths except sheep.

Young lambs with wriggling tails dived under their mothers’ fleeces to butt and tug at the maternal udder. Around Overtown Farm the corrugations of ancient ridge-and-furrow undulated beneath the grass, a sign that these dandelion-spattered fields have remained unploughed pasture since medieval times.

Hedge roots were lost in a blue blur of forget-me-nots, and trees still scarcely in leaf rang with spring bird calls, chiffchaffs in blurting phrases and lesser whitethroats in ecstatic scribbles of song.

At the Church of St Bartholomew at Hognaston we came across a sign from even more distant ancestors – an 800-year-old image, carved in the tympanum over the south door, of a shepherd, crook in hand, guarding the Lamb of God from the attentions of a wolf, a wild boar and a bushy-tailed fox. Overhead an eagle, having seized its chance, is making off with a long-beaked fowl in its clutches.

Silver-bellied clouds were beginning to sail across the blue sky as we climbed the lane to Atlow Winn. A Jacob ewe with four horns and a fleece of white and tarry brown stared flintily at the two trespassers in its pastures. Four tiny lambs squirmed out of their pen to sniff my hands, attracted by the woolly texture of my fingerless mittens.

As we climbed the steep pastures the backward view widened over the gunmetal grey sheet of Carsington Water in its cradle of hills. At the ridge of Madge Hill a superb forward prospect opened westward across a billowing green landscape to the sharply peaked cliffs of The Roaches, rising above the Staffordshire moorlands fifteen miles off.

A wintry shower rushed out of the west, blowing pellets of snow around us. Winter was not quite done with this countryside, it seemed. We headed back towards Hognaston over fields thick with dandelions, every golden head still turned towards where the sun had been pouring out its springtime warmth and light only moments before.

Start: Carsington Water Visitor Centre, near Wirksworth, Derbyshire DE6 1ST (OS ref SK 241517)

Getting there: Bus 111 (Ashbourne-Matlock). Road: signposted off B5035 (Ashbourne-Wirksworth).

Walk (5¾ miles, easy, OS Explorers OL24, 259): Return to car park entrance; left along cycle/footpath (red trail marker, ‘Carsington Water Circular Route’). In 150m, right (fingerpost) through trees to cross B5035 (239515). Up hedge; in 80m, left through wicket gate/WG. Cross fields through successive gates (yellow arrows/YA). In 2nd field, aim for bottom left corner and squeeze stile (SS) into green lane (237512). Left; in 200m, right through 2 WGs (YA) into field. Left along hedge to SS and on to Green Cottage (WGs) and road (236507).

Ahead up road; left at Hognaston church (235506). In 100m, right at bus shelter through drive gate of Old Hall (footpath post). Follow right-hand wall, through 2 WGs (YA). In field beyond house, follow middle of 3 paths, half left down to WG/SS in bottom left corner (234502). At 2nd WG/SS, keep ahead to cross footbridge, then duckboards (SS, white arrow/WA). Keep same line through succession of SS (WAs). Approach mill buildings, bear left across stream to cross lane (232495). On along left bank to lane at Highfields Farm (232490).

Right; in 100m, right up Winn Lane (‘Unsuitable for Motors’). In 100m fork right (‘The Shaws’). In 600m through ‘Shaws’ entrance gate (224493, WA). Before house, right through gate; half left to cross stile on skyline. Right (WA), heading half left to gate into Atlow Winn farmyard (222494). Left between house and barn; through gate (YA); ahead to stile (YA); half left across field to waymark post by wall gap (221497). Cross step stile; up field edge with wall on right; in 100m, right (YA), bearing half right across ridge to step stile into lane (219498).

Right. In 400m, opposite old metal WG on left, turn right up steps (219503, YA), through trees to cross drive. Through metal WG (fingerpost); half left across field, aiming not for WG, but for metal gate to its left (222504, YA). Descend across fields for 500m to gravel track (228505). Left; in 400m, approaching Hognaston, fork right, descending to village street (234507). Right to church; retrace outward route to car park.

Lunch: Red Lion, Hognaston (01335-370396, redlionhognaston.uk)

Accommodation: Breach Farm, Carsington DE4 4DD (01629-540265, breachfarm.co.uk) – immaculate, delightful B&B

Carsington Water Visitor Centre: 01629-540696, visitcarsington.co.uk
Info: visitpeakdistrict.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:30
May 272017
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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If I could wrap up in one package my ideal place for a walk in spring, it would be these few miles beside the River Tees. There’s something complete, something absolutely perfect about the blend of sights and sounds here in this twisting cleft in the Pennine Hills – the rumble and chatter of the young Tees in its rocky bed, the high volcanic cliffs between which it snakes, the poignant cries of curlew and lapwing nesting in the sedgy fields, and above all the brilliant colours of the exquisite little flowers that bloom for a short, unpredictable season across the craggy back of Cronkley Fell.

Setting out on a cold, wind-buffeted morning in mid May, we had no idea whether the flowers would be out or not; their brief blooming depends so greatly on what kind of winter, what kind of spring Upper Teesdale has had. It felt more like a February morning as we crossed the racing Tees near Cronkley Farm. But in a damp bank beside the farm, sunk among masses of marsh marigolds, we spotted the pale yellow orbs of globe flowers, a signal that spring was at least attempting to elbow winter out of the way.

Behind Cronkley Farm we climbed between the juniper thickets of High Crag, up into the grassy uplands where the old droving track called the Green Trod runs up the nape of Cronkley Fell. The wind did its best to push us back, but we put our heads down and fought it to the summit.

A succession of ‘exclosures’ up here, wired off to make them impenetrable to the nibbling sheep and rabbits, harbours the rarest of Upper Teesdale’s spring flowers, delicate survivors of a post-Ice Age flora that has vanished from the rest of upland England. We knelt on the stony ground to take in these miniature beauties at eye level – deep pink bird’s-eye primroses, tiny white stars of spring sandwort, and the intensely, royally blue trumpets of spring gentians.

At last we tore ourselves away, frozen and entranced. We descended to the Tees and returned along the brawling river, where lapwings flew up and curlew skimmed overhead, intent on shepherding these human intruders away from their nests and unhatched eggs.

Start: Forest-in-Teesdale car park, near Langdon Beck, Co. Durham DL12 0HA (OS ref NY 867298)

Getting there: On B6277 (Middleton-in-Teesdale – Alston), 1½ miles beyond High Force car park.

Walk (7 miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL31. NB: online map, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): Right along B6277; in 100m, left down farm track. Skirt right of first house (864296); down to wicket gate (yellow arrow/YA); on, keeping right of Wat Garth, to track. Join Pennine Way (PW) and cross River Tees by Cronkley Bridge (862294). Follow PW and YAs past Cronkley Farm, into dip (862288), up rocky slope of High Crag, and on along paved track. In 500m, left across stile (861283). PW bears left here, but continue ahead uphill by fence. Through kissing gate (861281); in 100m, turn right along wide grassy Green Trod trackway. Follow it for 2 miles west across Cronkley Fell (occasional cairns). Descend at Man Gate to River Tees (830283); right along river for 2½ miles. At High House barn (857294) aim half left across pasture for Cronkley Bridge; return to car park.

Lunch: Picnic

Accommodation: Rose & Crown, Romaldkirk, Barnard Castle DL12 9EB (01833-650213, rose-and-crown.co.uk) – wonderful village inn, comfortable and welcoming

Moor House NNR: 01833-622374; northpennines.org.uk

Peak District Boundary Walk (friendsofthepeak.org.uk/boundary-walk): Launch Day, Buxton – Sat 17 June

satmap.com, ramblers.org.uk; thisisdurham.com

The January Man – A Year of Walking Britain by Christopher Somerville (Doubleday, £14.99).

 Posted by at 02:56
Dec 172016
 


First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The Crag Inn at Wildboarclough lies tucked down in a quiet valley of easternmost Cheshire. The wild gritstone hills and moors of the Peak District rise all around. The farm buildings of the district are dark and solid, but the field walls sparkle with chips of mica on sunny afternoons such as this. Old stories say that the last wild boar in these hills was hunted down to death in this steep little valley. That might not be strictly true – but when were local legends ever the better for being plain, provable fact?

I followed a field path west along the flanks of the Clough Brook, then up the cleft below Oakenclough. Stopping to listen, I could not hear a single sound but the trickle of the brook. Over the damp shoulder of High Moor and down to the Hanging Gate Inn on its escarpment edge, with a most tremendous view out west over tumbled farmlands to the Cheshire plain stretching into misty distance.

The bare stone bluff of Tegg’s Nose lifted its dark grey hump ahead as I walked north along the waymarked Gritstone Trail that knits together a fine string of these coarse sandstone hills. Hawthorns were thick with scarlet berries, or ‘peggles’ as the great naturalist Richard Jefferies used to call them. I tested them with a squeeze of the fingers: still hard as rock, so that I wondered how the fieldfares and redwings of winter were going to gobble them down.

Ridgegate and Trentabank reservoirs gleamed dully between their pines and silver birch trees. A tremendously cheery party of U3A walkers met me on the way up to the moors, their cheerful chatter and rosy cheeks the perfect advertisement for the benefits of walking in one’s riper years.

I forged ahead across the sedgy uplands on a pitched path that led to a scramble up to the gritstone peak of Shutlingsloe, the ‘Matterhorn of Cheshire’. At the summit of this mini-mountain I was lord of a hundred-mile view from the Pennines to the Trent, the Long Mynd to the Clwydian Hills of Wales. A few minutes to stand and stare, and I was scrambling down for the homeward path to Wildboarclough.

Start: Craig Inn, Wildboarclough, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK11 0BD (OS ref SJ 981685)

Getting there: Wildboarclough is signed from A54 Congleton-Buxton road at Allgreave.

Walk (7½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL24):
From Crag Inn car park, right along road. Immediately right through wicket gate (yellow arrow/YA). Bear left, parallel with road, and follow grassy path across 7 fields (gates, YAs, coloured circles). 2 fields beyond High Nabbs farm, path rises to angle of wall (970681). Right across stile (circles, YA); left along lane. In 600m, right at road (964685). In 300m at Greenway Bridge, right (963687, YA) along river. In 300m, cross Highmoor Brook by footbridge (963690). Follow YAs, then permissive path below Oakenclough house. Cross drive (961695); left through gate (YA), up by wall. Through gate at top; ahead on grassy track to corner of wall (959696). Ahead with wall on right; at end, right through gap; left over stile, down fenced track to cross road at Hanging Gate Inn (952696).

Down side of pub; right through kissing gate on path down to road (951698). Left for 150m; right over stile and follow Gritstone Trail/GT markers north for ¾ mile. Approaching Greenbarn, fork left (952710); in 100m, right through gate (GT). Skirt to left of house; through gate onto drive. Left; in 50m, GT on telephone pole points left, but fork right down through wicket gate. Left (YA) to cross footbridge; on up steps to path junction at Ridgegate Reservoir (952713).

Right (‘Shutlingsloe’); follow path along south edge of reservoir, then through woods to road (959711). Turn right on ‘Walkers Only’ path on right of road. In 200m pass Macclesfield Forest info board; in another 150m, bear right (963711, ‘Shutlingsloe’). In 100m fork right uphill. Follow ‘Shutlingsloe’ for 1½ miles through trees, then across moor to Shutlingsloe summit (977696 – short steep climb to top). Follow path to south end of summit; short steep scramble down and bear left; path across moor down to farm road (983691). Right to Crag Inn.

Conditions: Some boggy bits; steep ascent/descent of Shutlingsloe peak.

Lunch: Crag Inn, Wildboarclough (01260-227239, thecraginn.co.uk) or Hanging Gate Inn, Potlords (01260-400756, thehanginggate.co.uk) – both closed Mon/Tues

Accommodation: Stanley Arms, Bottom of the Oven, Macclesfield Forest SK11 0AR (01260-252414, stanleyarms.com) – warm, cheerful place; good food and welcome

Info: Macclesfield TIC (01625-378123); visitengland.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk

 Posted by at 01:52
May 172014
 

They dress their wells in the Peak District – always have, probably always will. First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The old springs and sources of Derbyshire are famous for the intricate way they are ornamented by the local people with pictures of flowers and seeds in high summer. But here in Middle Mayfield across the county boundary in Staffordshire, they’re proud to carry on this ancient pagan tradition, too, garlanding the village wells in June come rain, come shine.

On a close, steamy morning, with heatwaves and thunderstorms threatened, we passed three or four wells on our way up Hollow Lane out of the village, the dark still water concealed like a treasure behind gridded gates or wooden doors. Spatters of blue and white seeds and stones showed where they had been glorified only a month before. Now the dimpling sources lay in secret among the borage and comfrey, knapweed and moon daisies along Hollow Lane.

From the ridge at Ashfield Farm we had a view lent mystery by the thick grey heat – the misty woods and hayfields of the River Dove’s deep valley behind us, and the long bald head of Blake Low rising ahead. Then we plunged down through Gold’s Wood to walk the bank of the shallow, glass-brown Ordley Brook. The local geology seemed to be having an identity crisis – the houses were of beautiful sun-paled pink sandstone, but the abundant scabious where the butterflies were feeding spoke of lime beneath the soil. The knobbly old shaft of the medieval Ousley Cross beside the road was peppered with conglomerate pebbles – another puzzle.

A stony lane between fields of skittish cattle brought us up to Stanton, from where Flather Lane rose northwards under shady ash and hazels to leave us on the brink of Cuckoohill Wood and its steep little gorge. Here Ellis Hill Brook chuckled under giant hogweed and the sky-blue flowers of nettle-leaved bellflower.

After skirting Leasow and Ellishill Farm we dropped into the cleft and went south beside the brook through thickets of nettles and brambles. A stiff climb to the ridge once more, and we followed the ill-waymarked but lovely Limestone Way path across newly mown hayfields on the crest of the land, with a wonderful breeze to cool our sun-baked faces.

Start: Rose & Crown PH, Middle Mayfield, Staffs DE6 2JT (OS ref SK 148447)

Getting there: Bus 409 (arrivabus.co.uk) Ashbourne-Uttoxeter
Road – Middle Mayfield is on B5032 (off A52, 2 miles west of Ashbourne)

Walk (7½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer 259): Opposite Rose & Crown, up Hall Lane. Just past Old Hall, left up Hollow Lane (147449, fingerpost). In 500 m leave trees by stile (142448); ahead with hedge on left. Cross stile; bear half right, aiming right of Ashfield Farm, to cross stile (139448, 2 yellow arrows/YA). In 30 m, right through squeeze stile/SS (YA). Diagonally left, over stile beside right-hand of 2 gates. Follow right-hand hedge to cross concrete roadway (137447); in 50 m, right through gateway (no waymark); half left to cross SS. Follow hedge on your left. Through next SS; on past conifer plantation. At end, over wooden stile (133447); right to bottom of slope, left along wood edge. In 250 m, right through stile (132447, YA); down path through wood, curving right in 150 m to descend and cross Ordley Brook by footbridge (131448). Left along far bank for 700 m to road (126445). Ahead for 50 m to see remains of Ousley Cross on right.

Retrace path along Ordley Brook. In 200 m cross side stream; in another 50 m, left (128447) through stile gap (YA, ‘Weaver Walk’/WW). Follow path through wood to stile out of trees (128448, WW). Forward to stone wall; left along it (YA, WW). Soon path becomes grassy lane. In a little over ½ mile, at a gate by Smithy Moor Farm (131457), don’t turn right (YA), but go through gate ahead (fingerpost) and on up farm track for ¼ mile to road on outskirts of Stanton (130460). Left; in 150 m, right up Flather Lane.

In ½ mile, after passing silage clamp on right, continue along wide grassy lane. Descend to cross stile (131472, YA); then steeply down to Cuckoohill Wood. Cross stony gap in bottom left corner of field (131473); bear left along stream bank for 50 m; cross footbridge and up steps to cross stile into field. Bear left and follow line of electricity poles across field to cross stile/kissing gate into field just south of Leasow (132477). Right along fence for 100 m; right over triple stile (YA); half left to cross double stile (133477). Half left to go through SS by holed stone. Aim for Ellishill Farm across field, and through SS.

NB Path is currently being diverted to pass left of house – please watch for signs! At time of writing, path passes close to right of house (134474) and continues for 50 m to go through wall gap (135473). Ahead along ridge with hedge on left and valley on right. In 100 m (135472), diagonally right down slope to bottom edge of field. 100 m from end of field, right over stile into wood (135469, YA). Follow path (can be very overgrown!) south for ½ mile on left (east) bank of brook. Just beyond stile out of wood, pass well and standing stone (137464) to Stanton Lane (138462).

Left up lane, past Harlow Farm drive. In another 150 m, at top of hill, right through gate (142464, arrow) on Limestone Way (labelled as such on map). Through SS above farm and on; at next gate, through stile on left of it (143461). On with hedge on right, through gateway (YA); half left across field to stile (144459, YA); on with hedge on left to double stile (YA). Across field to SS (YA); halfway across next field, right through hedge (143455, stile, YA) and left along green lane. Cross stile by metal gate; same at next one. In another 70 m, left (142452, YA, WW on your right) up hedge, over ridge and down through stile in left corner of field (143451, YA). Descend with hedge on left for ¼ mile to lane by Old Hall (148449). Right into Middle Mayfield.

Lunch/Accommodation: Rose & Crown, Middle Mayfield (01335-342498; roseandcrownmayfield.com). NB Closed Sunday evening, all Monday; but B&B operates 7 days.

Middle Mayfield Well Dressing 2014: Sat 14 June, 11 a.m.

Info: Ashbourne TIC (01335-343666); visitpeakdistrict.com

visitengland.com www.satmap.com www.LogMyTrip.co.uk

 Posted by at 02:13
Jan 112014
 

Litton lay stretched like a sleepy cat along its lanes; a grey stone village, typical of the Derbyshire uplands, in the embrace of green pastures and loosely knit stone walls. First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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It had been too long since I’d had a good day’s walking with my London-based daughter Ruth. Crossing the fields and dropping south into the curving cleft of Tideswell Dale, we chatted away nineteen to the dozen, catching up on each other’s lives.

It’s small wonder that the Peak District is so tremendously popular with walkers, especially the very beautiful and spectacular dales or water-sculpted canyons that burrow their way through the pale grey limestone of the White Peak district. History doesn’t relate whether these strikingly beautiful surroundings were of any comfort to the 19th-century workers – some of them small children – who slaved away in the textile mills in the dank and cold dale bottoms.

In Miller’s Dale we crossed the River Wye beside the mill-workers’ terrace cottages and climbed the steep bank of Priestcliffe Lees, where young Friesian heifers put their rubbery noses over the wall to sandpaper our fingers with glutinous yellow tongues. At Brushfield the old farm-children’s school stood high among stone cottages with massive lintels, looking down into the tree-choked canyon of Taddington Dale.

Down in Monsal Dale we picnicked on a grassy shelf by the gurgling Wye, and then followed the old Buxton-Matlock railway line – now a superb cycleway – into Miller’s Dale, where Cressbrook Mill stood huge and handsome in the throat of the valley. The Brewstop Café behind the mill is run by three siblings (the oldest is 14), and their tea and cakes are a walker’s dream.

In Cressbrook Dale, up where the cleft opens grey rocky lips to the sky high overhead, a great outcrop of limestone hangs over the path – Peter’s Stone, where the bodies of executed felons were once hung in a gibbet as a terrible warning to all. Today, as we turned back along the rim of the dale towards Litton, the dark stain of the past seemed cleaned away by the low evening sun that washed the rock in a flood of gold.

Start: Red Lion, Litton, near Tideswell, Derbyshire, SK17 8QU (OS ref SK 164752)
Getting there: Bus – 173, 65, 66 (Buxton – Tideswell). Road – Litton is signed off A623 Peak Forest – Baslow road at Wardlow Mires near Tideswell
Walk (12 miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL24): From Red Lion, left along village street. Pass ‘Cressbrook’ turning; in 50m, right, then left over stone stile (166751). To far left corner of field; right along lane to road (165749). Ahead to left bend; over stile (fingerpost); follow field path/stiles to cross road (161748). On down to road (160749); left to B6049 (155748). Left for 20m; left through gate; follow wall beside road, past car park (154742) and on along Tideswell Dale. Left at ‘Quarry’ sign (154740) to quarry (155738); follow ‘Concession Path’ to steps back into dale bottom (155736). Left for ½ mile to road in Miller’s Dale (157731).
Left to cottages at Litton Mill; right (159730, ‘Monsal Trail to Miller’s Dale’) across river and up dale side. Cross Monsal Trail (158730); up steps by bridge, left over stile; up path (‘Priestcliffe Lees’), following yellow arrows/YAs. At top, through lumpy mining ground, following left-hand wall to turn left over stile (154725, YA). Right to stile into stony lane (153723). Left for ¾ mile to Middle Farm. At T-junction, left (159715, ‘Monsal Dale’). In ½ mile pass fingerpost (167717, ‘Upper Dale’), in 100m, right (‘Lees Bottom, White Lodge’) to farm track; follow it to farm (167712). Follow ‘path’ sign/YAs onto stony track beyond barn. In 200m, left (168710; fingerpost) over stile; follow stepped path down into Monsal Dale. At bottom, left (171708, ‘Monsal Head’) for 1¼ miles to viaduct (181716).
Left along Monsal Trail for nearly 1 mile. At mouth of Cressbrook Tunnel, right through gate (172724, ‘Cressbrook’) on path descending to cross river beside weir (172728). Bear right on path past Brewstop Café and Cressbrook Mill. At road, left; fork right (‘Cressbrook, Litton’); in ¼ mile, fork right (171732, ‘Ravensdale’). Pass Ravensdale Cottages (172737); in ¼ mile go through gate marked ‘Cressbrook Dale’ (172741); in 100m fork left and follow dale bottom for 1½ miles past Peter’s Rock to A623 (180756) at Wardlow Mires (NB 3 Stags’ Head PH to right). Left along A623 for 100m; left (stile, ‘public footpath’) up field wall to cross stile (177756); across field to cross stile; right up wall to road (173754); left into Litton.
Lunch: Brewstop Café, Cressbrook (weekends, school holidays); 3 Stags’ Heads, Wardlow Mires (01298-872268); Red Lion, Litton (01298-871458).
Accommodation: Cheshire Cheese Inn, Castleton, S33 8WJ (01433-620330; cheshirecheeseinn.co.uk) – bustling, cheerful place.
Info: Bakewell TIC (01629-816558); visitpeakdistrict.com;
www.ramblers.org.uk www.satmap.com www.LogMyTrip.co.uk visitengland.com

 Posted by at 01:41
Jul 072013
 

A brisk wind was hurrying from the north over Derbyshire, pushing grey clouds down the long valley of the River Wye.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Looking back from the heights of Rowsleymoor Woods across the valley with its intense greens of pasture and hedges, the farther peaks topped with bushy spinneys under a sky of gunmetal grey and Chartres blue, I thought a palette of two or three colours could catch the whole scene.

A pair of mountain-bikers passed me, panting hard. I followed them across a common of peaty soil and pine trees cushioned with big tuffets of moss, and came out of the trees onto the wide green sheep walk of Calton Pastures. This open grassy upland looks more like the undulating, unfenced pastures of Eastern Europe than anything you’d expect to see in the compartmented farmlands of England. Alone in one corner stood an ornate gingerbread cottage with white bargeboard and elaborate window shutters – the Russian Cottage, built as a full-size copy of a model farmhouse given to the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1855 by his good friend Czar Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias.

The Cavendish family, Dukes of Devonshire, are the power in the land hereabouts. Emerging from New Piece Wood I was overwhelmed by what must be the most striking of all views of their great mansion of Chatsworth House. The building rises beyond the River Derwent’s meadows, an enormous cube of windows and walls among formal gardens, its Emperor Fountain blasting a mare’s-tail jet of water a hundred feet into the air, the pepperpot domes of the 16th-century Hunting Tower rising among the trees beyond. Chatsworth owes a lot of its effect to the sombre wildness of the Peak District moors that back it to the east. A jewel of orderly civilisation in a wilderness setting was the effect that the 1st Duke of Devonshire was aiming for when he built the place in 1687-1707, and even today you can see exactly what he was after.

The 6th Duke was lucky to have the brilliant designer Joseph Paxton as his right-hand man in the mid-19th century when he rebuilt Edensor village just over the hill from the house (having cleared away the existing settlement because it was spoiling his view). I went to pay my respects at Paxton’s tomb behind St Peter’s Church; he lies a little down the hill from the Dukes that commissioned him to design their gardens and glasshouses and estate buildings. Then I went slowly back to Rowsley by way of the flat, wide and lovely meadows along the Derwent.

In 1849 Joseph Paxton designed a beautiful little station for a railway line that was to run up the Derwent valley past Chatsworth. The 6th Duke objected, the line was never built, and now Paxton’s station stands marooned among the retail outlets of Peak Village Shopping Centre in Rowsley – as fine a picture of Dignity and Impudence as you could hope to find.

Start: Walker’s Zone car park, Peak Village Shopping Centre, Rowsley, Derbyshire, DE4 2JE (OS ref SK 258660)

Getting there: Rowsley is on A6 Bakewell-Matlock road
Bus: ‘The Sixes’ (trentbarton.co.uk), Bakewell-Matlock; ‘Transpeak’ (highpeakbuses.com), Matlock-Buxton

Walk (9 miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL24): From Grouse & Claret Inn, right on A6 across bridge. Right up Church Lane (256658), which becomes stony lane. In 1¼ miles, at metal barrier, lane forks (244670). Take upward path to right of right-hand fork (BA, ‘Chatsworth’), following BAs through woods and across Calton Pastures for 1¼ miles to descend to wall at Calton Plantations (243286). Through gate; sharp right along wall (BA). In 200m bear left beside gate (244685). Cross pasture near Russian Cottage, following BA (‘Edensor, Chatsworth’). Through shank of New Piece Wood to gate (247689) and view of Chatsworth House. Half right to waymark post; ahead (YA) past Maud’s Plantation and aim for Edensor church spire.

From Edensor cross B6012 (251700); bear right on stony path to Palladian bridge (257702). Don’t cross, but turn right through meadows on Derwent Valley Heritage Way (DVHW). In nearly 1 mile, at mill ruin, right up bank to cross B6012 (258688); left past car park on path marked ‘Garden Centre, Calton Lees’, then minor road to Calton Lees. Left at junction (257682; ‘Rowsley’ fingerpost). By Calton Lees Cottage, left through gate (257680; ‘Rowsley’); follow wall, then DVHW arrows. At end of 2nd big meadow, right over stile (260667, DVHW); on to lane to Rowsley.

Lunch: Edensor Tea Cottage (01246-582315)

Accommodation: Devonshire Arms, Beeley, DE4 2NR (01629-733259; devonshirebeeley.co.uk)

Chatsworth House: chatsworth.org
www.ramblers.org.uk www.satmap.com www.LogMyTrip.co.uk

 Posted by at 15:39