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
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!
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)