Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stoney Middleton, Great Longstone, Hassop Station, and Bakewell.

On Monday I bought a couple of laminated maps which cover all of the Peak District. I needed some new maps, and they seemed to be a bargain.

They should last a lot longer than my old maps, but I did have some problems with them. They are even more difficult to fold than the ordinary paper maps, and won't fit in my map case.

It was annoying having to stop, take off, and unzip my rucksack just to look at the map. After a few stops I'd had enough and decided to stuff the map down the front of my trousers. It was held securely in place, but was restricting my movements a bit when going uphill. I think the best option might be for me to get a cagoule with a large enough pouch at the front.

I got off the bus at Stoney Middleton and took a steep footpath up through the village which was followed by a flatter section of farm track across fields and down into Coombs Dale where I spotted a temporal spacial portal leading to an infinite number of parallel universes.

Deciding to stay in this universe I climbed out of Coombs Dale along a side valley which isn't named on the map, and then took the track which leads down to Rowland. I didn't go to Rowland though; instead I branched off along Hardrake Lane, a well-defined footpath half way up Longstone Edge with good views in most directions. By now the sun was breaking through the clouds and so I was able to get a few decent photographs.

The first was taken along Hardrake Lane looking back at where I'd just come from, and the second, looking back again, this time at Longstone Edge just as I was about to enter a small dry dale to the north of Great Longstone. Since reaching the area where these two photographs had been taken my camera had been warning me about the battery needing recharging: I managed to take a few shots of the church as I entered the village...but that was it.

I crossed the main street in Great Longstone and took a footpath leading towards the Monsal Trail: there are several. This one, in places was a ginnel, and in other places was a snicket. Both of these words are used in Yorkshire dialect and so I don't know how far south their usage in Derbyshire might reach.

I soon reached the Monsal Trail, and then Hassop Station, where I stopped for refreshments; a pot of tea and a scone.

There was no rush to catch the bus and so I sat on a bench just beyond the old station. After a few minutes two women walked by, chatting loudly. Suddenly one of them stopped mid-sentence and pointed at me and told her friend that she had planted the tree behind me many years ago, and then, in just as strident a manner informed her companion that they've now put a bench in front of it...the bench I was sitting on.

I didn't hear either of them make reference to me though, but I didn't know what to say, or do; so I said nothing and did nothing - I just continued sitting where I was until it was time to walk to the bus-stop at Pineapple House Farm.

As I was waiting for the bus I noticed a small mammal run across the road, something long and slender: a stoat, weasel, polecat, or ferret. Take your pick; I don't know the difference.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Castleton, The Great Ridge, and Hope.

I've done this walk several times before, apart from some short sections of footpaths near to Castleton, and it's one of my favourite routes;  however, I've not done it for over two years.

The ground was mostly frozen today and so a lot easier walking - I did need to put on my ice grippers for a couple of short stretches though.

The weather was okay, nothing more, mainly cloudy with occasional brief light snow showers. The sun did pop out for a few minutes illuminating Kinder Scout, the highest part of the Peak District, just as I was on the Great Ridge and in an excellent position to take some photographs.

At Castleton I walked down the track which starts at the side of the house with what I always imagine to be a stone circle, or henge, in its garden - it's probably just a random arrangement of old gateposts, but maybe one of the owners is, or was a Druid.

I was soon walking across open country with spectacular views of Mam Tor in front of me. This is the favourite of several photographs I took. It tells a story I suppose: the sheep must have been hungry, they followed every hiker thinking they were the farmer coming to feed them. (Please note: I am not a shepherd.)

I continued along the path to Odin Mine, and then the abandoned road, which I walked up in its entirety until reaching a footpath which eventually leads up to the summit of Mam Tor. Getting to the top was easy, the steps presented no problems, but descending along the ridge towards Hollins Cross was slippery, and so I put on my ice grippers for the first time.

The views from the ridge were as enjoyable as ever, even though the visibility wasn't particularly good. It was busy up there, as it always seems to be, and to be honest, I was enjoying watching the other walkers as much as the scenery.

During the descent from Lose Hill, at the eastern end of the ridge, there was a small area of sheet ice which required my ice grippers. One person had slipped just before I got there, and others were obviously struggling, so I smashed up the ice as best I could with my spikes....and my eighteen and a half stone.

I only had five minutes to wait for the bus at Hope. When I arrived at the railway station in Sheffield the train services were in a mess, due to both the continuing problems caused by the landslip at Hatfield Main Colliery, and scheduled engineering works in the Hope Valley.

Trans Pennine Express services were particularly badly affected; they seemed to be only able to run a shuttle service between Sheffield and Doncaster. Before the train set off the guard announced that it was the Trans Pennine Express Service running from Sheffield to Doncaster. I muttered to myself, but obviously loud enough for the woman sitting next to me, 'Yeah, but where are the Pennines?' She looked at me, stood up, and walked further down the carriage.

Yet again my Asperger's syndrome has done me no favours; I try to be jocular and friendly...but it always seems to backfire on me. At least I don't get paranoid though; there were police officers at both Meadowhall and Doncaster stations; but I knew that they weren't there for me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Whirlow Bridge, Ringinglow, and Fox House.

I caught the number 70 bus, which although it goes the long way round, still got me to Whirlow Bridge for 09:20 - it's better than hanging around the bus station waiting for a bus that goes deep into the Peak District.

I crossed the road and entered Whirlow Brook Park. After a few minutes I reached the toilets and popped in for a pee. I noticed that the cubicles had been nailed shut; I wonder what the situation was in the ladies'. On the Ordnance Survey map public toilets are shown at Ringinglow too. I can confirm that there aren't any there any more - what looks like the toilet block is now, of all things, a toy shop.

From a distance Whirlow Hall looks like a nice building. There seems to be public access, and looking at the photograph, there appear to be some notices on the door. Maybe it's a café; it's certainly a lovely spot....and there's a car park.

Beyond the car park I entered the wooded area of the Limb Valley. A large dog, friendly enough though, kept trying to sneak up behind me; but, because of the direction of the sun I could see its shadow and so kept thwarting it by turning round and facing it. Later on, as I was sitting on a bench eating my sandwiches, an even bigger, and dirtier dog, tried to steal one of them. The owner was very apologetic, but it would have been better if she'd kept her dog under control in the first place.

As I gradually climbed higher up the valley, it's not steep at all here, I spotted my first snow of the day; remnants of last week's weather still lingering on in sheltered spots where the sun hasn't reached. Later on, as I was crossing high moorland, there were even some sections where I had to walk through deep snow.

At Ringinglow I passed the Alpaca farm; yes, there actually is one - I've only been able to take a picture of the sign because the animals were actually hidden behind quite high green tarpaulins. Being tall, I could just about see their necks and heads; but it was no use pointing the camera in that direction.

I continued walking along the road for about a mile and then took the path which goes right next to the covered reservoir on Rud Hill, which from some angles as I approached it, looked a bit like an Aztec pyramid. Along this section I had to weave in and out of some quite large molehills; there were hundreds of them - it would be a good training exercise for rugby players I should think.

As I reached open moorland, down to my right I could eventually see all three Redmires Reservoirs. The middle one seemed to be nearly empty, despite all the recent rain and snow; I wonder if they are actually still in use?

I lost the path, and then struggled a bit across a boggy section of moor until I reached Stanedge Pole and the footpath to Stanage Edge.

As I approached the trig point I heard what I imagined to be the noise made by giant prehistoric grouse; if such things ever existed. In fact, it was the screeching brakes of a couple of mountain bikes. Two young lads were performing stunts on the rocks, and it looked like someone was filming them.

I continued to the car parking area at Upper Burbage; quite often there's an ice cream van here, but not today - despite it being very busy.

After a short rest, I walked along the track that goes along the bottom of Burbage Rocks, but halfway along I took the easy path which leads to the top...and then another level path towards Fox House.

I was surprised to see the 272 bus arrive; it normally doesn't run at this hour...except during the school holidays. So...the children must be off school in either Sheffield or Derbyshire, or both.

One final thing; and this has happened before - when I stood up to get off the bus my trousers nearly fell down. Although I had made sure my belt was tight it seems that my waist had temporarily shrunk by a couple of inches. I'm assuming that this was due to loss of essential fluids; I certainly was sweating a lot...and my pee stung my fingers when I needed to go. Maybe I was dehydrated.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Penistone, Roughbirchworth, Stocksbridge, Bolsterstone, and Wharncliffe Side.

I rarely go walking on Thursdays; it's the day I usually meet up with my friend Justin for a meal at a pub in town. With it being Valentine's Day today though, we thought we'd give it a miss this week.

I think that today's walk was probably the worst since I started writing the blog; I still enjoyed myself though, as I always do when I'm out on the moors.

I chose the location and route so that I could take advantage of the early morning sunshine. Things didn't get off to a good start: my connecting train at Meadowhall was twenty five minutes late. I was still at Penistone though for 09:35, not many minutes after my bus for the Peak District from Sheffield Interchange was scheduled to depart.

I started by walking back towards the east along the Trans Pennine Trail for about a mile, initially right next to the railway line and then through a wood.

The path I was looking for led off from the right, but when I reached where I assumed it was, there was only a footpath sign pointing to the left. I had no other option but to take this path, which fortunately crossed over the bridge and headed off in the direction I wanted, along a farm track.

I was steadily gaining altitude, and so, although it was mild, there was still a bit of snow about; maybe not as much as I'd expected, but further on it was still quite deep in places, especially near to stiles.

I soon saw my first wind turbine as I approached the hamlet of Roughbirchworth: Nearly every farm seems to have one. Today's walk was mainly outside of the boundaries of the Peak District; and therefore the planning regulations aren't as strict - I've certainly never seen any turbines inside the boundaries of the National Park.

I continued, mainly across fields and then down a steep road, to reach the outskirts of Stocksbridge, and then Underbank Reservoir.  I then walked along the southern shore for a while until I reached an Adventure Activities Centre where I took the path up through the woods to reach a country lane.

I soon found the path that took me along the western edge of Whitwell Moor. The final few yards of this section, not too far from the parking place, was difficult, having to walk through quite deep snow. My hamstrings were aching by now...but much worse was to come!

At the parking place I continued in a south easterly direction, briefly stopping to photograph the tautological footpath sign. I've not seen one of these before: maybe it's to deter mountain bikers.

I walked alongside a wood, then along a track which led all the way to Bolsterstone. This track forms the boundary of the Peak District here, and when I saw a bench located just a yard or so inside the boundary I stopped and sat on it for a few minutes; just to say that I'd visited the Peak District again today.

At Bolsterstone I took the path which runs parallel to the Wharncliffe Side road. In places it was quite muddy: One place in particular, where some cows had churned up the ground and I ended up being up to my knees in mud and cow shit, and then up to my elbows too when I stumbled. This was absolutely exhausting, my muscles  everywhere were straining and aching; hamstrings, thighs, buttocks, back, neck, shoulders. I was glad to get out of the field; I felt very vulnerable being in such close quarters with the cows and having no obvious escape route.

My clothes were in a right state; my trousers and coat plastered with this thick 'mud' which I tried to wash off when I found some clean water.

Just before finishing the walk on the main road just north of Wharncliffe Side I made an unexpected discovery; a carved dragon's head. As the information board explained, this is the Wantley Dragon. It features prominently in the local folklore, and I had heard of it; but I thought it was located at the other side of the valley.

Although today's walk at about eleven miles, certainly wasn't one of my longest, I am feeling the most exhausted I've ever felt after completing a walk. I suppose it's due to the difficult conditions - the deep mud that was grabbing my ankles like quicksand. I wonder if there's some sort of mathematical formula to calculate the amount of energy expended when walking across different terrain with different conditions underfoot.

Friday, February 8, 2013

English Heritage Membership.

This year I've been able to allocate a small part of my social services care budget to purchasing a year's membership of English Heritage.

English Heritage only owns one property in the Peak District, Peveril Castle at Castleton. So, a climb up the hill to visit the castle will be the beginning of my next walk starting in the village.

There are three properties situated a few miles to the east of the national park; Bolsover Castle, Sutton Scarsdale Hall, and Hardwick Old Hill.

Bolsover is easily reached on the Mansfield bus from Sheffield, the other two sites will require me to walk for a few miles after getting off the bus. This won't be a problem though, since, obviously, I enjoy walking and should be able to devise suitable routes to include visits to the two halls.

Much nearer to home, I'll be able to visit Conisbrough Castle, which isn't that impressive really; Brodsworth Hall with its majestic formal gardens, and Roche Abbey in its idyllic location. I'll be regularly visiting the last two properties throughout the year.

There are also properties at York and further afield which I'd like to get around to seeing during the course of the next twelve months.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Northwood, Tinkersley, Fallinge, Chatsworth Park, and Baslow.

I caught a slightly later train to Sheffield this morning and so managed to get a seat. It was a local stopping train and so there wasn't much legroom; so I had to fold up my copy of the Metro free newspaper and wedge it between my knee and the back of the seat in front to provide a bit of padding so that I wouldn't be lame when I reached Sheffield.

I still had nearly half an hour to wait for the bus: it arrived on time though and there were no problems. It was quite a pleasant journey: after three other hikers had got off at Fox House I was the only passenger remaining and soon ended up chatting to the driver. After a few minutes I found out that his stepson has Asperger's syndrome, just as I do, and so we had quite a lot to talk about.

I think I made a good decision to catch the 214 Matlock bus this morning and stay on for most of the journey. As the bus was travelling out of Sheffield I noticed that the weather to the north didn't look very promising, yet the further south I travelled the better it got; it was mainly sunny when I arrived at my destination.

I got off the bus at Northwood, a few stops before Darley Dale, and headed uphill into the main housing estate and then through a haulier's yard, before reaching open countryside.

I soon reached woodland which provided some shelter from the strong wind, but the trees were being buffeted about quite a bit and I often heard branches creaking, and saw twigs being broken off. At times there were occasional clearings where I could enjoy nice views down into the Derwent Valley.

The woodland path gave way to a track alongside a field and then the houses of Tinkersley were in view. It's only a hamlet, but its hillside location means that the residents have expansive views down into the valley and to the hills beyond.

Beyond Tinkersley I walked along a well-maintained, but narrow, country lane and then took the path across fields towards Fallinge, having to cross the Chesterfield road.

Fallinge, like Tinkersley, is a hamlet too; there were plenty of hens at home today.

After about a mile I reached the road that comes up from Beeley. I turned right and walked along it for a few yards before heading into the woods and taking a path that never strays too far from the road. Further up the hill I re-joined the road and then walked along the track which leads down to Beeley Top. This is quite a substantial track that is often used by vehicles, but it looks as though it needs a bit of maintenance doing. I noticed one particular deep pothole that seemed to have been repaired using an old tyre and the branch of a tree - on closer inspection it seemed to be more than a pothole, it was very deep - possibly a mineshaft.

I then walked across the stretch of Beeley Moor known as 'Rabbit Warren': it was very windy and exposed, but the views were well worth it. In years to come I should think this stretch of footpath will be less windy, but you won't be able to enjoy the views because the Chatsworth Estate has recently planted saplings near to the path.

I climbed a quite high stile to enter the wooded area of Chatsworth Park and headed for Swiss Cottage where I was hoping that the sun would be at a good angle for taking photographs; I wasn't disappointed, although my camera's zoom lens struggled a bit.

A few minutes later the sun was at a favourable angle to take some photographs of the Hunting Tower.

It was then a fairly short walk down through some woods and across the landscaped parkland to reach Baslow Nether End, where there are two buses an hour to Sheffield on weekdays.