Countryside Wanderings

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out of doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

Category: Derbyshire

A trot over Kinder Scout

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Last autumn, I got my hill wandering enthusiasm back and there were several trips to the Dark Peak around the Hope Valley (a tautological eccentricity if you know what Hope means in Old English but that’s what people call the place these days), Ladybower Reservoir and Stanage Edge. Other possibilities remain in mind and the Longshaw Estate may feature yet while there even is a thought of walking from Hathersage to Sheffield brewing. Though other walking destinations tempt me, this is a part of the world with which I have not finished yet. After all, I have not been around Kinder Scout since September 2015 in spite of a direct bus route linking Macclesfield and Hayfield. My last hike around there is the subject of this account.

The route that I followed was not so dissimilar to that which I followed in April 2013 but there were differences too and there are times when you get to pondering things like that. Aside from the deviation over the top of Kinder Scout, there were other contrasts such as the time of year and my personal situation. Winter 2012/3 continued late into the year so there were banks of snow still lying in April for me to cross. September 2015 still had its hangover from the preceding season as often happens in that month for my walk took me out on a warm sunny Sunday not untypical of a summer’s day apart from the more restricted hours of daylight.

Both hikes enjoyed bright sunlight and there was a difference in my mood too. Both 2013 and 2015 were marked by family bereavements but my reaction to these differed. The first left me feeling raw inside and unsure of the future while the second offered a sense of release before the bulk of the legal work of inheritance got going. 2016 proved to be both busy and tiring while 2017 was spent dealing with the aftermath of this and the reality of a day job that felt less fulfilling and less enjoyable than I would have liked. Those developments lay ahead of me so there was energy to use for happier things after a few months that saw me enjoy trips to Iceland and Switzerland. Work then was more suited to that sort of thing, a thought to retain for 2018.

Oaken Clough, Hayfield, Derbyshire, England

After an arrival in Hayfield under blue skies, I set off to pick up part of the Pennine Bridleway. The kind weather understandably had drawn out others and I was keen to have my own sense of space as I always do. Getting away from the village helped with that as did leaving the long distance trail for a track leading through Coldwell Clough and Oakwell Clough. All the while, height was gained and the views open out more and more. The location was familiar and the sights a little new.

South Head & Mount Famine, Hayfield, Derbyshire, England

Even with the additional height, it felt as if I was in a pocket of wilder countryside away from more human influenced parts. Even looking west and south did nothing to dispel such a notion. Such eminences as South Head and Mount Famine lay about me to catch my eye. What I really need to do is trot those aforementioned hillocks so that could be enough motivation for a return journey sometime.

Kinder Reservoir as seen from Kinder Scout, Hayfield, Derbyshire, England

In common with the previous encounter with these parts, views of Kinder Reservoir were to feature and I was to see plenty. This time around, it would overhead views rather a crossing over the reservoir dam with attendant viewpoints on approach and departure. The west facing vantage point of Kinder Scout that I used was to do nothing to obstruct photography so the challenge was to stop myself making too many photos.

The experience was reminiscent of another autumnal walk that took me this way while I still pursued film photography. If I remember correctly, I may have started from Edale before using a similar route over Kinder Scout and onto Glossop. However, the photographic results were not what I hoped so a return visit remained a possibility. Trying again with the added control of digital photography over the printing of negative film by a processing lab was another impetus. So long as you have confidence in your own competence and other like what you create, controlling things from start to finish cannot be beaten.

Mermaids Pool, Kinder Scout, Hayfield, Derbyshire, England

Compared with 2013, I tried to avoid any early height loss that would add to what needed to be regained. All views of Kinder Reservoir needed no descent like that preceding hike and I even chose secondary paths for getting from Edale Cross to Kinder Scout. That made me need to trust my map reading and all the signs were that I was on the right track. With so many paths going here and there, you need to hike your own hike and route find as you see fit.

Gritstone Outcrops, Sandy Heys, Kinder Scout, Hayfield, Derbyshire, England

Such is the route of the Pennine Way nowadays that following the western edge of the plateau offers enough guidance unless visibility is really poor. Previously, the trail went straight across the moor so your map and compass navigation skills needed to be up to scratch; rough terrain ensured its redirection because of its infamy. The sight of Kinder Low’s trig point adds reassurance too so I carried on happily towards Kinder Downfall, a relative trickle after the summer months. Beyond that, I continued along the plateau edge until I found the way off, a steep descent that needed some care and I also needed to be alert to the passage of others. All the while folk were pottering about but that was the change once I got down to Mill Hill.

Kinder Scout as seen from Glead Hill, Glossop, Derbyshire, England

The clear track off Kinder Scout adds a dogleg to the route of the Pennine Way so I needed to follow it east to get to the Snake Road (A57). What I also had forgotten was how passing over Glead Hill added height and obscured views of Kinder Scout once I was past it. The lack of folk made me wonder what routes around Kinder Scout people tend to take for not many continue to Glossop. Progress over the paved pathway was steady but it still meant that it took longer to reach the road than expected, something that appears to happen to me a lot on this stretch.

Shelf Moor, Glossop, Derbyshire, England

Once across the A57, it was the left turn for the Doctor’s Gate footpath that I sought. After following gravel tracks, peaty paths and paved walkways, this was to bring over rougher ground. If there ever is a “Fix the Moors” footpath project in the Peak District akin to the Lake District’s Fix the Fells, this would be a candidate for attention. Quite how this keeps its bridleway status never ceases to amaze me for I would not bring a horse down there. Still, there are pleasing views to be enjoyed whenever you can stop, for doing otherwise before crossing Shelf Brook could cause an unwanted tumble.

There was an added obstruction too in the form of a missing bridge; storms had washed away the pre-existing wooden one. In fact, there was a sign advising that the trail was closed because of this but I decided to chance it anyway because I reckoned that I could resort to a stream crossing if necessary. Whether you decide this adventurous act was courageous, foolish or just plain contrary, I will leave to you. In fact, it turned out that the descent took up most of the ardour with some naughty deviations for sake of added safety. The reward for all that was a fording point accompanied by a rope slung between two posts.

Parish Church Tower, Glossop, Derbyshire, England

After that last obstacle, gaining more height took me away from the sodden surroundings of the clough and a little patience on this stretch was rewarded by reaching a good track near Mossy Lea Farm with plenty of daylight left. Though legs were tiring, the rest of the way would easier with time to survey surroundings in the late afternoon sunshine. The walking surface was again easy to stroll and the way embedded in memory from numerous hikes since my first encounter here around Easter 2002. Reaching the familiar streets of Glossop added more encouragement and I arrived at its train station with time to spare before my journey home could begin.

Travel Arrangements

Bus service 58 from Macclesfield followed by bus service 61 from Buxton to Hayfield. Train journey from Glossop to Macclesfield with a change at Manchester Piccadilly.

Revisiting Lathkill Dale

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Currently, I have been catching up with quite a bit of reading. Between books bought with good intentions that were left unattended and magazines that have lain in wait for attention, there has been a backlog awaiting clearance. Among all this is a collection of writings by the renowned Scottish outdoorsman John Muir, a profound inspiration for the National Parks system that you find in the U.S.A. today. There have been others like Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Fiona Reynolds’ Fight for Beauty. Some have proven easier to read than others with John Muir’s Picturesque California lying between these in difficulty. Such is the lucidity of his writing that it seems a shame to rush through it so taking it slowly is exactly what I am doing. The evocative descriptions need to be relished and allowed to soak into memory, especially in tumultuous times like what we have today.

Though I have yet to visit them myself, Muir’s detailed descriptions of the glaciated landscapes of the High Sierra strike a chord with me. In one sense, they remind me of the glens cut into the Cairngorms plateau in Scotland but there is another landscape that also comes to mind for similar reasons. It too feels like a sort of plateau with valleys cut into it though the outline is far less lofty and dramatic.

To give you a hint as to where these are to be found, the valleys themselves are called dales but this is not Yorkshire but Derbyshire. Recent years have seen me explore them more since they are not so far away from where I now call home. Some can be very narrow and their names include Dove, Wolfescote, Biggin, Monsal and Chee. All of those named have seen me explore them at some point or other with some reflecting the names of the rivers that flow though them while others don’t.

One of their number that I have not mentioned so far apart from its appearance in the title of this piece is Lathkill Dale. My first encounter was on a hike I did in December 2013 just before a Christmas visit to Ireland. Though limestone outcrops abounded on slopes around me, there was no winter sun to make them more photogenic. While sunshine did appear later in the walk, I always fancied the idea of a reprise on a brighter day.

That second visit followed a trip to Iceland whose account on here took a fair bit of time to write. It was not so much having to withdraw everything from an unwilling memory as has bedevilled other recent trip reports but the fact that there was so much to be recalled. The account here requires more effort but the previous Icelandic outing has its uses.

A hike around Landmannalaugar thrust me into countryside wilder than I had encountered before then so the chance of sampling something more familiar had its place. The contrast between dusty mountainsides and leafy valleys could not be more striking. It is the latter to which I am accustomed so I was happy to be among them again.

St. Leonard's Chuch, Monyash, Derbyshire, England

My walk began in Monyash and, following arrival there, I spent some time around its parish church before continuing onto Lathkill Dale. The way that I went is hazy to me now for it is a faint recollection that I followed part of the Limestone before dropping down through Fern Dale but that could be imaginary. It maybe that I followed the road towards Bakewell before picking up a public footpath that did the same, much as I did on that December Sunday in 2013.

Waterfall, Lathkill Dale, Monyash, Derbyshire, England

Limestone outcrop, Lathkill Dale, Monyash, Derbyshire, England

Tributary dale, Lathkill Dale, Monyash, Derbyshire, England

As I went down the dale, milky skies bubbled up with clouds that obstructed the sun at times. That limited chances for photos but did nothing to take away from the wonder of see the limestone outcrops that line the sides of the dale. When they were fully lit by the sun, any wait was more than well rewarded. It was sights like these that delighted me on walks around Dove Dale, Wolfescote Dale and Biggin Dale so I was little surprised that they did the same for me here.

River Lathkill near Over Haddon, Derbyshire, England

Woodland strolling was my lot for the next section of my stroll. Back in December 2013, the River Lathkill was swollen and barely kept within its banks. The dryer time of year meant that it was not as readily seen as on that previous visit and I was glad of the tree cover. Though I have something of a love/hate relationship with woodland, what it takes in views is given in shade from strong sunshine so I was resigned to my lot and I soon enough came to break where others were gathered by the riverside. The promising weather had drawn others out and about so I was happy to share in between interludes of solitude.

Looking down on Haddon Hall, Bakewell, Derbyshire, England

After Conksbury Bridge, I went to the other side of the river and frequented quieter parts. The approach to Alport was where I enjoyed some winter sunshine the last time around but there was more in the cloud on this occasion. After Alport, I chose to follow Dark Lane and started to feel the summer hear as I rose above the surrounding dales. Beyond some farm buildings, a public bridleway conveyed me across Haddon-Fields and down to the banks of the River Wye. Views over Haddon Hall opened out before as did a curious sight of a field of what appeared like wheat, barley or oats being harvested like grass silage. It might have been a mistaken impression so I continued to enjoy other more familiar sights.

Weir on the River Wye near Bakewell, Derbyshire, England

To get to the banks of the River Wye, I needed to get across the A6 near the gates of Haddon Hall. Once past that difficulty, I strode along the footway beside the estate wall until a public footpath directed me to quieter surroundings again. Like the River Lathkill, the Wye was swollen on my winter visit but was quieter on this late summer outing. After a stretch of woodland, there were more fields to be crossed on the final approach to Bakewell. It was mid-afternoon so I was glad to be reaching my destination given the heat. After spending a little time pottering around there, I started on my way home and that offered a fleeting trot around Buxton too. There had been familiarity and that suited just fine after the unfamiliar sights of preceding weeks. There were more to come in the following ones but these were not to feel so alien.

Travel Arrangements

In tune with the general haziness prevailing throughout this post, my recollection of how I got to and from my walk is similarly afflicted. From photos, it appears that a return journey on service 58 between Macclesfield and Buxton was involved. Because this was a Saturday, getting to Monyash would have involved travel on service 177 (since withdrawn) while travel between Bakewell and Buxton most likely made use of the TransPeak service.

A springtime sabbatical

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Though the output on here may try to belie it, the month of March was one of exhaustion and a longed for sabbatical from work came not a moment too soon at the start of April. Mostly, it was time to rest at home though there were some escapes. My yearning for rest and recuperation had to be countered for these but it is good for anyone’s state of mind to get out and about too.

The second weekend saw me head to the Isle of Man for the first time since July 2011. Though it was a reluctant manoeuvre in the end, it repaid my efforts with sunshine on a circuit from Laxey that took in Snaefell and on an amble around Castletown. Before I started my return, I took in Douglas Head and Summerhill Glen along with some other sights around the island’s capital.

Strife with insuring a car in Ireland partly ruined any peace of mind around Easter such that I shortened a stay in Edinburgh. In truth, I spent more time around Peebles with a rain-soaked walk around Glen Sax on Easter Sunday preceding a trot along the John Buchan Way between Peebles and Broughton in much better weather on Easter Monday. Thankfully, that Irish obstacle was overcome to allow a few more days of quiet rest before it hit me just how fast time was going.

While it felt as if my time away from work was too short, there still was time for walk from Litton to Buxton that took in several of Derbyshire’s dales. The list included Tansley Dale, Cressbrook Dale, Monsal Dale, Miller’s Dale, Wye Dale and Deep Dale. Wintry weather intruded at times and Chee Dale offered plenty of adventure. Still, it was a good day out with my partly making up the route as I went along.

There was a trip to Ireland too and this allowed more time for myself in between visiting family and neighbours as well as attending to business that I have over there. Evening walks took me on circuits around by Springfield and Kilmeedy village. Though the walking was along roads for the most part, it was a case of revisiting haunts that I have not frequented for a few years now.

On returning to work, I have decided to do things differently and that is allowing me more rest time. My mind is turning to future excursion ideas as a sort of tonic though such flights of fancy are tempered my aunt’s health for now. Still, there is no harm in dreaming a little as I assess how things are going for me after all that has happened during the past five years.

Starting independent touring of Scotland

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Prior to August 2001, my outings in Scotland were day trips or I set off with someone else. A conference in Aberdeen was attended with a university colleague and an annual trip to Highland Perthshire was with a university group. Then, there was a few days in August 1999 when I showed my brother some of the sights that I had seen on day trips and a few more with them.

A Family Outing

That last outing began from Edinburgh and took us to Fort William where we spent a night before exploring Glen Nevis the next day. Our late afternoon arrival meant that there was some time for a stroll along by Fort William’s shore after an evening meal at the Ben Nevis Bar. The town turns its back to the sea so it was up what lay across Loch Linnhe to assuage any lack of scenic glamour despite overcast skies lying overhead.

Next morning after breakfast, we parked in the Braveheart car park before setting off for a stroll along the road through Glen Nevis. The pace was to be a gentle one and I have no recollection of there being much road traffic as we went as far as the Water of Nevis car park. Though this was before I took up hill walking, my brother asked about how long it would take to walk up and down Ben Nevis. Seven of eight hours came the reply and I wonder at the naivety of our deciding against the proposition on the basis of the time we had. Nowadays, I would be thinking in terms of experience, conditions and equipment and that also would be the order on which I would base my decision.

The attentions of midges meant that we did not linger too long around the Water of Nevis. Also, we wisely did not proceed further along and the presence of a disturbing sign would have made sure of that. It was a few years later when I finally went a little beyond it and I maintained control of my ambitions even with the equipment and experience gained in the meantime. This is wild country that commands respect and is not something for a spur of the moment decision of a casual tourist.

We retraced our steps with a stop at a cafe so there was no rush in our movements. On returning to our car, we set off for Oban. Skies had been grey overhead all day but they now were to darken and bring rain. Scotland was to show its less favourable side that evening. Nevertheless, we still sought food that evening and pottered about Oban too. The rain must have passed sufficiently to allow this. We also figured out what to do the next day: a tour of Mull and Iona.

The weather next morning showed that we were not to see Scotland under sunny skies. Still, we crossed to Mull by ferry before catching a coach to Fionnphort with the driver providing commentary laden with dry wit. A mention of the once regular arrival of wet newspapers onto the island at Grass Point remains in my memory and does the description of the, at times single track, road as the island’s answer to England’s M6.

Once at Fionnphort, we crossed to Iona in dry conditions. Skies remained grey but were strolling Baile Mòr without any wetting. We also visit the restored abbey buildings so we would have been under cover for a time too. Still, it was good to have respite while we were there and we reversed our outbound travel to get back to Oban again.

From Oban, we headed to Balloch where we stayed the night. Sadly, we arrived too late to walk along the shore of Loch Lomond in daylight. In any case, we would have some of it while in the way there. Next morning, we continued to Stranraer where we crossed to Ireland and I got a short stay over there before returning to Edinburgh again.

Going Solo

Because of starting a new job in England and having to move home, there was no Scottish touring in 2000. Though it remains the wettest year on record across Britain, my recollections of the summer are not in agreement with the statistic. The autumn that year was another story and I soon learned not to cycle the five or six miles to work in Cheshire rain.

Being lonesome after life in Edinburgh, I resolved to return from time to time and it is something that I still do. There was a weekend visit in November 2000 when I stayed with a friend up there. That became a regular feature for a few years and it was to another friend that I came to stay in August 2001. That was to be a jumping off point for another tour of Scotland, travelling solo this time around.

After arriving in Edinburgh on Monday afternoon and spending the night there, I headed off to Skye on Monday afternoon after spending the morning sorting out my accommodation arrangements. After the sunshine of the previous evening, it was under grey skies that I set off on a Scottish Citylink coach to Fort William. On the way there, we were to pass through heavy rain but it was drier if still grey when I reached Fort William. Bright skies were to persist for the onward journey to Portree though there was a sense of stormy conditions whenever any showers came our way.

The Quiraing from near Staffin, Trotternish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Eilean Flodigarry, Trotternish, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The following day could not be more different for it came fabulously sunny. Having not been there before, I chose to head for the Trotternish by bus as far as Culnacnoc. From there I trotted along the road as far as Flodigarry and lots of little places like Staffin and Brogaig were passed on the way. Though the road walking left me footsore, there was next to no traffic so I could soak in my surroundings. The gorgeous weather and scenery also meant that my Canon EOS 300 got plenty of use and I made sure that I had enough film this time around. It made a good introduction to the place and I returned to Portree by bus.

After another night on Skye, I caught the bus to Armadale where I caught a ferry to Mallaig. Memories of any sights of Knoydart and the Small Isles are lost to me know but there was some sunshine. Skies were greyer around Mallaig and I travelled from there to Glenfinnan on the Jacobite steam train, a rather expensive endeavour to me at the time. Photography was limited by the sun but I still got a stroll to the shore of Loch Shiel, albeit pulling a heavy trolley bag after me. From Glenfinnan, I got to Fort William on a more ordinary train before catching a Scottish Citylink coach to Oban where I stayed the night.

My third visit to Mull took place next day and I left most of my luggage in safekeeping on the mainland while I made for Tobermory by ferry and bus. Sunshine was rather hazy but I still tried my luck with making some photos of Tobermory with somewhat pale skies. My long SLR photography lesson was only beginning so there was a lot left to learn. Returning to Oban by bus and ferry, I retrieved my luggage and caught the coach to Glasgow. Once there, I continued to Edinburgh on another.

This was the English and Welsh August bank holiday weekend so I stayed there until that Sunday. Saturday came grey so I went shopping for better walking footwear at Tiso and came away with a pair of Columbia trail shoes that I still have somewhere today. They complemented the pack of thick socks that I bought in Tobermory just the day before. It is amazing what sore feet cause you to do.

Sunday morning was spent around Edinburgh and it all felt autumnal. Any photos that I tried making then reflected that more than what I believed I was seeing at the time. It was later that I set to travelling south again and the bank holiday was to see me trying out my new footwear on a trail by Grindsbrook Clough near Edale in Derbyshire. An interest in countryside walking was beginning.

After a year of unfinished business

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

2016 turned out to be a dramatic year in world affairs and it was set to be a busy one for me too so I could have done without the other developments. That work looking after my late father’s affairs is tailing off into more of a steady state and I hope that things become more manageable as the year progresses. There even might be time for a sabbatical from my day job.

The way that I feel at the moment is that such a thing would be well needed and I fancy a period of rest after all the upheaval of the last few years. It has sapped my spirit so a spot of renewal is in order. Overseas trips became a way to tide myself until a longer break becomes a reality.

In 2016, I got to three new countries: Austria, Norway and Spain. With my visits to the first two of these taking the form of extended weekends, I left feeling that there was more to see. It usually is not a bad thing but an extra day or two added to each would have allowed a bit more exploration. My Spanish escapade took me to Mallorca between Christmas and New Year and that brought what the other trips did not bring. There was a feeling of leaving the cares of life after me that was much needed.

In a way, it worked too well and a cold that I had caught somewhere began to make its effects plain enough that the return journey had more than a little dash of limp home mode about it. It took a week or two before I finally recovered and some extra time away from work was in order.

Before that took hold, there was ample time in the near constant sunshine as I explored the island from my Palma base. Port de Pollença was my first port of call with a little strolling about the place. A day trip to Sóller allowed for a chance to sample part of the GR 221, a long distance trail extending along the Serra de Tramuntana. After that, there was a trot about Port d’Andratx that was supposed to take me to Saint Elm but granted me a view of the place instead when I failed to find the path needed to get me from one track to another. Given that I was feeling less than my full self, it was just as well. The last day of my trip saw me lazing about Palma next to its impressive cathedral, helping sightseers with photos when asked to do so. There was ample time during my stay to make photos of my own too.

Despite the fever, I got a lot from my time in Mallorca and it offered the feeling of satisfying and more complete explorations. It also did me another favour. During December, I fell into a search for closure that I do not understand fully and even walks around Macclesfield over the Christmas did little to dissipate the feeling. It probably was grief that hit me but going away somewhere else fractured that unwanted continuity.

December saw me return to the Lake District for a walk between Great Langdale and Grasmere on a crisp winter’s day. The dawdling along the way was restorative and taught me that such experiences can be readily available in Britain. There also was a amble between Burbage and Whaley Bridge that revisited the Goyt Valley. Being denied much in the way of sunshine was no irritation and it also offers encouragement for a return sometime.

There were other longer walks during the year too with one returning me home from Leek by way of the Roaches. Thinking about that now recalls how soothing a largely solitary saunter it was. Another took me along the White to Dark Trail between Tideswell and Hathersage.

Hopefully, 2017 will be an easier year for me and it is something of an open book in some ways. Aside maybe from a possible stay in Stockholm, overseas excursions no longer loom as large in my mind now. Scotland could see more of me than that short visit in November that took in Inverness and a rainy Plockton. A spot of mental clearance could see me plodding around England and Wales more often too. Ireland might even see a spot of much needed exploration and I also fancy a stay around Killarney. Given how heavy my spirit feels now, the more important job for the year could be to lift things again for me.


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