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: Powys

Incidental ambles

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

The start of a new year can be a useful time to take stock of life. January can be a month that some find too quiet but it has its uses as I am finding out for myself. A current career break means that I have added occasion to think over what I would like to do for a living. After five years of family bereavements followed by responsibilities added through inheritance, there is plenty of reason for this. What had not been obvious to me is that my last job was not a match and the experience left its mark, one that needs to be overcome.

Throughout all of this, I am not forgetting that I am an explorer at heart. There has been time to catch up on reading and I now have my fill of travel writing so I will not be lured into book purchases as easily as before. More discernment could be the way of things for me and that cannot be so bad when finances need to be kept in check during times like this hiatus from work.

Also, I have been travelling around England and Wales collecting ideas for walking trips like Roseberry Topping and Pumlumon Fawr. Surveying the countryside about the latter brought me the added benefit of a short if muddy stroll around Llangurig. Visiting nearby Rhayader is another thought and a short stay in Aberystwyth could facilitate more than initially had come to mind. Other parts of the Welsh River Wye are ripe for exploring too and the hills of the Black Mountain in the western side of the Brecon Beacons could be another tempting idea.

City visits to Edinburgh and Cardiff have come to pass. In the middle of the latter, the banks of the River Taff offered an oasis of calm with Llandaff Cathedral feeling as if it is in a country rather than where it is. Bute Park was another delight that makes me wonder why it took so long for me to make an independent visit to the place and there is Cardiff Castle if I wanted to include that as part of a return visit. There is plenty there for cyclists too and I am not surprised that bicycle hire is available.

Those city wanderings remind me that there have been times during the last few years when energy for more strenuous outings has not been as readily available. Edinburgh has featured quite a few times and there are regular haunts nearer my home in Macclesfield. Knutsford’s Tatton Park, Disley’s Lyme Park together with Macclesfield’s Tegg’s Nose Country Park and Dane’s Moss Nature Reserve all have been places where quick visits offered respite from life’s tumult when enthusiasm for longer trips was not to be found. The same could be said for more urban spots like Buxton, Chester, Sheffield and even Manchester. Anywhere where a coffee can be enjoyed away home has had its uses.

Strolls on my own doorstep like circuits taking in Prestbury all had their uses when my head needed clearing, like on Christmas Eve during my first ever Christmas spent in Macclesfield. That was a stormy affair, as much in my mind as it was out of doors. When a brighter interlude offered, it did not need much persuasion for me to head out on a longer round that linked Tegg’s Nose, the Saddle of Kerridge and the White Nancy. It became just the breather that I needed at the time.

The last few months have been as much about exorcising hurtful memories as anything else. That included the past Christmas and New Year period when it felt more normal than others. Trips to Tatton Park, Manchester and Lincoln all broke up the flow and I also got learning that camping stoves should be used out of doors too, a misadventure that I have no relish for repeating.

Getting past that was like everything else in life in recent times. 2017 became a year when I lightened some of life’s load so I need to think ahead now. Getting an enjoyable and fulfilling work life is one thing and my zest for exploring countryside continues. Overseas excursions could restart yet since I am making my way through Kev Reynolds’ Walking in the Alps at the moment and there is his The Swiss Alps, The Pyrenees and Trekking in the Alps after that. That lot should keep me going for a while yet and I am not overlook what hill country is nearer to hand either.

Released?

Monday, February 9th, 2015

As anyone with elderly parents should know, life can be a roller coaster ride when their health declines. It certainly has felt that way over the last few years for my family and I. However, escaping out into the countryside has helped in its own way when dealing with life’s rougher moments. Getting through December 2012 certainly called for those head clearing escapes, be they into Tatton Park near Knutsford in Cheshire or along Irish country lanes. Both of my parents were frail then with my mother having been shook up by a hospital visit and my father’s strength in free fall since the summer. By Christmas, he really needed to be in a nursing home but mentioning the subject only resulted in angry exchanges. It took a brush with death due to a kidney infection for the matter to be forced and the issue to get resolved as it needed to be. He still was not intent on staying where he needed to be, and it was a nice place too, so no one could relax and a walk along the Macclesfield Canal between Congleton and Macclesfield as well as a shorter stroll around Buxton were well needed.

What really changed everything was my mother’s passing away not so long before what would have been her eighty first birthday and the loss was a raw one that not only resulted in next to daily evening walks by the River Bollin but also had me venturing further afield is search of a spot of solace. April 2013 saw me make two trips to Derbyshire and the area was to see me more than any other in that year. The of those April visits had me encountering banks of snow left over from a late winter as I hiked from Hayfield to Glossop, rounding Kinder Scout from below as I did so. The weather was much milder later in the month when I embarked on a circular yomp from Bakewell that took in both Ashford-in-the-Water and Monsal Dale. These were followed in June by a walk from Bamford to Edale that took in the southern edge of the Kinder Scout plateau and a walk from Monyash to Bakewell via Lathkill Dale. That last big walk of the year had me passing swollen rivers too; it had been a month of heavy rain and much flooding. A July escape to Fort William that took in Glen Coe and Glenfinnan could not have been more different with its sweltering temperatures and dry sunny weather. There also were sunlit walks from the Cat and Fiddle Inn back to my home that took in Shining Tor and Lamaload Reservoir. The first of these took me onto Rainow and Bollington while I passed close to Shutlingsloe on the second.

The combination of the scare that began 2013 and the loss of our mother meant that I tended to be more precious about my father and I suspect that my brother probably felt the same. The sense was that we could lose him sooner rather than later and it pervaded most of 2013. It sounds churlish to say it now but I started to wonder in the light of my father living longer than we might have expected if it was not before time to abandon any putting of my life on hold that there might have been. That is not to say that there was any sense of abandonment because, if anything, my visits to Ireland became more frequent. For much of 2014, I crossed the Irish Sea on a monthly basis.

In between those though, I began to get out and about again and last summer saw me make three visits to the Lake District. The first was to Buttermere when I crossed the top of Haystacks while the second facilitated a walk from Patterdale to Grasmere that went over the top of St. Sunday Crag and the last revisited Orrest Head and Loughrigg Fell. January and November saw me spend time around Llantysilio Mountain near Llangollen with the first trip enjoying bright sunshine all day and the weather disintegrating to spells of rain while I was up high. That makes an excuse for another return sometime though I did get more than a little compensation from spending some time by the Mawddach estuary near Barmouth the next day. There were more Welsh visits though with a summer solstice one that visited Sgyryd Fawr and Sugar Loaf near Abergavenny and a September retracing of steps between Rhossili and Port-Eynon in glorious weather. Yorkshire too saw a visit before the Tour de France did and that took in Pateley Bridge and Brimham Rocks in Nidderdale on a largely grey day. Northumberland was paid a visit during October with the delights of the coastline around Bamburgh being sampled on a day that felt more like it belonged to summer. Local trots around Macclesfield were not neglected either with Alderley Edge and Hare Hill seeing two visits. A pesky Jack Russell terrier took a set on my left leg the first time around so a hospital visit was advised and no such intrusion was experienced the second time around though I could have done with more sun.

There was more to my normalisation with a bike trainer being put to good use to see if my fitness could be bettered. The second half of 2014 also had my father see a good run of health that lasted until last month. There was a smaller scare in February 2014 but things steadied after that and I felt in the need of all that walking. Still, he was growing weaker as I found during last Christmas and I returned to Britain before New Year sensing that we might be on the cusp of a big change of some sort. In fact, I also wondered to myself how he would fare if he caught an infection. That question was about to get an answer only weeks later. A heavy chest infection was to confine him to bed after a traumatic experience when the nursing home thought him strong enough to sit up in a chair for a while. With that in mind, I made what I thought was a flying weekend visit in case there were to any further developments. Much of Saturday was spent with him and my brother was there too. When we left, he was comfortable and we thought that a peaceful night was in store. That changed after midnight and we dashed to the home. By the time that we got there, he had breathed his last only minutes before. Some would find that heartbreaking but the final peace is what I recall. His suffering was over and that nearly was more important than we might have felt.

A word said during one of the many conversations we had with others over the ensuing days remains with me: release. My brother and I felt it while nearby neighbours were stunned by our father’s departure; they surely felt it more than we did and some were crying on the phone to us. There may be another factor: we both had our homes and our lives while they see breakage in a continuity that they held dear. Also, the period with our father allowed us to come to terms with where things were going and have a partial glimpse of where things would go after he went. Of course, there are ups and downs as well as twists and turns of which we know nothing yet. The turbulence within me after my mother’s passing has not come after my father’s and there are times when I wonder why though that is not to see that there was no weeping or no jabs of the heartstrings. Maybe it’s that sense of release again.

There are matters that need attending yet but my mind also is starting to explore possibilities too. Visits to Ireland are sure to continue but not at the same frequency and certainly not with the same purposes as before though you hardly can abandon your relatives or former neighbours. There may be opportunities to visit places in Connemara, Mayo, Donegal or Wicklow that I have yet to see. That would be continuing something that they did after their own parents were deceased and there was many trip to Kerry and West Cork. Some of those gave me the love of hill country scenery that has taken me around so much of Britain and the Isle of Man. Over the past weekend, I was strolling around old haunts in Edinburgh like Blackford Hill, Bruntsfield Links and The Meadows before crossing over to newer haunts like Dean Village and Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens. Except for the occasional incursion of rogue clouds, there was sun shining on me throughout and I pondered the possibility of spending a week in the city sometime. Even in a place like Edinburgh, there was much opportunity to wander down memory lane (I graduated from one of the city’s universities) and have time and space to yourself if you needed it. Nearer destinations will remain attractive in a new life situation.

Speaking of memories, there is one that returns to my mind when I mention Edinburgh for I gained a research degree in a science subject while there. My parents were hoping that I would find a job in Ireland afterwards but the world of science is an international one, especially if you fancy a career in academic research. Some of my contemporaries gained post-doctoral jobs in the U.S. and that option did appeal to me not a little. The phrase “seeing the world” came to my notice and sharing it while on a trip back to Ireland must have tugged rather too strongly on parental heartstrings for I was asked to leave such designs until after they were gone. Now, youthful naivety has been displaced by realism so I now am amazed at the sorts of thoughts that went through my mind back then, especially when after experiencing more of the delights of Britain and Ireland.

Even so, that is not to say that I am not tempted by foreign destinations. The likes of the mountains of Canada or New Zealand or the American Rockies may not be what I have in mind but other spots in Europe have a certain allure. For instance, business trips to Sweden appear to cultivated a soft spot from Scandinavian destinations such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark or Iceland. There are areas of hill country in three of those and any photos of Norwegian fjords that I have seen look stunning. The Faroe Islands also have detained my attention and it helps that they are compact too. Going there would build on a 2008 escapade that to Scotland’s Western Isles and the islands of Orkney and Shetland have not missed my attention either. To return to the European theme though, you cannot overlook the Alps or the Pyrenees and they are but some of the mountainous regions on the continent that get mentioned in walking magazines from time to time.

None of this means that responsibilities are about to be overlooked and it can feel that you are able to make new obstacles for yourself too. The ones that appear of their own accord are enough for anyone and a life after my parents will bring its ups and downs will come soon enough. In between, pondering those other destinations may bring its own comfort while realising that short visits only uncover so much. After all, I lived in Edinburgh for over four years and still have parts of it to see anew along with those nooks and crannies that I continue to revisit. As ever, only time will reveal what comes to pass and what adventures may be had yet.

Fitness

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Earlier in the year, I had grand designs on a return to cycling after a break of nearly two years. What scuppered the plan was a lack of road cycling confidence that extended beyond not wanting to go pell mell down hills, which always was the case. Saying that, I have managed a few circuits from my home that took in Bollington but that is a far cry from daily commuting or travelling as far as the likes of Tatton Park near Knutsford or Lyme Park near Disley. What really is beyond me at the moment is an epic that takes me as far as Northwich or Chester.

Still, there has been a circuit from home that took in Gawsworth during March as well as a bimble up and down Longdendale in May. Both of those tried our the fold-up Dahon that I got last January so I am not done with cycling completely. In fact, Sunday saw me go around by Bollington on a short cycle that substituted for an aborted planned trot from the Cat and Fiddle Inn back home via Shutlingsloe. That was on a B’TWIN commuting bike that replaced the mountain bike that did day to day road travel duties for more than eleven years. The new one came to me from Decathlon in April and is a very nice machine with 24-speed gearing and lights powered by dynamos on the wheels. It has mudguards (an amazing rarity these days) and a carrier too so it is the type of bike that my parents might have fancied in their time. It certainly reminds me of a three-speed example arising from the same well of inspiration that I had in Ireland once upon a time.

Though I no longer trust its brakes, the mountain bike has not retired either. However, its role is very different from the one it used to have and the cause fits in with the title of this entry too. For years, its commuting duties kept me more trim than I otherwise might have been with round trips of around fifteen miles a day if not more. However, these had an Achilles heel in that I was put off cycling to and from work on wet days by a soaking on the way to work early on in my career. That was on a road bike whose gearing self-destructed and caused the acquisition of the mountain bike in 2002. Before then, it had served me well around Edinburgh and Skipton and around Cheshire too as well as on a single incursion into Derbyshire that set me on the road to hill walking in August 2000; it took me from Macclesfield to Buxton by way of the A537, possibly the highest that I ever have gone on a bike.

Dark evenings are not such an issue around Edinburgh but pose a different challenge on country A-roads. The result was that my commuting left the bike aside for the darker times of year and was taken up in earnest during drier spells on longer days. It meant that the benefits were not to be felt year round as they probably should to ward off any middle age spread.

What brought all this to mind was the fit of a new trousers during the past summer; it started me wondering if I was beginning to need the next waist size up and I baulked at the idea. That was enough to spur me into a kind of action. Walking was all very fine but it was not bringing my level of activity back up to where it once was. My remedy was the acquisition of a B’Twin bike trainer, again from Decathlon. The mountain bike was attached to this and I began to ease into spending some time on it. However, it probably is not the best of arrangements for silent running even after changing the back tyre to a quieter one; putting gaffer tape over the original might have made more sense for I am not buying another bike for this job.

Ten minutes on the thing were quite enough at the start, such was my lack of fitness. Since then, the sessions have grown longer and they are around the half hour mark these days. To some, that prospect would seem very dull and it was the same for a younger me. A spot of reading of magazines balanced on the handlebar is enough to address any sense of impatience though. Anything that helps me to spend time sorting my fitness has to be a good thing and I always reproach myself for reading nearly as much as I could anyway.

So far, there have been results and I reckon that I feel fitter though I’d rather have lost more flab than I have so that’s enough encouragement to continue. That it has given me a spurt of exploring hill country is another bonus because it did feel as if I was restricting myself to lower heights, as nice as they are. The summer weather we had this year helped too, in spite of it being at times a little hotter for walking than is ideal.

Nevertheless, I was lured out in places like Buttermere, Ullswater, St. Sunday Crag, Grasmere, Loughrigg Fell and Orrest Head during a good few Cumbrian excursions. Welsh locations like Ysgyryd Fawr, Sugar Load and Gower also saw me as did Loch Etive and Mull in Scotland. Maybe I felt it was high time that I got back into hill wandering ways while fitness was improving. On its own, the subject never really got me excited because I suppose that the world of competitive sport felt a little sterile to me. It actually took outdoors explorations to get me walking through hill country instead of looking in on it as if it were some niche sporting interest. It only was when I got to seeing hillwalking as a way to get into special quiet places with an attractive quiet spirit of their own that I really took to the activity. Being somewhere unique when ravishing light falls upon it has led to many happy memories too. Fitness is not for boasting but is a means to an end, a way of ensuring that hill country visits can continue and I keep adding to those soothing recollections.

News of Walking World Ireland

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Everyone can have a hiatus and there has been a long one on here for entries like this one. In my case, it is not as if I have been away from hillwalking. As it happens, I have had more trouble motivating myself to write stuff on here than getting out among hills and there is a growing list of Trip Reports to Come too. What has happened is that procrastination has got in the way of my getting those additional outings shared and it gets worse as the list grows longer. In addition, an old bike of mine has found its way onto rollers in an effort to increase fitness and reduce flab. The former has been a success so far and the latter needs more in the way of effort so the bike trainer will not be left to gather dust like another road bike that I acquired in April but that was taken out on a short cycle between Macclesfield and Buxton yesterday.

Walking World Ireland to Mountain World Ireland

The inspiration for this post though is an email that I unexpectedly received from the publisher and editor of a walking magazine that I thought was defunct: Walking World Ireland. My impressions led me to join Mountaineering Ireland to received its journal, Irish Mountain Log, as a substitute. However plans are afoot to get Walking World Ireland back on newsagent shelves again, albeit under a new guise of Mountain World Ireland. Here is the text of that email:

An apology and announcement to readers of Walking World Ireland

From November 28th:

Walking World Ireland will become Mountain World Ireland

As a subscriber to Walking World Ireland, you’ll have noticed that the magazine has not been published for almost a year now – since the 2014 Annual.

As editor and publisher I want to apologise sincerely for this. We value every reader very highly, and it was only after a prolonged period of business difficulties that the decision to suspend publication was made. Since that moment it has been my clear hope and intention to return WWI to the shelves as soon as possible.

The reason I’m contacting you today is to let you know that the magazine is indeed making a comeback. I’m delighted to be able to say that, and I hope it will also come as good news to you.

From next month, Walking World Ireland will resume publication as Mountain World Ireland. It’s a small change, reflecting a slight but exciting change in emphasis – largely the result of the countless conversations I’ve had with readers over recent months.

Mountain World Ireland will remain at its core a hillwalking magazine, celebrating, as ever, the beauty of Ireland’s mountain landscapes and the pleasures and challenges they offer. But more, it will celebrate the wider world of mountain sports – the people and activities that inspire us as lovers of high places.

I hope and trust that this rebirth will meet with your approval, and will continue to inform, entertain and inspire you as WWI did. I want to thank all of you for the patience you have shown, and for the many, many expressions of support we have received from readers and subscribers. I hope to hear from you again with any comments you may have on our future direction. Anything, in fact, that you have to say.

Finally, I want to assure all of you with unfulfilled subscriptions that we will honour all our outstanding commitments, and if you’re unsure where your subscription stands, do contact me at [email protected] or on +353 (0)86 805 4590.

Sincerely

Conor O’Hagan
Editor

Copyright © 2014 Mountain World Ireland, All rights reserved.

You are receiving this email because you have previously subscribed to Walking World Ireland

Our mailing address is:
Mountain World Ireland
10 Kickham Road
Kilmainham
Dublin,
Ireland

Some of the sentiments sound familiar so I will wait and see what becomes of these plans. An improving economic situation may help the new venture so I wish it well while intending to savour what is on offer. If anything, the WWI offer had gone a little repetitive so a refresh was needed anyway and a break often can make for a good reboot as has been seen with many a movie franchise. My Irish travel horizons may have been narrowed by life events over there in recent years but there may be a chance to do some explorations of my own yet.

As for the future of this outpost, I hope to get more trip reports shared and the summers of 2013 and 2014 came good enough to lure me out and about on welcome and much needed escapades. Usual haunts like the Scottish Highlands, the Lake District and the Peak District saw incursions along the Gower, Monmouthshire, Yorkshire and Northumberland. The perceived need for better photos drove quite a lot of these and the Lake District photo album is being rebuilt at the moment too. Also, there may have been visits to other places too and there are musings that I wish to mull over on here too once procrastination has been banished.

A circuit by the River Wye

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

One thing that strikes me about Britain is how you find the same river names turning up in different places. Those that come to mind include the Ouse, the Derwent and the Wye. There is every possibility that some have come upon this post looking for the Wye that rises near Pumlumon in Wales between ducking and diving across the border between Wales and England before reaching the Severn estuary near Chepstow. As it happens, I quite fancy spending some time near Tintern and such places but that has yet to happen. Pumlumon, where the Welsh Wye rises has remained untouched by my footfall too so that’s another possibility.

Derbyshire’s Wye and Preceding Occasions Spent Beside It

What this piece features instead is another River Wye, the Derbyshire one that rises near Axe Edge before dropping into Buxton and winding its way towards Bakewell before then going on to join with the River Trent. It is a river that I have been near more often than I had realised. The reason behind that discovery is that all my visits to Buxton have put be not far from its course without my realising it. There have been a fair few of those since my cycling there of a Saturday in August 2000. That was the first and only time that I did so and the steepness of the route followed by the A537 not only convinced me not to return the same way that even but also triggered the start of my hill wanderings and ensure that buses have been used since then.

Speaking of buses, further forays have been facilitated by them and one January day spent going further than Buxton to stop at Miller’s Dale, Tideswell and Bakewell. It was a sort of poking around the Derbyshire Dales that a guidebook had inspired. Getting home from Bakewell even might have involved more bus journeys with one taking me as far as Chesterfield before another got me to Sheffield where trains took over travel duties. There must have been a change in Stockport though I scarcely can recall it now. Well, it was more than a decade ago and lots of things have gone through my mind since then.

My first real walk on the Monsal Trail was on an overcast Easter Monday in 2001 when I embarked on an out and back journey from Monsal Head. When I initially tried to recall memories of the walk, it worked better for the outbound trot and I was unsure as to whether I returned on foot or not. However, I now reckon that I must have retraced my steps on foot as well. With these things, you need to be careful that later memories are not getting mixed with earlier ones.

A Saturday during July 2001 again saw me following the Monsal Trail with a then new camera, a Canon EOS 300 film SLR, and with a lot of sunshine around too. The starting point was Miller’s Dale and I remember the diversions that took me around by places like Cressbrook and how narrow the river valley got in places. Since then, former railway tunnels have been reopened so the whole trail becomes a very reasonable cycling excursion for anyone. It was a delight to see the Monsal Viaduct with sun upon it though it’s best to remember that photographing the dale from Monsal Head is best done in the morning with the sun in the east. Otherwise, lens flare and undesirable exposures will stymie your efforts. From Monsal Head, I did not follow the trail all the way into Bakewell but instead deviated to visit Ashford-in-the-Water before continuing to my destination. It was a good walk and remains worth repeating.

Tideswell saw me visit again in December 2005 before I continued towards Litton and a drop down into Cressbrook Dale to reach Monsal Dale. There again was a diversion towards Ashford-in-the-Water on the way to Bakewell. It remains a memorable day in spite of greasy ground conditions. A passing fellow walker tumbled to soil white woollen gloves so my use of walking poles was far from daft. Apart from saving knees from wear and tear, they also steady you and stop most if not all accidents caused by slips.

Another Encounter

Last year, I was reminded of how long I had left Derbyshire without so much attention and I redoubled my efforts. Thinking through those memories, some faded, again makes me want to explore old haunts and reinforce those memories with new ones. That was partly why I got myself over to Bakewell on the penultimate Saturday in April of last year. Apart from the prospect of some sunshine, the need for some me time following a recent life event was another motivator.

Bridge over the River Wye, Bakewell, Derbyshire, England

All Saints' Church, Bakewell, Derbyshire, England

What resulted was a circuit from Bakewell that took in Ashford-in-the-Water and Monsal Dale. Before leaving Bakewell though, the presence of sunshine allowed me some photo opportunities that I never had to the same extent before. For instance, I only ever got near Bakewell’s main bridge over the Wye in declining light so that needed addressing. Then, there was the churchyard that I only remember visiting under overcast skies. With a day ahead of me that allowed plenty of time for walking, I was not to overlook chances like these.

Not far from Bakewell’s parish church, I found a useful public footpath for getting to Ashford. The sun ducked behind clouds while I was crossing fields but it was not as if I was being deprived. One thing about the Derbyshire Dales is that once you are above the dales themselves, the countryside is largely level up there like a plateau and the photos end up needing panoramic compositions unless interesting skies are what you get over you. Along with many fields, roads such as Standedge Road and Crowhill Lane were crossed too with navigation across a tilled field after one of these feeling uncertain until I reached the next one along. Bumbling around in someone else’s field is not my idea of a walking, especially with sharp words ringing in my ears as happened one December Saturday afternoon around Sedbergh. None of that rancour spoiled this day though and I followed the lane until I saw a path down by a mast that dropped me onto the A6 near Ashford-in-the-Water. The descent was steep yet steady and plenty of views of the lie of the land below me occupied the mind while navigation was steadied by a useful wall. These types of things get called handrails and are invaluable.

Holy Trinity Church as seen from beside Sheepwash Bridge, Ashford-in-the-Water, Derbyshire, England

Sheepwash Bridge, Ashford-in-the-Water, Derbyshire, England

Getting across the A6 was less tricky than it might have been and I got to spend some time around Ashford. As luck would have it, the sun was playing hide and seek on me with the clouds so I needed to wait before I had the light needed for the sort of photos that I had in mind. Thus, I was delayed around Ashford’s church and chose a lunching spot in view of the Sheepwash bridge, a packhorse structure where lambs were pinned in at one side (the left of the picture) and ewes driven across to wash their wool before shearing began. These days, the Wye is more likely to have trout than sheep in its waters. Its older use would generated an amount of commotion anyway and I wonder how modern minds would have perceived such a practice with all its guile and herdsmanship. Photography and strolling appears to be its main uses now as it is closed to motorised traffic. When I was making the most of the midday sun, folk were ambling about and that may not be to everyone’s taste so the early morning light that falls on the bridge from the east causes anyone making use of that to have little or no human intrusion in their compositions.

From Ashford, it was back across the A6 again to make my way towards Monsal Dale. There were two choices: a lower level path to Lees Bottom that strayed not far from the A6 and a less direct course around by Sheldon and Deep Dale. Because I did not fancy being by road traffic any more than was needed, I went for the Sheldon route. There were a range of reasons why this part of my walk was busier than that from Bakewell to Ashford. Even going uphill did nothing to dissuade some. Was it down to time of day or location? That is a question that I cannot answer but there was no grumpiness with there being plenty of space to share on the way towards Sheldon.

Deep Dale, Sheldon, Derbyshire, England

While passing through Sheldon, I was on the lookout for a public footpath that would lead me towards Deepdale. It looked as if I had found it but something about its aspect left me getting cold feet. Lack of waymarks and a missing stile certainly did not help and visions of blundering in fields returned me to the road again. Others were more brave than me and I left them to go their way while I trod Johnson Lane with views of Magpie Mine to my left.

After turning right onto a busier road, I found my way to the unmetalled byway of Wheal Lane that led towards the path through Deep Dale. This is managed as a nature reserve for the preservation of its wild flower habitat by an organisation who I never encountered before: Plantlife. The cloud that had filled the sky as I journeyed around by Sheldon was breaking and I began to hope again for seeing Monsal Dale in good light after giving up on the idea. In the event, I need not have worried for cloud steadily dissolved over the remainder of the day.

That lower level path from Ashford-in-the-Water was crossed again and some folk needed directions from me and I hope they sent them the way that they wanted. Before crossing the A6 at Lees Bottom, I stopped at a useful public convenience. This was without running water by design, a strange thing to many, and hand sanitiser was available instead of the soap and water that most of us would seek. That I wasn’t the only one thrown by this became obvious when someone else needed the results of my perception.

Monsal Viaduct from Monsal Dale, Little Longstone, Derbyshire, England

Once on the other side of the A6, the path into Monsal Dale beckoned and I still was concerned about a rogue cloud blocking the sun for the final landmark that I had in mind for a photo: Monsal Viaduct. Clouds had broken but there was some shenanigans going on over my head that kept me on my toes. Thankfully, nothing ruinous was to come of it and I remained keen to get to my objective. What became clear was that it was not that far away from the A6 even if you feel that you are nowhere near it when at Monsal Head. Sometimes, it takes a walk for that sort of thing to become clear and I also noted a useful bus stop for a future incursion around here.

First though, I needed to get through woodland before being released into pasture not far beyond a weir that I also visited. This was a path that was well visited and I had to share the views, which hardly was surprising given how well Monsal Dale is known and how near roads it is. Quite what John Ruskin would have made of all the visitors is a question that I cannot answer but there was plenty of clearance was the making of photos. That meant that the valley remained peaceful and alluring of a sunny day near the end of April.

Congregational Church, Little Longstone, Derbyshire, England

The recently reopened Headstone Tunnel was a tempting walking prospect but my not wanting to waste sunshine was enough to keep me out of there. Instead, I retraced old steps to get up the hotel above me. A delightful sight lay below me and it was one that needed a morning outing to make the best of the scene with a camera. There by the roadside, I dallied a while and partook of an ice cream before continuing by road to Little Longstone before crossing a field to rejoin the former railway line again. This route may not be anywhere as necessary as it was on my first trots around here but it usefully remains in existence anyway.

Bridge over Monsal Trail just to the east of the former Great Longstone Station, Great Longstone, Derbyshire, England

Once up on the trail, the number of cyclists using the amenity had greatly increased from what it was before and I had every intention to follow it all the way back to Bakewell. That resolve remained until I passed what formerly was Great Longstone station but something beset me that never happened on the trail before: it began to feel like a slog. Looking back now, this almost feels like lack of gratitude given the steady sunshine that I was being bequeathed at the time. Maybe, I thought I should have been going faster given the good surface and there was concern that the same hardcore surface wasn’t so friendly on my feet too. Also, familiarity might have bred contempt so it might be an idea to follow it by bicycle in the future and that sounds a delightful idea now as I write these words.

Eventually, I decided to leave the Monsal Trail for another bridleway near Toll Bar House. It was better than getting grumpy and the green lane appeared to offer a more direct route into Bakewell too. Even with a hummock ahead of me, the new surroundings kept me interested and steady progress saw its results with Bakewell coming into view below me. Eventually, I was deposited not fat from the town centre and made for a waiting bus to start my journey home. That was a busy double decker and, given the day, there could be no surprise at that. Clearly, others had good taste in weather and countryside so I hope they enjoyed their day out like I did.

Travel Arrangements:

Bus service 58 from Macclesfield to Buxton and bus service 177 from the latter to Bakewell. Bus service 218 from Bakewell to Sheffield and travel by train from there home with a change in Stockport.