Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Over moor and along vale

12th April 2010

The weather that came our way this Easter was of lesser calibre than what we got last year. On Good Friday, I needed to go somewhere on my bike and I got a drenching on the way there and back, so I might be excused for not heading into the hills on that day. Though there was a threat of showers, they never materialised around Macclesfield and I should have been out only for other preoccupations. Knowing that Sunday was going to be the best day of the weekend almost guaranteed that I’d overcome any lethargy to go for a walk somewhere.

Because of a late start, I settled on an idea that I had in mind for a while: walking from Baslow to Bamford. The trigger was a walk south from Baslow to Matlock around this time of year last year, and seeing the northward path of the Derwent Valley Heritage Way was the cause of some inspiration. A spot of map perusal revealed an alternative route between Baslow and Grindleford, one that took to the moors above places like Froggatt and Curbar. So, I put the two together and took to the high ground from Baslow before dropping to the river banks at Grindleford for the rest of the way to Bamford. That shadowed the railway, so shortening the walk remained an option if I ran out of time. After all, there are stations at Grindleford, Hathersage and Bamford.

You’d think that heading up high would mean that less folk would be encountered, but I met fewer people by the Derwent than on Froggatt Edge or Curbar Edge. Of course, that might be a timing thing with everyone else enjoying their evening meal instead of being out in the open air. The availability of car parking and the good quality of the paths and tracks might have something to do with it too. Well, I did see families wheeling pushing pushchairs and the like. In this case, higher ground meant drier and sounder ground too, an observation that wasn’t lost on me as I negotiated mud down by the Derwent!

The good weather and the fact that fewer shops are open on an Easter Sunday than a normal Sunday may have been the cause of so many folk out and about in Baslow when I arrived. The proximity of Chatsworth might have something to do with it too, and I overheard a bus driver saying how busy the place was. From the bus stop, I negotiated my way to Bar Road with a bit of side investigation on the way (it was deliberate but showed no promise and I retraced my steps).

Bar Road near Baslow Bar, Baslow, Derbyshire, England

As I went up Bar Road, the views began to open out around me. Other parties were sharing the way with me and many clearly were out for a dander rather than anything more serious. There was plenty of room for all of us, so Baslow Edge came soon enough for me and the evidence of the sun’s battle was there for all to see. One minute, there was brightly lit ground all around you only for clouds to rule the next. It was tricky to get a camera extracted in time to capture a scene before the sun was obscured again; clouds really were scudding around the sky at this time and there were loads of them too. Still, the vistas were there to be soaked in and the crumpling of the countryside couldn’t be missed.

After Baslow Edge with its Eagle Stone, it was time to cross a minor road dropping down to Curbar to pick up Curbar Edge. With a clear track ahead of me, my brain wasn’t being taxed at all heavily, and it started to fill with nonsense daydreams, entertaining though they were. White Edge lay to the right of me and Curbar Edge and Froggatt Edge were indistinguishable from the top; it might be a different story for those looking up from below. Looking north steered my eyes towards the Derwent Moors and Stanage Edge in the distance.

All that reverie was being challenged when I ended up in what looked like woodland and wondered if I had gone wrong somewhere. As it turned out, I hadn’t, and it was the Ordnance Survey’s depiction of woodland that was suspect, a very good reason for not depending too much on woodland boundaries for navigation. By this time, the sun had defeated the clouds, and it was through pleasantly lit woodland that I dropped onto the A625. Crossing that to go into Hay Wood meant a change of mental gear with more concentration on picking my way along public footpaths to get to where I had in mind and not somewhere else.

That spot of extra attention paid dividends as I landed on the Derwent Valley Heritage Way right by the village of Grindleford. After a brief look at the church that was beside me, I set off through a field that felt much wetter than what had been underfoot until then. Across the river, the B6001 scaled the slopes, and it was a usual situation where the road was taken above the flood plain, something that came to light on my early explorations in the Yorkshire Dales. Those same wooded slopes, leading to Eyam Moor, were the cause of my walking in a shadow that covered half of the field through which I was walking.

Things got much muddier when I went through the National Trust owned Coppice Wood. Apart from the wet state of the ground, a pair of evening joggers confirmed that it was the passage of human traffic that really was cutting up the path. Away from the wood, the ground was better, and the field walking was replaced with that along a private road, some respite from water and mud. Once on tarmac, it didn’t take to reach a crossing of the B6001 as it crossed the Derwent not far from Hathersage, one of my potential exits if time was at a premium.

River Derwent from Leadmill Bridge, Hathersage, Derbyshire, England

Satisfied with my progress up to then, I crossed over Leadmill Bridge to make for Bamford. Another muddy woodland floor came my way before I was out on a dry if disintegrating field edge path that had me keeping further away from the edge at times; while one wonders where they’re going to find the money, this would need addressing because a crumbling river edge isn’t inviting at all. Nevertheless, I was making good progress and spotted stepping stones in the Derwent that were so overrun by the river that they didn’t look at all usable until river levels became lower. Sticking on my current side of the river, I kept going though, albeit with an increasing awareness of the time.

It was beyond Kentney Barn that I began to wonder about getting that train home. That drove me to plough on through any mud that was put my way until I reached tarmac again and stayed on it until I was in Bamford’s train station with plenty of time to spare, a good way to have things and a small way to relax at the end of a walk too. Others around me weren’t so driven: there was a family ambling the banks of the Derwent that I left to enjoy the rest of their evening and two children were out playing with their JCB. Maybe I should have organised some accommodation and stayed there longer myself. After all, it had been a very good outing and mud is all part and parcel of exploring the outdoors. Well, there are such contraptions as washing machines…

Travel Arrangements:

Bus services 58 from Macclesfield to Buxton and 218 from Buxton to Baslow. Train travel from Bamford home with a rail replacement bus journey between Manchester and Stockport and a long wait for a train at the latter. All travel was done for the price of a Greater Manchester Wayfarer ticket.

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