Sometimes, others can walk further than you’d expect…12th January 2013
Most of the time, my ambles take me away from crowds. However, there have been occasions when I happened on a honey pot that has attracted all and sundry. One place where I felt a little hemmed in by others would be a surprising one: the path from Ribblehead up to the top of Whernside on a Saturday in July 2006. My itinerary was taking me to Dentdale and eventually to Sedbergh and that took me through much quieter parts. Then, there was the time around Tarn Hows, but the paths were wide enough to accommodate everyone there on a sunny Spring Bank Holiday in May. Mostly, it hasn’t taken that long to leave those out for a gentle amble behind me.
However, I also have found that it can take a while on a walk before you can feel as if your space is less restricted too. For instance, a hike from Burnsall to Ilkley needed to pass Appletreewick before things grew quieter again and that almost was how it felt from then on even if I passed the crowd-magnet that is Bolton Abbey. What may have helped then was my trotting along a broad valley with farmland about me for much of the way.
Something similar but far more concentrated happened on a walk on the first Saturday of last September from Thorpe to Hartington that followed the course of the River Dove for much of the way. It began quietly enough at a bus stop on the outskirts of Thorpe and the village proved a quiet spot with tempting paths leading here and there from it. One could have taken me from the public convenience to the banks of the Dove via Lin Dale but I had another plan in my head so I stuck with the road for Ilam until I met with a footpath to the right just before St. Mary’s Bridge.
That proved itself a quiet course with few folk from the car park that I passed just a little earlier making any use of it. Having a tarmac road on the Staffordshire side of the dale must have kept them away from the crossing of fields. Without the sense of holding up anyone, I could soak up the views about me. That was just as well since Thorpe Cloud looked good in the morning sunshine. It only was later that the day would become the sort of scorcher about which so many fantasise when they dream of summer.
Others may have realised that this was ahead and it may have lured many out of doors to snatch a semblance of the summer dream that never came to pass. It was when I entered Dovedale that I realised just how many were so doing. Most remained on the opposite of the river, though some were coaxing young children along the rough track along the floor of Thorpe Cloud on my side. In fact, I was wondering if I was going the right way, even if I was. Another thought is whether the summer rains have washed away what would have been a more passable one, but that’s not a question that I am able to answer.
The steeping stones beneath the outcrop of Dovedale Castle were busy with many families milling about. Many of them stayed just there but more were set to keep going as I was to discover. Even the incline leading to Lover’s Leap did nothing to stop them and that kind of thing usually stymies many. It probably was the littering of the slopes above the river with many rocky outcrops like Tissington Spires that was the cause of luring them further in the sunshine.
As it happened, the bridge over the Dove near Ilam Rock was conveying its share of folk across to my side of the river too. With so many about, it was easy to feel that you couldn’t stop for very long or your place in the elongated stream of folk would have been lost. That limited my photographic exploits until I again met up with quieter parts beyond Milldale.
Roadside walking usually isn’t the best sort, but the amazing drop-off in the number going my way made it a more relaxing endeavour. There was little traffic along the road anyway and the availability of a footway meant that there would have been no perturbation if there had been any.
Soon enough, I was back trotting through fields again. These felt unkempt with the hangover of leggy weeds from the summertime that made for more of a rustic scene than earlier. This was peaceful, normal working countryside with no chocolate box sensibility about it, even if the land still was National Trust property. All it took to find an undisturbed lunching spot was a little climb uphill and a flattish limestone perch. As I took my lunch, all that passed the way was a mere trickle of folk and that was going to be how it was from there to Hartington too.
Getting to Wolfscote Dale didn’t take too long either. Crossings such as Coldeaton Bridge became a useful check on progress and I was sheltered by tree cover too. The full force of the sun also was blunted by cloud cover and the restrictions on photographic endeavour didn’t trouble me after what I already had anyway. Things continued like that when I finally did go through Wolfscote Dale and the passage of time from last May was apparent in those leggy eruptions of growth that appeared over the summer. This isn’t a part of the world that sees a lawnmower being used and it’s all the better for that too.
By the time that I reached Beresford Dale, I had passed through three other dales: Dovedale, Milldale and Wolfscote Dale. The crossing from Beresford Lane into the latter had been repaired since my last visit when I daringly crossed the bridge with no railing at one side and signs deterring me from doing so. There were folk around too but we weren’t in each other’s way and I went over the bridge to continue on mine. Beresford Dale proved narrow and another crossing over the Dove was needed before I left it after me for the day.
By the time that I left Morson Wood, the clouds had released the sun again and I couldn’t but feel its full power as I crossed fields around Pennilow. The heat sapped my enthusiasm for continuing and I was glad that Hartington was near at hand. The final ascent, not a major one though, took me across the track near Crossland Sides and the heat seared the approach into my memory even if it only was a short hope into Harrington and its marketplace.
If it wasn’t for the heat, I might have been more tempted to continue from Hartington to Longnor or Crowdicote given that it still was early afternoon when I had arrived at what became the end of my walk for that day. While awaiting the next bus to Buxton, I witnessed a well dressing ceremony for the first-ever time. The local vicar presided (wearing sunglasses too!) so there were prayers and hymns and there was a bit of pageantry too in the form of a parade comprised of men in suits with banners (called the Oddfellows for some reason); I have no idea how they bore their attire given the heat of the day. Morris dancers were in attendance too, as were a brass band for the provision of musical accompaniment to the singing. Quite why there was a bearded bloke dressed as a witch is something I still don’t know, but there were plenty of folk around the event and Hartington was big enough to more than accommodate them all with someone sorting out any passing traffic too.
All of this was over by the time the bus arrived so I had partaken of a varied day: from well frequented dales to quieter ones to sun-scorched higher pasture and a well dressing service. Seeing Dove Dale at a quieter time would be no bad idea, so that might be one for an off-season weekday with a tweak to the route too. Many of the walks in the vicinity seem to be short so it might be a matter of stitching together a few to concoct something that is a little less obvious to most. A few have crossed my gaze while surveying a map during the writing of these words. Making a little to do some route constructions would be no bad idea given what is to be found around this part of Derbyshire and Staffordshire.
Bus service 108 from Macclesfield to Ashbourne and bus service 442 from there to Thorpe for the start of the walk. From Hartington, I used bus service 442 to Buxton and bus service 58 from there to Macclesfield.
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