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!

From grey to blue to grey again

14th March 2015

My last big walk of 2013 took me to Derbyshire only a few days before that Christmas. In fact, I flew across to Ireland the day after I undertook a hike that started from Monyash and finished in Bakewell after taking in Lathkill Dale as well as two very full rivers, Lathkill and Wye. In the days before this, there were shorter strolls too. First, there was a morning visit to Buxton with designs on making a photo of Grinlow Tower in my head. The advance of clouds from the west put paid to that, so another visit in 2014 was needed and there has been a useful one in 2015 too. There was more in the way of blue skies, and sunshine on an afternoon visit to Lyme Park that followed on the day before my final incursion into Derbyshire of the year. 2013 had seen a lot of these and the Peak District album in my online photo gallery benefited a lot from such excursions.

What I have yet to add to it is a photo of Lathkill Dale. The prospect of revisiting the dale has recurred in my mind a few times over the last few months only for my being able to summon enough energy to make it happen. It remains outstanding for 2015. The cause in 2013 was a grey start to the walk from Monyash. There was no square of blue sky to relieve the greyness as I passed through the village and along the road towards the path into Lathkill Dale.

All was quiet and peaceful at this stage of the walk. As I dropped down through the dry part of the dale, there was but one person about and she was going the other way. The only words exchanged were greetings appropriate to the time of day. Limestone outcrops much like what you would find around Dovedale lay above me without much in the way of unrestricted sunshine to light them. It is not that there was not a patch of blue sky to give a pleasant backdrop, but the clouds were rather too keen on imprisonment of the sun for my liking.

After a kilometre or two of trotting along a dry dale floor, it was time to meet the River Lathkill. December 2013 was a month of much rain and the torrent that burst forth from a cave on the side of the dale bore testament to this just as clearly as all the flooding or the Somerset Levels. The volume of water scarcely could be contained by the low banks and much of the normal line of the path was submerged. That ensure that picking steps involved more in the way of concentration and there were times when going higher proved necessary as well. Any weirs on the river’s course may have been there to reduce downstream flooding but they might have caused the river to flow all around its upper dale.

Sign on house, Alport, Derbyshire, England

In time, what started as meadow became woodland that was partially trespassed by river waters. Palmerston Wood kept me occupied as I passed through it on my way towards Alport. Around Over Haddon, the woods turned into pasture and there were more folk about. More woods followed before Conksbury Bridge was reached. All grew very quiet after this point where I crossed the Lathkill to continue to Alport. The sun was doing better in its attempts at cloud avoidance at this stage and I spent some time trying to make something photogenic out of the wooded slopes across from me. Sadly, clouds won out again as I approached Alport where an intriguing sign directed towards vagabonds was sighted attached to the gable end of a house. From my reading of history, this thinking may date from a time before the existence of police services that we have today and when villagers had duties in relation to enforcement of laws and by-laws.

Haddon Hall from Haddon Fields, Alport, Derbyshire, England

After lingering in Alport a while to see if the sun was about its magic, I set off up Dark Lane. Beyond the farm buildings, I took a right turn across Haddon-Fields to drop down towards the A6 near Haddon Hall. The skies were clear by now, so the sun was doing its best for the surrounding countryside with the power that could be summoned on a winter afternoon. It helped that Haddon Hall could be seen through any trees too. The absence of leaves has its own beauty too, since the skeletal appearance of trees that is well cloaked during the growing season can be admired.

Once across the A6, it was a matter of following the path by the walls enclosing Haddon Park until a useful path took me through a wood and across fields on a getaway from the motor-infested thoroughfare that I was after crossing. Bakewell was not far now and a very full River Wye was crossed and it too was flowing beyond its banks. Fields also were sodden of their own accord, so muddy strolling took me onward and I persevered with this instead of picking up the drier Monsal Trail. There are times when you go a longer way around and there are others when the shorter way was desired. It was a case of the latter this time around and not because of any limitations either. Maybe keeping close by the river was what I wanted, but that is lost to memory now.

In fact, I got to Bakewell soon enough and had a little time to spend there but I set off home again. Though I was not caught short, a little extra Christmas shopping ensued following some temptation. The skies were grey and leaden in the failing light but I was far from bitter. There had been a good walk and I fancy a reprise with more in the way of sunshine. Aside from pleasing weather, what is needed is to have my life energy batteries sufficiently charged to make it happen.

Travel Arrangements:

Bus service 58 from Macclesfield to Monyash and from Buxton to Macclesfield after coming from Bakewell on the TransPeak bus service.

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