A much needed walk from Tideswell to Hathersage6th March 2018
It is amazing what lingers in your memory and what gets lost. In the case of 2016, it has been how heavily life weighed on me. Pleasant escapades such as a January afternoon stroll along by the Macclesfield Canal or its equivalents during February, a day spent around Tatton Park and a weekend spent in Stirling, and an April weekend in London somehow become lost to recollection. It is as someone erected a barrier that only a photographic archive can dismantle.
It also might have been that times were different before the global political upheavals of 2016 revealed themselves. Thus, life might have been less loaded with such consequent concerns. What also lay ahead was the full extent of the ongoing legal works pertaining to my late father’s estate that I was to blame for leaving me feeling exhausted. There was another factor that became more obvious later: what I saw as my day job.
A new role was not going as I would have liked. The hoped for transition was disrupted by unexpected occurrences like invites to senior management meetings and a colleague at work taking over part of my brief without asking me beforehand. This was the poor start from which I hardly would recover and people I knew were to leave the company too, including my own manager. The unsuitable situation eventually would lead to my leaving the company myself in 2017 to take a lengthy career break. It only is now that I am contemplating the next steps in my career in light of changed circumstances after an inheritance that brings its own continuing responsibilities.
In light of all this, it may come as little surprise that my outdoors wanderings became less frequent over the course of the year. The effect was there to see around Easter 2016 though with only an Easter Monday afternoon trip to Tideswell and nearby Litton. The weather might have had something to do with it too, since there were many clouds around during that circular stroll. A subsequent bus ride to Sheffield took me by places like Foolow and Eyam that I was to visit within a month. Earlier in the year, there had been a journey to Chesterfield that took me by those places too and there was an ongoing consultation about the future of Derbyshire’s subsidised bus services that thankfully ended with most of them retained.
Returning to that Sunday in May 2016, my objective had been to follow part of the White to Dark Way after a fashion between Tideswell and Hathersage. Because of the mixture of weather that accompanied the preceding Easter Monday encounter with Tideswell, I fancied seeing it again. Handily, I had the right day for doing just that.
Unusually for me, I took a roundabout way to get to Tideswell. The main cause was the Sunday bus network in Cheshire and Derbyshire that forced a journey via Bakewell. Having some time between buses meant that I could relish the way that the sun fell upon a pretty place. That was not all since I was to pass Monsal Head and see down the throat of Cressbrook Dale. The latter sighting was set to alter my walking route after I saw it. The mix of a narrow green valley having steep sides studded with limestone outcrops is one that I find hard to resist.
In fact, I could have avoided Tideswell if it had not taken my fancy because the bus passed through the village of Litton where I could have alighted. Tideswell’s allure held and I spent a spot of time there before returning to Litton on foot via a quiet lane. The sunshine was to hold all day, so there was little need to focus on a single objective. There was plenty of time to savour more than one and many would present themselves.
The stroll from Tideswell to Litton reprised that followed on the preceding Easter Monday visit. There may be a nagging doubt that I did not follow Church Lane all the way but I now reckon that I must have done in spite of a fading recollection. What is not lost to memory is what I did next. The White to Dark Way continues along Mires Lane for a while but I wanted to savour both Tansley Dale and Cressbrook Dale after what I saw from the bus so I went around by those. Though clouds blocked sunshine at times, surrounding visions were heavenly as I continued down Tansley Dale and then northbound along Cressbrook Dale; April 2017 would see me go south along the latter of these. For a sunny Sunday, everywhere was strangely unpeopled and any sign of humanity was to thin out more as I went on my way. For a spot of undistracted mellowing of mind, this was just what was needed.
At the northern end of Cressbrook Dale, I met again with the A623 again near Wardlow Mires. This is where I spotted the enticing sight along the dale from the bus taking me from Bakewell to Tideswell. After passing through a farmyard, crossings of multiple fields were my lot as I passed Stanley House and Silly Dale on my way to the village of Foolow. The names may arouse predictable thoughts in anyone with a command of English but they did nothing to stop me pausing in Foolow to partake of some refreshment before more field crossings conveyed me to Eyam where I again stopped for a while.
The reason this time was different for this is a pretty place famed for what happened here during the Black Death when the Bubonic Plague visited by way of cloth bought in from London. The whole unhappy episode has not been forgotten as you will find if you pay the village a visit of your own; it acts as a reminder that life can bring bigger problems, something that can keep life’s challenges in their proper perspective. Other folk had gathered around the village in the sunshine and I indulged in an ice cream before continuing on my way.
If the accumulation of humanity around Eyam had been intrusive, there was a cure at hand in the form of a steep sweaty ascent. Such things are adept at dissuading any such throngs from dispersion throughout the countryside. In the event, there was no such feeling of crowding after the largely solo traipsing that had been my lot until then. There was more to follow on the way to Hathersage train station. Late afternoon sunshine delighted as I went around by Highcliffe, Bole Hill (two of these are marked on OS maps), Sir William Hill, Eyam Moor and Highlow Bank. Peculiar names continued to accompany my saunter and High Low actually would mean “High Mound” rather than the tautological curiosity that it suggests.
After losing height, I reached Highlow Brook and saw some folk pottering along tracks but I left them after me to continue towards Hazelford where I again reached tarmac. As I did so, some muddy conditions were encountered in woodland prior to some more field crossings. Once on a metalled lane, my mind was focussed on reaching the train station to avoid a lengthy wait for the next train to Manchester. Thus, I was happy to reach the B6001 that would convey me to my destination. Leadmill and a bridge over the River Derwent acted as indicators of progress as I strode along, willing the sight of a railway bridge to appear sooner rather than later. The sun remained and the required sight rewarded my patience. Others were found waiting too, so a train was due and I had not so long until I was on my way back home again.
It was the start of a run of walking excursions that continued throughout that May. The following evening saw me head out around Tegg’s Nose Country Park near Macclesfield. An added impetus for that may have been my getting a late night phone call about some events in Ireland that affected my affairs over there. That intrusion may have been unwanted but the incident itself was a passing one that so far has seen no repeat. Nowadays, it scarcely registers in my emotional memory; time really can heal when given a chance to do so.
Bus journey from Macclesfield to Tideswell with a change at Bakewell. Train journey from Hathersage to Macclesfield with a change at Manchester Piccadilly.
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