A day spent sauntering from dale to dale in many weathers11th April 2018
After the preceding post about walking from Tideswell to Hathersage during May 2016, this one leaps over several other walking trips and moves forward nearly twelve months into 2017 because of another saunter taken in the same area. That happened during an unpaid springtime sabbatical taken in an effort to rekindle my energy levels after a run of family bereavements and the need to deal with such an aftermath; my preferred method of recuperation was to be rest and relaxation.
Given that the five-week break in question happened in April and May, it should come as little surprise that there were some trips away from home. In fact, there were two getaways on successive weekends in spite of a matter in Ireland bringing its share of upset around this time. That happened after a pleasant long weekend spent on the Isle of Man and intruded on an Easter stay in Edinburgh for a spot of hill country exploration around Peebles.
For whatever reason, doubts entered my mind whether my spell away from work was going to be enough to achieve my desired aim. In hindsight, more than rest and recuperation was in order. The emotional heavy lifting of recent months is a reminder that I am moving towards the next stage of my working life. Learning to deal with unwanted intrusive thoughts and rethinking my career has been part of this, work that takes its share of time.
While I was seeking a way of (temporarily) dealing with what was weighing on my mind, there were some short trips away from home. Two took me to Manchester in search of maps, but others had more of an outdoor flavour. There was an evening visit to Buxton in bright sunshine where I got as far as Grinlow Tower and savoured the panoramic views that lay about the eminence while trying out a then newly acquired used Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
Another Derbyshire trip followed and that is the subject of this trip report. My starting point was Litton and my final destination for the day was Buxton. Given what was on my mind, I was seeking a quiet stroll but was amazed to see a large party of ramblers out for a walk when I was leaving Litton. Any sense of intrusion was assuaged somewhat by breaking cloud cover allowing some sunshine to light up Tansley Dale as I walked through it. By this stage, the rambling group was left behind me and I was keen to keep it that way.
Thankfully, their route either diverged from mine or I diverged from theirs as I followed the concessionary path along the floor of Cressbrook Dale. Until this point, I had been revisiting parts encountered the year before. My southbound lot this time around was to be passage through woodland under greying skies. A public footpath was joined before Ravenstonedale Cottages and I encountered some resting ladies asking where Tansley Dale was. Thinking back to the episode, my directions may have been terse but I hope that they sufficed.
After the cottages, I was following a byway before cutting out some distance using a public footpath and reaching the lane that would take me into Monsal Dale. Another rambling group was spotted about this point but I left them go on their way and stayed on the road until I spotted a right of way that would carry me across the River Wye to the Monsal Trail. Wintry weather had arrived while all this was happening so I stopped a while in a tunnel under the former railway alignment to see if the precipitation would pass; this also was a chance for a lunch stop.
As with all of these things, it took a good while for the shower to leave and then for any sunshine to appear. When it finally did just that, I could not help loitering to see if I could make any photos. After all, this is a beauty that attracts many a day tripper, though I had it largely to myself at this time. A midweek visit coincident with wintry weather could have helped my cause.
Throughout this dallying, I was making up my mind about what direction to take next. The choice was between heading towards Bakewell or going towards Buxton with possible exit points later in the walk. In the event, I chose the latter and the route was to take me past places that I had not seen since an afternoon in July 2001. Back then, all the railway tunnels were closed to us, so there were necessary diversions that made cycling the route an impossibility. Within the last decade, that has changed with lights turned on during daytime hours.
Still, I had reservations about spending large sections of my walk inside in tunnels and hardcore surfaces can give feet a batter so I dropped off the current trail to Cressbrook Mill where I picked up the concessionary path that I followed when I last went this way. That had the advantage that it went along by where the River Wye cuts its way through limestone-clad surroundings. The sun may have been playing hide and seek on me at this point but it did not matter and I largely had the place to myself as far as Litton Mill.
After that, I made my way back onto the Monsal Trail again and was noting nature reserve after nature reserve as I shortened the distance to Miller’s Dale station. There was a possibility of ending my walk there but I opted to continue on my way. It was to be a decision in favour of added adventure, especially when I again decided against tunnel travel though skies clouded after Miller’s Dale.
What I had chosen to do is to drop down to the River Wye to try my look along steps and stepping stones made of limestone. This is a slippery rock when wet, so resulting thoughts meant that I took extra care on any descents. All of this slowed progress a little, though the rock did not deter climbing enthusiasts as found when I encountered a group with a seemingly nonchalant member who apparently did not want to notice my presence. One of the others did apologise so that eased any sense of irritation as I continued on my way. It helped that there were pleasant stretches in between those other more testing sections.
For some reason lost to me now, I decided against rejoining the Monsal Trail in favouring of staying by the riverside and continuing through the narrow Chee Dale; maybe, it looked less testing and avoided some ascent. Wye Dale took a while to reach and that brought the end of the Monsal Trail itself because a still active freight railway and the presiding topography prevents any continuation. Taking me to the A6 was a narrow access road that passed under several railway viaducts, necessitating care in case of on oncoming vehicle. My journey had gone under a few of these and there were a few more to pass in hope of catching a bus.
Seeing the last bus to Buxton for the day pass before I got to use it was not a source of annoyance, though. Having to extend the walk all the way to Buxton was no source of tribulation. Crossing the A6, I picked up a public footpath that rounded Topley Pike Quarry with all of its warnings of quicksand. Entering Deep Dale got me away from any proximity to such industrial facilities and a feeling of entering pleasingly more rural surroundings again.
While on the lookout for the Midshires Way that would lead me to Buxton, I encountered a group of tired teenagers and one asked me where they were on the map. Then, as much as now, I wondered if they of Duke of Edinburgh challengers. If so, it might have been better if I did not point out their location but I suppose that you can be too officious about these things. In any case, I climbed the side of Deep Dale to commence crossings of fields as I passed King Sterndale and passed through Cowdale and Staden. As I did so, another quarry lurked almost unseen, but that was quickly passed with reaching Buxton uppermost in my mind.
At Staden, I passed a lady trying to coax a horse into its stable for the night. Knowing that strangers can disrupt such things, I did not delay and made my way towards and past a caravan park before going under the freight railway leading to Hindlow Quarry. The A515 was near at hand and I was soon to reach it and drop downhill into Buxton where some refreshments were sought before starting my way home. The day had been satisfying and was just the sort of momentary escape from more weighty matters that I needed.
Outbound bus journey from Macclesfield to Litton with a change in Buxton, followed by return train journey from Buxton to Macclesfield with a change in Stockport.
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