Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Ladybower Circuit – approx 8.50 miles

Sunday 17th October 2010


OS Explorer OL1 The Peak District - Dark Peak Area


Ashopton Bridge – Crookhill Farm – Bridge-end Pasture – Woodock Coppice – Lakeside Road – Fairholmes – Derwent – Lakeside – Ashopton Bridge


An almost perfect Autumn day, bright and clear, cool in the shade but quite warm in the sun.

Day two of our Dark Peak weekend couldn’t have started much better. A quick peek out of the hostel window showed purple hills rising below a clear, half-light sky, so we hurried down to the kitchen to make our porridge.

Pausing only to scrape the ice from the car windscreen – the first time this autumn – we threw everything into the car and set off. On a morning such as this, there are few better places to be than Ladybower, somewhere we hadn’t visited for a good couple of years, and very soon we were parked on Ashopton Bridge preparing for our walk.

We began by taking the rising path towards Crookhill Farm. As we gained height, we were rewarded with increasingly good views across the reservoir to Derwent Edge beyond. The stroll over Bridge-end Pasture was a joy; the sun’s rays now beginning to cut through the early-morning chill. At the top of the ridge, views began to open up to the west as the path traced the edge of Hagg Side wood. We stopped for a break by the junction of paths near Woodcock Coppice, with a magnificent view of the entire Edale skyline laid out in front of us.

After a quiet start, it was getting a busier. Walkers and cyclists began to appear from all quarters. Over the next mile and a half we followed the track northwards through sun-dappled woodland to meet the lakeside road close to the point where Ouzelden Brook enters the reservoir. Danger, in the form of Mountain Bikers, was never far away, but we made the road without any mishaps and turned southwards to follow the road along the side of lake.

Soon, we approached Derwent Dam. The little museum in the west tower was open, so we went in for a quick look round. It’s quite interesting, dealing as it does with both the history of the construction of the dams and of the famous Dambusters of WWII.

The visitor centre at Fairholmes was heaving. Although we are normally seekers of solitude, the buzz of so many people enjoying the fabulous day was quite exciting. We bought hot drinks and sat on a bench to eat our sandwiches in the sunshine. Ducks and dogs pestered us gently for crumbs and more.

Lunch eaten, we followed the road below the dam to the eastern side of the lake. The track along this side is relatively flat and rarely strays far from the lakeside, providing an easy ramble for the final couple of miles. Looking up, we could see the Gritstone outcrop of Whinstone Lee Tor presiding over the southern end of the lake.

The last mile or so followed a wooded track, eventually meeting the main road by Ashopton Bridge at the end of an excellent walk. Admittedly, it is not an especially long or difficult walk, but the weather and scenery combined to make this an unforgettable day, and we made a promise to ourselves to come back and see more of this area as soon as possible.

Chinley to Edale – approx 9.75 miles

Saturday 16th October 2010


OS Explorer OL1 The Peak District - Dark Peak Area


Chinley Station – Cracken Edge – Whiterakes – Peep O’ Day – Coldwell Clough – Oaken Clough – Edale Cross – Noe Stool – Crowden Tower – Grindsbrook Clough – Edale Station


A mixture of sunny and overcast conditions, mostly bright but with some rain in the afternoon.

Autumn is one of our favourite times of the year, and the Dark Peak one of the best places to enjoy its dazzling spectacle to the full. A spell of decent, clear weather is almost guaranteed to get the best out of the beautiful colours so we are usually ready and waiting to take advantage if the forecast is promising. So, with the prospect of a fair weekend ahead, we set our alarm clock early, threw all our gear into the car and made the long journey north.

Thus it was that we found ourselves leaving Chinley at just after 9.00am on a cool, sunny morning, climbing steadily towards Cracken Edge and the track that contours round its east side. Although still quite early, we were not the only ones to make a prompt start as the flurry of hikers, joggers and dog-walkers testified. Away to our right the hillside dropped steeply down to Otter Brook and the Hayfield Road, beyond which the bulk of Kinder Scout was fringed by low cloud.

We dropped down to cross the A624 at Peep O’ Day where a large delivery wagon was trying to squeeze its way down the narrowest of lanes. After a quick snack stop, we picked up the Pennine Bridleway, skirted the flanks of the curiously named Mount Famine and zig-zagged into Coldwell Clough where the metalled lane gave way to a rocky track, the ancient packhorse route between Hayfield and the Vale of Edale, and we began the long pull up Oaken Clough. As we crossed the Access Land boundary we took a moment to look back at the craggy ridge of Mount Famine and our earlier route.

Continuing upwards, we soon reached Edale Cross and the saddle between Kinder Scout and Brown Knoll. While catching a breather, we stopped in the warm sunshine to chat to a lady we met there, basking in the beauty of the day.

The next leg of our walk took us along the southern edge of the Kinder Plateau. After a very short stretch along the Pennine Way, we veered off to the right, heading for Noe Stool and the perimeter path. Weaving through a series of peaty channels and weirdly eroded rocks, we made our way eastwards along the edge.

We stopped for lunch. Perched high on the sunny side of a weather-worn Gritstone outcrop, we had a great view across the valley to the Great Ridge and Rushup Edge. But the skies had been darkening, and, as we packed our things away, a first few spits of drizzle began. Waterproofs were donned - this wasn’t forecast!

By the time we reached the top of Grindsbrook Clough a steady rain had set in. The drop into the Clough is quite steep and rocky, and, although Gritstone is very grippy underfoot, the rain had made the mud a bit greasy and our glasses kept fugging up. A slip here could easily have led to a twisted ankle, so, as neither of us fancied carrying the other one down, we took our time, picking our way carefully step by step beside the stream. Even so, Missy G managed to miss her footing - fortunately, there was no real damage done, just some additional souvenir mud to take home with us.

Soon the path levelled out and the going became easier. The rain stopped, and the sun broke through the cloud again as we trundled towards Edale village, Grindsbrook Clough looking splendid in full autumn conditions.

As you might expect on a nice day at this time of year, the village was heaving. Besides all the walkers and day-trippers, a group of Geography students from North Staffordshire University were there on a field trip led, as it turned out, by one of my former lecturers. So it was with little regret we forsook a cup of tea and caught the train back to Chinley and our car – all of 8 minutes ride – reflecting on another great day.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Lan Fawr, Mitchell’s Fold & Marrington Dingle – approx 11.75 miles

Saturday 2nd October 2010


OS Explorer OL216 Welshpool & Montgomery


Todleth – Old Churchstoke – Cowlton – Lan Fawr – Mitchell’s Fold – Weston House Farm – Lower Ridge – Whittery Wood – Marrington Dingle – A490 – Alport – The Rock – Old Churchstoke - Todleth


A nice Autumn morning, gradually clouding over into the afternoon. Quite warm but with a cool breeze.

After a month of various celebrations and a very wet week, a good day had been forecast for this Saturday so we took the opportunity to get a decent walk in and chose the area to the north and east of Churchstoke. We started by walking along the lane that skirts the western side of Todleth Hill to reach Old Churchstoke with views across to Montgomery and the Vale of Kerry already in evidence. A short way along the road to Hyssington, below Roundton Hill, a lane branches off taking a rising line to the east of north. Passing the house at Cowlton the lane dissolved into a track across the hillside, from where we could see across the valley to the Kerry Ridgeway behind us.

The track continued to rise steadily towards the pass between Lan Fawr and Corndon Hill, with the hills of Snowdonia coming into view on the skyline to the west. Just beyond a gate we crossed into Access Land and branched off left to take in the small, knobbly summit of Lan Fawr, modest by local standards at 426m but a good place from which to admire the wonderful scenery.

After a quick coffee break we rejoined the track and continued northwards towards Stapeley Common and the Bronze Age stone circle at Mitchell’s Fold. Fifteen of the stones still stand and, from its impressive position, it is easy to imagine the legends woven into its 3,000 - year history.

We headed west off the common picking up a track in a steep-sided gully that took us to the lane near Middleton Hall Farm. The route we had planned was scheduled to follow a field path across five or six fields and rejoin the lane near The Knoll. But it was here we ran into our first problem of the day - although clearly signed from the lane, beyond the first field the path became impossible for us to find. There was no stile or signage and a large tree had crashed through the fence around where we calculated the next stile to be.

Whatever the reason, after around 10 minutes of searching we decided to backtrack to the lane and follow it the longer way round instead. Although the lanes are quiet and pretty enough it was a shame as there was already a fair amount of road walking to be done. However, we reckon it might make a good winter walk when firmer underfoot conditions might be advantageous.

Having got ourselves back on track, we had a break for lunch then carried on along the lane to Whittery Wood. Here we met the path through Marrington Dingle, a steep-sided, heavily wooded cleft that has the feel of a “hidden” valley. Threaded through by the River Camlad, the valley sits in the grounds of Marrington Hall and, although the main path is waymarked and passable, the surrounding land is signed as private.

This brought us to the second of today’s problems; the two paths marked on the map leading to the east were not in evidence on the ground so, to complete our circuit, we ended up climbing out to the west giving us about a mile of walking along the main road to meet up with our proposed route. I must remember to report these problems.

From Alport we took the muddy path down to the river and crossed by the footbridge. A short climb on the other side brought us out by The Rock. There were still a few late blackberries in the high hedgerows and, as we wound our way back along the lanes, we picked enough to flavour a handful of small, scrumped apples we had acquired.

Later, we went back up to Mitchell’s Fold to watch the sunset and reflect on our recent walk. Overall it was a good enough trip, but because of the problems we encountered a bit of fine-tuning is required to get the best out of it, and I’m sure we’ll be happy to try.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Autumn Glory

I love Autumn. Keats’ “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” is, without doubt, one of my favourite times of the year. The prospect of some of the best British produce as well as some excellent walking means there is always plenty to look forward to.

Sitting here as the rain rattles against the window it is hard to imagine the sun ever shining again. But it can, and will, and when it does it can be a truly glorious time of year. Admittedly, the days are becoming a little shorter and the nights are closing in that bit sooner, but there is still plenty of daylight for an ambitious day out and the chance to work up an appetite. What could be nicer than a bracing walk followed by a hearty meal rounded off with a fine fruit pudding and custard?

Recent weekends have been taken up with a variety of celebrations – birthdays, weddings and anniversaries – with hardly any time for walking other than a quick hour or so here and there. So it’s quite nice to be looking forward to an October with few relatively commitments and a chance to get a few more miles under our belt. In anticipation I have been poring over the maps, plotting and planning our forthcoming trips, which is perhaps the next best thing to walking itself.

Outside, the leaves are already beginning to turn, their greens morphing to flaming yellows, burnished browns and fiery reds. Soon hillsides and valleys will appear emblazoned with rich colours that cannot fail to cheer the heart.

So, here’s to a favourable forecast and a good appetite. Roll on the next few weeks!