Up early. Too early. No one else was around. A fine morning. After a bit I tried again. Still no sign of life. Damn it I was wanting to get off but needed to pay my bill. Plus I was not going to go without the inclusive breakfast.

Eventually, people stirred and I ate a predictably immense cooked breakfast. I paid my bill and set off, taking a couple of photos first in the lambent morning light. I am a bit burned from yesterday and this looks like another hot one, but at least I have the sunblock ready today. I just hope it is not so ancient that it no longer works.

Leaving Alison House I start off down the lane to the main road by the Cromford Mill complex. The River Derwent was some way below me, a man standing in it fishing. Off I went past Masson Mill complex, a part of Arwkwright's empire, now a shopping mall. What else? They even have a Costa in it. Not open yet though.

I can see a path down on the other side of the river. I wonder if I could have walked it all the way. My mappage is a bit dodgy today. I have a very ancient 25,000 OS map which is falling to bits and a bunch of A4 50,000 sheets that my friend Simon printed off for me. I am having trouble re-adjusting to the smaller scale though.

And on into Matlock Bath. A funny place. I had heard it described as a seaside town in the middle of the country. It did have a bit of that feel. I walked under the lines of the cable car that takes trippers up to the Heights of Abraham and got vertigo looking up at the little dangling cars.

It is already hot by the time I get to Matlock itself and I am immediately confused by a major road that is on neither my old 25,000 scale or Simon's newer 50,000 sheets. I ignore it and go by the road marked on my maps. At a little shopping mall there is a seat so I take a quick break, glad of the chance to put down my rucksack which is still too heavy.

Carrying on I see that there is a new road in construction which explains the map stuff. I find Matlock Riverside station and realise it is a steam enthusiasts line. The path I take is not as scenic as the road walk has been, past post industrial and industrial sites. But I hear a poop! and see a steam engine go by. Fuck but it would be nice to take the train up the line for a few miles. It is getting hotter and hotter but the footpath takes me onto green fields as the Derwent Valley opens right up again.

People say hello as I walk into the pleasant little village of Oker and take a B road round to Darley Bridge. I am needing a toilet and could use a cup of tea. I notice that there is a station in Darley bridge and one thing I know about enthusiast run steam lines is that they often have excellent tea shops. So I make a brief and hopeful detour. There is no tea shop but there is a toilet which a helpful chap lets me use. He also tells me that there is a tea shop at the next and final station.

My way takes me down a little lane that looks a little doggit but it is fine. The last couple of day's walking have ramped my dog paranoia up badly, with so many barking at me whilst idiot owners barely bother to restrain them.  There are no dogs here though. What there is however is a warning sign as the lane reaches a field gate. WARNING it says, COWS WITH CALVES IN FIELD.

There aren't though. Not in the first field. But in the next one there are not just cows but a potential problem. This field leads into another through an open gate. I can just see in the far field lots of black Aberdeen Angus cows and a few calves. But most of the calves are in the middle of this field, having a bit of a lie down.

The problem is that between the two is a solitary cow and she is clearly most unhappy. Bellowing away she keeps looking at the herd, and then back at the calves. Then she steps towards the far field before bellowing some more.

I give it a minute and she eventually moves into the far field. Still bellowing unhappily, still looking back from time to time. There is a stone wall to my right and this leads to a small byre. This stone building is right next to the gate. I walk along the wall, looking for protruding stones that might help me jump over it if need be, and try to keep myself covered from the cow's vision by the byre. This works fine until I get to it. Now I have to show myself to get through the gate. I take a deep breath, hope that the cow has gone a decent way into the field and step round the corner of the byre.

The cow has not gone far. She turns and sees me. Lets out an unfriendly sounding roar and starts coming towards me. Fuck this, I think and nip back round and scramble over the wall.

Now I am quite safe. There are no cows in this field and the walls are solid. I start walking down towards the bottom of the field where I can see the train line. Stopping every now and then to look back at the cow who has stationed herself in front of the gate. She watches, bellowing furiously every time I stop until I get some way away.

As I near the railway line I see a couple on the other side of it exploring what seems to be a footpath. But there is barbed wire between me and the line on this side. So I cross an easy gate into the big field with the cows. Now I can see that most have grouped themselves in a tight bunch. I can still see the unhappy one but am far enough away that she is either unaware or unconcerned by me. I cross the bottom of the field. Unfortunately the gate to the next one is festooned with barbed wire. Impassable. And this is not a stone wall but a barbed wire fence. I head back up it towards the tight bunch of cows, some of which have calves. As I get closer I realise that they are clustered around the stile that is the way the footpath leaves the field. Oh great!

Then I notice something else. In the far field a group is approaching. Three women, one with a baby in a pannier, about five kids and three dogs, all off the lead and running around joyfully. That is what the cow cluster is looking at. Despite the signs all over the place these women are just letting their dogs run free.

I stop by a gate, not wanting to get any closer to the cow cluster. Certainly not until the dogs are long gone. I watch the group go over a stile and cross the railway. This gate has barbed wire around it too but then I notice something. There is a gap where cows have worn a channel in the mud. That mud has now dried. OK, it will mean wiggling around in dried mud and cow shit. But at the moment it seems more attractive than trying to shoulder myself though the cluster, saying "Excuse me ladies. No, I am not going to eat your calves. Not for months yet, honest."

So I wriggle under the gate. And decide I have had enough of this right of way and follow the path of the dog women. This takes me across the railway and leads me happily to Rowsley Station and the promised tea shop.

It is just as good as anticipated. The young guy who runs it is sitting outside, watching the engine sheds across the way. Two older uniformed men and a young girl sit talking, teasing the tea shop guy who does not seem inclined to play. I have a cup of tea and custard slice. And then another cup of tea. It is really hot now and I am luxuriating in sitting with no weight on my back. I wait until the train comes in and then set off again.

After a dusty exit from the station I pick up a path through woods at the side of the Derwent. This is a sign of things to come. The path winds alongside the fast flowing river. I get a brief glimpse of a dipper and see a bunch of mergansers. It is delightful all the way to Rowsley village.

So far I have seen few walkers but here the track that leads out of the village on the other side of the river is crowded with them. Many people walking the opposite way. Out of the woods the walk is little less delightful. More open country and I catch a glimpse of something on the far, wooded hillside that I think must be a part of Chatsworth House.  In fact it is the top of the Hunting Tower, high above the house.http://www.chatsworth.org/stay-with-us/chatsworth-holiday-cottages/hunting-tower

I come to the estate via a very busy car park. But my irritation is assuaged by a beautiful if expensive ice cream from a van that has set up there. I am starving but have promised myself a picnic in the grounds. It is not really how I imagined it. The grounds are full of people. I guess because it is such a beautiful, warm day and it is Sunday. A bunch of young lads get ready to play football, eyed up by several groups of teenage girls. As I walk along the river a quick movement catches my attention. Martins? Yes, they are sand martins but what are they doing? They keep flying low to scoop water from the river and then alight on a twiggy little shrub on the far bank before doing it again.

The view of Chatsworth House is marred a bit by the fact that the field below it has been turned into a car park. But it is still magnificent. Bess of Herdwick's lair.

Past the bridge I finally stop and  eat and finish my tea. A guy is fishing up the river and some kids nearby start throwing bread to ducks. But it disappears before the ducks get to it. I look into the river and get a glimpse of a huge trout.

After a long rest I set off. Wearily it must be said and hoping that the sunblock is working. I would be better with a hat. The park lets me out  and into the village of Baslow, which starts out picturesque before marred by busy roads.  I pass a tea house which is having some work done. A tanker is pumping sewage and it stinks revoltingly. Next door, outside a pub, smokers are chatting quite oblivious to the stench. Amazing what cigarettes can do to your sense of smell!

From Baslow it's a B road and then a track along the riverside to Calver. Beyond Calver the path goes through woodland with a little canal like waterway alongside the path. According to the map it is called The Goit. According to Google The Goit is the old mill race for Calver Mill and Calver Mill was Colditz in the old TV series.

But I didnt really notice it is as I carried on. Although I am really quite tired now, it is impossible not to enjoy this walk. Footpaths through woods and meadows, the Derwent always near at hand. Perfect low level walking country.

I am approaching Froggat and get glimpses of what must be Froggat edge ahead and up to the right. I know of it because it was beloved of the danglers in the mountaineering club I used to belong to. I never went on Derbyshire meets myself, being a bit disdainful of The Peak as far as mountain walking went but now I am regretting it. This is truly beautiful country.

Just as I reach Froggat a large group of young people are crossing a little footbridge over a stream and I have to wait for them. Tanned, lean, good gear and mean wraparound sunglasses. No doubt about it. I am in deep in dangler territory. I am a bit surprised that they have packed in so early as it is still warm and sunny. Indeed, I can see the figures of climbers here and there up on the edge.

The path goes through Froggat Wood and it is a bit different to other woodlands. I am not sure why, maybe more ancient feeling. The path is certainly an old one, it twists and winds, up and down, and picturesque as it is I am a bit tired for it just at the moment. I am out of water and tea now and getting very thirsty.

There are still lots of people about. It feels a bit strange. I have got used to lumping through plug ugly country and city margins where you get the odd dog walker, or dismal churned up tow paths where none but clinically insane mountain bikers venture in the winter.  This is like a popular route in the Lake District. I have been seeing lots of kids doing Duke of Edinburgh awards or some such and some knackered girls with rucksacks just in front of me are talking about getting the train with longing.

I am looking forward to it too to be honest. I hobble into Grindleford and see a sign for a shop. Praise the Coalville Lard it is open and it does teas and coffees. In fact it is a miracle shop, stuffed with all kinds of lovely food. I don't want to carry anything though so just have a piece of cake which is delicious.

Now I could go to the nearest station or to Hathersage which is a kilometre or so further. There is no question of walking to Edale today. I opt for Hathersage, tired as I am and it is a good decision. The walk is more woods and fields besides the Derwent. The railway is shown on the map but I can't really work out where it is. But eventually I come out by David Mellor's workshop and haul my knackered arse up the hill to the station.

There is a wait, not surprising for a branch line. More annoying is that the timetable seems to be meaningless. Maybe the train is just late. There are a few people waiting on the other side. Mostly young guys who look like climbers. Tanned, thin and unshaven. There is no one on my platform until I hear the clack of heels.

She seems a real anomaly. Her heels are five inch stilettos. Her dress is tight and tiny, the skirt almost crotch level and shoulder-less. Black and silver it shimmers being covered in sequins. Bottle blond straight hair with the fringe combed back over the top. Bare legs, sprayed the same gold as the rest of her. She has a tiny clutch bag and that is it.

Going clubbing in Manchester? Maybe. But it is a long way from here and it is still April. Hot or not, I think the girl might be advised to take a cardie.

The train comes at last and we get on. She talks into a big white mobile phone. "I will see you there, if I got the right train!" If she got the right train? There are only two, to Sheffield or to Manchester.

As I ponder this a young guy comes into the corriage and moving lithely but self-conciously gets into the seat across from her. She takes no notice. She is going to get this all the way there and all the way back I suppose and she is no doubt used to it.

I get to Edale before he plucks the courage up to make his inevitable move.

Now I have to walk a couple of k from the station to the youth hostel. And I could to tell the truth do without it. There is a pub at Edale with lots of people sitting in the garden. I could just stop and have a meal. It is very tempting. But I have a jar of pesto I have  been carrying for two days and I really want to be able to drop the bag for the day. So I press on across the hillside and, after what feels like an age, I stumble into the great barn of Edale YHA.


  1. Lee said...

    A lovely walk in a part of the Peak District I know well. I'm rather wary of cows myself too.  

  2. Spencer said...

    Thanks for the comment, Lee. I will take a look at your blog when I get a chance, it looks interesting. One thing I will definately do when I finish this walk is more walking in the Peak District. Just up in Fort William about to set off on the next stage just now.



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