I completed my first ascent of a “Hewitt” (Hills of England, Wales and Ireland over Two Thousand feet) of the year yesterday. I only had the afternoon so I needed a short and easy climb on a hill that didn’t require a long drive to reach and Bleaklow Head in Derbyshire’s Dark Peak area fit the bill perfectly as it was only just over an hours drive from my home and starting from the Snake Pass road, was a climb of just over a hundred metres in a walk of eight kilometres round; easy peasy!
The Chesterfield Canal passes from the River Trent across Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire and into Derbyshire. This was one of the first canals to be constructed in England and because it was not connected directly with any other canal and was relatively short, the operators of the boats didn’t live aboard, allowing for more cargo and prompting the development of a unique style of boat only to be found along what was then called the “cuckoo dyke” by locals.
The canal is no longer navigable for it’s entire length and several miles are missing entirely but the canal towpath is still in place making for an obvious long distance footpath, aptly called the Cuckoo Way. I like to walk the entire route every few years, usually taking three days to cover the 46 miles. This year I opted to take four days and because of adverse weather, had to split that into two two-day sessions; not ideal but the older I get, the more of a “fair-weather walker” I’m becoming. I’m not going to add all my photos to this post; I’ll just show the first and the last. But if you want a virtual tour of the whole 46 miles, you can click on the slideshow and sit back and see what I saw as I walked from west to east along the whole route.
I was faced with a hard choice this morning. I looked out of the window at the frost-covered lawn and the ice-encrusted puddles lit by the bright sun. Hardly a breath of wind stirred and I thought to myself that it would be hard to imagine a better day to go winter walking. Then Julie asked the question: do you want to go Shopping today or should I drop you off on the way to Sheffield so you can walk home? What a quandary. Several hours plodding around a shopping mall or several hours out walking in this wonderful weather. I pondered the choice for at least a millisecond then opted for the walk.
Generally when I organise a walk in the hills, I have to drive and pub visits are obviously not an option. Last week however, I managed a couple of walks in the White Peak where I had the luxury of a friend to drop me and my mate off and pick us up, so I took advantage with walks that not only finished at pubs, but two of my favourite pubs. The first was the circular walk from the Monsal Head Hotel that I’ve already written about and this second one, walked on the next day, took me from Calver down in the Derwent valley across to Litton and the Red Lion. Once again it was an eleven kilometre walk without a great deal of climbing; an easy half-day.
And the weather was glorious, so good that I can’t imagine better conditions for walking. Overnight we had had a heavy frost and the day remained cold with still conditions and completely cloudless skies. In fact even in the middle of the day when we finished, there was still ice on puddles and frost in the shadows despite the sun. It’s a pity that the view north was spoiled by the long streak of smoke that persisted all morning. A building fire perhaps; I hope nobody was hurt.
Monsal Dale, the long, deep valley that cuts through the high limestone plateau of the White Peak from Buxton to Ashford-in-the-Water near Bakewell, must be one of the most popular parts of the Peak District and this view from the sharp bend at Monsal Head must be one of the most photographed views in England. Although it is all one valley, it has many names along its length and strictly speaking Monsal Dale refers only to the lower section where the River Wye meanders through the last few miles before Ashford (photo below) and what can be seen in the first photo is actually Upperdale.
This was the second walk in my quest to climb all of England’s Hewitts (hills over 610 metres) and I’d made it to the top of Plover Hill. Unfortunately there wasn’t much of a view as the low cloud covered everything in a white blanket. It didn’t stop the wind though and it blew across the summit at a fare old rate, swirling the cloud around me and whistling through the holes in the dry stone wall.
I set off for Pen-y-ghent which according to the map was an easy couple of kilometres along a wide ridge with only 50 metres descent then 70 metres ascent. Easy peasie. Not!