Saturday 22nd June 2013
Map: OS Explorer OL24 – The Peak District – White Peak Area
Map: OS Explorer 259 – Derby, Uttoxeter, Ashbourne & Cheadle
Cromford Hill – Cromford Wharf – Derwent Valley Heritage Way (S) – High Peak Junction – Whatstandwell – Hankin Farm – Midshires Way (S) – Alderwasley – Typeclose Plantation – Netherpark Farm – Palerow Lane – Chequer Lane – Hilltop – Jebb’s Lane – Idridgehay Green – Idridgehay – Ecclesbourne House – Brook Farm – Holme Hurst – Turnditch – Cowers Lane
For the first time in some time, a whole weekend loomed ahead with no daytime obligations to intrude and nothing other than walking with which to fill the time. So I decided to head for the Peak District to see what she could offer.
Long term readers might remember that a couple of years ago I undertook a series of walks roughly following the Derwent Valley, heading southwards from the Ladybower area, with the eventual idea of describing a circuit around the Peak District. I’d got as far as Cromford when time / inclination / opportunity / certainty of route rather ran out, but a continuation now seemed like an enticing prospect.
I’d been dithering over possible routes for the next section, and never really come to a satisfactory decision. As I alighted the bus in Cromford I was still in two minds about which way to go, but faced with the choice of a potentially quieter easterly option or a busier, more high-profile westerly route, I eventually plumped for the former.
|Clear path by the Cromford Canal
The path beside the Cromford Canal is unambiguous. As I left Cromford Wharf light rain began to fall: in fact the weather proved something of an irritation for much of the day in a kind of jacket on / jacket off, hood up / hood down kind of way, as it flip-flopped regularly between sunshine and showers, brighter spells and rain.
|Leawood Pumping Station
The Derwent Valley has long been a conduit for transport of all kinds. Here road, canal, footpath, railway and river sit so closely side by side it would almost be possible to lob a stone across them all in a single throw.
|Coot: bald as a blogger
At times the canal ran clear; at others, it was overgrown: green and lush with recent growth that gave it an almost primaeval feel. Which is odd, considering the canal is a man made structure: it just goes to show how well it has subsumed into the landscape.
I crossed the Derwent by the road bridge at Whatstandwell and climbed to meet the Midshires way near Alderwasley, following it in a southerly direction for the next few miles. I stopped for lunch above Shining Cliff Woods, and then took an attractive but incorrect path for a short way before spotting my mistake.
Back on track, I continued to follow the Midshires Way for a while before parting company with it just shy of Crowtrees Farm. A series of poorly-waymarked paths through fields tall with crops and meadow flowers followed, and indication that these ways were infrequently walked.
|Looking over the Ecclesbourne Valley with Hilltop in the middle ground
From the end of Palerow Lane, the map showed an interesting-looking path curving southwards over Hilltop into the Ecclesbourne Valley towards Jebb’s Lane. I had high hopes for this part of the route, but was slightly disappointed in the end: the views were nice, but lack of traffic meant a struggle through thigh-high meadow grasses, and some sections were steep and muddy and difficult to negotiate – something that was to become more noticeable now I had left the more popular areas – a consequence, no doubt, of the fact that these quieter routes are of lesser priority when it comes to waymarking and upkeep.
|Err ....... where?
Jebb’s Lane led to Idridgehay Green led to Idridgehay. The sun had finally decided to put in an appearance, so I stopped at the shop for an ice cream. Beyond Ecclesbourne House, I entered a series of paths across the fields that were little more than marshland, where a calf-deep mix of water-filled hoof prints and soft, clay-y mud awaited if you happened to misjudge the next reedy tussock, and which was especially concentrated in the vicinity of gateways and stiles.
Needless to say, what with marshes, mud and indistinct paths, it all took a fair while to negotiate. But eventually I made the road, glad of a solid surface at last, and walked down to Hillclifflane to pick up the last field paths of the day – these, thankfully, much cleaner and easier to follow – for the climb up to Turnditch.
|Approaching Turnditch on cleaner paths
An easy stroll down the road to the bus stop gave the opportunity for reflection on the days’ events: events which, perhaps, hadn’t quite lived up to initial expectations. The first half of the walk had been fine; the second half slightly less so, although I think the ground conditions had as much to do with that as the scenery. Mind you, if it is this difficult to pass in June, I dread to think what it might be like February or November!
Overall, I’d enjoyed my walk, covered a bit of distance and appreciated being able to keep myself to myself for a while. But was it a worthy continuation of the round-Derbyshire route? Well, let’s just say it wasn’t an unqualified success: I think I might need to ponder things a bit more before making a decision one way or the other.