Thursday, 13 April 2017

Dimminsdale and Calke Park

Saturday 4th March 2017

Apart from a brief outing at Christmas I consider my walking season to be from March to October as outside of those months the weather is not really good enough for me to have a satisfying walk (since I am not interested in winter sports). Last week I described the last walk that I did last year (not including the week in the Lake District at Christmas) and now I am moving onto the first walk that I did this year. Throughout last year I had been walking around the Ivanhoe Way and I had been intending on starting this year with my last section of the trail from Ashby-de-la Zouch to the Dimminsdale Nature Reserve. There is a stunning display of Snowdrops at Dimminsdale late winter that I wanted to see and completing the last section of the Ivanhoe Way would have made a good excuse but in the end I decided that it wasn’t necessary as I’ve already walked that section before during the National Forest Way and I don’t need an excuse. All I needed was some good weather and that came in the first weekend in March.

I first came to Dimminsdale two years ago on the National Forest Way and without realising it I had timed it perfectly to see the snowdrops at their peak. Last year I started the Ivanhoe Way in Dimminsdale at the same time of the year to pay those snowdrops a return visit and now I was back this year just so I could see those snowdrops. The paths through the Dimminsdale Nature Reserve were very muddy underfoot, but that wasn’t my biggest problem. When I tried to take some pictures of the wonderful displays of snowdrops I realised that the batteries in my camera were flat and all the other batteries that I had taken with me were also flat. This was really frustrating as I had come all this way to take photos of snowdrops, and although I would be able to use my phone it doesn’t take as good pictures. Heading around the muddy reserve past the remains of the limekilns I headed up to the site of the mine managers garden where all the snowdrops are to be found.

Snowdrops are an introduced flower to Britain so are only found in the wild where someone has planted them and after several hundred years these snowdrops have spread all over that corner of the nature reserve to produce a gorgeous display. I did another circuit of the reserve while trying to get my camera to work, but to no avail so I made use of my phone before heading off along a path beside the Red Brook out of the reserve and onto the road. On the other side there is a National Trust sign directing a route to the right, which I followed through a wood and into Calke Park, a National Trust property. I first came to Calke Abbey two years ago on the same stage of the National Forest Way previously mentioned, and I returned last year to see their bluebells. I was keen to explore this fascinating area further so after a brief visit to the centre buildings I started off along the red way-marked trail past the abbey and towards St Giles’ Church.

Turning off the track I walked past a derelict deer shelter, where I had my lunch, and through the damp, grassy parkland. The sun was shining brightly uplifting my soul and making me happy to be out walking again in the countryside with the promise of spring just around the corner. The Red Walk took me through a wetland area to join up with the National Forest Way which I followed turning away from the Red Walk that was heading back towards Calke Abbey. At a tunnel I turned right off the National Forest Way and towards the Ticknall Limeyards, which was an area that I was keen to explore. It is amazing that a place that was heavily industrialised a couple of hundred years ago is now completely taken over by nature to a tremendous effect. The woodland that now covers the limeyards will probably look even more spectacular in a couple of months when there are leaves on the trees and flowers on the ground. The old tramway that I was walking on and the heavily undulating ground were the only signs that there had been any previous industrial activity.

Following the path through the limeyards, branching off several times to explore, I walked past the old limekilns and eventually left the woods crossing several fields to re-enter Calke Park on the route of the National Forest Way on its way into the park. Rather than following the trail towards Calke Abbey I turned left to head through Serpentine Wood where last year I had seen a fabulous display of bluebells. There were no signs of bluebells now so I kept on going through the wood and out at the far end to cross the drive and rejoin the National Forest Way on its route out of Calke Park. Before reaching the tunnel I once again left the trail and this time turned left onto the course of the old tramway as it leaves the Ticknall Limeyards. This tramway has only recently been restored so that I had an easy walk along the course of this little railway for several miles around the edge of Calke Park and back to Dimminsdale. This walk was a good start to my walking season after my winter exile where I have been released back into the countryside so that I can once more enjoy the sunshine and the open spaces. On this walk I really just went for a bit of a wander around with no real route in mind except to visit the snowdrops in Dimminsdale, and to explore the limeyards including the tramway. However, the real goal of this walk was to be back out in the countryside enjoying the sunshine and the dawn of spring.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Kinder Scout

Saturday 8th October 2016

I wanted to get in a last walk in the Peak District last year before the onset of winter so with a reasonably good weather forecast I made plans to head up Kinder Scout, which is the highest point in the National Park. This is a hill that I have been up many times over the years, but I felt that I hadn’t been up Kinder Scout in recent years with my most recent visit, as far as I could recall, while walking the first part of the Pennine Way five years earlier. Initially I had planned to take the train to Edale, but after missing the train I ended up driving, not to Edale but to the other side of the hill parking in a layby in the Woodlands Valley not far from the Snake Pass Inn, where I have parked several times over the years. Descending through trees to the River Ashop I crossed the bridge and rounded the headland to start climbing beside the Fair Brook under patchy cloud. I remember descending this valley many years ago in dwindling light but I couldn’t remember ever ascending this way so I was looking forward to the prospect.

There were good views up the valley with a clear path underfoot as the stream slowly delves into moorland north of the Kinder plateau. As I approached the astonishing edge of the plateau the terrain roughened and steepened pleasingly with rock now abounding making for a fun, easy scramble up the final section onto the perimeter path that encircles the plateau. Most of the Kinder plateau is a boggy moor that is not particularly fun to walk, however the edge of the plateau is littered with great lumps of weathered rock that look spectacular and add to the pleasing walk around the perimeter. Under patchy sunlight and a light breeze I headed along the edge with far reaching views north across the moors of the Dark Peak along a path that although it deteriorated into bogs occasionally, it was nevertheless clear. The weathered gritstone outcrops in many shapes and sizes provided an interesting sight as I made my way along the northern edge of the Kinder plateau.

Eventually the Pennine Way came into view and once I was on that path turning to the south the number of people increased dramatically with the path becoming almost crowded, however the quality of the path underfoot also improved due to the popularity. By now the skies that had seen patchy clouds were now becoming leaden and overcast thereby ruining the views for the rest of the day while a cold wind began to blow. The clear path took me to the Kinder Downfall, where there is a dramatic wedge in the side of the plateau driven by the River Kinder as it falls from the moorland top into the lower western moor. There I left the crowds behind and followed the river into the heart of the plateau on the original route of the Pennine Way, which now takes a wide course south of Kinder Scout before climbing Jacob’s Ladder and following the western edge of the Kinder plateau to reach the Kinder Downfall. After a while I came across two rock buttresses either side of the river that are known to as the Kinder Gates. Despite the grey weather I was happy to be here looking at these highlights of the Kinder plateau so I stopped and had my lunch.

It hadn’t been my intention to cross the plateau but after eating I decided that I wanted to continue following, or see if I could follow, the original route of the Pennine Way across the moor. There were marks of footprints going in all directions and it was difficult to know which ones were going in the right direction. I made the mistake of following the river upstream for too long and had to turn back to head east across the boggy, trackless moor. It was at this point that I realised I should have worn my gaiters as my trousers were soon filthy from the moorland peat, but I suppose you can’t get it right every time! I could see other people wandering around the moor and they seemed as aimless as I was, looking at maps and GPS devices to try and determine the correct direction to be going. The featureless terrain was a difficult place to navigate and I rather enjoyed the challenge until eventually I came across some posts with pink ribbon at the top and following these revealed an emerging path that brought me to the Crowden Brook and the southern edge of the plateau.

On reaching the good, clear, very popular perimeter path I turned left in the worsening weather along the southern edge of Kinder Scout past the stunning Grindsbrook Clough where the Pennine Way originally ascended onto the plateau. The perimeter path continues along the northern edge of the valley with an abundance of rock everywhere that is always great to feel under my feet. At the top of Golden Clough I came off the perimeter path and headed back across the moor towards a trig point that could be clearly seen on the horizon. This was not easy as there was no path and many water-logged groughs in the peat that were always just a little too wide to jump across that made it more difficult to cross the moor than it had been earlier. It was navigation that had been the problem then, but now it was the uncrossable water-logged channels in the peak that blocked my way to the destination that I could clearly see. Eventually, with considerable relief and with even muddier trousers, I reached the trig point near the eastern end of Kinder Scout.

The perimeter path is an easy walk north from the trig point and from there I headed west around the spectacular Blackden Clough that had me wanting to climb by that route next time I come to Kinder Scout. Finally I left the perimeter coming off the plateau following a line of grouse butts back into the Woodlands Valley where I was soon able to return to my car. If the weather had not deteriorated this would have been a fabulous walk, but in the afternoon there had been a cold wind with overcast skies that lessened my enjoyment of the day. Kinder Scout is quite a mercurial hill with many difficult bogs that made this walk quite a challenge even though some parts of the hill is deservedly very popular where many people follow the route of the Pennine Way along the western edge. I have always enjoyed the challenge that Kinder Scout presents especially when you strike away from the more popular areas.