Digested read: went for a walk to explore new paths. Found a vineyard, a top bird and some jaw dropping dwellings along the way.
It’s a bad sign when it’s so long since you ventured out onto the moors you don’t even know what to wear. How cold will it be up top? What about wind chill? I don’t know if I’m on to something here or not, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s just possible there may be some sort of link between my seemingly increasing inability to ‘just get out and run’ and the fact that my parkrun performances are getting ever more woeful. I wouldn’t want to jump ahead of myself and the evidence but suggesting at this stage the effect is causal, but there does seem to be a correlation at least. Coincidence? Who knows.
Anyway, today was a day for a new, and pleasing adventure. It was agreed, me and my most loyal recce buddy from Dig Deep explorations earlier in the year would try out a new route. Just a walk, just to see what was out there. She was in possession of an idea, and I was happy enough to trot along behind. It was a Brill walk in fact. It said so on the cover:
‘Oh my gawd!’ exclaimed I. Seeing the book from which the walk was sourced. ‘What a brilliant name for a walking book. Because that’s what you say isn’t it? “I know a brill walk, or I’ve got a fab route.” Inspired!’ I was slightly disappointed when I realised it was actually the name of the author, one of them anyway, as it made it more of an appropriate witty pun as opposed to an exclamation of unabashed enthusiasm. On the other hand, what a Brill name. Literally and metaphorically. So I suppose what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts, or something like that anyway…
Where was I? Oh yes, heading out for a rendezvous. I actually failed at the first hurdle because I couldn’t fathom which of the many car parking areas we were supposed to meet at, despite comprehensive directions. There is no signal around Fiddler’s Elbow, but we opted to meet there and then go to the first parking area along from there. We picked a grand day for it, the weather was perfection. Crisp but not too cold, quite still and the most amazing views in all directions, which was counter intuitive because it was misty, but honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so far from there, the photos don’t do it justice as the light had a bleaching effect, and also I’m not very good at taking photos, but maybe if you squint a bit and use your imagination you’ll get the general idea.
I sat in the car for a bit, marvelling at the view, and wondering whether or not to wear my waterproof over-trousers (they restrict mobility a bit, but do keep you warm) and then when my walking buddy drove up, we exchanged pleasantries through our car windows as she kept her engine running, before she sped off to the proper parking point to start the route with me following on behind. If you were either a lover of conspiracy theories or had an overactive imagination and had witnessed this, I like to think you’d have thought you were witnessing at the very least spies exchanging secrets, otherwise maybe a drugs deal or some other suspicious and clandestine endeavour, perhaps en route to check out spots for disposal of bodies or evidence or some such. It wasn’t… but then I would say that, wouldn’t I.
To get to the official starting point for the walk, you veer right at Fiddlers Elbow and then take first right & park there where there is some hard standing on the side of the road at the base of Stanage Edge. Spoiler alert, this is the route we took, it was more up and down than expected 1,169 ft of elevation, according to Strava, which never lies. Except when it does, and it puts you splashing through a pond or reservoir or something instead of on an adjacent path, but those instances are for the most part entertaining rather than ruinous, so I’ll take their elevation estimate. It felt like quite a bit.
Parked up, we both faffed over what to wear. I did go with the waterproof trousers, also sunglasses and a woollen hat. Also a scarf. I did get a bit hot though. It seems I have learned nothing from my Dronfield Round Walk excursion of a few weeks back.
First off, up the hill to Stanage Edge. This is very familiar territory. I’d thought we were going to go towards Stanage Pole, but we actually went up to the trig point and came off down the paved path back to Fiddlers Elbow. It was beautiful of course, it always is, but no surprises here.
We descended to the car park where we’d rendezvoused earlier, then after a bit of bovine appraisal – lots of cows out and about on the path – we headed over the style from the main car park and took a right along the main path to Higger Tor. I learned, from the walk book, or more accurately from my exploring buddy reading out to me from said book, that Higger Tor is so-called because it goes back to Viking origins. Something like that, I can’t remember all that well. The walk would have been even more educational if I’d concentrated a bit more. The book was a good guide to be fair. Although it has no map as such, just a sketch of approximate route – it included little nuggets of local and historical knowledge and ideas of add ons and places to stop. The written instructions were clear enough that we could work them out mostly without too much confusion. Then again, I didn’t have custody of the book, maybe the route finding was uncomplicated because of my recce buddy’s powers of deduction which exceed mine. Oh, and I tried to find out more about why bits of the landscape are named as they are, and came across this blog post discussing archaeological features of the are, which seems credible to me.
The cattle were completely uninterested in us, which was fortunate, as we had to squeeze past them on the track. I found a Halloween spider, which seemed apt, but which I removed, as it’s still litter isn’t it. That was my only litter pick of the morning, not that impressive, but every little helps eh?
No sooner had we got to the top of the path, we were directed off back again, down the track that leads back to the road. Though there was an option ‘if you wish to explore Higger tor, carry on, but come back to this point to continue the walk’ sort of blah de blah. I was a bit perplexed the walk didn’t include going along Higger, but it made sense by the end. As we descended, we had a really bizarre wildlife encounter with this top bird.
I’ve seen them before – red grouse, but normally they are squawking and bolting for cover, crashing through the heather undergrowth. On this occasion though the bird was blocking our path. We descended slowly, not wanting to disturb or scare it, assuming it would move aside. It didn’t. It basically started swearing at us noisily, and then actually came towards us. It seemed particularly taken by my recce buddy, chasing after her and chuntering away. Another couple of walkers further up the hill looked on with amusement. It seemed strange behaviour, but it was grand to get up close and personal to what is on closer inspection actually quite a remarkable looking bird. Rich brown and red feathers and a half-moon bright red ‘eye lid’, so scarlet it looked almost fake. I’m sorry we ruined it’s day – or maybe we didn’t, as it saw us off its land all right, so maybe it considered that was a win. I googled it subsequently and learned this much from the moorland species section of the peak district website:
Scientific Name: Lagopus lagopus
Distribution: Widespread in the uplands
Conservation Status: UK BAP species, Amber Listed species
Where to see: Any heather moorland in the Peak District
When to see: All year round
Resident in the Peak District all year round, the red grouse is a familiar sight (and sound) of the heather moors and blanket bogs. They feed on heather, seeds, berries and insects and nest amongst the heather. The UK population is in decline, hence this species was added to the UK BAP priority list in 2007.
So now we know. Splendid.
So far, so familiar. I was even wondering if this walk was going to be worth the effort of navigation, not that it wasn’t lovely, but it was all known roads. We crossed back over Ringinglow road, over a style, and then after a bit started a descent. This was unknown territory, and you know what dear reader, it quite rapidly took us to completely new and unexpected areas. I had no idea there was a sort of ‘hidden’ tree rich valley down there. By which I mean, admittedly not that hidden if you bother to explore, but previously unknown to me which amounts to the same thing. We ventured down towards a ruined and collapsing building – wondering what its history might be..
Then, we took a clear path towards a hidden dwelling.
I didn’t take any photos of the residence because I thought it might be a bit stalkery and inappropriate – not that that always stops me, but on this occasion it did. It was absolutely extraordinary. Huge and beautifully maintained but the real appeal was the breathtaking views back across to Higger Tor and in fact in all directions really. I don’t know what the reality of living there would be like, I would have thought you’d get cut off pretty regularly in the snow, but if you like a view, hard to beat surely.
You skirt round the side of this amazing converted farmhouse presumably, I think Mitchell Field Farm and through what feels like their back garden, over a wall, and head off through fields and up hill again. Can’t really remember the details, but it was all pretty darned nice.
We got great views of various rock formations as we walked along. My companion was not only tour guide and navigator, but had also done some sort of archaeology course that included a visit to a bronze age site we could see from the path. If you go explore, you can see evidence of entrance ways apparently. I’ve only ever gone underneath this, so not explored, and I’ve not even really explored Carl Wark either which is more obviously an old fort with clear man-made additions to the natural rock structures. Whatever the outcrop may be called, it was in fine silhouette today.
As we walked and talked, we suddenly came upon another incredibly impressive stone house. As we approached, a guy there called us over saying we could come on to the property to avoid a really wet and boggy patch where the path was temporarily diverted. That was quite something, even just walking down the driveway as we exited, marvelling at the views the occupiers would have from the huge front windows that looked out across the moor. Excitingly, as we approached the gate to exit the land, they opened as if by magic, our saviour having operated the electric gizmo automatically to ease our path. Wow. I’m hoping this photo is taken from sufficiently far away not to be categorised as creepy behaviour.
Actually, it’s fine. I’ve just googled it, loads of far more searching pictures there. It’s apparently a listed building, and Scraperlow Farmhouse and attached outbuildings, so now we know.
We walked on, heading towards Hathersage now.
I was really excited, because we came out onto the main Hathersage Road (from Sheffield) down a little path that I’ve often noticed and idly wondered where it led to. It’s grand to join up places in this way. That’s why I need to get off my backside and start going off-piste a bit more. Especially in these last precious days of Autumn, before winter sets in and no-one with their wits about them ventures out again until Spring. Obviously people training for spring marathons or similar are included in the witless category for this purpose, they will be out however inclement the weather. And Dark Peak Runners, clearly. Nothing stops them.
You go almost into Hathersage, except that you don’t. The guide-book thoughtfully suggests you can if you wish, and so avail yourself of coffee shops or whatever, but we took the right hand road, past the little school and the Scotsman Pub and then up a little path that leads to the church. We took a detour here, to go and look at the Church, and more specifically, the grave of Little John. I was surprised on two counts, firstly, because I had no idea that there was a connection between him and Hathersage, and secondly, because I’d always thought/ presumed him to be a fictitious character. As I said earlier, this walk was most educational. To be fair, I’m still not completely sold on the idea that he did really exist, but an interesting bit of local history all the same.
A pretty church, that rewarded the detour and extra hoik up the hill, also roasty toasty warm and with nice stained glass windows.
We walked on. Exiting the village and coming across… hang on, what is this place? It looked for all the world like a vineyard! The most immaculately maintained lines of plants each lovingly trained along wires. There was a flourishing rose in bloom at the end of each line and a poppy too. It’s hard to imagine this would be a financially viable proposition given it’s location, but a vineyard it most definitely was.
According to Derbyshire Life, this is Carr Head Farm Vineyard and wine isn’t really commercially sold as yet, though it does exist for those in the know who pre-order. It doesn’t seem the most promising of locations in which to grow wine, but I’d be up for trying it. There are occasional tours too, but not sure how you get to go on one of those.
The Derbyshire Life article also puzzlingly (to me) refers to the Vineyard Challenge running race, which sounds suspiciously like the Fat Boys Stanage Struggle to me, but then again, maybe they organise another run. Hang on, let me google that for you…
Nope, can’t find another race, must be the same one.
They had a nice line in sheep sculpting too, a sort of steam punk one graced their gardens, made of possibly bicycle parts, I wonder if they made it themselves. Very fine though, however created or sourced.
Emerging from the farm was the only place we got a bit discombobulated by the instructions. Not sure which farm we were supposed to keep behind us, but we worked it out in the end having espied an old footpath sign and triangulating with my actual map, which showed the farm and the car park we’d started from just over the hill. Hookcar Sitch for future reference.
All too soon, we ended back on the road just down from where we started.
It had indeed been a brill walk! I was a bit puffier going up the hills than I’d have liked, but I felt like we’d been beneficiaries of a gift of a day, and plenty of unexpected sights and sounds along the way. The excessively interactive Red Grouse was for me a particular highlight and hilarious – but then again I’m easily entertained, and I can’t guarantee to those of you that come after us that it will still be there. However, I really think it might be, it was us who were required to shift from its territory not vice versa after all! Add in historic sites and links to myth and legend AND a vineyard, I’d say this walk was a win. Speaking of which, the views even stretched to Win Hill at times too, that’s how good the visibility was.
It was less than six miles, but we sauntered round, putting the world to rights. We didn’t do that all that effectively to be fair, as it was all still bad news as far as I could tell when I got home. Apart from this story. This is good news. Brill news in fact, which is appropriate, given it was a Brill walk which we embarked on from the outset. Not that our walk was silly at all, au contraire, it was brill.
So all done. We concluded our adventure by heading to The Scotsman pub for a late lunch. Apart from the rather eccentric layout of parking spaces this was a most excellent hostelry and we had grand lunches. I had the cheese and potato pie as they’d run out of veggie sausages for the yorkshire pud and sausage option, but it all looked pretty good, very friendly.
So all in all, today was a bit like being on holiday. Hurrah.
Reyt nice out. Go find out for yourself!
One day I’ll get back out running again, but in the interim, let’s just think of these walks as in fact recces for future runs – which to be fair they may well be. And all is fine and dandy in the running world. I thank you.