Sunday, 15 May 2011

Hathersage Walk

Jean, the mother of a friend from Kent, has just spent the weekend with me. She wanted to see a bit of Manchester, but most of all she wanted to do a walk from Hathersage as she missed out on a trip there with her walking group earlier in the year. We planned to do the walk on Saturday, but changed it to Sunday when we saw the weather report. This turned out to be the right decision as we got a wonderful day, whereas on Saturday it had rained heavily for most of the day.

One of the tasks on my list is to get my walking group leader's qualification. I would like to start on this fairly soon and to do it I need to log walks I have done in 3 different areas of the country. The Peak District will definitely be my main area as this is my regular stomping ground. I haven't walked for months though. Firstly because I've been incredibly busy and secondly because I had an accident involving a car and a house that put me out of action for a while. So as it was my first time walking seriously in a few months we didn't choose a particularly strenuous walk.

We started off parking in Hathersage and buying sandwiches (oven bottom muffins) and eccles cakes in the local bakery to have for our lunch. Jean was surprised to see signs on the local pubs and cafes saying 'muddy boots and dogs welcome'. Muddy boots and dogs are usually not at all welcome in Kent!

Our walk took us across fields to join up with the River Derwent, which we then followed for a while. Our walk book did a slightly bigger loop, but this would have taken us away from the river and it was so nice walking along the bank it would have been a shame not to. We walked through a wood alongside the river with bluebells to one side of the path and wild garlic to the other. This meant lots of stops for photos and to munch on the wild garlic flowers. We crossed at the stepping stones and had fun taking more photos as we jumped across them.

We then headed up away from the river. When we came across a field of cows with a sign telling us we could buy ice cream from these very cows we felt obliged to take the slight detour involved to get to Thorpe Farm, home of Hope Valley ice cream. Well, it would be rude not to wouldn't it? Especially when they'd gone to all the trouble of putting signs up. So after choosing our cow we strolled down to the farm. The ice cream (or hot chocolate if it's a cold day) is made on the farm with milk from the cows. What a great example of diversification! After enjoying a very large cone of panacotta, chocolate and coffee ice cream it was with heavy legs we set off again. Really, it seemed to have gone straight to my legs. 

We continued walking to get to the northern most point of our walk which was near Green's House. A local artist called Lyn Littlewood has a studio here and she had signs up saying she was open. I last did this particular walk 7 years ago with Louise, Jean's daughter. We called in the gallery then and Lou bought a painting for which we later had to call back to collect with the car. It was only when I went in the gallery this time that I realised she only actually opens her studio one weekend a year. What a coincidence that both times I've done the walk it's been when she's been open! The garden was also open so after a look around the studio we walked round the garden so I could pinch ideas for my own tiny yard and garden.

When we left Green's House the walk headed south more or less in a straight line all the way back to Hathersage. When we stopped to look behind us we could see the magnificent Stanage Edge outlined against the horizon. We dropped into a wood and found a well-placed bench by a foot bridge where two small, but speedy streams joined. The whole area was full of bluebells and dappled by the sun. And we had it all to ourselves. We knew we wouldn't find a better place to have lunch so stopped to eat our oven bottoms.

As we continued our walk we passed more of the halls thought to have belonged to the Eyre family. We'd seen some earlier on in the walk too. This was the family from whom Charlotte Bronte borrowed the name for her most famous character and novel. They owned seven halls - they'd had to buy them for their children. No-one's exactly sure which seven they are now, but they have a pretty good idea. Although these halls are nice and fit in with the area we did pass one on our right that can only be described as a monstrosity. It was a collection of over manicured gardens, precisely placed over-large Italian style vases, a long (very long) drive with horse head sculptures on the over-large gates ... everything stood out like a sore thumb and was a total blot on the landscape. The only thing that could be said to be good about it, is that it is a good example of how money can't buy taste! 

Rant over ...

Towards the end of our walk we called in at Hathersage Church to have a look at Little John's grave and to have a cup of tea and a slice (ok, a wedge) of victoria sponge. There are quite a few Robin Hood connections in the area, the Little John grave being just one of them. It's thought feasible (if he existed at all) as in 1784 when the grave was opened a thigh bone that could only have belonged to a man over 7 feet tall was found. 

This was our final stop and after our cake we walked back into Hathersage and to the car. We'd walked just under 7 miles and it had taken us 6.5 hours! This was because of all our stops. We'd had a great day though and felt like we'd done much more than just a walk.

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