Sunday, August 26, 2007

Burton Marathon

  • Walked: 26th August 07
  • Distance: 26m
  • Terrain: fairly flat
  • Summary: starting from Shobnall, follow Millennium Way along the Trent and Mersey canal and through to Yoxall. Leave the MW and take footpaths to Braken Hurst Woods, pass the airfield and head north, skirt south of Tutbury and back to start point via Anslow.
  • Time: 11.5 hours start to finish
  • Notable views: View over Burton from SK229244; the view all the way across to Ratcliffe power station from Hanbury and Tutbury; Anslow is a really pretty village

This is the same walk that I wrote about on the very first entry on this blog (Nature's Bounty). I'm not sure whether it was a good idea to walk the same route a year later. Maybe it was because memories get 'rose tinted' and so today's walk couldn't match the expectation. Maybe it was because the sun didn't really get shining until this afternoon, but I was a bit underwhelmed for the first half of today's walk.

It's still true that treading 26 miles of Staffordshire is a great way to spend a Bank Holiday Monday. The best views are certainly on the second half of this route, when the long views over Staffordshire and South Derbyshire really open up.

The most important lesson learned today was that although this time of the year is the best weather for wearing shorts, it's also the time of year when the overgrown undergrowth is at its most lethal (and there were a few areas which were a bit overgrown, Staffs CC). It may be because of the very wet year we've had, or simply the time of the year, but the stinging-nettles, brambles, thistles etc are all at their most vigorous. The lower half of my legs are just throbbing now. The worst injury happened when I picked up a bramble with one foot, which then whipped the back of the opposite leg when I brought the foot forward. Somehow I didn't manage to free it and so it whipped back across the leg for a second time. Ow.

The first few miles of the walk are along canal towpath. This is easy walking - the towpaths have a good surface and are by their nature as flat as can be.

This first part of the walk follows Staffordshire's Way for the Millennium so is clearly marked and passable. We leave the MW just through Yoxall. The hedges and trees are now loaded with fruit. Blackberries were close to hand all day, damson plums were ripe, and there were so many elderberries looking ripe and ready for making home-brew.

This is the first decent long view over Staffordshire. The sun was out for most of the time, but the distance was still hazy. None of these long views looked anything like as beautiful through the viewfinder as they did in real life!

Braken Hurst wood is well-established. It'll be a few more years before the National Forest is as tall as this.

The walk passes an airfield. For part of this, signs warn that the track isn't a public right of way, but the track and the right of way it joins are very pretty.

This is my favourite view of the whole day, I think. Click to enlarge and see Willington power station (horizon, left) and Ratcliffe power station (horizon, centre) which show just how long the view is. We're zoomed in a bit here, but Ratcliffe is about 15m away from here. Again, the picture is nothing like as beautiful as the view was at the time.

This made me laugh - what's wrong with "Please walk around the cows"?

There's not much wheat left standing now. This combine was busy harvesting some of the last.

I'm a country mouse rather than a town mouse, but this view over Burton-on-Trent is quite breathtaking. We're quite high up (about 50 metres above the Trent valley) and so Burton spreads out below.

The route above was generated using Meander and scanned OS map.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Froggat Edge

  • Walked: 11th August 2007
  • Distance: 20m
  • Terrain: various, with ascents to 417m
  • Summary: Baslow, Curbadge and Froggat Edges, Derwent Valley, Eyam Moor.
  • Time: 10.5 hrs start to finish

As soon as you set off from Baslow towards Froggatt Edge, you start a climb which seems to go on and on. The reward is the beautiful view which opens up around you:

As the route levels out, the land is covered with a blanket of heather, which was an intense pink today.

I think that this stone is called Eagle Stone. Close by is a monument to Wellington.

In front of us is Curbar Edge, which leads to Froggatt Edge. Once on top of the edge, it seems like a great moment to stop for refreshment and some spectacular photos.

After Froggat Edge, there's a lovely walk through some woods, before joining the River Derwent to follow the well-marked Derwent Valley Heritage Trail. The sharp reflections on the water show just how still the air was today. There are some stepping stones marked on the map just before we leave the river, possibly prettier than those at Dovedale, and certainly far less busy .

We'd intended to join Shatton Lane via Lees Farm, using the marked footpath from Westfield up to the radio mast. This was a very muddled part of today's walk. The paths between the river and Lees Farm are badly-marked (or not marked at all) and overgrown. The path goes right through the farmhouse garden, which is something I always find awkward. The planned path up to the mast isn't marked, and wasn't passable. After spending too much time trying that route, we gave up and took the road. It's known as Shatton Lane, and yes, unbelievably.... horses had been by and it had been.

A better route may have been to leave the river earlier and use the path which goes via Offerton Hall.

This was the toughest climb, probably due to the mid-afternoon heat, but once again a good climb pays dividends with some wonderful views. In the middle of this picture is Ladybower Reservoir, the starting point for last week's walk. The light green patch just below the water is the landscaped dam, and up above is Win Hill.

After descending and crossing a ford, a busy point where lots of paths meet, there's another climb back up to the 400m level for more views. I notice that the hills here are known as 'Lows', which seems a bit topsy-turvey, especially the one that's called 'High Low'.

It's a very steep descent down to Eyam, famous for isloating itself when the black death struck. This ensured that the surrounding villages were spared the disease. During the plague, provisions were left by neighbouring villagers at the town's boundary stone, thus avoiding personal contact. Payment was made by leaving coins in the holes in the stone.

The next village is Stoney Middleton, again very pretty. The church has this unusual octagonal shape. The church is dedicated to St Martin, the 'patron saint of cripples' (yes, really). Close by are some roman baths. According to the information board, the water was marketed as being cooler than that at Buxton, and could cure such diseases as rheumatism, and 'too great heat' which is something that I suffered from myself at times today.

It's easy to pick up the Derwent again, for a level walk to the finish. Looking back, you can now see the edges (on the horizon) walked at the start.

The route and stats above were generated using Meander. The profile was generated using Tracklogs.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Win Some, Lose Some

  • Walked: 4th August 2007
  • Distance: 16m
  • Terrain: good flagged paths, ascents to 517m
  • Summary: Ladybower Reservoir start / finish. Derwent Valley Heritage Trail, Shatton, Hope, Castleton, the Limestone Way, Mam Tor, Hollins Cross, Lose Hill, Win Hill.
  • Time: 8 hrs start to finish

I learned an important lesson today about perseverance. I happened to speak to a friend by phone when I was almost at the top of Lose Hill, and admitted that I didn't have the legs to make my last planned peak.

At the last minute I changed my mind and went for it. It was hard, but the elation that I'd felt last Saturday had been missing -up until the point where I'd nearly made it to the top of the apropriately-named Win Hill. You value something so much more when you've had to put doubts to one side and work hard for it.

I started the walk at Ladybower Reservoir. Severn Trent Water have put a free car park by the dam, with some of the best public toilets I've seen, which is important when you've just done a 2hr drive to get there and are facing an 8hr walk.

The dam is really quite impressive.

For the first couple of miles I followed the Derwent Valley Heritage Trail, which is fairly level, and reminds me of some of my local cycle routes and canal walks. When I noticed a village on the map called Shatton, I had to include it in the walk. Despite its name, it's a very pretty village. There's an Upper Shatton and Shatton Moor.

After Brough, there's a Roman fort. I love these, you can really feel the history around you and under your feet. I assume that the stony bit is the remains of the Roman wall, and that the rusty barbed wire is much more recent.

Hope has this very interesting church in a beautiful setting. I think Dive might confirm that's a broach spire.

After Castleton, came the quite spectacular Cave Dale. This was the first real cimb of the day, and in fact took me up to 400m which was most of the work done for the later peaks.

I picked up a little bit of the Limestone Way here, which to be honest, wasn't as spectacular as It had sounded, that is until Mam Tor came into view.

It was quite busy - there's a car park close by allowing people to just climb the last 60m up some stone steps. It has an unusual stone trig point:

After Mam Tor, the next couple of peaks come into view, with this anti-erosion flagged path which gives the impression of a giant backbone across the landscape. The pimple on the horizon is Win Hill, my planned final peak. It looked so far away!

I was delighted to spot Castleton down below. If you enlarge this picture, Peveril castle is in the middle, and just below it to the left is Cave Dale, which I'd used earlier.

Lose Hill doesn't have a trig point, but does have this little monument. It has compass points engraved on it, along with the names of all the peaks that you can see in the various directions. In the distance of this picture is Win Hill. I had decided by this point that I couldn't manage it, which was disappointing. From Mam Tor to Lose Hill, the peaks are in a line with not much of a dip and climb between them, but getting from Lose Hill to Win Hill meant descending to 170m before climbing back up to 460. I sat here with my map, fending off the sheep which were trying to eat my cake and my rucksack, and picked out a route which would get me back to my car directly and with no more ascents.

However, once down in the valley, I spotted a fingerpost pointing to Win Hill, and the path looked more gentle than I'd imagined earlier and so I couldn't resist going for it! There were about three hours of daylight left, and I had to take a chance that the car park didn't have a lock-up time. I felt that even if I got to the point where I had to rest every few steps, it would be worthwhile.

These are two of my favourite pictures of the day - this is a view back on Lose Hill after starting the climb to Win Hill. The heavy sky makes it look so dramatic.

And this is a great view of the earlier peaks - Mam Tor over to the left, Hollins Cross in the middle and Lose Hill on the right.

This is the point where I really started to feel good. Winhill Pike is just a few minutes away. Despite being alone, I laughed (possibly more from delirium than elation).

The 360 degree view from up here is spectacular. I could see everything I'd done today, plus lots more unexplored Peak District to the north. This snap of the trig point has my starting point, Ladybower Reservoir, down below.

The route and stats above were generated using Meander.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.