Thursday, 28 July 2011

Ambergate, Cromford, Alderwasley and Shining Cliff

Date: 23 July 2011
Area: Peaks, South of Matlock
Distance: 12.6 Miles 20.3 k
Start Location: Ambergate Railway Station
OS Sheet: Explorer OL24
Grid Ref: SK 3490 5160

These notes are provided to enable the walk to be plotted on a 1:25,000 map.
From the Station car park head down the approach road, left under the bridge to the A6 turn right, North, take the first footpath on the right and up on to the canal towpath all the way to Cromford Wharf.

Turn left up the road to the A6 turn left, South, on right take Intake Lane uphill passing beneath the High Peak Trail to join the Midshires Way heading south through Alderwasley and into Shining Cliff Woods at Typeclose Plantation. Turn left, East, taking the path past the old YH and down to the Wireworks at Hurst Mills. Turn right through the Mills to the lane turn left over the River Derwent, to the A6, turn left back to the Station

I have not walked in this area for quite a few years and had forgotten what a pleasant area it is, not classic white peak, quite wooded in parts, with villages, farms and houses sheltering into the folds of the hills. On a sunny day it appears pretty and tranquil, but it’s not, there is industry here, transport links, history, grit, masked by the trees, hedgerows, meadows, the views and vistas and the gentle roll of the hills.

Canal towpaths are fairly low on my list of places to walk, just above busy roads and shingle beaches. This is mainly because they are flat and boring. However, today I found the Cromford Canal to be flat and fairly interesting with plenty to see, birds and butterflies, reeds, flowers, ducks, moorhens, water and sunshine and houses with manicured gardens. From Ambergate until we were diverted off the towpath, due to works being carried out to the canal, and sent around by Holloway, we saw very few people.

Now, this diversion has caused some acrimony between me and Mrs G because before the walk I told her it was a10.5 mile walk but when at the end, the GPS said it was 12.6 miles she said thought I lied. Something I done before on longer walks, she also felt it that it was a lot more uphill than I had implied as I’d told her the canal walk was flat. Unfortunately the diversion by Holloway added to the overall climb. The other bit of the acrimony comes later.
Just before the diversion we spotted a small creature on the path in the edge of the reeds and grasses, a water vole, and I actually managed to get a couple of passible photos of it. As we walked along, it ran a few yards in front of us diving into the grass, popping out again and nipping along, as it did this for the fourth or fifth time a duck which had been standing in the long grass whipped down and grabbed it in his beak, the little scream from the vole was heart wrenching and the duck flopped into the water and paddled away as Mrs G shouted to me save it save it. Too late.

The walk from the canal across the park land, no deer in sight, towards Holloway was a steep pull, less so around the very attractive Manor House and gardens of Lea Hurst, (wasn’t he a footballer). Lea Hurst was once the home of Florence Nightingale, both before her work in the Crimean War and afterwards. The diversion route continued down to the village of Lea Bridge where there is another Nightingale connection, her Grandfather Peter Nightingale who with John Smedley built Lea Mills in the late eighteenth century.

Back on the Canal, Highpeak Junction was a frenzy of slightly elderly men muttering and pointing, taking photos and positively drooling over the few bits and pieces of old railway memorabilia that is dotted about. As Highpeak Junction is the starting point of one of the earliest railways in the world, the Cromford and High Peak Railway, opened in 1830 only 7 years after George Stephenson’s Stockton and Darlington Railway, I cannot fault them for their avid interest.

The Cromford Canal stops just across the road from another historic location Arkwright Mills, just before you reach the end there is a lovely seating area, toilets, car park, not so lovely, playing fields and cricket pitch the perfect place for lunch, there is also a café and an art gallery.

Arkwright’s Mill was built in the 1770’s to manufacture cotton using machinery driven by water power. The Cromford Canal was opened in 1793 providing a quick and cheap way of getting raw materials to the mill and cloth out to the markets.

The mill is currently being restored and is part of the Derwent Valley World Heritage site.

Our walk took us away from the mill and heading for the hills, crossing the A6, another important transport link we headed up Intake Lane. I believe the term intake here refers to the drains that collected water off the hills to feed the mill ponds at the mills.

As we trudged up Intake Lane we had brief views across the valley to Holloway, Crich and the Sherwood Foresters Monument prominent above the quarry face. The climb eventually levelled out as we passed through the bridge beneath the railway incline from Highpeak Junction. The area between here, west to Black Rock is a super place to explore on foot or bike, just amble around, let the kids run wild in.

As Intake Lane carries on south we pass one of the camp sites we first stayed at on our first visit to the Derbyshire Dales in about 1963. The site is now many times bigger than we remembered it and it seemed to be fairly full.

Crossing over Wirksworth Road the path wiggles up and down the hills through a succession of woods and fields eventually tipping out on the road just outside Alderwasley Hall The hall is an independent residential special school for children and young people aged 5 to 19 with Aspergers, speech and language difficulties and Acquired Brain Injuries.

As we passed the Hall and entered the park land I managed to miss the path heading south west towards Shining Cliff Wood. The second point of acrimony, as we stayed on the Midshires Way only realising my error on reaching Typeclose plantation following another diversion, this time to avoid a bull near the path which caused us to climb a gate into a sheep field and climb over a wall to get out.

A quick re-jig, a bit like a faff only less puffing, and we sorted out the path passing the old Youth Hostel and down to the dilapidated buildings that form Oak Hurst Mills, commonly known as the Wireworks. The works and buildings extends over some 700m. They were opened in 1867 as wireworks, and continued in the production of wire including telegraph wire and suspension cables until 1996. Now it is being vandalised, and is becoming overgrown, a very sad eyesore, walking through the place was a bit eerie. It is a shame. And I forgot to take a single photo, stupid or what.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Wayfarers Way, Hambledon to Portsdown Hill

Date: 16 July 2011
Area: North of Portsmouth
Distance: 8.5 miles, 13.5km
Start: Hambledon

OS Sheet: Explorer 119
Grid: SU 6465 1504

These notes are provided to enable the walk to be plotted on a 1:25,000 map.
The Wayfarers Walk is clearly marked on the 1:25,000 Map

Once again I’ve been down to Portsmouth to visit my mother in law and family, which also gives me an opportunity to go for a walk. While peering over the maps trying to work out a walk around the Hambledon area where I had done a couple of walks before I started this blog, I noticed the Wayfarers Walk. This starts way up in North Hampshire at Inkpen Beacon, the highest point in Hampshire and works its way down through New Alresford to Hambledon and on to Farlington / Bedhampton near where my mother in law lives, before going on to finish along the coast in Emsworth. I covered most of the Farlington Emsworth part of the walk in a blog October 2010 see HERE.
So on Saturday morning I caught a couple of buses to Hambledon and started walking south back to Farlington. Once I got myself orientated it was a short walk to the Wayfarers Walk, down a lane and up a short but steep climb through a flower meadow over Speltham Down.

It was pretty, but the flowers were just past their best, I wish I had seen them a few weeks earlier. Just over the top of the slope into the first of many fields the rain turned heavy and for twenty minutes the whole landscape became a watery, wind swept blur. After that it just rained without really stopping until I reached Portsdown Hill some 7 miles later.

Most of the walk was through or along fields, with, because of the rain, not much in the way of views and no photographs. For the most part the going was fairly flat. Between Hambledon and Denmead I actually met a runner and two couples walking dogs. Somewhere in this section I hit a field growing one of the two crops I most hate to walk through, Maize (corn on the cob). “As high as an elephants eye” is one thing but this was WET, dripping, drooping, slap, slop in the face in a malevolent green way sort of way. But least it doesn’t try to grab you like the other horror, oil seed rape, does.

Denmead is an old village that has expanded into a small dormitory town. It seems to be keeping its shops and pubs and looks a comfortable place. After a trudge through its northern parts I reached the village centre and found a nice coffee cum cake shop where I bought a big date flapjack. Passing through the southern bits of Denmead and across the golf course the rain persisted.

South of Denmead the going stayed pretty flat although the bulk of Portsdown Hill was evident in the distance. All the streams and ditches were swollen and the lanes I walked along or crossed were covered in puddles, thankfully there was little traffic. I kept hoping to find somewhere to stop for a brew, but there was no shelter anywhere. Passing through a stretch of woodland before turning east towards Purbrook Heath I listen with some trepidation to peels of thunder away to the west.

From Purbook Heath the path started to climb, finally getting steep as the path tracked straight up the hill along the back of a long row of houses. While this walk so far had been uninspiring this stretch was crap, literally, it was narrow with garden fences and walls to the left and a hedge, nettles and brambles to the right and all the way up there were piles of dumped grass, hedge cuttings, other garden detritus wood, brick, slabs, rubble and other rubbish. Going downhill there may have been a view but going up there was nothing. It was a relief to get out on to the road at the top of the hill.

From here I followed the Wayfarers Walk for about half a mile before reaching a viewpoint looking out over Portsmouth but even though the rain had stopped some thirty minutes earlier the views were poor. At this point I headed down the south face of Portsdown Hill and back to the mother in laws and a hot shower. The Wayfarers way continues along the top of the hill towards Bedhamton and on to Langstone Harbour.

This was not the best of walks due mainly to the weather, on a sunny day most of it would have been a bit more pleasant. From experience most long distance walks have less attractive bits, one has to expect that and I suspect (hope) for the Wayfarers Walk part of this walk was it, although I suspect it may include the section from where I stopped down to Langstone Harbour.

I’m already planning the next stage, New Alresford to Hambledon 16m, possibly in early September. I’ve sorted out the bus from Farlington to New Alresford, I now need to work out how I get back to the mother in laws when I finish.

Monday, 11 July 2011

RAB Aeon Tee

In this month’s TGO magazine there is a review on Baselayers.

All the usual suspects are there Smartwool, Sprayway, Trekmates, Paramo, Berghaus, Craghoppers, Montane,  Ice Breaker, Marmmut, Marmot, Reggatta, Snugpak, Vaude, Outdoor Research and Odlo a very wide section of the outdoors clothing market, most price ranges and materials. I read with interest only to find my personal favourite was not there, I know TGO can only review those garments that the supplier/manufactures supply and 16 different baselayers must take a lot of time to test. But there was no RAB Aeon tee shirt, to use a phrase “I could not believe it”

So the RAB Aeon Tee is light, the men’s large weighs in at 89 grams (matching the lightest in test) it has flatlock seams and the polyester material has a UPF rating of 30+. The material is the closest thing to silk I have ever worn; it is smooth, comfortable and hard wearing. The fit on me is just loose enough and the raglan sleeves come down to just above the elbow.

I bought my first one last summer and I have worn it or my Aeon long sleeved tee on nearly every walk since and to work during the last winter’s cold weather under a shirt and tie . When working hard walking the Aeon  wicks sweat away from the skin extremely well so that I rarely feel damp. In the cold conditions it creates a warm layer next to the skin and eliminates cold spots. Most importantly it dries very quickly.

On last year’s multi day walk around the lakes I wore mine every day in mixed weather conditions, never washing it and after six days of walking and travel I had no qualms about wearing it to the pub or on the train. I carried a Aeon Long Sleeve Tee in my rucksack in my dry clothes bag.

As well as mens short and long sleeve versions of the RAB Aeon there is a women’s version, the Aeon Tech Tee in the same material but a slimmer cut. The size 14 weighs 64 grams. Mrs G wore hers on our Cumbria Way in June.

I rate these tees way above any of my other baselayer’s and have had a similar response from other walkers and a couple of mountain marathon guys I have spoken to.

The Tees are for sale at a number of outlets at £20-22 while the Longs are about £27 which makes them among the cheapest in TGO’s bunch and a good bit less than the recommended.

Good. Weight, wicking, feel, price.

Bad. Nothing

Final word, I’m off to Go Outdoors to buy some more in case RAB discontinue them, heaven forbid.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Roaches

Date: 2 July 2011
Area: Staffordshire Moorlands North of Leek
Distance: 10.8 miles 17.4k
Start Location: Tittesworth Resevoir
OS Sheet: Explorer OL24
Grid Ref: SJ 9937 6032

These notes are provided to enable the walk to be plotted on a 1:25,000 map.
Turn right out the car park, along the road to a track on the left, Whitty Lane which leads to Upper Hulme , turn right downhill to the hair pin bend, take track in front to Dains Mill follow around the east and north side of Hen Cloud to Well Farm. Cross the fields to climb up and into the wood land on the south side of the Roaches ridge. Proceed along the ridge to cross the road and through the wall taking the track on the right downhill into the woodland. Keep to the higher track & watch for signs to Luds Church. Walk through the chasm and pick up path westwards, then south, and east to Clough Head, along the road to Buxton Brow, south on track and turn east on path heading south of Roche Grange until reaching the road to Green Lane and Rose Cottage then across the fields to Meerbrook, turn left along the road to the car park.

This is one of Andys walks as it’s an area he knows quite well. It’s only my second time here since 1968 or 9 when a springtime, Army sailing trip to the area was changed, due to heavy snow, into a skiing trip. We spent 4 nights in a freezing Anzio Camp and the days out on the roads and fields to the east of the A53. I well remember après ski in the Mermaid Inn. Another place I must revisit.

The Roaches sits just north of Leek in Staffordshire, to the west is Congleton in Cheshire, while to the north is Buxton in Derbyshire. These diverse counties all meet together just north of the Roaches on the River Dane at Three Shires Head, but that’s another walk. The Roaches are within the Peak Park, just.

We parked at the Severn Trent visitors centre and car park at Tittesworth Reservoir and paid £4.70 for the privilege, their toilets are quite posh though. Unfortunately water levels are very low so that from where we were, we could only see mud.

This area is hilly with high moorland, long ridge and valleys and plenty of rivers. At the start of the walk the Roaches and its partner, to the east, Hen Cloud have the look of a massive wall with great rocky outcrops and butterisses blocking the way north. As you get closer it softens a bit until walking around the east and north side of Hen Cloud you get to see its gentler side.

Dains Mill a short way along from Upper Hulme is an old water mill that looks as if it is being restored, the photo below shows its overshot water wheel. As you walk up the to the mill and beyond you can see hidden in the undergrowth the remains of the mill ponds and leets that fed and drained it.

From the steepish slope at to the east end of the Roaches I stopped to look back at Hen Cloud and I reckon it looks a bit like Gibraltar. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take photo duh.

The first half mile or so along the side of the ridge in the woodland below the Staffordshire Gritstone is a climber’s mecca. We stopped in the shade to have lunch and watch numerous young men and women swarming up the rock faces.

Moving along the ridge you will eventually come to a small picturesque pool of water known as Doxey Pool. It has a reputation that belies its beauty. Legend has it that a resident mermaid by the name of Jenny Greenteeth entices walkers into the blue waters of Doxey Pool and into a watery grave from which they do not return. (Borrowed from

Certainly as we admired it and the views, several DOE groups plodding by looking as if they would like to stop and have a paddle.

Beyond the Trig Pillar at 505m above sea level the ridge drops to a pass before climbing again. In the pass lurks a lonely Ice Cream man who lures passing travellers to his van where he takes shed loads off money off them. We did enjoy the 99’s though.

Crossing the road and through the wall we dropped down and along the north side of the ridge into another stretch of lovely woodland perched high above Black Brook. Here deep in Back Forest lies another Roaches wonder Luds Church. It is a chasm which twists and turns over some 100m ranging between about 10 and 18m deep, hung with mosses and ferns. It was lovely and cool after the heat on the ridge. Outside we picked and eat some wild Bilberries. For a bit more info on Luds Church see Wikipedia.

Rounding the west end of the ridge we could see the ridge stretched out in front of us and below the farmland we had to cross to get back to the car and more importantly the pub at the Trout Inn in the village of Meerbrook.

Mrs G, Andy and I all felt this had been a first class walk, very hot and tiring, with temperatures some 26 deg C in the sun, but the countryside and the all-round views particularly with the clear blue sky were outstanding. This walk had it all high ridges, woodland walks, barren hill tops, beautiful farm land and everlasting views and a pub at the end.