Taking advantage of the long daylight hours, I had a nice lie in on Saturday and a good cooked breakfast before setting off late morning for the Peak district. One of the few good things about living in Nottingham is that it is easy to escape into some great countryside, so within an hour I was shouldering my rucksack in the Hulme End car park.
These days I find it difficult when looking at a map of the Peaks to get the stirrings of excitement that I used to, as the whole area is now over familiar to me. I had pretty much run out of new areas to explore until the shaded open access areas appeared on a new OS map I purchased. Most of the Dark peak was already covered by open access which I have over the years walked to death. However there are loads of small parcels of land in the White Peak that have yet to see my boots. Many of these are within the limestone dales for which the Peaks are famous, extending right to the field boundary walls. You can do great walks along the boundary walls with very steep, sometimes vertical drops into the dales to your side. Maps don’t really do justice to how dramatic the landscape can be when peering down. There are also a few isolated peaks rising above the plateau, although figuring out how to reach them without trespassing can be a bit of a challenge! A big positive is that most visitors to the Peak District all seem to be following the same routes in the same guide books. This means that you can often have these parcels of open access land to yourself. The downside is that there can sometimes be a few obstacles such as cliffs, barbed wire fences or bulls to find your way around. It can be frustrating to find yourself so near to a right of way or country lane and not figure out how to reach it, but I like a challenge when out in the countryside!
10.8 miles with 790 metres of ascent
We left the car park and shortly joined the Manifold way before crossing the river and heading across the meadows. It had been raining when we arrived so the mixture of thigh deep grass and flowers soon had our legs soaking wet. I could feel trickles of water running down my legs into my boots whilst picturing my gaiters laying on the spare room floor. A mixture of paths and lanes led to the picturesque Beresford Dale with its gentle curves.
As Beresford dale becomes Wolfscote Dale a track leads steeply to the left and joins a minor road to Wolfscote Grange where I played ‘I want to live there’ in my head. Shortly afterwards my map indicates open access and the barbed wire ends so it was over the fence and very steeply up to the top of Wolfscote Hill. The summit reminded me of the Yorkshire Dales with its rocky limesone outcrops, which provided shelter from the wind and rain whilst we had lunch. Great views but alas no photos due to the rain. Steeply back down to the lane and then a dilema, we could see that open access land for Wolfscote Dale was only two fields away. It was this or descend back to the valley floor and climb up to the rim. Well what would you do? One quick trespass later and we were treated to a stunning view into the depths of the dale and the procession of people along the bottom. Without even the hint of a path we walked along the grassy rim and followed an ever narrowing ridge to where Wolfscote meets Biggin Dale.
Unfortunately there was a bit of a cliff in the way of the valley floor, which meant some clambering around and using bottoms as well as boots to get down. A rocky tower provided a superb birds eye view point of the dale. Our bottoms also brushed a lovely smelling flowering herb, smelt like sage – anyone know what it is?
Safely at the bottom we joined the crowds and headed a short distance down the dale before crossing the river and heading up the other side on the Gypsy bank path. I grumbled something about wishing I was fitter as I tried to get more air in my lungs. Another great view of where Wolfcote become Dove Dale.
The plan had been to climb Gratton hill but from the field path it did not look too impressive and to be honest we could not really be bothered. We pressed on and passed a YHA camping barn on the way up to Narrowdale hill. Some more beautiful meadows soaked our legs again and the cows posed for some photos.
Descending from the summit the access land ran out and we were faced by a high drystone wall. A bit of backtracking and a steep descent took us down to a narrow unfenced road. We were faced by the short but very steep slope of Wetton hill, the hills here are not very high but they make you work your muscles. From the top we watched two DofE groups converge on the path below, as usual with absolutely massive packs. Two of them had bright orange pack covers and from up here it looked like they were carrying canoes on their backs.
The climb to Ecton hill passed though a small hidden valley nestling Broad Ecton farm, I played fantasy house buying again in my head.
On the way down from the trig I did not pay full attention to the map and ended up on a path descending in the wrong direction. Glad that I did as woodland gave way to a meadow carpeted in Orchids, one of which I have never seen before. Anyone know what it is?
The sun finally came out as we got back to the van…………………………………..