A developing cold and general lassitude meant that I did not get my act together to pack for my planned backpack. Throughout September I have been working five day weeks, a total shock to the system after a couple of years as a part timer. A quick text to Chrissie and it turned out that her planned backpack had also failed to materialise. I hastily planned a day walk and we agreed to meet at the church in Grindon the following morning.
I think that Reuben can sense when the drive is coming to an end, his walk in the hills being imminent. As soon as I turned off the main road he woke up and got excited, nose smearing muck across the back window.
7.6 miles with 540 metres ascent
The car park next to the church in Grindon is free, a huge thumbs up in my eyes. I pulled into the last space, Chrissie already waiting with Dixie.
I had planned the walk to give an easy start to the day, the Staffordshire village of Grindon being situated high on the limestone plateau. This meant that we initially walked downhill into the picturesque Manifold Valley.
This part of the Manifold is dominated by Thors cave, from this angle looking inaccessible in the limestone high above the valley. I could make out a couple of figures standing on a small grassy knoll high above the vertical cliff. I climbed up there from Wetton village many years ago. The views are impressive and vertigo inducing, the Manifold valley curving below your feet.
From the bridge above the bone dry River Manifold, Thors cave reminded me of the Karst hills of South East Asia. The wooded slopes below were luxurious in their growth, one large specimen feeling the full force of gravity. I bet that made a big noise when it came crashing down. Or did it? Was there anyone around to hear it?
Our next destination was the village of Wetton, high above the other side of the valley. It was a steep climb through the woods until we reached open pastures, the spire of Grindon church visible on the horizon.
Although mid September it had turned out to be a hot day and we were already getting low on water for ourselves and the dogs. The sensible thing to do was head for the pub for a nice sit down and a cold drink! Wetton is another picture postcard White Peak village, full on this sunny day with DofE teenagers. Once again this award scheme was doing its best to put them off backpacking for life by making them carry inappropriately huge rucksacks.
A path led out of the village, passing though a network of narrow fields under the bluest of skies.
The path led us to the edge of access land, steep grassy slopes rising to our left. We headed straight up through the thistles, false summit coming after false summit until we got to the 371 metre east top of Wetton hill. For such a low hill it really punches above its weight in terms of views. An isolated grassy dome amongst the limestone plateau, the views in all directions were outstanding. A perfect spot to sit for a while in the warm sun and eat lunch.
Bellies satisfied we walked down the wide north west ridge, Reuben looking pretty unhappy with the amount of thistles hidden in the grass. Our destination was the trig point on Ecton hill.
We were soon climbing again, first along a steep lane, then across open pastures on a network of concessionary paths. I like the open aspect of this part of the landscape, a good breeze managed to air the sweaty bits that had developed on the climb.
The trig point gave us another outstanding view. We did not need to persuade each other to have another sit down to take it all in. Prominent was the moorland hill of Revidge, a spot I have not yet visited. On the horizon were the bleak moors above Buxton.
We headed south along the escarpment that plunges steeply into the Manifold. For me the best walking in the White Peak is along the edge of the access land, high above the dales. You get to see a different perspective to these well know and popular valleys. A combination of chatting, looking at the views but not looking at the map meant that I missed the right of way. Not by a bit but by several fields! We had strayed outside of the access land so continued down the ridge hoping that gates would allow easy access. Thankfully they did and we were soon back on the yellow shaded area of the map. Thors cave once again came into view above the thickly wooded valley.
A track switchbacked into an un-named dry valley which has some form of limestone knoll in the middle of it. On the other side rose the sugarloaf, unfortunately only half of it being within open access land. From some angles it looks like a mini version of Cat Bells in the Lake District.
We just happened to pass the cafe at Wetton mill, hopefully I did not give Chrissie the impression that it was planned. Whilst there it was felt that it would be rude not to use the facilities, so we had mugs of coffee and an ice cream each. The dogs had meaty sticks.
Dixie put on one of her award winning smiles.
Once again we were at the bottom of the dale and needed to get to the plateau above. We located the footpath and followed it as it contoured steep slopes. This gave great views back, especially in the late afternoon light.
Walking in the White Peak usually means a greater amount of ascent compared to walking the higher hills in the Dark Peak. It feels that you are constantly climbing up and down, short sharp shocks to the system.
Our cars were the only ones left at the car park. A sign placed on a verge nearby made me smile and put visions in my mind of an angry and clumsy farmer.
I find it hard to plan walks in the White Peak. The map appears too busy and you are never far away from a road or building. However what always surprises me when I am there is just how unspoilt it actually is. I must make more effort to return sooner rather than later, especially considering they are my nearest hills.