Walking to the Peak of Lockdown?

12/09/20 After testing positive for corona-virus 8 people have died in the UK . There are 67 active cases in the Harborough area.

13/09/20 After testing positive for corona-virus 5 people have died in the UK. There are 78 active cases in the Harborough area.

Today, the Rothwells invited the rest of the family over for Sunday lunch. Charlotte prepared the main course, the Newbold Verdons provided the dessert and the Desboroughs provided the refreshments. Being cautious, Sue and I didn’t attend such a large gathering of family members. However, Sarah, Lee and Alice did call in to see us on the way home to let us have some of the lovely cake that they had specially made.

14/09/20 After testing positive for corona-virus 9 people have died in the UK . There are 89 active cases in the Harborough area. Social gatherings of more than six people are now banned in England under the “rule of six”. 

In the Midlands we woke to a very chilly morning, enticing Charlotte to take a lovely photo of the early morning mist from her bedroom window. She later drove up to Newbold Verdon to see her sister Sarah and niece Alice.

The day turned out to be a hot one and foolishly I continued my painting duties by tackling the balcony in full sun. Annoyingly, I discovered that the top of the balustrade needed replacing. Another job placed on the to-do list!

Late in the afternoon I had a long phone call from an old work friend, Roger Woolnough and soon afterwards, another extended call from an old college friend Chris Tippets. They are well, but despair of the boredom of COVID-19 restrictions as they both live on their own. Surprisingly,  they also had been painting today. The calls provided a refreshing relief from the sun and a more pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a cruelly hot DIY day!

Love this photo.

15/09/20 After testing positive for corona-virus 27 people have died in the UK . There are still 89 active cases in the Harborough area.

It was a busy morning, first with a run to the Recycling Site to get rid of last weeks hedge cuttings and then a visit to the dentist for my six month check-up. It was another fiercely hot afternoon, so naturally (stupidly?) I continued my painting duties by first Danish Oiling a set of wooden garden chairs then making a start on changing the colour of the shed to a darker grey. Sue made some fabulously tasty butternut squash soup with chilli for lunch, before also risking the heat of the afternoon with leaf tidying and spider hassling around the garden. Pretty soon we will be into Daddy-long-legs (cranefly) season, that usually sends Sue apoplectic with the number that manage to make their way into the house! Charlotte popped in for a quick chat on the way home from work.

16/09/20 After testing positive for corona-virus 20 people have died in the UK . There are 96 active cases in the Harborough area.

Sue and Doreen spent the day shopping at a new retail complex in Rushden while I completed painting the garden shed and then plotted some walking routes in readiness for an upcoming trip to discover the waterfalls of the Peak District.

17/09/20 After testing positive for corona-virus 21 people have died in the UK . There are 108 active cases in the Harborough area.

Today Sue took Doreen into Desborough to visit the lady who used to clean her apartment, sadly she has cancer and she wanted to give her a Reflexology session. While this was happening, Sue did some further shopping in Desborough and Rothwell. 

After my usual exercises and morning bike ride I put a second coat of paint on the garden shed before fixing one of the aerials on the roof which had lost a couple of its metal rods through one of our over-fed pigeons using them as a perch. Around teatime I had an appointment with my doctor about an annoying pain in my right upper arm that is disturbing my sleep. An x-ray and a scan is being organised to see what is the problem. During the evening, Millie the neighbour’s three legged cat, who had spent the entire day asleep in the sun under one of the grape vines next to the shed, sneaked into the house and managed to meow its way onto my lap as I watched the TV. I don’t think Mia, Harry, Rocky or Nala are going to be pleased.

 

18/09/20 After testing positive for corona-virus 27 people have died in the UK . There are 120 active cases in the Harborough area.

Today, I met John Lee in the car park of the Willow and Brook, Apethorpe at 8.45am. We had arranged a walk through the lovely Northamptonshire countryside and have lunch at this village pub. The sun was out and the early morning chill was just right to get the circulation going as we set off down the lane that would lead us to our ‘off-road’ ramble. There was plenty of news to catch up on and for once we didn’t get around to discussing politics or rugby. Some good news being that his daughter Kate is pregnant and due in March. 

A pretty view.

Due to the new restrictions we had to pre-book a table for lunch, thus making it vital that we arrived back in Apethorpe on time, or earlier. A late arrival would be more than disappointing. Apethorpe was once the home of Rowan Atkinson but unlike Blackadder and Baldrick our ramble went without incident and we arrived on time! A minute steak and fish and chips were soon washed down by a fine local ale in bright sunshine in the pub’s sheltered courtyard. 

As a try out for next week’s wanderings in the Peak District with Sue, it proved successful, my feet were sore but they stood up well to being ambulated over seven miles of rural surfaces.

Jamie and Nala waiting for lunch.

19/09/20 After testing positive for corona-virus 27 people have died in the UK . There are 128 active cases in the Harborough area. Globally, more than 30.55 million people have been infected. The worldwide death toll now exceeds 950,000.

20/09/20 After testing positive for corona-virus 12 people have died in the UK . There are 144 active cases in the Harborough area.

Newark Castle

Jamie and Ruth visited a car boot near Newark and also managed a leisurely roam around the castle and all before a home cooked Sunday lunch prepared by Ruth.

Again, at the crack of dawn, Sue also went to her usual car boot in Saddington.

The Rothwells thought it was such a lovely day that they spent the day frolicking in Irchester Park, they took a roast chicken dinner with them. Back in Harborough I spent some time preparing the balcony balustrade metal railing in readiness for the necessary renovation work discovered a few days ago. 

 21/09/20 The number of deaths in the UK that tested positive from corona-virus is 11. 

Today the Newbold Verdons collected  Lee’s parents; Ian and  Diane from Cotgrave and drove up to Rhyl in North Wales for a week’s holiday in this popular Welsh seaside resort.

Sue and I drove to the Peak District to spend four days discovering the waterfalls of the area. We had been intrigued by an article I had read describing the six best waterfalls in Derbyshire, and resolved to see them, following the circular walks described in the article. I spent several hours during last week on interpreting the walk descriptions into a plotted route that my GPS could interpret. We chose a couple of hostelries that seemed to be close to the starts of the routes: Bradwell and Hayfield. We booked a couple of nights at Ye Old Bowling Green in Bradwell and one night at The George in Hayfield.

After breakfast we set off to discover the waterfalls of the Crompton/Middleton walk. We parked the car at the National Stone Centre at Middleton Top. Our ramble started badly with two errors in navigation within the first half mile, both through talking and not paying enough attention to the GPS.  Resolved to be more attentive we talked less and checked the machine more often.  Our route threaded through a myriad of similar and ‘unposted’ paths that could have been a nightmare to follow without the technology we were carrying. Thankfully, it was the last of our ‘about-turns’.

The day was brilliant for walking in the hills, clear skies rewarded us with uninterrupted and fabulous views from the peaks, with dry ascents and descents throughout. The most disappointing element of this walk was that we followed the only water course, Burbage Brook for just half a mile of the 6 miles in total and we came across weirs and not the promised  natural waterfalls.

However, views into the depths of the vast limestone quarry above Middleton and meandering through the fascinating history of Compton displayed throughout a maze of unique buildings, more than made up for the lack of watery excitement.

The route was arduous and though only a fraction over 6 miles, its elevations took us just over 3 hours to complete. We had planned to ‘do’ two waterfall walks each day, but after eating our picnic lunch outside the Eco Centre we bowed to the effects of the passage of time on our bodies and opted to just have a look at the start of the next planned walk; Padley Gorge, and then decide if we were up to any more geographical ‘ups’ and  ‘downs’.

Arriving at our planned park-up, we chose to have refreshments in the sun at the Norfolk Arms Hotel instead of pulling on our boots. We shall do this walk another time! Refreshed but still sore, we inputted  Ye Old Bowling Green into the Satnav and set off to our accommodation for the next two days.

After checking in to this ancient and delightful Inn, as recompense, to appease our guilt at skipping Padley Gorge we took a walk around the lovely village of Bradwell. We had our evening meal in the pub restaurant.

22/09/20 The number of deaths in the UK that tested positive from corona-virus is 28.

After a very hearty breakfast,  in search of a decent sized waterfall, we made our way to Over Haddon and the start of our walk along Lathkill Dalel and the River Lathkill. After parking up in the village we walked the short distance downhill to the start of this narrow Dale, marked by a few isolated ancient farm buildings.

We have begun to realise that waterfall hunting is best not attempted after a long dry spell, today, at the outset, the river was just a disappointingly trickle. Our route today was very busy. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was lovely and warm. Stricter controls on meetings and movement had been announced overnight and coupled with a forecast for the coming week as cold and wet, people were taking full advantage of probably the last safe and enjoyable exercise for quite some time.

We covered three miles of the Dale and its river length. The precipitous rocky cliffs and tree shrouded  slopes rising on either side seemed to squeeze the river into making several disappearing acts along its course. In reality, it seeps into the porous limestone bedrock and much of it continues flowing underground after plunging into the bowels of the earth through a series of sink holes. Unfortunately, a combination of an extended dry spell and a disappearing magic act, meant that what maybe a rushing torrent producing a series of impressive waterfalls during a wet winter, gave just one for us today, with a fall of just a metre!!!

Rabbit

Peregrine Falcon

Passing underneath a section of cliff we witnessed a Peregrine Falcon hovering, taking advantage of an updraft of air from the Dale. High, above and hidden from our view, he had caught a rabbit on the  escarpment and either through intention or loss of grip, his prey had fallen from that fearsome height to bounce and land at the base of a section of wall that we were about to traverse a few moments later. With the bird still hovering high above, the poor rabbit was stunned but very much alive and terrified.  Regrettably for the coney, many of our fellow hikers had dogs in tow so to confound the Peregrine and save the creature from a mauling I picked it up and carefully laid it off the trail among a stand of nettles. It was obvious that the rear legs of the animal were damaged and seemed useless. As I left, it crawled further into the undergrowth. Perhaps I should have carried it to open ground for the falcon to continue its meal or maybe just walked on and left it to the dogs, but I couldn’t do that, it’s not in my nature. I gave it a chance at life. 

Shortly afterwards, my GPS indicated our route out of the Dale, it was up the side of the cliff below the still hovering Peregine. Scrambling  upwards we followed a series of steep, rock-cut steps, reminding Sue and I of a climb we once did in Norway, crabbing feet and hands up the side of a fjord. One slip and we were gone. Perhaps one swoop from an angry bird and we could be here! After reaching the top and passing through a series of grassy pastures we came across a Muslim family who were looking to walk the Dale, they professed that they had been told earlier by a farmer that it was too dangerous for his young family to attempt an descent along this route. After we explained our own journey out of the Dale and that we agreed with the farmer, they returned to their car.

We eventually reached my little Fiesta after slogging along a final section of particularly uninteresting road. In need of some refreshment, we drove to The Lathkill Hotel, advantageously perched on top a steep slope leading into the  Dale. It was clearly a very popular watering hole, not only because of the commanding views from its beer garden but also the warmth of a late summer afternoon. Finding an empty  table at the side of the stone wall situated across the road from the Inn, we sat people watching, sipping much needed liquid replenishment. Re-hydrated, on our return to the Ye Old Bowling Green we stopped briefly to see the picturesque bridge in Ashford by the Water and then to have ice-creams high above Monsal Dale and to watch fellow ramblers following the Monsal Trail, way, way down below.

We had another delightful evening meal in our accommodation. This pub is a little gem of a discovery.

23/09/20 The number of deaths in the UK that tested positive from corona-virus is 37. There are 147 active cases in the Harborough area.

The forecast rain didn’t arrive in Bradwell until after breakfast as we were driving the 14 miles to Hayfield and the start of the day’s walk, it was a light drizzle that would last the day.

We parked up in the centre of this small Peak District settlement by 10am and soon kitted out in our rain gear we headed upwards onto the surrounding moor. The cloud base was low so it wasn’t long before visibility became limited and trousers became soaked through constant brushing against wet heather on a narrow winding trail. Disappointingly our route took us through large carpets of of cloud-berries, but minus the fruit, thus  denying us the pleasure of grazing on this delicious free bounty as we struggled ever upwards into thickening cloud. Not surprisingly we met no one on the moor other than a solitary sheep that look disgusted at us as for intruding into his personal space.

Reaching the peak of Kinder, the reservoir impressively opened up below. Following a zigzag and treacherously wet path downwards we eventually reached the top of the dam where we came across a small group of fellow walkers heading up onto the moor. As they passed I heard the magic word ‘Geocache’ which elicited a brief, but excited and knowing conversation on Apps and muggles between us.

Following the course of the River Sett flowing out of the reservoir we made our way back into the town. We paused briefly at a small row of terraced houses to read a plaque informing us that Arthur Lowe (1915 -1982), of  ‘Dad’s Army’ fame was born there.

After a quick change of boots in the car, we drove to our accommodation in the village, The George circa 1575. After quenching our thirst at the bar we checked in and made our selves comfortable in a room  located at the very top of the building, boasting gorgeous original beams among other features. Changing into dry clothes we soon ventured out to discover this surprisingly large Derbyshire settlement. Ironically it was in the centre of the village that we came across the highest waterfall discovered so far! Kindly, the drizzle paused for a brief while as we wandered between iconic Derbyshire stone houses and shops. The village  must also have one of the prettiest cricket clubs ever, pretty white painted clubhouse, grassy viewing slopes and a backdrop of solid granite houses and  verdant hills. Next to the cricket ground there is a small apple tree alongside the river and in the children’s  play-park  that has the tastiest of fruit!

Returning to the comfort and dryness of our room we relaxed until our evening meal.

24/09/20 The number of deaths in the UK that tested positive from corona-virus is 40. There are 180 active cases in the Harborough area.

We woke to a dreary morning, but thankfully dry. Another substantial full English breakfast consumed, served by a very chatty waitress who was keen to tell us that she was related to Martin Frobisher the seaman and privateer who made three voyages to the New World looking for the North-west Passage.

Our walk today started in the village of Ashford-in-the-Water. The further we left Hayfield behind, the dismal start quickly reverted into a much more pleasant early autumn day . We parked up in the centre of the village and after a couple of necessary battery changes to my GPS, we set off upward into the fields above the settlement, smelling fresh and lush with new growth from the rain of yesterday. Our route took us to Monsal Dale skirting  stone enclosed paddocks containing a bewildering number of different breeds of cattle. We sat awhile on a bench high above the edge of the Dale, gawping at the views, discussing the lack of fellow hikers and the dangers of trekking through cow-fields. 

Still engrossed in conversation we didn’t pay enough attention to the GPS or which direction we were going, and took the wrong path, eventually ending up at the ice-cream stall of the day before. Realising our error we took a steep downward path into the Dale which brought us back on route, emerging next to the entrance of Headstone Tunnel and the start of the viaduct. We traversed the splendid Headstone Viaduct, much maligned by John Ruskin during its construction and took in the magnificent views along the River Wye and valley. Doing an about turn we passed through the tunnel taking care to avoid the many cyclists whizzing excitedly through this well lit feature of the popular Monsal Trail. We left the main trail around a quarter of a mile of exiting the tunnel and headed off through fields towards Ashford. A bright but coolish day turned decidedly warmer as the natural landscape shielded us from a northerly breeze, allowing the sun to do a proper job of adding to our enjoyment of this ramble.

It was a short, but enjoyable step of just over four miles and by 1.45pm we were back at the car changing footwear and looking for a suitable hostelry to replace lost liquid. The Bull in Ashford was open and still in the throes of getting to grips with the new COVID restrictions in force today. The landlord gave us the option of standing at the bar and wearing masks or sitting down and not. We had our drinks at a table.

With our four day adventure now over, we drove back to Harborough and an evening meal of pizza from the freezer.

We had planned 6 waterfall walks, we achieved 4. Each ramble was enjoyable, though describing them as walks based around falls of water is grossly inaccurate. We should have guessed from the first day,  we followed the only water course (Burbage Brook) for just half a mile, it would have been better described as a quarry trail. The magnificent Lathkill Dale temptingly had river along its length (on map), but it disappeared so often into the ground that it  would have been better described for that feature alone. Did we see waterfalls? No, not on the scale of Niagara, Victoria or Angel, but then we are in the UK and I do wonder what we were expecting. 

 

 

 

 

 

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