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End to End part nine---No Escape

End to End part nine---No Escape

Postby raykilhams » Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:15 pm

Date walked: 24/12/2016

Distance: 140 km

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It was July again , the time of year when the schools close for the summer holidays and we can escape from the shenanigans of academia and take off to complete another section of our Lands End to John O'Groats odyssey.
This July I decided we would walk from Edale ( the start of the Pennine Way , which we did a couple of years ago ) down to Iron Bridge .
Have you ever had one of those summer long distance walks when the sun shines every day . Halcyon days of shorts and tee shirts , hats and sun screen , the pure unadulterated joy of a refreshingly ice cold beer at the end of another long , shirt drenching , exhausting , but satisfying day .
Well I would like to say that was the type of weather we experienced .....Yes , I really would like to say it ...but it just wasn't the case :( (that was The Pennine Way a couple of years ago with temps up to 40c.... :shock: honestly ) . It rained every day ..... but to be fair to the weather , it was never the same type of rain two days running , but suffice to say it was always wet , very wet and at times exceedingly wet .......oh the joys of walking . Let me elucidate.......

Day 1. Edale to Grindleford.

Drove from Forfar to Grindleford Train station arriving about 9.30am , parked the car and caught the train to Edale from where we would walk back to Grindleford . Now the train runs fairly regularly to Edale for the benefit of seasoned walkers and as we walked the length of the two carriages in search of a couple of unoccupied seats which failed to materialised . But I have to admit that the train was indeed packed with a host of seasoned walkers ....some seasoned with Lynx and Chanel while others seasoned , with , how can I put it , ah yes that's it.... Eau de left in the fridge to long runny Camembert .
As we sat on the train looking out of the window , wondering how long a human could possibly hold his or her breath , we both heaved a sigh as the heavens opened and rain drops thudded against the glass which rapidly began to steam up until all visibility was lost ( cold rain , hot bodies , glass... not a good mix ).
Alighted from the train at Edale , rushed up the road to the visitor centre for a T and P ( self explanatory unless you enjoy a C and P , each to his own ) , by this time the rain was torrential , but hope springs eternal , it wouldn't last long ....would it?
Oh well nothing for it , and so with the rain still tipping it down we donned our wet weather gear and walked back to the main road turned left and walked a few hundred metres along the road before taking a path on our right that snaked its way up past Back Tor and on towards Wards Piece . Now on a sunny dry day the going may have been quite easy and straightforward , but the combination of heavy rain , short grass and mud ( lots of mud ) made it an
extremely strenuous slippy uphill slog .
But being the hardy souls we are we persevered and after skirting Wards Piece ( exchanging grunts with every passing walker ) we headed down towards Lose Hill Farm . We paused for a few moments at the farmstead to survey the valley below us and immediately our eyes were full of Hope :shock: ... no , not the expectation type of hope , for it was still lashing it down with rain and our views of the hills were limited . What our eyes were full of was the small village named Hope directly below us , but why is was so named we had no idea .
Would the going get easier in Hope ? , well we live in it :roll: but alas it wasn't to be as the path through the village was a cross between a burn and a quagmire with no escape . We just had to wade through it ( was this really summer in July ) and I mean wade .
By the time we left Hope under the railway an amazing thing happened , the rain stopped and Helios appeared overhead , so taking advantage of the (for the time being) break in the weather we sat down on a bench and had our goodies and a coffee .
Not much to tell after that ... we strolled through Aston and onto the Derwent Valley Heritage Trail which we followed all the way back to Grindleford Station . Suffice to say the trail varied in muddiness from extreme to diabolical , but you just keep going ...don't you?.
Back at the station took our wet weather gear off and drove to Burton to stay at a Travelodge which I had booked for six days ( thank goodness we didn't bring the tent ).
It never fails to amaze me how after a days walk in ....how can I put it , we've all been there ..... wet , misty , muddy and tiring conditions , that a thing so simple as a soak in a hot bath , along with a glass of wine followed by a hearty meal at a local restaurant or pub can quickly revive both body and spirit , just the thought of it .
Surely the weather would be kinder for us tomorrow . :roll:

Day 2. Youlgreave to Grindleford.

Woke up to a slightly overcast day , but it looked promising , and so after picking up another car so we could leave one car at the end of our days walk and drive to the start we set off to Grindleford to leave one car there and travel down to Youlgreave with the other .
After finding the car park at Youlgreave ,which appeared to be a school that had been demolished to make way for the car park leaving only the boys and girls toilets ,we had a coffee and set off .
We took the main road out of YG and made our way to Raper Lodge crossing the picturesque river Bradford and on to Haddon Hall . It must have been halfway between Raper Lodge and Haddon Hall when , much to my annoyance the heavens opened and the rain poured down . But fortunately it didn't last long , for by the time we reached H Hall the rain had stopped and the sun was trying desperately to make an appearance .
Now although the Hall is open to the public there is no right of way through it, so you have to walk the long way round , skirting the estate following a narrow , seldom used , path , which on a dry summers day is no doubt extremely delightful . But today as we followed the path , the tall , waist high grasses which criss-crossed the path were heavily laden with the rain water that had fallen earlier. It was like wading in the shallow end of a swimming pool , the only difference being that in the pool you don't get covered by thousands of tiny grass seeds that cling to your wet legs.
We soldiered on as the troopers we are, and after passing Bowlers Green and traipsing through muddy Manners Wood we stopped for a much anticipated lunch stop , instantly becoming the equivalent of human magnets . Let me explain . As I recall we had chosen a spot on the edge of the wood where we could soak up the fine vista that opened up before us , open fields to the fore , New Piece Wood in the distance and the fairy tale Russian Cottage to our right . But before we knew it three young walkers , who had just crossed the field that lay before us , decided to take off their backpacks and settle down for their lunch no more than three metres away from us . And to cap it all, a few minutes later four people came up behind us and stopped about two metres away from us to have their lunch . Now I don't believe that where we stopped was a trysting place and there were certainly no picnic signs present , so what is it with people when there is so much space to either sit or stand they seem compelled to get as close as possible to other people , maybe some sort of herding instinct .
After the social break we headed toward Chatsworth , crossing fields , woods with ancient oaks and several herds of Fallow Deer .
Chatswoth House conjures up many things to many people , but as we approached it , I must admit it didn't look like a stately house to me , more like a Hospital or some type of Asylum , not very flattering I know .
But I must admit the small estate town/hamlet of Edensor was something else , a number of the houses there were simply architecturally exquisite , well worth stopping for a few moments to take in.
From Chatsworth we followed the Derwent Valley Heritage Trail on to Baslow and then on to Froggart .
The name Froggart may not be one that jumps to mind when you think of a great walk but I can assure you that the section of walk from Froggart to Grindleford must be one of the most atmospheric I have ever walked.
By the time we left Froggart the sky had turned grey , drizzle began to fall bringing with it a thin mist that hung over the woods they we were about to enter . We followed a path that was made up of stone slabs , placed like stepping stones that seem to go on for miles leading us deeper and deeper into an ancient woodland that oozed an eerie atmosphere that seemed to seep into our bones . As we followed the beckoning path , ducking and brushing past overhanging branches and brambles , we became aware of groups of strange rock formations that seemed to stand like sentinels bent over with time guarding dark mirror like pools . We paused at one of these formations gazing at the rocks ,the pool and the knarled ancient trees that seemed to crowd in on us , creating an atmosphere like that of ancient Petra , one that was half as old as time itself . You could sense that ancient tribes had come this way followed by others , all leaving their mark on the landscape , molding it into the one they desired but somehow unknowingly leaving this small wood as a sacred grove as a reminder to any who walked this way of what once was , of a land that would become known by many names to many peoples .
By the time we reached Grindleford the drizzle had turned to grizzle ( heavy rain ) and we marched up the road to the station to collect the car and then on to Youlgreave to pick up the other car and head back to the Travelodge at Burton for a soak and tipple.
Haddon Hall
Longhorns at Haddon
Russian Cottage
Into the woods

Day 3. Youlgreave to Mayfield.

Hope springs eternal and as we drove to Mayfield it really looked like today would stay dry and bright ...foolish optimists that we are.
Besides the sat nav taking us on a road which crossed a river ford which ,as I slammed my brakes on , appeared to be in full spate , it was an uneventful journey . We left one car at the Mayfield village hall car park and drove the other to Youlgreave , parking where we did the previous day .
After a coffee we set off crossing the road and followed a narrow path downhill to the river Bradford . A bit of a mistake really as we probably should have walked further into the village and then followed the route which would have taken us over the river by means of an old bridge . So we just made the best of it and crossed the river via a wooden structure build to carry what appeared to be a water pipe rather than traipse back up the road ( a bit awkward but okay ). We followed the river , which was stocked with a number of large brown trout ( O for a rod in my hand ) and turned off just passed an old ruin of a castle onto a rather indistinct path that led us through a number of fields in the general direction of Rock Farm.
From Rock farm we proceeded to stroll along a small country road before reaching Dale End where we stopped and took advantage of a conveniently placed bench for coffee and chocolate. We then turned our attention to making our way through Gratton Dale ,an old cattle trail which after a few kms emerged at Mouldridge Grange . To begin with the Dale was rather pleasant and we enjoyed looking at the flower covered slopes either side of the trail. But after about a km the ground beneath our feet turned into a quagmire the result of hundreds of heavy footed bovines trekking through the Dale....ok for hippos I suppose but hard work for us . And then to make it more uncomfortable for us the skies darkened and the heavens opened , rain fell in monsoon fashion turning the trail into a mud bath...oh the joys of walking.
By the time we reached Mouldridge Grange and crossed the A1512 taking a minor road to Chapel Plantation the rain had ceased giving us a respite . I don't think I can remember the number of times our wet weather gear was put on and taken off over a period of six days , but it was certainly a record for us.
We arrived at Chapel Plantation once again dressed in our wet weather gear , had a coffee and set off to Parwich where we would stop for lunch. The walk to Parwich was quite enjoyable for two reasons firstly the sun came out and secondly watching ( from a distance ) a cow giving birth to a calf .
Parwich is a lovely little village , well worth a visit , with its green in the centre . As we approached the green a few spots of rain began to fall , but I didn't feel too perturbed as I had noticed to one side of the green, tucked under a large beech tree , a wooden bench , just the place to shelter from the rain and enjoy our lunch . But other eyes of other walkers had also noticed it , and much to my slight annoyance ( ooooh ) they made straight for bench and laid claim to the only shelter on the green . As I stood in the rain feeling forlorn ( can you hear the violins )and thinking that I must be in some type of Truman show , that the gods were laughing at me and that life is SOOO unfair ( Okay everyone's entitled to throw a tantrum now and then ).
But then Arlene ( my wife ) came to the rescue ( oh she's good ) , tapping me on my shoulder and pointing to the far side of the green , and there it was , an old fashioned bus shelter with only one occupant , a cyclist messing about with his feet( you know the sort of thing most cyclists do when they stop cycling ) . We almost ran across the green and took shelter next to the chiropocyclist and as we ate our lunch watching the rain run like a river down the road discussed the possibility of leaving our walking boots at home for our next walk and investing in a canoe ( now there's a thought, Lands End to John O'groats overland by canoe ).
I hear you say , " enough of such nonsense Ray , walking's a serious business " , and all I can say in reply is that if you don't have a sense of humour walking's not for you . It's what memories are made of , for if we can't laugh at the struggles , the ups and downs and if we wish no longer to stand and face the forces of nature that at times appear like an inviting warm close friend and at other times a foe who is determined to throw all and sundry at us in an atempt to break our determination and our desire to venture out into our majestic landscape , what are we.... ....are we WALKERS or are we HUMAN.
Sorry to digress , on with the walk....by the time we finished our lunch the rain stopped for the day ( hurray )and from Parwich we followed The Limestone Way and passed through a number of small yet perfectly formed villages..Tissington , Thorpe , Martin Hill and then took a path to Harlow Farm where we met an old farmer who seemed only too happy to tell us of the number of walkers who seem to completely lose their way near his farm . Fortunately we didn't get lost and continued on to Mayfield where our car was waiting for us . We had both enjoyed the day tremendously and were beginning to accept that that rain is part and parcel of the Britain we live in ..... though let's face it , do any us ( and we are 65 and 63 ) really ever get used to it ... I don't believe I've yet read an article that began with..." had a wonderful hike and the torrential rain made it so much more enjoyable " , not in Britain anyway .
Over the River Bradford
Gratton Dale
Parwich bus shelter

Day 4. Mayfield to Abbots Bromley

At the outset of this days report , I have to come clean and tell you that we walked this section in Octobter ( the 3rd to be precise) . The reason was simply back in July we just didn't have the time ( the autumn pics will give it away ). We were staying in Ashbourne at a Travelodge and early on the 3rd Oct.began walking from Mayfield , which in itself is quite a small village . From there we made our way onto The Limestone Way after passing through the old village of Middle Mayfield with its historic buildings ( worth seeing ) and negotiating a jungle like wooded area where few people seem to venture . That's the great thing about making up your own route when walking Lands End to John O'Groats , you never know what the paths ( if they still exist of course ) are going to be like . The one thing I have learnt on this ( so far 850 mile , still 400 to go ) walk is that path signs are either feast or famine , which is good as some days you can be lazy while on others you need to have your directional wits about you .
Once on The Limestone Way we walked to Ellastone and followed The River Dove to the JCB town of Rocester . Once a Roman settlement and the town of Richard Arkwright it now seems to be dominated by JCB ( you know the digger people ) with their world headquaters just outside the town . They seem to run or sponsor everything in the area . Let me give you an example ..... as we were walking into the town we heard the sound of children playing , so we both turned to see where the sound was coming from . About 200 metres away we could see what appeared to be children in a playground , but I was slightly puzzled because of what they were wearing , JCB boiler suits . As we looked more intently we realised the boys were wearing dark trousers and dark pullovers with yellow shoulder pads . But all was resolved as we walked through the outskirts of the town and virtually all public buildings ( including schools ) seem to be displaying the JCB logo .
We left Rocester behind us following the meanders of The Dove stopping for lunch on its banks . After passing several farms and sporting establishments ( you guessed it owned by JCB ) we reached Uttoxeter and stopped for coffee.
From Uttoxeter we joined The Staffordshire Way which wound its way around farmland , through fields of sweetcorn until we reached Abbots Bromley where we had a quick look around and then caught the bus back to the car .

PS. By the way it stayed dry all day .

Day 5.Penkridge to Abbots Bromley.

At last a bright sunny morning full of promise, but would it last, I had my doubts . We set off in the early hours to begin our walk , and as we neared Penkridge were surprised by a fox which seem to appear from nowhere and saunter across the road in front of us , pausing only to give us a brief stare before resuming his slow gait across the road and disappearing into the greenery that verged the road..... thank goodness for good brakes .
Arrived at Penkridge , had a coffee and set off along the Staffs and Worcester Canal , and guess what , the sun was shining in an azure sky .
After a short distance we left the canal and headed toward the small town of Bednall , which I have to say is well worth a visit , albeit on foot . We then walked on and up onto Sycamore Hill , with its fine views of Cannock Chase , following the path down into the Sherbrook Valley and then up into the woods of the Chase.
Once through the woods we crossed the river Trent and walked a couple of hundred metres on to The Trent and Mersy Canal . I think we must have walked , or should I say dawdled , several miles along the Canal , taking time to admire the many old buildings that had probably sheltered families and livestock long before the coming of the Canal ... Tempora Mantantor.
The rest of the days' walk was uneventful , except for a detour, which took us away from the road that led to Blithfield Reservoir and meandered for about a Km before rejoining the road on the far side of the Reservoir . From there it was only a short distance to Abbots Bromley, and wonder of wonders it stayed dry all day .
By the Canal
Cannock Chase
Path through the Wheat
Staff and Worc Canal
Spot the Hare

Day 6. Tong Norton to Penkridge .

After having been dry the previous day hopes were high for the same again ( please ) , and as we left the Travelodge the skies were bright and full of promise .
I believe it only took a couple of minutes , after parking in a layby at Tong Norton , that the skies darkened and by the time our boots were laced up the rain began to fall , gently at first , before quickly turning into the drenching , soaking cats and dogs stuff.
So there we were , umbrellas in hand , striding out along the road that links Tong Norton to Bishops Wood , no Monarchs Way today with its , by now , sodden muddy paths and its tall water ladened grasses .
Now the road from Tong N to Bishops W is about 3 miles long ad it appears whenever we travel on roads we become part of our own Truman Show . Now tell me ....does this happen to you or is it just me.....bear with me and let me explain . We must have walked about a mile along the road without a single car passing us , then ( and this is it ) two come along at once from opposite directions , and where do they meet and pass each other ... yes right next to where we are , so we have to get off the road to allow the cars to pass while at the same time trying to dodge the spray . Another mile along the road the same thing happened and when we got to the junction at Bishops Wood , half a dozen cars appeared from nowhere to stop us in our stride and prevent us from crossing the road , even though I hadn't seen a single car cross the junction on our 250 - 300 metre approach to the junction . How many times does this happen , on how many walks , no wonder the Greeks thought the gods were playing with them .
Anyway , from Bishops Wood we walked on past The Hawkshutts and Whitegate Farm and over the Shropshire Canal and still the rain continued and so I made a decision to take an alternative and quicker route to Penkridge . But it was not without its drawbacks as the path we followed toward Lapley and then Bickford wasn't the easiest to follow and was extremely wet with its high grasses . From Bickford we strolled through Whiston and on to Penkridge crossing the oddly named Cuttlestone Bridge.
Ah , I must at this juncture mention the highlight of the day.... pensioners lunch at Dobbies , just along the road from Penkridge ....just one of the many benefits of being an old codger ( only problem is that my bus pass isn't accepted in England).

Day 7 . Madeley to Tong Norton

Slightly tricky day today , as we had to drive to Shifnal where we caught the train to Telford and then , from Telford , the bus to Madeley to begin our days walk . It all went pretty smoothly and before we knew it we were walking on The Monarchs Way toward Brockton . I think it was just where the lane ran up to Sutton Hill Farm that The Monarchs Way just disappeared , our map showed it crossing a field but as an eight foot hedge prevented us from even getting into the field , which by the way had a crop of barley in it , we had to find our way around Sutton farm plus skirting a golf course before finally getting back onto The Mon. Way which by now followed the course of the road to Brockton .... oh happy days.
Never mind though , it was dry and warm , so that was a bonus . We passed by Brockton and as we approached Kemberton we left the road and followed The Mon. Way as it began to wind its way around a number of barley and wheat fields . The thing that struck us ( besides a couple of falling acorns ) was the vast number of bright red poppies that seem to rise above the wheat and barley and gently sway as a light breeze toyed with them . And as we sat under an old Oak tree to shelter from a sudden shower of rain , we enjoyed our lunch and took in the beauty of the scene , the barley , the poppies and a myriad of insect hunting swallows and martins flying low over the sea like crop.
Once refreshed we set off at a slow pace , crossing fields through Evelith and Stanton , stopping to admire the huge variety of flowers in both field and verge ( never fails to lift the spirits ). As we drew near to Tong Norton we had to cross the M54 where there just happened to be a garage about 50 metres along the road and so after walking into Tong Norton we eagerly rushed back to the garage and bought a couple of Magnums ( ice creams of course ), ohh we do like goodies .
From there it was back to Shifnal along the Stanton road . Just one thing to mention which sticks in the memory , a field of thousands of large poppy seed heads . I can remember us both stopping and leaning against the wall of the field to get a better look . As we discussed what the crop was for , maybe medicinal purposes perhaps , an old man came out of his house on the other side of the road and headed straight toward us and eagerly began to tell us all about the crop of poppy heads . They were he told us , " grown fur bread making ..... all the seeds collected and either put into the bread or sprinkled on top" . And so after spending a short time chatting about the finer points of papaver production and which poppy produced the right type of seed for breadmaking we left the gentleman staring out into the field and made out way to Shifnal where our car was waiting and then drove back to Burton , but not before buying ourselves a couple of fish suppers .....oh what a life we lead.

That was it ( finally I hear you say ) it was a good few days away , shame about the rain but plenty of memories .
Next stage Madeley to Offa's Dyke and beyond , probably July 2018.
Spot the Hare

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Re: End to End part nine---No Escape

Postby Gordie12 » Sat Oct 14, 2017 6:26 pm

An interesting train journey (beautifully described) to start your week Ray :lol: :lol: :lol:

All being well I will take early retirement in a couple of years and would have time to do either Land's End - JOG or the Welsh Coastal Path so any related reports I always read to help build up my knowledge.

Having done the Pennine Way I know the tracks north of Edale so I was following your route closely as I have never walked in the area to the south.

I think we may have had slightly different walking conditions this summer ...........

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