The Inn Way to the Peak District, England – Part 4

Day 6 – Castleton to Hayfield – 11.5 miles (18.5 km) – 5 hours

The last day of the hike has the shortest distance but is the hardest with the most climbing. Unlike yesterday, the forecast today was for rain. But it’s England, and the Peak District, so I left my accommodation expecting the worst.

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Castleton is known for the remains of Peveril Castle on the hill, not to mention an extensive cave system in the peaks around it. I could see the castle high on the hill from the Main Street.

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I headed up the hill beside the castle on a rocky path and began a long slow climb with sheep and lambs bleating at me as I passed. As I came around behind the castle, I could see its back above me as I climbed. It was built to keep the townsfolk in check but was abandoned as it proved to be unnecessary.

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On either side of the trail are small caves, but I didn’t stop to investigate. The path continued to the top of the hill between stone walls and eventually emerged onto a plateau, sectioned off for farming. I passed through a gate and it began to spit. I pulled out my pack cover but didn’t bother with a jacket, no point sweating even more than I currently do. Thankfully, the rain did not come, and the spitting subsided.

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After a fair walk, I came to a junction where a thin road headed off to the north. My trail followed this road for about a mile, past a farmhouse, to a major road. On the far side, I could see where the trail was leading me, to the top of a Tor. It would be a fair climb, and by the number of people climbing it, a popular tourist spot.

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The climb to the tourist carpark looked to be steeper than the actual climb up the Tor, but hiking is not about doing things the easy way. I climbed to the carpark and then on up the side of the Tor, which had been paved for ‘easy’ walking. When walking for distance, I find it easier to walk on the soft ground beside the steps as it uses less energy. At the top of Mam Tor there are great views down both sides, but because of the cloudy haze about, it is difficult to get a clear shot.

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On the far side of the Tor the trail continued up to another pair of peaks, but I wasn’t to climb either of these. Partway up the first was Hatton Cross, which is more of a knob, marking where I would begin my descent from the peak on a rocky trail.

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The trail eventually passed alongside a farm, crossing grazing paddocks with sheep and lambs, until it came to a major road. A few fields after and I arrived at the village of Grindsbrook Booth where I stopped for lunch: a bacon and egg butty, and a coffee. This was when it decided to start raining.

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After my lunch, I struck out in the rain, which wasn’t too heavy and didn’t last long. Grindsbrook Booth, also known as Edale, is the official beginning point of the 286 mile Pennine Trail, of which I would only be doing a tiny section.

I climbed a hill at pace, the caffeine from lunch pushing my on with vigour. I soon overtook several other walkers, with others coming the other way, to eventually arrive at a tiny village called Upper Booth, and continuing quickly on.

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From the village, the trail climbed steadily up the hill towards Jacob’s Ladder, a set of steps that have been built to ensure a quick climb to the top of the pass. I shot up the steps, passing other walkers, but stopping a couple of time to regain my breath before pushing on.

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I soon crossed the pass, and with the understanding that it was only a handful of miles before the end of the hike, I raced downhill on a stone covered trail.

When the moors ended, and the farm fields began, the trail became less rocky and eventually became a road. I continued to race down the hill to the bottom and climbed the final small hill, a mile from Hayfield, the end of the hike. I then raced along the trail, my legs aching, until I hit the roads of Hayfield.

With the end of the hike nigh, I crossed through the streets of Hayfield to my beginning point, The Kinder Lodge and finally took off my boots for the final time on the hike. I celebrated with a meal at the local Italian restaurant, and several ciders.

The next day I was off and back to London, returning to normal life after my time in the Midlands.

Overall Thoughts

I enjoyed my time in the Peak District National Park. I expected the weather to be changeable but got a couple of lovely days and very little rain. I did have a small expectation that things would be a little more difficult and that it would feel a little wilder. There were periods during a couple of the days where I felt like I was away from other people and in the wilds. But this is England, and you have to take what you can get. Perhaps the further north I push for hikes, the wilder it will feel.

Next, I am off to Northern Wales into Snowdonia to do several days of walking, this time not in a circuit. During that time I will be summiting Mt Snowdon.

The Inn Way was a well-prepared hike, and I am glad I found it. While there were plenty of pubs along the way, that wasn’t the point of the walk. I would recommend checking out the website www.innway.co.uk for this and other books in the Inn Way series.

Until next time,

The Lone Trail Wanderer

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The Inn Way to the Peak District, England – Part 3

Day 4 – Youlgrave to Tideswell – 16 miles (25.5 km) – 8 hours

I had worried during the night about an infection in one particular blister and went to see a nurse to check it out. If it was indeed infected, I might have to cancel the rest of the hike, but it turned out to be just a painful, annoyingly located, blister nothing more. So, I packed my gear and set out from the hostel, ignoring the pain.

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I headed down the very steep roads of Youlgrave to the river, and followed it on a dirt path, past a small footbridge and several fields.

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I eventually came to a vehicle bridge across to Alport but did not cross. I continued alongside the River Lathkill crossing fields, for about a mile before coming to the Conksbury Bridge. I stopped and looked down the river where masses of flies buzzed about. In the water, a single fish preyed on those that got too close.

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I crossed the bridge and entered Lathkill Dale, a three-mile stretch of trail along the river. I passed many other walkers, most who had come only to walk the dale. I walked with the thin river to my left, with views of weirs along the way.

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To my right side for much of the dale was a rocky bank often covered with bush, but from time to time a small path would lead to a cave entrance in the rock. While I had a head torch with me, there were too many to investigate and my day was set to be long enough. About halfway along the dale, a wooden bridge crossed the river to a ruined house.

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I decided to investigate and found a large hole behind the building with a ladder leading down. So, I climbed down for a look and found a short tunnel leading to a five-metre deep rocky hole beneath the house itself. Beside it a small hand generator to turn on the lights.

Back up along the river, I continued my walk along a mixture of concrete paths, dirt trail and rocky path. Towards the end of the dale, it forked, with the trail heading along the other fork from the river. The trail led up between two ridges, crossing rough rocky ground until it emerged near a road.

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I stopped for lunch before continuing around into Monyash, a small village. Then my trail led up a road and across grazing fields before coming to the Magpie lead mine, which has not been used for many decades.

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After a brief look around, I continued on to the small town of Sheldon. I then crossed more fields for more than half a mile before heading downhill in Great Shacklow Wood.

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I rarely use my hiking poles, but I pulled one out to help my stability on the steepest descent so far of the hike.

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At the base, I forded a river and followed a dirt trail through the forest for near a mile around a right bend to a weir, which I crossed at a metal bridge. The path then ran up the side of the hill, while not steep, it was a constant climb to emerge at Monsal Head and great views along the valley.

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The trail headed down steeply again on the other side, to the old Monsal rail line, where the railway has now been all but removed.

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The trail followed a hard road for a couple of miles, and through two old train tunnels, the Cressbrook and Litton tunnels.

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After the second tunnel, I crossed the river at Litton Mill.

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I made my way around and up Tideswell Dale for a mile and a half before coming to a road. The trail crossed and pushed me up a hill. With only a few hundred metres to go on a long day’s hike, who’s idea was it to climb a steep hill behind a farm? I eventually came into the Tideswell, exhausted, and began looking for my Airbnb.

Footsore and with the painful blisters, I did not feel like wandering too far for food, so I found a local chippy around the corner and a Co-op to get some cider, before settling in for a long sleep.

Day 5 – Tideswell to Castleton – 14 miles (22.5 km) – 6.5 hours

After a 10 hour sleep, and an excellent breakfast at my Airbnb, I headed out of Tideswell along Church Lane which headed over a hill. It was nothing too extreme and got my blood going as the wind was a little chilly.

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I made it into Litton, just another tiny village dotted on the landscape. I found the trail on the far side and cut across a field with a group of seven people stopped ahead of me. They were all teenage girls; I wished them a good morning and continued walking. A few minutes later, I came upon a group of seven teenage boys and wished them the same. I headed quickly downhill into a gully called Tansley Dale, following a dirt path.

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With the boys following behind, I walked on quickly towards the bottom. The gully was part of Cressbrook Dale I had walked beside yesterday. At the bottom, I turned left and headed along the base of the dale between two ridges. I followed it around to the right and began to rise. The lads likely went the other direction, but I could hear the girls, who were walking at the top of the left-hand ridge.

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The gully eventually rose out of the dale to a road near a village, Wardlow Mires. I walked through and found the path headed between farm buildings, the smell was just foul, I don’t know how farmers do it. I then headed up the hill across grazing fields towards a Manor House.

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I passed the manor and walked along a lane for a couple of hundred metres before crossing a grazing field with sheep and lambs. I crossed many more fields until I came to Foolow, apparently the Peak District’s prettiest village, where I stopped outside the pub for a five-minute sit-down.

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After crossing a further 17 fields, mostly empty, but some with the obligatory sheep and lambs, I came to Eyam. This village has a sombre story behind it. It was struck by the plague in the 17th century but quarantined itself so as not to spread the disease. 260 died, but the plague did not get out.

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After Eyam, the trail climbed a very steep road, through a less steep field and into a small wood where the even steeper path finally levelled out. As I emerged from the wood, I discovered the sun had come out, and it would stay out for the rest of the day.

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I crossed several more fields before the landscape changed from grassy paddocks to scraggy moors. I climbed to the summit of a short hill and then down the other side following a winding trail that cut around the edge of a steep hill following a stone wall. It eventually dove down into a gully, across a stream and into a clough – a small gorge – where I followed a trail to the end, climbing out of it to the village of Abney.

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From Abney, I followed a thin concrete road for half a mile to a sandy, gravel road for a further two miles to the village of Brough.

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From here I followed the trail across many grazing fields, containing cows and their calves, sheep and their lambs, a goat and even llama! I passed the village of Hope before arriving at Castleton, the end point of the day.

The Inn Way to the Peak District, England – Part 2

Day 2 – Hathersage to Baslow – 13 miles (21 km) – 6 hours

Hathersage is a great little village on the eastern side of the Peak District. It’s a popular destination for all manner of outdoor activities – hiking, climbing, and cycling, and has three outdoor activity stores.

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After a hot night in the Hathersage YHA with little air flow in the dorm room, I wandered into town for breakfast to find that much of the village doesn’t open until nine, if at all on a Monday or Tuesday. I did, however, find a bakery and bought breakfast, along with a sandwich for lunch.

I headed out of town, past the Scottish Pack pub and the parish church, onto a grass paddock and down some steps, my knees reminding me of the long descent from the day before.

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I crossed a paddock following a fence line passing the Cowclose Farm. I crossed the road and headed up a long steep driveway towards the somewhat restored ruins of a Chapel.

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Past the chapel, I headed into a small wood, again on a steep trail. When I emerged, I could see the Stanage Edge above me, slightly obscured by clouds. I passed through another small wood before emerging at an open field with a path leading towards the Edge.

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The climb to the top felt easy, and before long I was amidst the low clouds. The views were not the greatest because of the low visibility.

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I then walked along the top of the Edge on a trail alternating between natural stone, sand and cut stone. The visibility grew shorter as I walked, with small groups of people appearing out of the mist, either walking towards me or preparing to rock climb down the rock wall.

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Eventually, I followed a pair of guys and their dog to the highest point, 457 metres, before descending down to the valley below. It was an easy descent but led me off the trail into the bog, which I spent some time crossing back to the path. Thankful for my waterproof boots, I followed this to a carpark. The trail then led me along the top of a gorge, towards the mist covered Higger Tor, a flat-topped ridge with cloud filled views in most directions.

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With little to see, I quickly climbed down the other side towards Carl Wark Tor, an Iron Age fort, before descending a boggy field between the two towards the Burbage Bridge.

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After a quick lunch, I passed the Longshaw Lodge in the Longshaw Estate and headed up across more sheep-filled paddocks to a junction of several roads. I walked along a driveway towards White Edge Lodge and around the edge of White Edge Moor before heading down into Hay Wood.

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I crossed a major road and headed up towards Stoke Flat across the top of Froggatt Edge and passed stone circle and a large cairn, both overgrown. I then followed the top of Curbur Edge for more than a mile, looking at the views of surrounding hills and villages dotted across them.

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I crossed a road and continued along Baslow Edge towards the Eagle Stone, a large oddly shaped stone sticking up out of Eaglestone Flat.

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The trail then led down a thin stone road down into Baslow, the official end of the hike. But as I had not been able to find cheap accommodation in the village, I waited at a bus stop and messaged the Airbnb owner that I was on my way. She offered to pick me up as it was going to be an hour before the bus arrived. This continued my experience with the people of the Peak District being very friendly.

Day 3 – Baslow to Youlgrave – 12 miles (19.5 km) – 6 hours

Today’s walk is set to be one of the easiest of the six days of this circuit. This is great as my feet are still recovering from the blisters I gained on day one. The weather looks to be cool with no rain, a perfect day for a hike.

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The host of the Airbnb put on an excellent breakfast and offered to drop me off in Baslow. Who was I to refuse kindness? From my drop off point, I walked along the main road, down a side street and into Chatsworth Park.

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Little did I know that for the next couple of hours I would be walking in this park, a massive estate set aside for both animals and humans to wander through. At the centre is the extensive Chatsworth House and to one side the annual Chatsworth Flower Show.

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I continued along the road through the park for some time seeing various birds and plenty of lambs. I passed the flower show and headed to a small village inside the park called Edensor with a large church.

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Then I headed south through grassy fields along thin walking tracks to the river, which I followed south.

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I finally crossed the river at a bridge and again continued south to another village, Beeley, on the main road. I walked through it and along a steep lane for a hundred metres before crossing grazing fields on my way up to Burnt Wood.

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After a brief walk in the forest, the trail crossed a bridge across Smeltingmill Brook and into Rowsley Wood.

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Part of the trail through Rowsley Wood was a mess of leaves and cut branches, as some lumber work had been done in the area.

I then dropped down out of the woods via a nettle flanked thin path between two buildings, across a road and into another nettle flanked path to the edge of Rowsley, where I stopped for lunch. I then got back on the trail and walked along the road out of town to another set of farm paddocks, this time with cattle, before following the steadily climbing lane up towards Stanton in Peak.

I walked through town climbing another road and through the forest to Stanton Park. As I entered the park, my GPS deciding to take some time off. I followed a trail and came to the main attraction in the park, The Nine Ladies, a stone circle with a legend, nine ladies caught dancing on the Sabbath and turned to stone.

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Based on my map I took a guess at the right trail and when my GPS woke up again I was still in the park, but nowhere near where I hoped to be. I found my way out of the park onto a road and headed along it until I picked up the trail again. This lead me down a path to the village of Birchover. The sun decided to make an appearance as I followed a thin lane out of town for half a mile, and down a steep bank to a major road. On the other side, I found a long driveway climbing a hill with more sheep. I followed and came to an area with some rock formations, one known as Robin Hood’s Stride, and along another with a cave where a hermit once lived.

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I crossed the fields beyond the formations and passed circle of four large stones before coming to a quiet road. I walked around a farmyard and up a hill to a location called the Castle Ring, an old Iron Age hill fort. Then it was all downhill and across a pair of sheep paddocks to Youlgrave, where I climbed a steep road up to my hostel.

The Inn Way to the Peak District, England – Part 1

The Peak District National Park is a region of England’s Midlands just to the East of Greater Manchester. The district is named after a series of tall rolling hills strewn with walking/cycling trails and dotted with villages.

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It’s pre-summer in the United Kingdom, so I have come out of my winter hibernation for hiking season. My first, this year, will be my longest UK hike, although not the longest of the season. The Inn Way of the Peak District is one of several ‘Ultimate Pub Walks’ created in northern England. It is a six-day hike, covering 85 miles (135 km) and passes 51 pubs. While it’s not a pub crawl as such, it does allow for many places to stay, dine, and of course, grab a couple of well-deserved ciders after a long day’s walk.

Find out more about this hike and to buy the book go to http://www.innway.co.uk

The Peak District is a diverse area with much to see, from the wild moors in the north to the limestone valleys to the south. There are Roman roads, plentiful villages, areas known for its history of Robin Hood, with Nottingham to the South East, and a lot more I hope to discover on my walk.

Day 0 – London to the Peak District

My train to Manchester was in the early afternoon, so it gave me plenty of time to pack and repack in preparation. On the Virgin Trains, Manchester is only 2 hours north of London, then it was an hour-long bus ride to Hayfield, the Trailhead of the Inn Walk.

Hayfield is a quaint larger village to the west of the Peak District. After arriving at my accommodation, I went for a walk around town and followed a short trail to a local reservoir.

Then it was off for last-minute preparations.

Day 1 – Hayfield to Hathersage – 17.5 miles (28 km) – 9 hours

Today will be the hardest day of the hike, both in distance and difficulty and with the sun is out, the heat will make it more difficult. It’s going to be a long day.

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I set out from the Kinder Lodge, across Hayfield, then stopped to have a sandwich made for me and to repack my pack. I climbed the steep village roads to the trailhead only to discover I had left my hat on the seat where I had been repacking. Just what I needed, more length to the hike.

With my hat firmly on my head, I climbed along a rocky dirt path with three off-road cyclists, into open paddocks high above Hayfield and the other villages in the valley.

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I followed a trail, called the Snake Path, as it slowly ascended across the grazing fields on a slightly rocky dirt path. After about a mile I crossed into the moors, the difference in vegetation obvious.

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The trail continued climbing for some time before flattening out near the Kinder Reservoir. But the view was only a distraction for the climb that was to come.

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The trail follows the curve of the reservoir and up into the William Clough, a long gully.

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The rocky trail crossed the stream flowing down the Clough several times.  I climbed slowly until it levelled out at Ashop Head between Mill Hill and the Kinder Scout Tor.

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I continued past Ashop Head and followed the trail around hard to the right where it followed Ashop Clough for three miles. I rested in the sun, part way along, before continuing towards the end of the Clough where there is a fair-sized wood.

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In the woods, alongside the river, the trail climbed sharply up to a major road, one I had been hearing for some time. I walked along it for a short distance to the Snake Inn where I stopped for lunch. I headed back to where the trail was supposed to take but found the access was no longer available. I returned to where I had come out of the woods, crossed the road and headed up a steep path.

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I followed it to an old Roman road on the edge of the Cowms Moor, with a rocky shelf to my left, and then onto grazing fields with a rock fence.

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After a mile, I came back down to the major road where I crossed and headed up into the moors once more. The trail climbed steadily, following the old Roman road for a couple of miles with woods to the side. It then ran flat across several grazing fields as I approached Hope Cross.

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Ahead I could see a tor and figured that I would be climbing it, but the trail seemed to veer around it. Five hundred metres along and I discovered my map showed another path up the tor that wasn’t there, only a steep ridge. I chose not to walk back, so out came my hiking poles for the first time and I set off up the hill. After five minutes of climbing, I discovered the end of one of my brand new poles had come off. I pushed on upwards anyway to the trail and then up the Tor.

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As I came over Thornhill Brink, I got my first sight of the Ladybower Reservoir below. But the climbing was not done, ahead was the Winhill Pike, which gave me a better view of the reservoir.

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Then, after a long day in the sun, the worst thing is a long steep descent. Steep descents can be painful on the knees, and 300 metres steeply down on a rocky, root laden trail is just hell. It was slow going, but with the help of my remaining hiking pole, I got to the bottom, my knees aching.

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Then, with four miles still to go, I discovered I’d run out of water. I rested before crossing a major road and climbing another, then across several grazing fields to Bamford. But when I got there, I discovered everything was closed, as it has a tendency to be after 5pm on a Sunday. I could have stopped at a house and asked for water, everyone in the region seemed very friendly, but I pushed on. Three miles to Hathersage.

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I headed out of Bamford and into a wood, past a water processing plant, over a short hill to a village called Nether Hurst then over one final small hill until I could see Hathersage below. I crossed several grazing fields and followed a road into the village. The hostel I was staying it was at the other end and, of course, up a hill. I made my way up there on sore feet and checked in for the night.

Sandstone Trail, Cheshire, England – Part 2

In Late August 2017, I walked the Sandstone Trail in Cheshire Northern England. See here for part 1 of my walk.

Section 2 – Clotton to Hampton Grange 21.1km (13.2mi)

After a healthy breakfast at my B&B, I was dropped off back at the trail by my most insisting host. I headed out across fields that stunk of nearby farmyards. Then through a wheat field with the view of Beeston Crag ahead of me.

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For the next couple of kilometres, I marched across fields to eventually emerge onto the quiet Pudding Lane, named because someone on the road stole a large quantity of milk to be used to make pudding!? With Beeston Crag ever in front of me, I came down to a canal at Wharton’s Lock and crossed over on a stone bridge.

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And then soon after under a railway bridge.

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At the base of the crag, I followed a road up and around to the rebuilt entrance of the castle ruins.

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I paid to get in and entered to find a large open grassy section within the walls. There were plenty of people hanging around and eating lunch on the grass. I followed a wide path towards the upper section.

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I then came to another protective wall, this time the original, with its main section smashed in.

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Beyond that was another large grassy area surrounded by the walls. At the far end of the grassy area was the moat with a newly built bridge leading across and into the main castle ruins.

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The open area within the main castle grounds is quite large and the ground is very uneven. I sat and ate the lunch I’d brought with me enjoying the view. The views were almost 360º and definitely a good reason to visit. I can only imagine what the land would have looked like in the 1220s when the castle had been erected.

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Inside the main ruins, there is England’s deepest well.

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Beneath the castle crag, there are sets of caves that have long since been blocked off. After my visit, I left the crag and headed out to the south across fields and small roads heading towards the tree covered Peckfordton Hills. From within the trees, the top of Peckforton Castle could be seen although I was unable to get any closer. I later found out that some distant cousins had been married in this very castle not so long ago.

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The trail followed a road for a short distance before climbing around the back of the hills with a steep climb to the top. It climbs over to Hill Lane before heading south and across Bulkeley Hill where i passed several other walkers, both doing the hike and just casually walking their dogs. I stopped for a break at a viewpoint called Name Rock with many sets of initials scratched into them.

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I then climbed down the hill, crossed a small field then climbed up another hill, past an overgrown quarry and around the top of a cliff where smaller trails descended. Below there are a series of caves called Queen’s Parlour but as it is on private property it was not worth the climb to see it. I continued to a viewpoint and stopped for a look.

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I then headed up the trail to a monument with a very small viewpoint at a place called Rawhead, the highest point on the Sandstone Trail. At 227m, it’s not particularly high.

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I then crossed several fields belonging to Chiflik Farm and the associated animal dung that goes with it, until I reached the A534 highway and quickly crossed. For a short time, I walked along a road down past Bickerton Farm, on to Bickerton Church before beginning to climb Bickerton Hill. As I climbed I came to another viewpoint that looked out to the North…

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…then on past a place called Mad Allen’s Hole, where an old Hermit used to live. The trail then curved around to Kitty’s Stone. A memorial with poetry on it dedicated to someone named Kitty.

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The hill then dove down a dip before climbing the other side to Larkton Hill and another view point. The on to another Iron Age fort (there are six along the trail) called Maiden Castle, where again little more than the ramparts could be seen. The trail then headed down to a carpark where the Sandstone Ridgeline and the walk originally ended, although it is inaccessible if you don’t have a vehicle waiting for you. To make the trail more accessible, the end point was moved some 10 miles further south to Whitchurch, with its major train station. The trail continued around the base of the hill before crossing a field.
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The remaining 2 kilometres of the walk for the day I crossed the farm paddocks and walked around a race horse training centre before coming out on the road that would lead to my evening’s accommodation. While this B&B was accessible to the trail, it was some distance from anywhere to eat. I was able to borrow a bike and ride to the local pub 15 minutes ride away. While it seemed like a good idea, after a long day’s walk it was harder work than expected.

Part 3 – Hampton Grange to Whitchurch 12.9km (8mi)

The next morning, I set out from the B&B along the road to where the trail cut again across a series of wheat fields…

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And then again through a corn field where a hidden church could be seen above the corn.

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I then continued across grassy paddocks to finally come out on a canal and Willeymoor Lock Tavern where I stopped for lunch.

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The remaining five miles was along the canal, which I marched double time, passing several sets of locks and canal boats before emerging into Whitchurch.

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I followed the trail through the streets to Jubilee Park and a Sandstone arch denoting the official end of the Trail.

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Overall

The Sandstone Trail is a great walk in Northern England, very accessible with great views of the land and of course, it’s central beacon the Beeston Crag and castle ruins.

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While it lacked easily accessible camping grounds, there were plenty of B&Bs to stay in and plentiful pubs and food opportunities along the way.

Until next time,

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Sandstone Trail, Cheshire, England – Part 1

This month I walked in Cheshire, a fairly flat county in England that runs along the border of Wales and is just south of Liverpool in the Greater Manchester area.

The Sandstone Trail runs along a central Sandstone ridge above the Cheshire Plains and is said to be one of the first middle distance walks in England. It runs a total of 55km (34mi) from Frodsham in the north to Whitchurch to the south. I planned to do it over three days, staying in B&Bs along the way as camping grounds are fairly rare. The choice of this hike was because there is a major train station at both ends of the trail, so accessibility is easy.

Section 1 – Frodsham to Clotton 23.3km (14.5mi)

I left my B&B in Frodsham around 10AM and walked the short distance to the Bear’s Paw, the official northern Trailhead. It was once several miles to the south, but was moved to Frodsham to make it more accessible.

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I crossed the road and headed south past the train station. Unsure if there would be anywhere on the trail to stop for food, I stopped at an Australian cafe for a coffee and to buy a sandwich. I then continued along the road to an alleyway which had a moderately steep climb along it. Within five minutes of walking, I had already climbed more than during the entire Boudicca Way hike. At the end of the alley, I came out near the Overton Church.

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I continued up the hill passing houses until the trail led me onto the wooded slopes of Overton Hill and a steeper climb. I followed the switch back trail until I came out at a War Memorial.

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Beyond was a great view out across the Mersey Estuary with Liverpool in the distance. If the rest of the hike had similar views, I was going to enjoy this walk.

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After my brief photo stop, I continued on along the trail as it cut through the woods to the south. To my left was a fenced off golf course and to my right the occasional view out to Liverpool.

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The trail followed the edge of the golf course and descended on metal and wooden steps to a lower section of the woods. The trail followed a switchback along the cliff and past Jacob’s Ladder, a series of steps cut into the cliff that was the only way down a hundred or more years ago. As I walked I noted initials and dates cut into the cliff face, some going back as far as the early 1800s.

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The trail climbed again to arrive at another viewpoint looking West. I followed the trail further and saw story boards relating to an old Iron Age hill fort, so I followed a smaller trail up the hill to investigate. All that was left of this 3000-year-old village is its ramparts, a line of earth mounds in which a wooden wall had once been built.

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The trail continued, wending its way through the woods, up and down hills for some time through Snidley Moor Wood until it came out on a road. A hundred metres along the road the trail dove back into the woods and past a large clearing used for a scout camp.

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The trail then followed the base of a wooded cliff across grassy fields edged by nettles. Yes, I decided to wear my shorts again. I crossed roads and other fields, sometimes on wide grassy areas and sometimes on thick nettle covered paths. I followed a road for some time, walking along a footpath before it cut across another field to emerge near a B&B which had conveniently set up a little cafe on the grass. A great place for lunch. Then after a short walk through the village of Manley Common, I followed a path into Delaware Forest Park.

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The Forest Park is simply a forest with many dirt roads used mostly for cycling and horse riding. There are down hill cycling courses at various places and warnings to walk on the sides of the dirt roads. As it was summer holidays, there were plenty of families riding their bikes around.

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Forests aren’t my favourite places to hike as they tend to be wall to wall of trees with little else, and that is how I found Delamere Forest Park. Somewhere in the centre, there is Blackmere Moss, a flooded area like a small lake. However, there had been little rain over recent times, so it was not as flooded as I was hoping. I walked on to the south and crossed the Chester-Manchester railway line on a stonework bridge.

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A short distance later, the trail came out of the forest park onto a grassy field with another wood off to the right. After a couple of hundred metres, there is an alternative trail that leads up to the summit of a hill called Pale Heights, with great views in most directions.
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At the top, I took several panorama photos, from the Clwydian Range to the north, the Mersey to the east and the distant Pennines.

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I then headed south again through the woods and across the A54 highway. After a brief foray across more fields, I cut into the Primrosehill Wood, then out again and up a slight hill to the south.

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I cut along the top of the ridge and across some paddocks before coming over a stile in a field dotted with cow patties…

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…but there was a view I’d been waiting for all day for, my first sighting of the Beeston crag and the ruins of Beeston Castle.

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Much of the remainder of the day I crossed animal paddocks, where I avoided the ever-present cow paddies. Then, crossing a road, I was thrust into a corn field.

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Eventually after a long day of walking, I emerged at the A51 nearly Tarporley a short distance from my B&B. When I found it I headed inside and grabbed a shower before wandering down to the local pub for dinner and a well-deserved cider.

Next, Part 2 of my three day hike On the Sandstone Trail.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Boudicca Way, Norfolk, England – Part 2

I recently walked the Boudicca Way in Norfolk, England. See here for Boudicca Way, Norfolk, England – Part 1

Day 2 – Saxlingham Green to Gissing – 28km (17.4miles)

After a night in a tent and a B&B style breakfast, I packed up and headed out. I had planned for today to be the longest day of this walk, so thought it best I get started early. The trail went quickly through a field to a small lane then onto a major road for a hundred metres or so before diving back onto cropland.

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I started to see horses in paddocks as I walked and chatted to several as I went past, some coming to the fence to check me out. As I cut around a small copse of trees, I began to hear the highway ahead. I crossed another paddock and over the road where I could. I then walked between a pair of fields with horses and ponies roaming around before onto a small lane that again led to a rural road. I followed this to a small village before turning left and along for fifteen minutes to the large village of Tadburgh.

There is a pub on the far side of the township, and I was keen for a coffee, so I walked along the major road to it. It was closed. It seemed pretty standard for Norfolk not to find anywhere open that sold food. I sat on an outside seat and ate some trail mix before heading off again.

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I walked on again along tight country roads for some time, standing aside for the occasional car that came by. I turned right and headed onto farmland again along permissive lands provided for my walk. I crossed more wild trails fending off nettles with my walking poles. Over a major road,  I walked into more fields, passing some trees called, ‘Devil’s Wood’ then along a path to the village of Fritton. As I walked, I wished for a seat, and when I got to the corner there was one waiting near a phone box. I sat down and ate more of my trail mix. Again, like the other villages, there was no place to stop to buy any food, not even a corner shop to grab a snack.

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After a rest, I headed south with the threat of rain looming in the sky. It spat a little as I walked under a row of trees, but nothing more. Then it was back into farmland and across more wheat fields before heading south into Tyrell’s Wood, the first I was allowed to walk through. It seemed popular with dog walkers. When I got to the carpark, I took another rest, taking off my boots. Today my boots have been hard on my feet and ankles, and I could start to feel some strain on my Achilles’ tendons. So when I put the boots on again, I made sure to keep them loose.

Rain threatened again as I headed off again along country lanes. After ten minutes the rain finally came down. I was prepared for it and had brought a small umbrella with me. With it open, I stood under a large tree while a heavy barrage of rain came down for 30 minutes or so.

When it stopped, I headed off again and five minutes later had to cross a wheat field with a path cut through it. It was a little slippery, but the wet dirt had yet to turn to mud although my boots and legs got wet from the wet plants.

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I eventually made it to Pulham Market, a larger village with a pair of pubs close together. But time was getting on, and I estimated I still had another 2 hours to walk, so I didn’t want to stop for too long. I had no idea how far I had walked since leaving camp nearly 8 hours earlier, but my legs were growing sore and seized up each time I stopped. So I pushed on. My left Achilles tendon was still sore, so I tried to go easy on it, adjusting my boots again to give some comfort.

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I pushed on south along the road and then a country road that led onto more fields. I again cut across wheat fields and along grass verges hiding nettles until I reached another major highway. It was here I was to leave the trail to get to my accommodation another 5 miles away.

I walked through more country lanes, past houses and farms, through the village of Tivetshall St Mary to the remains of St Mary’s Church where I stopped for my final rest. I was just about to leave again when it again began to pour.

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Once it had finished, I set off but was again stiff. I crossed a railway bridge then followed a muddy trail across yet another wheat field and a grass paddock. One more road and I arrived at my B&B. My legs were sore, and I was knackered after a 10 and half hour day, nine of them walking. I looked forward to a shower and a walk to the pub for dinner.

After my shower, I could barely walk. Then because a local fete had been on that day, I discovered the pub was not serving food and delivery from Diss was going to cost me a fortune, so I resigned myself to eating trail mix again. But again, my host offered to cook me dinner. It was amazing. Afterwards, I watched some TV before collapsing into a comfortable bed.

Day 3 – Gissing to Diss – 10km (6.2miles)

Rain rain rain, all night long. It would be a short walk today to my end point where I was catching a train late in the day. My hosts told me I could stay as long as I liked, and I made a plan for when the rain stopped.

My host dropped me off back on the trail, and I waited in a pub for the rain to stop, but alas, it did not. The pub did not serve food on Mondays but could heat up a sausage roll for me. I eventually gave up waiting for the rain to stop and caught a bus to the train station in Diss where I hung out for several hours waiting for the train. Not the way I wanted to end the walk, but neither would be getting rained on and having to cross muddy fields.

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Overall
Honestly, while it was an interesting walk along roads and through paths across farms, there was not that much to the Boudicca Way. It was good exercise and got me used to a heavy pack again, but there were very few scenic views or places of interest. The difficulty finding accommodations and there being practically nowhere to eat made it a rather annoying trip. I’m glad I walked on this side of the country, but next, I will be off on what I hope will be a more decent hike, Cheshire’s Sandstone Trail.

The Lone Trail Wanderer