It’s 1.30 pm, and the DP and I are joined by Andrew in the small, cold, chairless porch of Elton Parish Church. Andrew tucks into his Service Station Sandwich whilst we munch on Anonymous Pate tucked into aging slices of bread. It’s drizzling outside and we leave our waterproofs on. They cling to the damp clothing beneath. There is nowhere to place our mugs of tea, so they sit on the stone floor, gathering cold drips.
Richard and Jenny, we know, have brought butties. Why aren’t they suffering with us? Ah well, it would have been a tight fit in here, anyway.
This was lunchtime on Sue W’s first Peak District Bimble of the year, cleverly planned to start at Friden at 10.30, thereby enabling the organisers to sleep in until 10 am, whilst the other members of this gang of 12 fought their way from various parts of the Midlands and the North. “Happy New Year”s briefly pervaded the gloom. Whilst it was vaguely dry at the point of departure, I needed to put my waterproofs on to protect my hat from blowing away. Soon the dullness deteriorated into drizzle, but it was nice to see everyone. Richard was enthusiastic as we passed the brick factory. His family was one of the Great Brick Making Dynasties. That is, until the firm went bust some years ago. He explained that the bricks made at Friden include refractory bricks that withstand great temperatures, etc etc…!
I’d done a small A5 laminated card with what I thought was the intended route, and this worked well whilst the others couldn’t be bothered to get their maps out.
But after reaching the lane (pictured above) that turns into a quiet road to Middleton, Sue and Phil took over with their plan. The main road was quiet and the farm lane was ok, but as we wound our way around the beautifully landscaped Mount Pleasant Farm, and down to Smerill with the expansive view shown below, Sue began to limp. Quite Badly. So Phil turned back to retrieve their transport and I had my rather pathetic little map to guide the rest of us to Elton for lunch.
We set off into a deep bog, foolishly ignoring a bemused looking Graham who had been here before and knew a way around it. But we, not he, were on the path. Richard heroically dislodged a bucket of sheep feed that had metamorphosed into a dam. We could now walk through the bog, rather than wade through a lake.
Turning right at a lane end we took, for the sake of Sue’s poorly leg, a direct route to Elton via Rock Farm. My navigation was a little too direct and deviated from the path. I must get out of this awful habit of leading people up seemingly nice farm tracks that turn into deep slurry!
We thankfully regained a path that was simply boggy at Rock Farm, for the stroll into Elton, via water troughs that were turned into slurry troughs by our shitty boots. At some point Jenny fell over, apparently on the only piece of proper soft grass we saw all day! I hope she has recovered.
After our little sojourn in the church porch, the three paupers joined the rest of the group in the Elton café, where about 50 people were crammed in for Sunday lunch with steaming mugs of tea. Richard and Jenny had cheated; they had kept their butties for tomorrow and were tucking into a sumptuous lunch… The pub next door was empty! The Tea Rooms are a walkers and cyclists’ paradise, full of character with old advertising signs adorning the walls, a grandfather clock in the corner and a National Cash Register to record sales. There was nowhere for us to sit, and we had already had our lunch, but the others would be here for some time yet. So when someone finally left, we decided on dessert. Both the carrot cake and the cherry crumble with custard and ice cream were superb, and the others had enjoyed the rest of their food. So, when walking in the Peaks, try this place. But don’t bring butties, and arrive early.It was nearly 2.30 by the time we re-emerged into the murk. Sue and Phil (our leaders) drove off, leaving us to walk down the lane to the start of Gratton Dale (Sue said the footpath option would be ‘messy’.) Once in the dale route finding was no problem, we just had to walk up the path. Unfortunately the ‘path’ had been usurped by a stream, so we were consigned to its boggy verges. If we thought the morning’s route had been uncomfortable this was really unpleasant. (See the top picture.)
Now my knees started to pain me, and Mike kept bending over and breathing deeply, showing signs of fatigue after Christmas excesses. At the head of the dale an obvious right turn took us into Long Dale for the supposedly simple walk back to Friden. Tea Lady shot off, keen to get home in time to do the six hours daily revision that appears to be in her ‘Retraining as a Medic’ routine. The rest of us plodded on, thankfully on firmer ground, and the DP pleased everyone by handing round a large tub of Caramel Shortbread (or should that be a tub of Large Caramel Shortbread?).
We arrived at a junction and ignored the main path – it went uphill. So we followed a wall and came out by a wood at another junction. Tea Lady reappeared, unable to divine her way back to her car, or was it the prospect of some emergency first aid practice – administering to Mike, now almost permanently doubled up from acute exhaustion. I took a bearing. “It’s over this collapsed gate”. Those with 1:25000 maps should have checked. My scrap of 1:50000 didn’t show the detail, and we splodged off in roughly the right direction but on the wrong side of a wood. All went fairly well, via broken down walls and unlikely gates, until the final bit of road bore into sight. The wood was in the way. We bravely fought our way through what appeared to be the remnants of WW2 defences into and out of the barbed wired and loosely walled bracken filled strip (not a patch on last Wednesday’s ‘Forest Experience’). Dusk descended as we regrouped back at Friden just a little way down the road.
Sadly, I have no flora and fauna to report on this walk, they were all lying very low today. I wonder why?
Here’s the route, should anyone be brave enough to follow in our footsteps. Actually it would be good in dry conditions with a 1:25000 map. It’s about 18 km with 450 metres of ascent, and took us 5½ hours including the hour for lunch.