Monday, 24 August 2015

O'er hill and down dale

Saturday started out with breakfast at the hostel, a full hot English breakfast, to which I did not do due justice. When I had finished my pitiful efforts with the pot of yogurt, I packed my hoodie into my rucksack and headed down into Hartington Village.

With the Hall’s WiFi supposedly on the fritz, I settled down in the Beresford Tea Rooms to use theirs while I devoured a jam-and-cream scone and a cup of tea. When I was done, I ducked over to the general store for some basic provisions and set off on the ‘Pilsbury walk’, a 6-mile round trip from the Hall through the hamlet of Pilsbury.

Though both Hartington and Pilsbury are in dales, the trail between the two went right up on the ridges, so as I headed along the road out of town I kept my eyes on the hills. Past a farm gate the trail turned sharply up the hill, and then my introduction to hiking in the Derbyshire dales began. Between there and Pilsbury the trail ran along the public footpath – that is to say, a thin grass track across farmer’s (often occupied) fields, sometimes marked only by the tread of passing feet, and you just had to pray they’d been human ones.

Then, to pass between all these fields you were invading, were the stiles – made of stone or wood; sometimes a slim opening alongside a farm gate for you to slip through, other times a series of steps jutting out over a wall and down the other side; and frequently coupled with a gate, making an obstacle course as you swung over the too-slim stile, kicked the gate out, then landed on the ground and dodged sideways before the gate hit you on the way back.

It was quite an adventure, and the views were the crowning jewel. Everywhere were green grassy fields, separated by the dark line of drystone walls. It was such a different scene to the countryside I'm used to, and it was beautiful. I was almost back to Hartington when the dark clouds overhead rumbled ominously and little raindrops started hitting the top of my head. I had just decided to leave my tree-shelter and make a run for it when the heavens opened and I got drenched! I got a lot of chuckles as I walked through the village square and stopped into the supermarket to buy dinner before heading back to the hostel to dry off.

Sunday was a bit of a different day. Having discovered the previous day that I couldn't withdraw cash in Hartington,  I caught the first bus of the day into Buxton and found the first ATM I could to replenish my supply of pounds sterling. With an hour to the next bus, I found a supermarket for some quick shopping and some other errands before grabbing some lunch and wandering uphill towards the next bus stop. As I had a little explore, naturally I found a bookshop, and walked out with a couple of secondhand James Herriotts!

When I returned to Hartington the sky was threatening more ominous weather, and I was quite content to hole up in the library (yes, this hostel has a quiet room/library as well as the communal lounge, kids' room and Internet room) with some chocolate and my new books for a few hours. Having been sufficiently lazy for the day, after a soup dinner in the communal kitchen I grabbed a map for a short, easy dales walk from reception and set off about 8 o'clock for an evening stroll. You can guess where this is going - nightfall was much closer than I expected and I found myself at the bottom of Biggin Dale in the dark, with no torch, little food and water and nothing warmer than a light cardigan. So I backtracked, took the second shortcut homewards to avoid the muddy return route in the dark, spooking the whole way, and followed the main tracks back to the hostel, where my hour walk in the twilight was revealed to have been far from it!

Monday I had another big walk planned - the Three Dales Walk, from Hartington through Biggin Dale to Wolvercote Dale and thence to Beresford Dale (and looping around to Hartington). The route went around some of the paths I'd followed the previous night (and some I should have followed, had I not been out so late!), down into the dales and then along the river Dove, where I spotted 11 ducks, one dipper, one unidentified bird and one very fat, happy trout. It was a very nice, green walk, quite different to the walk over the hills two days earlier, and I took my time over it.

Arriving back in Hartington, I settled down at the tea rooms, dying for a scone and a cup of Earl Grey, and after a hour I retired for a nap back in my room. I decided to have dinner at the hostel (they have good food!) and spent my evening, as usual, curled up reading in the library (or sitting at the other end of the hall browsing the wifi, which was not so broken as reported...!)

Hartington church

Looking out over Hartington

Looking down into the dale


Crossed the ploughed field without falling in!

Heading out of Pilsbury


The Derbyshire dales

Drystone wall!


Hills and dales around Hartingon

Hartington from the other side

Over the hills towards Biggin Dale

Biggin Dale

The Dove River

Wolvercote Dale

Somewhere around Beresford

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