Stately Homes and Millstone Grit

. . . and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something! Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Having started walking properly on Easter Saturday, today marked the end of our first calendar month walking with just two rest days, two planned and one unplanned. In retrospect, this is quite a lot of effort, and might explain why feet tend to feel rather used and abused by the end of the day.

Today’s walk was one of contrasts: we covered a lot of ground physically, which took us from stone-built agricultural villages, beautifully preserved and with a strong sense of community identity, through the aristocratic grand-scale parkland of the Chatsworth estate, and finally out onto the high moorland of North Derbyshire.

The day started cloudy and overcast after rain overnight, which made for some beautiful lighting effects of the kind we haven’t seen much of so far, given our great good fortune with weather over the past four weeks.

The first village we walked through, Middleton, looked much as it must have done in the 18th century. If you took away the cars and transported a pre-industrial revolution villager forward to today’s Middleton, they perhaps would not see much change.

Locals were piling into the back of a van and heading off purposefully on some mission.

It turns out it was well-dressing: we followed the van down a green gorge to where it opened out onto a spacious confluence where the Rowlow Brook meets an important spring to create the Bradford River. The crew had emptied out of the pickup and were busily preparing to dress what has clearly been a significant place in the local physical and social landscape over time. We could imagine the same ritual happening 200 years ago with a horse-drawn cart in place of the pickup.

Much like the gorge of the River Dove yesterday, this was a calm and peaceful haven for wildlife, with coots and ducks raising broods in safety amongst the marsh marigolds and the watermint. A birdwatcher with a serious camouflaged telephoto lens was positioned to take extraordinary photographs of a dipper nesting in a similar cave: he showed us a stunning close-up of the dipper perched on a rock with a caddisfly larva in her beak.

We climbed up from the river valley to the village of Youlgreave, tearoom and café capital of Derbyshire. Every second shop was a bakery selling delicious home-made pies, pastries, and cakes. As we left the village enjoying our rabbit pie and apple shortbread we bumped into the first of many very young DofE groups. They fall into distinct types, though all with the common characteristic of labouring under needlessly enormous packs. The first group was clearly serious about their expedition, and were impressed enough to hear about our own undertaking to offer us polo mints. The second, met at the bottom of a valley with the first taste of serious Chatsworthian architectural landscaping

but entirely uninterested in same was spear-headed by four supremely confident loud jocks wearing baseball caps on back to front, trailing behind whom was the boy with the map to whom no one was paying attention. The third was a group of girls sitting in the middle of the footpath in the middle of a field brushing their hair, packs firmly off and clearly in the middle of a very long break. The three DofE archetypes right there.

The Chatsworth estate proper made its presence felt as well as heard with titanic barrages of gunfire audible from whole valleys away, continuous volleys which echoed around disorientingly. All the mountain bikers we overtook in the woodland widened the scope of their conversation with my mountain bike expert to include discussion of the alarming salvos.

We came through the last woodland to see two clay pigeon shoots set up on a very large scale complete with drones and pavilions and I don’t know what else. We walked down through closely-grazed parkland, noting how even the colossal expanses of rough grass on these estates looks like it has been carefully mown, and how the tree branches are also grazed characteristically to a uniform height above the ground by the ducal sheep.

Lunch was in a packed tea room in the estate village of Edensor. It had something of the Marie Antoinettes about its estate workers’ lodges. It was a good thing we had some lunch there, because thereafter we were at the mercy of the Spar shop in Baslow for supper, breakfast, and walking food for the next day.

We joined the perambulating small groups of visitors (well over 600,000 in 2018) to walk down to the river from where a magnificent perspective is to be had of the house itself.

Having stocked up on the Spar’s thin pickings we started the steep climb up to Baslow Edge, reaching the top at 5pm. At this point my water ran out with three hours gruelling walking still to go – the kind of exhausting but head-down determined slog, product of necessity, which causes and worsens blisters.

Baslow Edge was the first of three gritstone escarpments, Baslow, Froggat and Stanage Edges which stretch 14km northwards with a prepossessing and forceful presence, and onwards to include also Derwent Edge, which we would be walking up and over tomorrow. They offer brilliant climbing opportunities, according to my climbing expert, and are icons of the North Derbyshire and British climbing landscapes.

Two and a half hours later, we dropped down off the Edges, our ankles aching from stumbling through the gritstone rockfield which passes for a path up on the tops. Our campsite was on the far side of what I understand to be the pretty village of Hathersage, which we were too exhausted to experience as anything other than a kind of Via Crucis of interminable roadwalking at the very end of a very long day. We felt every inch of the 34.71km and the 1690m elevation gained and lost including some really steep climbs at the end of the day. But since our average speed was 4.5km/hr we weren’t exactly slacking when we were moving. As we came up into the Peak District National Park-run campsite, sited just below Stanage Edge which was to be the starting point for tomorrow’s walk, we saw that we were to be sharing the campsite with … 85 DofE pupils. Busman’s holiday!

Supper Menu, 18th May 2019

Couscous flavoured with chicken cuppa soup

Side dish of hunks of chorizo.

Finis

Fly-through with photos and elevation

Newhaven to Hathersage

2 thoughts on “Stately Homes and Millstone Grit”

  1. Love the description of the DoE groups! Bad luck about the campsite… shame you couldn’t guilt the school staff into giving you some decent supper …

    Liked by 1 person

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