Jul 14 2012

Walk 51: A Long Time Coming

Monsal Head Viaduct

route: Longstone Moor & Wardlow from Monsal Head
Date: 14th july 2012
distance: 5.7 miles
ascent: 1097 feet
time: 3 hrs 45 mins
walkers: Dave, Holly, Izzy, Leanne Sandra & Simon

It had been 7 weeks since our Trailtrekker adventure and after giving ourselves a little time off we felt now was the right time to begin our walking once again. If I am honest, the build-up to Trailtrekker had been quite time consuming and it had been nice to have time to do as much or as little as we wanted on a weekend without fitting a walk in. On the other hand I was aware that we are creatures of habit and if we didn’t do something soon it would be hard to get back into it. With the date and time set I needed to choose a route and I opted for Longstone Moor to tick another off of our Peak District tops list. The reason for this was the distance both of the drive and walk. I was happy to have a reasonably short drive and a nice pleasant walk to ease us back in and remind us of what we had been missing, that was the plan anyway. In reality the AA route planner seemed to miss a junction out but we caught a glimpse of Chatsworth House as we made our way to our start point.

We parked up at Monsal Head and went through the old preparation routine as if we had walked only yesterday. As is the norm there is usually some giggling and banter of some sort with someone being the butt of a sarcastic comment or two. The only thing different today was the fact we had a new walker with us, and this one had four legs. Izzy became the first non-human Badger although I think the moment was lost on her as she eagerly wagged her tail and jumped about , sitting very briefly for the team shot before we set off.

The early part of the walk was a gentle stroll along the road towards Little Longstone and although the weeks leading up to this walk had consisted of rain, rain and more rain, today we were blessed with decent weather. Little Longstone was pretty small but did have a pub and a strange looking house with external doors on both floors even though the upper had no steps.

Almost immediately after passing through the little village we picked up a footpath that would lead us away from civilisation and towards Longstone Moor. First on the radar was Dale Farm and we crossed the lush green fields which were surprisingly good under foot. In fact the only thing that threated to send us flying wasn’t slippery underfoot conditions, it was the dog that was bounding about everywhere on her extended lead. I even had a couple of cases of rope burn as Izzy charged behind me dragging the lead across the back of my knees as she went. On one occasion I yelped like a girl but in my defence it did leave a mark so really I was very brave to carry on!

Dale Farm lead us onto Moor Lane where for the first time the route went upwards albeit gradually compared with some of the bigger climbs, it was enough for L’Autobus to form, as myself and Beaky moved on discussing how nice it was to be back as a group once more. In the build-up to Trailtrekker, Ramblo and Wu Tang had opted to sit out some of the longer, more challenging walks and I don’t really blame them. Today was the first time in over three months we had walked as a group and I was happy to have the girls back as was Beaky. Our footpath went straight ahead as the road curved right and we waited for the girls to catch us up. I welcomed the shelter from the sun that was provided by the trees and took a big drink of water to quench my thirst. With the girls back with us we joked about anything and nothing giving them time to recover too. One thing I know about being at the back is as soon as you catch the people in front of you they want to set off, so we try to make sure we move off when the last person is ready. This pause gave Holly time to give Ramblo lesson on how to work the dog lead as she was struggling with it.

With all of us ready we began the final climb up, through the trees towards Longstone Moor. The gradient was the steepest on this walk but wasn’t anything to write home about and the distance of the climb can’t have been more than a quarter of a mile before we were out of the trees and the slope had all but flattened off. We made our way to a little crossroads of paths and spent a couple of minutes chatting with a passing dog walker, before we checked the map and continued on our way.

The route to the top was decent underfoot and it hardly felt like a climb at all. The one thing I have noticed about some of the lower summits on our Peak District tick list, is they don’t feel like summits at all. I am sure when we get to Kinder Scout and some of the bigger ones it may feel that way, but these smaller one almost feel like cheating. Having said that, the purpose of our tick lists isn’t to just reach high places, they are there to make sure we visit different places, and that is what we do each and every time. With it being so long since we last walked as a group we almost forgot the old routine and we nearly left without the various pictures we take at each top/trig/cairn. With those taken care of and after a very brief snack, we left Longstone Moor and headed towards Wardlow trig point which was almost straight ahead of us perched on top of a grassy mound.

We scaled a fence and headed towards the B6465 which we would follow for a short distance towards the base of the small climb. As we approached the road we encountered half a dozen young bulls stood watching us but fortunately we had spotted them first. I have heard many stories and know that the combination of walkers, dogs and cows aren’t exactly the best mix so we were already on guard long before they spotted us. I told Holly that should any of them charge over or look threatening then she was to let go of the lead as in theory the cow chases the dog who can run faster so no harm comes to anyone or anything. In truth we were thankful nothing happened, but we did laugh at the fact we have hardly ever come across cows or the like during our 50 walks to date, and the first time we have a dog we run into a field full of bulls. Once safely out of the field and along the road we began the short climb up to the trig point. Initially this began well but the grass soon became pretty long and awkward to walk in, then we struggled to find a route over a wall to allow us to get to the top. We split up and went in different directions to find the best route. Under normal circumstances we would have found a way to cross sooner but these weren’t normal circumstances but more of that another day. I stomped my way through the long grass to the top corner of the field and found a point I felt we could all get across. It was almost a prison camp style (not that I have ever had any experience with prison camps) that had a wall topped with barbed wire then a gap of around a metre, then a wire fence topped once again with barbed wire. I called the others and we crossed one at a time each helping lift bags and hold the wire for each other.

From here to the trig was a matter of minutes as the long grass we had previously struggled through was gone and we now had lovely short grass no doubt kept in check by the sheep the scattered the hillside. There were a few large mushrooms/toadstools dotted about that were a decent size and had a nice pattern on the top. I’m not really creative with my photography but thought I would try a ground level shot to be a little different. I should try take a few pictures from different angles in future to experiment a bit as I am sure one day I will get a decent pic for my troubles…

Wardlow trig point offered great views all around due to its cone shape. We sat and had lunch whilst trying to work out the surrounding peaks which is something we can’t quite do yet in the Peak District. In the Dales it is a different story but we while we could work out a few distant hills we didn’t know them all. It was a pleasant way to spend 20 minutes though with the only downside being the numerous flies that buzzed around non-stop.

L’Autobus were placed in charge of the route back and they were given all the info they needed to make an informed choice. Both routes happened to be along roads, which wasn’t ideal but I didn’t realise when I planned the walk. One was down the busier B6465 but was all gradually downhill, the other followed a much quieter road and started with a steep descent, flat middle then a climb out of the valley back to the car. I knew they wouldn’t like the busier road and I have to admit it isn’t much fun having farm waggons and cars flying past you, but the flat return would no doubt appeal. Having said that the more scenic return had its positives so things were in the balance, a balance that was soon tipped when Beaky said he could bring the car down the hill to pick L’Autobus up if they didn’t want that final climb. The quiet road it was then…

We headed off making good progress that was only interrupted by Wu Tang needing to powder her nose for the second time today. An impromptu toilet roll holder was set up and I stood guard not that anything or anyone was in sight. Once done we caught up with the others who were slowly making their way downhill before making our way along the valley floor.

The last half mile or so was easy going until we came to the final climb which the sign said was 16%. L’Autobus decided that they wouldn’t wait for us to reach the top before picking them up in the car and instead they began slowly making their way to the top. As mentioned above there were reasons why we were being cautious with L’Autobus, not that I am going to disclose that here, as that would prevent you from wondering, why?!

In truth the climb wasn’t that tough at all, although the fact I took it nice and steady with the girls helped in that respect. Had I tried to keep up with Beaky it would have found me out and I no doubt would have needed to stop. That just goes to prove what the Rambling Badgers are all about though. It is a much more enjoyable experience knowing others are enjoying it too and for that to be the case, sometimes we need to plan a shorter walk or take a little longer than we might actually need. After all we do it for enjoyment and it was fantastic to have L’Autobus with us once again, added to the fact that Holly bringing Izzy along and all in all it was a great way to start the second half of 2012. The challenge walks have a place in our calendar but this will always be our bread and butter, and long may that continue.

Sir Edmund


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