Ashbourne to Hartington
It was a bit of a foggy start this morning. Not the weather, my head. I think I drank a little too much last night with Ian and Frances – if I’m honest I knew at the time I was but I was having such a great time I didn’t care.
Fortunately, all the banging around and loud TV from the night before wasn’t repeated so after saying goodbye to Ian and Frances, and writing up the day’s events, I passed out pretty quickly.
I woke up at the usual 5am and lied there, quietly suffering, for another couple of hours before trying to get myself ready. Knowing that I didn’t have the longest walk ahead of me I didn’t rush around. By the time I’d sorted my stuff out, had breakfast – which I struggled to eat – and checked out, it was 9am already.
Before I carry on I’d just like to thank the guys at Just B for donating their tips from last night. Very unexpected and very much appreciated.
Because of the detour in to Ashbourne I’d sorted out a simple route to get back on track, deciding to take the lanes instead of winding my way there trying to use public footpaths.
The lanes were lovely to walk down, the birds singing and the peace only being disturbed by the odd car or two. I made my way out through Mapleton – a lovely little place – and then headed to Blore.
The road to Blore was tiring. It was a couple of miles long but it was one long hill climb, rising some 350ft. This was a long slog but as I reached the top I got my first real look at the peaks ahead. They were amazing and, even though I knew I probably had some steep climbs ahead, I was very much looking forward to seeing them up close and personal.
From Blore I made my way in to Ilam, finally following my original route. The route dropped down in to Ilam across a river, finally giving me a glimpse of the very pretty village. The houses along the river were alpine-style cottages alongside some of the older more traditional buildings. They were not what I expected to see but they certainly added quite a lot of character to a very small village.
As I walked out the other side of Ilam I spotted another alpine-style building and wondered what it was. Was it the village church? Was it just another home? No, this was the little primary school and it was just as pretty as a picture.
The lane out of Ilam was another long climb, this time going up 400ft. It was pretty tough but I put my head down and pushed hard to get to the top. Well, I say the top but that’s not exactly true. At the top of the hill I picked up a public footpath that took me up another 140ft, taking me up to just over 1000ft as I went past Air Cottage! One thing that gave me was an absolutely stunning view over the gorge below, only slightly marred by the mist and like drizzle.
From Air Cottage the path took me along the top of gorge towards Dove Dale woods. The rain had started so I found some shelter under a tree and put my waterproof trousers on. Typical, after all the effort of putting them on, the rain had all but died out but knowing if I took them off it’d only start again, I left them on.
The rain made the path a little bit tricky as the mud and rocks were now all wet and quite slippery. I’m so glad I’ve got the two walking poles. If it weren’t for them I’m pretty sure I’d would have gone over at some point as I made my way to the woods.
Reaching the woods the rain started again – see, I knew it was a good idea to not bother taking the waterproofs off – and unfortunately the trees didn’t offer that much protection due to the direction of the rain. I wasn’t too bothered but again the path became a little on the slippery side. Not only that, to the right of me was an almost sheer drop through the trees, somewhere I really didn’t want to be falling down I can tell you.
Making my way along the path I was keeping an eye out for the turning I needed to take but, even while looking for it, I completely missed it and ended up backtracking a bit. even then, using the GPS to pinpoint the spot, I still couldn’t see the path I needed to take until I really looked hard. At his point my heart sank. What I was presented with was a near vertical path of mud, slippery rocks and loose stones. This was what I had to take? Seriously? I was to make my way down to the river at the bottom of the gorge, this I knew, but I’d expected something a little bit more path like than the mud slide scene from Romancing the Stone!
With no other choice I gave myself a small talking to and went for it…only to immediately lose my footing twice, stopping myself from slipping too far with my poles. I wasn’t happy at all, and this after a really nice, albeit hilly, walk so far this morning.
The climb down took quite some time, making sure I didn’t move my feet until I was convinced my poles were nice and secure. It was exhausting and by the time I’d finally made it to the river I was dripping with sweat and thoroughly shattered. I could really have done without that.
All I can say is, if you’re reading this and you’re thinking on doing this walk, maybe following the route I’ve taken, don’t at any cost take that path! Find an alternate route even if that means walking further. I quite literally put my life in my own hands going down there, especially with the pack on my back making it harder than normal to balance myself. If I’d slipped then it could quite literally have been all over so I would warn anyone off from taking that particular part of the route. You have been warned!
After all that though I made it and I have to admit that I was quietly proud of myself for overcoming what could have been an insurmountable obstacle.
I took a couple of minutes stood on the bridge over the river Dove to rest after all the effort I’d just exerted, standing at the base if Ilam Rock, a solitary pinnacle of rock towering over the River Dove.
Rested I carried on my way along the riverside. I was very pleased that the next four or five miles were all along the river so that meant I was pretty much guaranteed a relatively flat walk.
The scenery walking along the river was absolutely stunning and I felt very privileged to have been walking there. I passed the Dove Holes, two caves hollowed out when the water level was higher. The two caves are large and shallow, the larger of the two being some 60ft wide and 30ft high.
It’s certainly somewhere I suspect I would never have been to if it hadn’t been for this walk. If you ever find yourself in the area I highly recommend you walk along the river Dove. The path is very well kept for the most part and it is just a delight to look at.
The walk to Milldale was quite busy with people, as was Milldale itself. A lot of people were clearly out enjoying the scenery I was, and who can blame them?
I followed the river through and out the other side of Milldale, the path being slightly smaller and not as well kept; this was clearly not as popular as the previous bit of my walk? Personally I loved this section of the walk as the scenery just got better and better. It was a mixture of craggy rocks, lush woodland and bare grassland. My company for the most part were a few ducks and lots of sheep as they were grazing by the river side. They were clearly used to people as a lot of them paid no attention to me and I managed to walk very close to them without scaring them.
The only people I came across were a couple guys fly fishing. As I walked up to them one of them cast his line but clearly something had gone wrong. As I walked by them he was trying to remove his hook from his mates coat, to which he said “biggest thing I’ve caught all day”. We all laughed and I wished them luck with their fishing and carried on along the path.
Every turn of the river gave another stunning view and I lost count how many photos I took, each one adding time to my journey but at that point I didn’t really care. This place was absolutely wonderful to walk through and a lot better than the fields of long grass of a few days ago that’s for sure!
A few miles up the path, and almost without warning, the path took me out of the stunning gorge I’d so enjoyed walking along and out on to some fields which I had to cut across to pick up the river path again. It was quite weird being in the open after having the walls of the gorge looming over me for so many miles. No matter though, as I picked up the river path the rocky walls loomed over me once more.
Walking along the path I noticed three guys, two who were clearly there to do some fishing and another with a rather large video camera and tripod. Walking up to them they asked how far I’d walked and we struck up a conversation which obviously involved me telling them about my LEJOG walk. The guy with the video camera asked if he could take my photo with his camera, stood next to the video camera on the tripod. I obliged and he said he’d send it on to me once he was back home on Friday.
I asked them what they were shooting and they said just some shots of the river, clearly with the guys fishing. It was a great spot for it for sure, but as we were speaking the dark clouds were beginning to loom overhead, threatening to rain.
We shook hands and I made my way along the path, determined to make it to Hartington before I got wet. Unfortunately mother nature had other ideas. Leaving the river path to cross some fields on my way in to Hartington the heavens opened and it began to rain quite badly. Thankful of my waterproofs I carried on regardless, eventually getting to my hotel for the night around 3:15pm. I’d expected to get there a bit earlier than that but what with the death slide of a path and all the photos I was taking clearly it had taken a little longer than first thought?
I checked in, went to my room, got cleaned up and popped outside to see if I could get a signal on my phone, something I’d not had since entering the river Dove gorge.
No, I couldn’t get a signal so beginning to panic that I wouldn’t be able to speak to the girls I went on the hunt for a phone box. I found one and it also took coins. Every one I’d passed on my journey so far hadn’t so why this one did I don’t know? One thing I did notice though was the fact that there was a 60p minimum spend, 40p of which was a connection charge – outrageous!
I went back to my room as it was too early to phone the girls yet and, as I had wifi in my room – patchy as it was – I checked on the O2 site for coverage in this area. It would appear that Hartington is in a hole in their coverage of this area…typical! Saying that though, this was the first time since I started the walk that the phone had failed me so I can’t complain really can I? I knew signal coverage may well be a bit dodgy in this neck of the woods so I wasn’t too surprised.
I phoned the girls, well Alice again as Elisa didn’t want to speak on the phone again, and then popped in to the Devonshire Arms for something to eat. After last night’s drinking I decided to play it a little bit more sensibly tonight so I just had an orange juice and lemonade with my dinner – didn’t want to wake up with a foggy head again two days on the trot that’s for sure.
Fed and watered I headed back to the Charles Cotton Hotel – home for the night – and started to write up the day’s events.
To be honest, I struggled to write this tonight as my energy levels are pretty low again. I guess that struggle down the gorge side took considerably more out of me than I thought? I’m ok though, just need a good night’s sleep…ha! I’ve been waiting for one of those for months so I suspect I won’t manage one tonight either?!
Other than the hiccup with the mud slide path today’s walk was exponentially more enjoyable than the previous couple of days and my spirits were definitely lifted. The scenery was stunning, all of which was a welcome change from the Severn or the Staffordshire way.
I can only hope that this means I’ve turned the corner from that black cloud that’s been hanging over me the last few days. Finger crossed on that one.