Long Walks in September 2021

1 Sep 2021 Ilam  Leader: Peter for Rob, Length of walk: 11 miles, Driving Distance: 32 miles, Number walking: 17

Click here to see a map of the walk

Although Ilam looks like it ought to be in Derbyshire, it is actually in Staffordshire. The boundary in this area runs along the river Dove. The walk took the path alongside the River Manifold until it merged with the Dove and it then followed the Dove to Okeover Hall.

There is a mill near Okeover Hall powered by a leat from above a weir on the Dove. It no longer grinds corn but there was a rhythmic watery noise from within the weedy mill pool, which intrigued the walkers. An expedition into the undergrowth revealed the noise came from an Archimedes screw, presumably generating electricity. Whoever installed the generator didn’t want it publicised on the internet. There is no mention of it.

The internet does mention the tradition to jump from Okeover Bridge into the River Dove to raise money for charity, in the annual New Year Boat Race and Bridge Jump. There was a suggestion that a walker of an adventurous nature might want to jump from the bridge, but since it was not New Year, this obviously wasn’t possible.

The route passed Okeover Hall with its collection of ancient oaks and climbed up to Woodhouses for lunch. On the way the group passed a gang laying a road to a gate in the middle of nowhere. It seemed like an odd thing to do but someone authorised the expense, so it was probably a government scheme.

During the lunch stop Beryl became the centre of attention but not because of her natural attractiveness; a moth landed on her boot and wouldn’t leave. Pictures were taken of the insect but have not reached the communication hub. The best guess from memory suggests it was a Pink Barred Sallow. More suggestions please from those who were present.

On the way back down to the Dove the group met another group from Belper or Belfast. With so many walkers suffering hearing loss, it is hard to know the true facts. The other group was found keenly studying a derelict cottage that they alleged used to be the home of the gamekeeper at Okeover Hall. As they returned to the path, the two groups merged causing some concern that the more easily distracted walkers might wander off with the wrong group. Since there were only 17 walkers from Sandbach, it was a simple matter to count them accurately.

On the Derbyshire side of the Dove lies the tiny village of Mapleton with its tiny church. Many of the walkers went in to see if it was bigger inside than out. It wasn’t. What they didn’t do was ask any passing locals how to pronounce the name of the village. Locals invariably pronounce it Mappleton, but the church notice board, many local guidebooks and the Ordnance Survey insist on Mapleton.

This was as far away from Ilam as the walkers had been all day, so they climbed up to make the return journey. At one of the field gates Tom took over the gate-opening role from Graham, but dropped the chain in a pool of rural unpleasantness. After wiping his hands on grass he said they smelled only of rust, but he took the precaution of washing his hands in a cattle trough.

A bench and a wall outside Thorpe church provided the setting for an afternoon refreshment stop before the final leg of the walk. The walkers experienced great relief knowing that would not have to climb Thorpe cloud which loomed over them to the right of the route.

When the bulk of the walkers followed the path along the Dove, three of them took the road back to Ilam claiming some sort of infirmity. In reality they were keen to reach the ice cream shop before it sold out.

15 Sep 2021 Hartington  Leaders: Linda & Mike, Length of walk: 9.5 miles, Driving Distance: 32 miles, Number walking: 15

Click here to see a map of the walk

The weather was kind to walkers. The blue sky hosted a collection of fluffy white and grey clouds to keep the temperature down and there was just enough wind to keep turbines from idleness. The leaders wore brightly polished boots to impress the locals. With this encouraging start the leaders set off at a good pace and quickly turned round to walk up the correct road past Hartington Hall. Mike said Dave was distracting him with some nonsense, which is entirely predictable.

The route went to the little village of Biggin, whose appearance was familiar to some of the walkers even if the name wasn’t. A climb up to the Tissington Trail was postponed until after the coffee stop at which Linda came round to issue cookies to the needy and very tasty they were.

The Tissington Trail is the trackbed of the railway that ran between Ashbourne and Buxton from 1899 to 1967, when freight services finally ended. The regular passenger service stopped in 1954. It is now a magnet for cyclists with hire facilities at both ends of the trail. As the group walked the trail they were passed by numerous riders, who exhibited the usual reluctance to use the bell. There was also a frightening cycle / wheelchair combination which carried the disabled person at the vulnerable front end with no control over speed or direction. Not for the faint-hearted.

The station that served Hartington (from a distance) has been converted to a visitor centre and toilet site so that had to be checked out.

Lunch at the reasonable time of 12:40 was at Parsley Hay station, which provides seating, food, drink, toilet facilities and cycle hire. A strong police presence deterred the “Insulate Britain” protest group from gluing themselves to the path.

The route of the walk left the trail soon after Parsley Hay but not before it passed a stone hut that the people of Croatia donated when their country joined the EU. There is no indication that they want it back after Brexit.

At one of the stiles, the back marker decided to take the quick way over the gate next to the stile. In one easy movement he launched himself over the gate and landed flat on his back. He initially thought he had escaped unscathed but on unpacking his rucksack found that his favourite butty box was smashed. It has been nominated for the Tupperware Award for self-sacrifice.

The path turned south parallel to the River Dove and therefore omitted the Norman castle at Pilsbury. Those who haven’t seen this castle should curb their imagination. There is nothing left except a mound on which the castle was built. It is also difficult to see why anyone would need a castle in this sparsely populated district. The Normans just loved castles and brutality.

A distinctive hill to the west of the River Dove looked like it ought to have been an Iron Age fort. Disappointingly this was Sheen Hill – made of hard sandstone and hosting a trig point but no fort.

Just before the walk reached the road to Hartington at Bank Top Farm, the group passed a sick calf looking in distress. Mike reported the casualty to the farmhouse and the group moved sadly on.

Several walkers stopped at the Charles Cotton hotel for a drink to help pay for the new roof currently being installed.