A day restin’ and a 14 miler across the White Peak from Hayfield to Litton beckoned – my first day on my own. The Pennine Bridleway almost joins Hayfield and Tideswell and it was good to have a day of easy navigation.
Ian, my host for the past two nights, and his sidekick Phil the Mill decided I needed to be ridden out of town. Phil kitted out in boots and shorts was ready for a decent stroll but Ian my walking pardner for the badlands of the Pennine Way declared his intentions with footwear for softies.
We walked out of town onto the Bridleway (Ian heading off for tea & crumpets) and we rose up towards South Head with Mount Famine (evidently the steers won’t graze there) on our left and Kinder in the misty distance. Phil strode back into town his job done to rid the town of another drunken critter.
It was now easy well-marked walking along the ancient drovers’ track and even the fords offered footbridges. I paused to chat to the men in red out walking for the day. We discussed my stroll and they recommended Simon Armitage’s Walking Home – the tale of his poetry and perambulation along the Pennine Way.
Much acclaim when I said it was my companion volume for the trip. A fine read if only I could stay awake. They told me his latest Walking Back book (tales of poetry readings along the South Coast) had flopped in comparison. I loved their explanation – well you wouldn’t have as much to write about when the locals down south don’t talk to you, would you?
We moved on in this spirit of national unity and I mentioned my forthcoming monitoring of when beer won’t have a thick head from sparklering (best estimate a wiggly line just north of Burton) and the switchover moment when folk move from talking to strangers to considering a bloke with a rucsac to be an axe murderer. I’ll report later.
I moved on following a bloke in fluorescent top and trousers who stopped every few yards. Catching up with him I saw the Network Rail logo and guessed he was checking the Cowburn rail tunnel fathoms below. A brief friendly exchange and he told me he was looking for the air shaft and did I know a path. I expected him to bring out a heavy duty tablet with Ordnance Survey map displayed. Nah, a dodgy b/w photocopy of a Google Maps extract and the instruction from his manager that it might be a bit boggy. (Yes Carol this is the state of our railways).
Nice idea, but No Café today
I moved on quickly covering the miles past Rushop Hall and the No Car cafe (closed today). Still the Pennine Bridleway, little traffic apart from farm buggies and the postman. Often wonder why we don’t get the rural posties signed up as Formula One drivers – bendy roads, phenomenal speeds, they’d be ideal. Meet a bloke on a frisky horse spooked by a line of washing – then a bench in Peak Forest village and it’s Ginster time. Essential carb loading for the endurance walker.
An insignificant short cut brought me to Dogmanslack Farm. It’s been a good morning and I was ready with my friendly greeting to the farmer. How are you..I’ve had better…Which way then..Don’t you know…I thought I’d ask an expert…You’re a pest..what me..no hikers not you…stile’s by the first tree.
No sign of stile but plenty of nettles and brambles. He drives down on the tractor to the gate and I ask if he wants me to open up. No, it’s locked, has to be. You couldn’t find the stile, knew you wouldn’t. Determined not to descend into open warfare I asked which way he’d like me to go. He then opens up and tells me how some hikers cuss him (mmm possible to understand) and some like me he likes to have a chat with.
Finally we bonded over footpath signage failure and he tells me how someone’s been snooping round the outbuildings looking to thieve and he’s spent the morning getting a calf out of an old barn where some miscreant had broken in. Is there a moral – I’m not sure, but give everyone a bit of time isn’t a bad start.
I came out onto the main road to Stockport and found the Limestone Way. No traffic and stone walls in every direction. More nosebag, as much to slow me down as for food and then down into Tideswell. Notice in the church grounds for Carol Ann Duffy performance – that’ll divide opinion I bet. New High Nelly’s cafe provides excellent tea & cakes. Anywhere with Pete McKee prints on the wall, can’t be bad I surmise. Up Church Lane to Litton remembering the many family and friends I’ve walked with along here. Happy days, good people.
Time on my hands and time for a cuppa in the village community shop in Litton. More folk arriving and our little table gets ever more crowded and friendly. Perfect day.
A regular b&b stop with hosts away but the stand-in sorts me out and says goodbye just as I look like a Freemason with rolled up trousers and anti-imflammatory gel round my knees. I settle down to cleaning duties various and a knock at the door. “We’re not stopping here but we’re trying to find another b&b in Gratton, no-one in the pub’s heard of it”. An out of date UK road map is their navigation aid. Hudl to the rescue and we find their billet. Looks very nice but I have doubts that they’ll find it.
My mates arrive from Sheffield and we settle down to pints and nosebag in the Red Lion. Bakewell Best Bitter, Abbeydale Absolution and Derby’s Double Mash – a worthwhile card to run through and food to match. The Red Lion is a typical Peak village pub – the landlord is the vital spark and it’s good to see it back on form.
Time for sleep I’ve an appointment at Thornbridge tomorrow morning.