Good morn or evening friends – here’s the wonder of LEJoG Day 38
Day 38 pre-amble
I’m quoting a Stevie Wonder track from Songs In The Key Of Life there, of course. Perhaps more familiar to younger viewers as the bed for this. I’m fairly sure Stevie was dealing with themes a tad more important than enjoying yourself walking around Derbyshire. However, this is my pastime, it is my theme, and this was the best way I could find to express my love for Castleton, the Vale of Edale and Kinder Scout in a blog post title.
Days 38 and 39 see my home county at its absolute finest. It’s hard to believe that I hadn’t even climbed Mam Tor or reached Kinder Low just five years ago. On 19th August 2014, in my innocence I parked at Castleton and set myself the target of reaching Kinder Low and back in a day, via an ascent of Mam Tor. It was a hot day, so I was wearing shorts. Not even walking shorts: my gym shorts. Hell, at least I had proper walking shoes on. I suppose that’s something.
With a little more experience, I sit here appalled at the over-ambition, lack of preparation and complete under-estimation of what this walk would entail. The first quarter (up Cave Dale and over Mam Tor to Edale) was tough enough for a hot afternoon. But my first ascent of Kinder via Grindslow Knoll should have convinced me I was asking too much. And (on the way back to Castleton) the climb from Edale to Hollins Cross still sticks in my mind as excruciatingly slow going. I don’t think I’ve done any walk quite so foolish since.
But I fell in love with the whole area that day, and I’ve been back at least once a year since. I have a confession: with Dovedale yesterday I was kind of forcing some of the praise. Of course I appreciate the beauty of the place, but I’m not sure Dovedale is quite my type. Other souls are more naturally pre-disposed to love it. The Dark Peak though: now you’re talking. A joy and an inspiration.
LEJoG Day 38 (Saturday 27 October 2018)
Miller’s Dale to Castleton (6½ miles)
Cumulative: 539 miles
Facts: Time on walk: 2 hours. Average speed: 3.25 mph. Weather: Cold, cloudy, occasional drizzle; brighter in Castleton.
Practicalities: As Edale – or more precisely the southern end of the Pennine Way – was my final destination for LEJoG in 2018, I decided to turn it into a weekend holiday. It would have been easy enough to complete the full 11 miles in one day, with only Mam Tor being much of a challenge. However, breaking up the walk in Castleton allowed me to spend some time there,. Also I was able to invite an old housemate to join me for the Edale leg on the Sunday.
Took a bus to Castleton on the evening of Friday 26th October and stayed at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn on Friday and Saturday night. This was a place I remembered visiting with family a few weeks before starting university. So it was a slightly sentimental choice. It delivered exactly what I wanted anyway: hearty grub, decent enough beer and a fair sized room.
On the Saturday morning I caught a bus in to Sheffield from Castleton, and one out to Miller’s Dale from Sheffield Interchange. This took some advance planning: here are the key bus routes.
Left the Inn at 9:50 for the 10am Castleton to Sheffield bus, which was about 15 minutes late. It was very cold at the bus stop and there was even some snow on the way up through Hathersage. This one takes about 55 minutes; the Miller’s Dale bus takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes and stops at my finish point from Day 37.
Start: Wormhill Road bus stop, Miller’s Dale, 12:50pm. End: Limestone Way junction above Cave Dale, near Castleton, 2:50pm. A quick note here – this is where I “stopped” purely for the purposes of LEJoG as a linear sectional walk. In reality I continued down Cave Dale to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn at Castleton. The junction I am referring to is at grid reference SK 136813 (OS Explorer 1: Peak District Dark Peak Area, East sheet). The mileage given above also uses this junction as the end point of today’s stage.
Satellite map here. OS Explorer maps used: OL24 (Peak District: White Peak area; both sheets although East sheet only briefly) and the mighty OL1 (Peak District: Dark Peak area; East sheet only).
From the bus stop there are three options. 1) head straight for the Monsal Trail car park up Wormhill Road. 2) use the footbridge on the south side of the B6049 and climb a stony path to access the Trail a few hundred yards east of the car park. 3) head east on the B6049 and take the first road on the left, ascending to meet the Limestone Way path.
The latter is the quickest way to reach the Limestone Way and therefore Castleton, so that’s the route I would normally have taken. But after over 2 hours on the bus I needed the public convenience at the car park… Headed east from there so that I could come back down the stony path and across the footbridge before joining the road. From the Monsal Trail you can also follow a path through Monk’s Dale and meet the Limestone Way further north. However this is considerably less direct than my option.
The initial ascent is the steepest of the day. Go through a gate at Monksdale Farm and you’re on a more gentle rise with expansive views of Miller’s Dale and Priestcliffe to your left. It’s genuinely quite impressive how high you’ve climbed already. The path bears right and continues to climb steadily, now heading due north along an enclosed section with pastures either side. After about a mile on this path, you meet a crossroads. The Limestone Way continues to your left, meeting the path out of Monk’s Dale (mentioned above) and heading through Peter Dale. Carrying straight on, as I did, reunites you with the Pennine Bridleway. This continues to Wheston, where you take a left at the end of the road and then immediate right (all marked on the OS map).
The new road starts off heading NE and then bears left 90 degrees, heading more or less directly for the ‘chicane’ in the A623 near Peak Forest. This whole stretch of road from Wheston to the A623 (1½ miles) is the easiest walking of the day – the roads are wide and quiet with good verges. Don’t expect spectacular scenery though: for now it’s pastures, farm buildings and dry stone walls as far as the eye can see. About two thirds of the way along there is a sign informing you that the Pennine Bridleway is now heading left, and oddly enough you’re now back on the Limestone Way without changing direction. The next farm is even called ‘Limestone Way Farm’.
Turn left at the end of the road, on to the A623 – this is very busy and you have to cross on a downhill slope. Take the first path on the right as you head downhill, just after Mount Pleasant Farm. This section of the LW takes you into an open field, and almost immediately you sense the character of the landscape beginning to change. Uneven footpaths, no grazing sheep and a number of disused mineshafts marked on the map. You are quickly disabused of this sensation, descending to meet a short access road which climbs quite steeply towards a very salubrious-looking farmhouse complex. That’ll be this place, if you fancy it. Just before the last bend, you carry straight on up the hill, through a gate and back into open country.
Now things start to change for real. On a clearer day than I was blessed with, you would have a good view of Mam Tor. Just a few hundred metres after Cop Farm there is a sudden, short climb along rough, stony ground. Although you’re still on the Limestone Way this is much more like what you’d expect in the Dark Peak. For example it reminded me of the route from Burbage Bridge to Stanage Edge, above Hathersage. And wouldn’t you know it, this is also exactly where you change maps from White Peak to Dark Peak.
You contour a hill into the prevailing wind, and then descend slightly to the left hand corner of the field. The path isn’t obvious but a map and compass makes it very easy – stay left, near the wall. Soon enough the junction is upon you: go through the gate and meet walkers coming up from Cave Dale (straight ahead) and/or heading to Mam Tor (left then right).
After the walk
Walked down Cave Dale (more of that tomorrow) in bright sunshine: was stopped by a very well-spoken young woman who wanted to know if there was another way to get back to Castleton if she climbed Mam Tor. Here’s a view of Peveril Castle ruins in the October afternoon shadows:
Bought a few provisions at the village shop and headed back to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. The total length of todays walk was 8 miles, including the section from the footpath junction to Castleton centre.
Made arrangements for tomorrow’s walk with ‘H’ (that is her real initial, we’re not doing a Line of Duty thing). Went for a walk around Castleton as the weather was now so lovely. I couldn’t really resist photographing this sign:
It’s not just me then…
First and only evening meal at the Inn.
Postscript – My Listening Pleasure
Two Stevie Wonder albums, though strangely enough not Songs In The Key Of Life. I was just trying to get into Talking Book and Fulfillingness’ First Finale this week, but they were being overwhelmed by the 50th anniversary re-issue of the Beatles’ White Album (a former ‘all-time favourite’ of mine and still my second favourite Beatles album). Not today though. Towards the end of the walk, and on the way down Cave Dale, I listened to Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer.
Picture (actually taken 28 October 2018) shows Castleton and the Hope Valley from Mam Tor; Bamford Edge and Stanage Edge in the background, and I think that’s Back Tor at the highest point on the horizon. One of the great Derbyshire vistas, also currently being used in Channel 4 idents. A gateway to walking paradise.
Next: Day 39 (28 October 2018)… in which I can finally say goodbye to route-finding until Scotland!