Walking from John O'Groats to Land's End in the winter of 07/08.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Sheffield to Milldale

After problems finding accommodation for last night and with a vague hope of saving money by upping the daily mileages, today has found itself a day later than planned (if that's not too confusing). Reversing the route of many days ago to the mud waves of Totley Moss, it was nice to find it frozen and covered with a thin coating of snow. This made my escape from the city a little bit easier.

Like many other days on the trek this was a day of two halves, although this time I'm referring to the geology rather than the fact I had lunch in the middle of it. The first half consisted of the rough gritstone edges of the Dark Peak, a couple of which provided obvious routes southwards. I strode along the top of these outcrops of huge rounded boulders as they looked over misty field lined valleys, before descending to the well kept grounds of Chatsworth House. Passing strolling families I then headed up and over the hill to the famous town of Bakewell. Growing up in Sheffield, I had often thought of wandering out here to buy an authentic pudding, but there were always more accessible treats.

After climbing steeply out of the town using cut-throughs between rows of houses, I entered the second half of the day, the limestone plains and deep valleys known as the White Peak. Shallow grooves in the grass led through fields bounded by white dry stone walls to the pleasant wooded dale of the River Bradford. All too soon it was time to climb back out again and take a quiet lane for several miles to the busy A515. My aim was to join the Tissington Trail, another old railway line that has become a popular long distance cycle route, but there were no obvious paths marked on the map and walking alongside the main road would be unpleasant. Luckily, while planning this trek, I had trained satellites to spy on an obvious track that went exactly where I wanted. It was still a relief not to encounter any gates or irate farmers and reach legal ground again.

Darkness was falling as I followed the frustrating loops of the snaking railway and after spotting the lights of the small village of Biggin, I headed down the embankment and clumsily made my way across fields into the village. Although it was now night time, I wanted to make the most of my well rested muscles and decided to head down into Dovedale. After all it should be impossible to get lost in a narrow steep sided valley, even with the gloom.

Following a grassy filled empty valley down to the river, and spending some time being trapped the wrong side of a wall, I don't think I had realised how far it was going to be before I reached the village of Milldale. Time ticked by and while I could sense the steep limestone crags and slopes that surrounded me, my world was the beam of my head torch. The loneliness was interrupted by a couple of dog walkers, illuminated collars seeming to glide randomly around the valley bottom, hovering a couple of feet above the ground.

Eventually a road was reached and then a painfully steep lane to a car park and a night in the van. Not including breaks I walked for around ten and a half hours and covered the biggest daily mileage so far. Although I am completely and utterly knackered, there is something quite satisfying about this.

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