Walks with Nellie
by Sally Mosley
This is not intended as a walk guide
Our glorious Peak District is so diverse with rapidly changing scenery around every bend of our country roads. Leaving home in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales, it was less than half an hour’s drive to park up in the Goyt Valley, a paradise of big sky vistas and sweeping moorland, patched by woodland plantations rising up from reservoirs trapped in by the hills.
Initially walking up the cobbled car park not far from the dam wall of Errwood Reservoir took us to The Street, a remote road linking Derbyshire with Cheshire, its origin believed to date back to Roman times. Our ascent was short as my plan was to walk along the ‘fire-break’ track towards Taxal which I discovered to be a popular dog walking route. Nellie is a social butterfly and was extremely happy to make various new acquaintances along the way.
Every so often I caught glimpses of Fernilee Reservoir through the trees that were planted decades ago as a slow growing crop. In parts these are now being harvested for timber and new little saplings will replace them.
A Bill was passed by Parliament in 1930 allowing permission for the construction of the Fernilee Reservoir on the River Goyt, and it was completed in 1937. The reservoir holds 1087 million gallons of water and reaches a maximum depth of 121 feet. It submerged the Chilworth Gun Powder Factory where in 1909 an explosion killed three men. At its height, shortly before the First World War, 120 men are said to have worked there but it is reputed that a gun powder factory had existed on the site since the 16th century when it supplied the battle at sea with the Spanish Armada.
We came to Oldfield, the first of a succession of remote old farmsteads and smallholdings dotted about on this side of the valley, accessed by a long drive on narrow lanes or winding tracks that must be a nightmare in bad weather as no snow plough or gritting lorry is likely to venture this far. As well as peace and tranquillity, one of the advantages of living here is the incredibly panoramic outlook the residents must surely enjoy.
A restricted byway followed which led us through Normanwood and on to Mill Clough where water was tumbling down over slabs of rusty red gritstone. It was time for a bit more uphill slog with the reward of finding a comfortable memorial seat to rest where I could savour my sandwiches whilst Nellie had her bowl of water and some dog food. My rucksack is somewhat heavier these days as dogs don’t always travel light, what with treats, dog leads etc.
The landscape around us was opening out and views expanding, stretching way over distant hills and tracts of land, dotted with significant peaks and offering peeks into faraway urban sprawls of Greater Manchester.
Refreshed, we continued uphill above Overton Hall Farm, Nellie nose to the ground whilst I was more interested to keep looking around me. The higher up we climbed the more spectacular the views became and by the time we reached Taxal Edge I had overdosed on sightseeing and was ready to concentrate on walking.
There were a couple of lovely green signs erected by the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society to guide us through areas that were new to me.
Windgather Rocks were fascinating, appearing like waves of exposed and eroded, rugged and rough gritstone crags, etched with age and now a popular site for learning the rudiments of rock climbing. I found a reference to there being ‘tasty grades’ and an abundance of holds with over 90 recognised routes including the amusingly named Mississippi Crack, Squashed Finger and Christmas Arete.
A bit of quiet lane followed before we entered moorland again, venturing across above Ladbitch Wood to miss out Pyms Chair on a shortcut path that would take us to the top of The Street.
It had turned into the most glorious spring day with patchy blue skies, no wind, no rain and a mild temperature approaching double figures. Nellie was far from being tired and at almost a year old is capable of an occasional long walk and so rather than descend directly to the car park I decided on a little detour. Hidden away in a little hollow of the moors below Foxlow Edge, with sentinel pine trees as protectors is the pepperpot shrine dedicated to St Joseph and erected to the memory of Dolores de Ybarguen who died in 1889. From 1883 she was companion and teacher to the Grimshawe family at Errwood Hall. Sadly the Spanish glazed tiles depicting St Joseph and child have been vandalised on several occasions during the last century.
Being mid-week and the beginning of March there were few visitors to the Goyt Valley and we were lucky to have the path down to Errwood Hall all to ourselves. However, rather than ramble past the ruins, I did a left just before steps leading down to a footbridge which meant we could then wander over a woodland path on a shortcut to the reservoir road. Slightly elevated, this gave us yet more fabulous vistas across the large expanse of water that appeared like a vast blue puddle where a pair of yellow-sailed dinghies were skimming over the surface like graceful butterflies. The reservoir looked as though it was at its highest level, lapping up to the marina on the opposite shore.
It was a pleasant drive home followed by a well-earned cuppa and a sprawl on the sofa, me happily reminiscing on our walk of exceptional views and vistas with Nellie stretched out beside me snoozing and dreaming of goodness knows what. A good walk is one way to keep an excited Kelpie quiet!
FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: I’ve discovered a new interest that Mum thinks could be a lucrative business opportunity. I’m fascinated by moles, the underground variety of course not the hairy one on Mum’s arm! I sniff out the freshest mound then pounce nose first. I’ve not yet managed to actually catch up with one of these furry little blighters but it’s not for the want of trying as I dig furiously, scattering soil in all directions. Mum thinks any farmer or landowner would be more than happy to pay a few bob fee for me to flatten their hills!