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Walks With Nellie - Crook Hill

After a ‘duvet day’ with a good book whilst listening to persistent heavy rain outside, both Nellie and myself were stir crazy for a good walk. So it was that early the following morning we set out through drizzle and a gusty breeze to the Upper Derwent Valley for some water treatment – I think of it as a free spa facial being out in the fresh air and rain!

From the Fairholmes Visitor Centre car park exit we crossed over the road and headed up through woodland following a footpath indicated by a fingerpost sign for Lockerbrook. Although daylight, it was dim and dank on the steep ‘huff and puff’ path to high ground. At one point we crossed a wooden bridge over a little canal that is a feeder channel to the reservoirs.

We wound out way up through a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees, their trunks dark from a day long barrage of heavy rain. Occasionally I caught a glimpse through a window in the canopy of leaves and branches of the valley far below with the reservoirs lying under a grey blanket of mist.

After emerging from woodland and crossing an area of high pasture we arrived onto an old stone track where we turned left to pass the rear of Lockerbrook Farm Residential Education Centre, involved in various kinds of outdoor pursuits for children.

Nellie and I continued along the drive until its sudden descent to the Woodland Valley. At this point there was a choice of ways and some fabulous, if somewhat murky, views. I decided to turn left following a series of green arrow signs to walk along the edge of Hagg Side. To our right were grazing fields and hay meadows, whilst to our left was a deep dense forest.

After almost a mile of hilltop hiking there was an incredible view ahead of two strange shaped summits. These giant lumpy bumpy mounds reminded me of the 1985 film King Solomon’s Mines. In the film the character known as Gagoola captures Jesse and flees into caves in the depths of the Breasts of Sheba, twin mountain peaks where the mines are located. It was filmed on location outside Harare in Zimbabwe and released exactly 100 years after the release of the novel on which the film was based.

The twin summits of Crook Hill are outcrops of Kinder Scout grit, and the highest peak reaches 1,253 above sea level. Although designated as Access Land, I didn’t fancy exploring between the two summits where I had read there are the remains of an ancient megalithic standing stone circle. Evidently the circle originally consisted of five stones around a surviving mound of which only two are still upright.

We walked over Bridge End Pasture and to the left of Crook Hill before descending gradually on a bridlepath that led us through Crookhill Farm with its wonderful cobbles and early outbuildings. This remote hill farm dates from around 1800.

On a gate was a sign for Crookhill Sheep Dog Trials that would be taking place the following day. What a shame we were a day early as I’m sure Nellie would have enjoyed watching real sheepdogs at work.

We continued down the farm drive to the reservoir road where for a while we walked on the pavement before picking up a path down by the water side.

Howden, Derwent and Ladybower are a string of reservoirs at the top end of the River Derwent which is Derbyshire's main watercourse. It bisects the county and takes in water from several other rivers on its journey south. After a course of almost 60 miles the river merges with the Trent on a final progression to the North Sea. For almost 25 miles of its flow through the Peak District, the Derwent is flanked to the east by a series of dramatic Edges, remnants of the last ice age and glacial melt.

Sally Mosley

FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: I’m a kelpie, an Australian sheepdog and I’m frightened of sheep! Just to make it clear, the only sheepdog trial I’d be taking part in would be if I was to be held accountable for any misdemeanours. However, my misdeeds and naughty times were generally when I was a puppy, some years ago. I hold my paws up to chewing the edges of a couple of mum’s best throws, nibbling the corner of her sideboard and doing a tiddle on the lounge carpet because I got too excited. Thankfully I’ve grown out of most of these now although I still have a little chew from time to time if I get bored. I’ve a particular penchant for smelly socks and when they are full of holes and coated in slobber I have been known to hide them all over the house. I’m a good girl really and would feel very sorry for myself if I was condemned to the ‘dog house’!! Big grins.

Nellie x


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