Thursday, 14 May 2015

Our Ladybower Reservoir picnic walk and underground boat trip in Speedwell Cavern

Dave planned us a great walk for yesterday's glorious sunshine. Starting
Sunken road 
from our campsite, we started off with a gentle uphill along the single track road. The road is probably very old as it has now sunk several feet from the surrounding fields. Tree roots of several species can be seen all through the banks and there are bluebells and cow parsley flowering too. We thought the road part of the walk would be dull, but it was one of the highlights! There was practically no motorised traffic, just a few cyclists and a couple of women on horses. I liked how rivulets of water frequently came tumbling down the mossy banks from the ground above and wonder if they are from springs that flow all year round, or if they will dry up when summer comes?

We followed footpaths signposted towards Yorkshire Bridge and joined
the Thornhill Trail which is a traffic-free walking/cycling route alongside Ladybower Reservoir. The Trail is popular and was busy compared to the rest of our walk. I liked this (pictured) sculpture but am not sure what it is commemorating. I am not sure if the woodland is big enough to be forest, but it was wonderful to be walking with a great expanse of water one side, and trees as far as we could see up the hill the other side. Building began on the reservoir in 1935 and apparently it took eight years to complete and then another two years to fill. The bridge across is especially elegant and the reservoir has two huge stepped plugholes which are overflows to be used in times of heavy rain. I am not sure if the Ladybower dam was one used for training by the Dambusters squadron in the Second World War but it looked similar to those in the film! The even trail surface makes for fast walking so we actually extended our planned walk and continued to the far end of the reservoir where we ate our picnic lunch on a grassy bank by a much smaller metal bridge. The spot had been recently vacated by a couple of pairs of Canada geese with their goslings.

Suitably refreshed and refuelled, our footpath then took a steep uphill course for a hundred metres or so, completely changing our environment again. Now we climbed through dense pine wood which was actually much darker and eerier than the photograph suggests.

Our footsteps were completely muffled by a thick carpet of dropped pine needles and these needles coloured everything pale brown except for where vivid green moss grew on exposed rocks. The contrast resulted in an otherworldly effect and, at first sight, the rocks did appear to have been painted!

Gasping a bit at the top of the hill, we were greeted with the sight of Hope Cross - which isn't actually a cross shape, but marks a crossroads. The ancient waymarker has a different town name on each face - Hope, Glossop, Edale and Shefield (sic). The pillar is dated 1737, but the marker is believed to have stood here since at least medieval times and indicates the old packhorse routes. We took the Roman Road back in the direction of Hope. It's not quite dead straight but nicely level and wound around Win Hill giving us gorgeous views across the valley. The goods train from the cement works looked like a toy set from this height! I'm not used to seeing long goods trains at all. I don't think there were any on the line through Polegate - I certainly never saw any in the hours I spent waiting at Polegate level crossing. However, the line here passes close to our campsite and it seems there are almost as many goods trains as passenger trains.

Again, on this walk, I was glad of my North Face boots which didn't allow a single drop of water to get to my feet! I am considering buying another pair of walking trousers though. My Berghaus ones are ok, but are getting a bit thin in places and there's a small hole in the back, ripped when falling on scree in Spain. Hathersage, nearby, has a branch of Go Outdoors and I like the look of these Craghoppers trousers. They can convert into shorts too which I always find very useful. Perhaps I should wait until we have walked more first though. We have both put on some weight over the past couple of months and there is No Way I am buying a size 18!

This morning we went on a journey of a different kind - boat trip underground at Speedwell Cavern just outside Castleton. A former leadmine which was first worked in 1771, it is now a tourist attraction and quite a different experience to the Vall d'Uixo in Spain. For a start, we were issued with hard hats here, and there wasn't any gaudy lighting! I didn't get vertigo, but was a little claustrophobic at times. Our guide-boatman gave an interesting talk and both Dave and I are sure we would have been hopeless lead miners. I enjoyed the visit, but was glad to get back to daylight again. We did get a good deal on the tickets: by ordering advance joint tickets online yesterday afternoon (access to a printer needed) and choosing the earlybird offer, we got the Speedwell Cavern boat trip and a visit to Peak Cavern at-any-time-in-the-next-six-months for £24.20 for us both.

And this evening, we have another treat lined up. We are going to the NTlive broadcast of Man And Superman which is being screened by Tideswell Cinema at The George Inn in Tideswell.

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