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Oct 2011

Distance 6 miles Strenuousity 3.

Derbyshire Coat of Arms

Here are some  Shameless-ly stirring words on the Chatsworth Estate...

The Chatsworth Estate, crumbling, scaffolded
Children, animals wander.
Dodging cars on narrow roads
No public transport here.
Bread and eggs is twice the price
Tea and pie in the 'caff'.
Processions of mobility aid
All the gardens are brown.

Beautiful, evocative prose it's thought you'll agree, all autumnal and overcast. You can picture it right? The Chatsworth Estate?

That’s right, Chatsworth House and its 1,000 acres of surrounding parkland! Home to the 12th Duke of Devonshire,  Chatsworth in Derbyshire is nudging 750,000 visitors a year and rising.

A midweek, late-October break in the Peak District had a plan to head up  Kinder Scout but a combination of 'him-fluenza' and lady sniffles would make for a far more sedate, stately home-themed day.

Mrs Guff has a connection with Chatsworth, she's mad on the Mitfords, you see. You know, the  Mitford sisters, those between the wars society somebodies?

Bookish Nancy, Communist Jessica, Fascist Unity, ditto Diana, posh Deborah and seemingly normal Pamela all made, no doubt, for an interesting Christmas Dinner.

Deborah Devonshire née Mitford

Love in a Cold Climate, the Spanish Civil War and Hitler all crop up in association but ' Debo' did good by marrying the 11th Duke and shacking up at Chatsworth.

Not normally this one's idea of a good day out and at just shy of a gift-aided £20 a pop, it's not a cheap day out but throw a stone at a crow!

Marbled staircases, Michelangelo-like ceilings and more paintings than you can shake a brush at were way beyond, admittedly casual, expectations. There's a handsome Hockney hanging in a more modern display that even warranted a chat with the attendant.

David Hockney - Le Parc des Sources, Vichy

The £17m restoration underway during this visit accounted for the scaffolding but opinion has switched from 'Storm the Bastille!' to 'Wouldn't it be nice to volunteer here?'. This in about two hours and there's a huge, brilliant garden with a maze in it to explore.

The current lodger, the 12th Duke of Devonshire, was actually passed as he made his way over the rise to the village of Edensor, pronounced Ensor

This was then home to his late mother Deborah after she rejected the offer upon his inheritance of a granny-flat in the country pile preferring something more practical nearby.

Grinning like a ninny he was and instantly likeable because he was nipping out to see his mum, for lunch, on a Wednesday. 'Don't say anything!' were the instructions.

I did want to say something, something like...

'You sir are a privileged pillock. You won the lottery by birthright but having seen your operation back there and the fact that our lot can now get lucky on the EuroMillions™, best of luck with the decorating.'

Chatsworth sits towards the bottom right of the  Peak District, the UK's first and most popular[1][2] National Park. A moderate, circular six-miler from nearby Ashford in the Water promises half of those miles alongside the River Wye.

With your OS OL24 in hand, let's head north-west to Monsal Head then anti-clockwise it back to Ashford. Lemsip™ped up from the day before, there are watery-wildlife opportunities ahead.

THE PEAK DISTRICT - WHITE PEAK AREA - Buxton, Bakewell, Matlock & Dove Dale

[1] They appear to include people driving home to Manchester from Sheffield as 'visitors'.
[2] There's an internet-fuelled myth that it's the second most visited park in the world after Japan's Mount Fuji. Whoever put that out there, excellent work.

There is some parking available next to this here well or behind the church opposite.

The village has an annual tradition of dressing all six of its wells on Trinity Sunday, whenever that is. It's a giving of thanks to some supernatural entity or other for the water from the River Wye. The wells are adorned with decorative clay tablets and knotted paper garlands but why do they still do this?

Well - Wye - Knot!

Get your coat and head off up Fennel Street and carry on over into Vicarage Lane.

Just before the lamppost on the left, keep an eye out for this signpost. Turn back on yourself and follow the path up and right. You will pass sheds and clucking wildlife before emerging into a field.

There's a kindly stake to keep you straight so just carry on across the middle of the field and head for the stile just to the right of the tree and the telegraph pole.

The stile drops you onto Pennyunk Lane. Go left and follow this marvellously named, walled track heading roughly towards the ruined building that you should now\soon see.

The drystone walls here have a distinctive appearance, paler than their northern counterparts and characteristic of the  White Peak limestone of which they're constructed, probably.

You may have noticed a couple of these things already, concrete dew-ponds.

Although these ones are 20th-century, the technology is purportedly prehistoric. In principle, the ponds replenish overnight from condensed dew and never empty.

Questionable physics aside, this one has been designated a conservation pond for your  Great Crested Newt.

It would be nice to report that  Ken Livingstone was seen observing the little beauts but he wasn't, because there weren't any.

Upon reaching a stile at the end of the lane, pass through and turn left to walk up the sloping field towards the gate at the top where there's a nice view behind should you be tempted to turn and take a look, not shown.

Turn right and pass another concrete dew-pond on your right and go through another gate to... ponder the cruelty of nature!

The ever so slightly flightier Mrs Guff thought it was a fox and shot off with a shriek. It was some sized hare, however, and a fresh 'un at that but the case notes report that Guffer P.I.'s pokey-stick-autopsy was inconclusive.

The path continues straight on and the imposing limestone cliffs above Monsal Dale pop into view. Don't worry, there's no need to head anywhere near up there.

The path now sweeps to the right before descending through trees. Quite a bit of height has been gained, which can't quite be remembered, but WHOA!

That's quite some view down there. A viaduct, a dog-legged river, a farmhouse and a footbridge.

The viaduct used to carry trains on their way to Manchester from London St Pancras. Victorian engineering also ensured that it used to carry trains on their way to London St Pancras from Manchester.

Clever them Victorians.

Carry on until you reach Monsal Head. This is a viewpoint on the B6465 with a car park and a popular hotel\pub\restaurant combo, not shown. Pause here a while if required then take the path down, not the paved road down to the farmhouse.

There's a huge dilemma a little way down here, to follow the main path to the left to drop onto the viaduct and oooh, a boarded-up tunnel or carry straight on down to the farmhouse and cross the footbridge just beyond?

If you take the farmhouse\bridge route, you might pass some geese who were being advertised as Christmas presents. By the volume of the honking, it's thought they already knew they had one foot in the gravy.

If you took the path to the bridge past the farmhouse, you'll soon arrive under the viaduct. Alternatively, walk over the viaduct and take the path down to bring you to the same point here.

Wires have been hung in the main arch to prevent the hanging of a rope swing. That should eliminate a generation of local nutjobs... 'He fell off a swing as a lad you know.' a certain  Alan Bennett might have said, maybe.

The River Wye will now be followed for just over a mile. Just after the broad riverbank narrows, you'll enter into woodland and pass a weir on the left.

There's a bit of backstory to all of this nonsense in that there was once an obsession with the kingfisher. One had never been seen, you see, and enough riverbanks had been rambled along to should have been.

Today confirmed these exotic-looking creatures don't exist and it's just a marketing ploy by the  RSPB™ to get you to sign up.

Here looked to be an ideal opportunity although this was the early days of casual birding and it's now known that sitting reasonably still for 10 minutes often isn't enough to offer up a reward.

Continuing through the trees, the path roughly follows the course of the river. Where it veers away slightly, you can divert back to it should you fancy getting the binocs out. Emerging onto a broad riverbank, there's a nice view up the valley.

A herd of bullocks, not shown, had made their home near here, nestled behind some trees next to the river they were. They got a little bit twitchy on approaching, out of pure curiosity as to how they had got here.

All would be evident in about five minutes, they definitely came down this way... splat!

After a treebound stretch, pass some swans in a pond and cross the  A6 via the hole in the wall.

Head straight on through the small car park and take the obvious path. After an open section, pass through a brief wooded area to reach the information marker for Deep Dale.

There's a little bit of a huffin' and a puffin' as things head uphill and the terrain turns into this sort of thing. Don't panic, you'd have to be a complete idiot to lose your bearings here just don't turn right at any point because you'll find yourself heading ever further upwards.

Just carry straight on with the A6 down to your left and you'll soon be rambling reassuringly downwards. It's remarkably reminiscent of a dander around Dunkeld except that's not the  A923 down there.

You'll arrive at some ponds marking the start of a stretch of river that has courteously snuck back under the A6 to meet you. The ducks were quite deafening but some swans were suspiciously mute.

The disused watermill you soon pass was once used to crush bones for fertiliser and the track on the other side looks to provide access for fisherfolk.

That now includes Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse, probably, as the likely location for S1E3 of their, quite frankly, sublime ruminations on friendship, mortality and some  fishing.

There's a minor, hillocky situation to negotiate but just keep on the level and pass through the gate to rejoin the river from which you've been temporarily separated.

There now follows another nice, open riverside stretch and walking along here it was thought to look vaguely familiar?

It took a moment but that was it!  Auf Wiedersehen Pet Series Two saw Leonard Jeffrey Osbourne poaching trout in Nottinghamshire and it looked like here was where he and a witless Barry did the  tickling.

It wasn't, by the way, but some lazy research suggests it was filmed only about five miles away by flying crow near Youlgrave.

Having navigated the riverbank with a couple of dozy pheasants, you'll reach a minor road. Turn left onto it and it's a short hop to the A6. Turn right and after a brief stretch, there's road crossing potential back to Ashford in the Water.

Nice view from Sheepwash Bridge as you return back to the well where this started. Reward yourself with a pint of Robinsons™ in the nearby Bull's Head or a snack in the Aisseford Tea Room.

Now, it wasn't noticed on the way out but this place is ridiculously picturesque. Bridge and ducky river - check. Charming church - check. Beer-gardened pub - check and an unexpected bonus of timbered well housings - check.

Tell your friends to check it out if they're passing, it really is rather marvellous.

Fauna Saw...

What Number Behaviour  
Bullock Herd Distantly twitchy.
Duck 10 Quacky.
Goose (White) Gaggle Not looking forward to Christmas.
Hare (Large) 1 Expired.
Newt (Great Crested) 0 Conserved.
Pheasant 2 These really are lovely looking things close up but must be the most idiotic creatures ever to grace the air or a field or a wall.
Swan 3 Mute.