I had decided that my next Peak Challenge walk would be a big one, so I picked a big area I’d not walked before. I had always discounted the Derwent Valley as being a bit too touristy, which is the main reason that I’d never visited before, but the first part of my walk was about as far away from touristy as you can get.
Although I set off with plenty of time to make an early start, car problems meant that it was almost 11:00 before I was parked up at the lay-by on Mortimer Road, ready to start my walk. I had driven along Mortimer Road many times but never found the view across Derwent Moor to be particularly enticing. At least today’s covering of snow made it look slightly prettier and a bit less bleak!
My walk began with 1.5km of road, which isn’t the best way to start a walk, but it bagged me another grid square for my challenge. I had planned to walk through “Bull Piece” which is a piece of Access Land adjacent to the road, but I had a lot of distance to cover, and a finite amount of daylight on these short winter days, so I kept to the road for now. As I walked along I could see Boot’s Folly and Sugworth Hall in the distance, although the only landmark in the near distance was a huge pile of sugar beet waiting to be fed to the sheep to keep them going through the winter.
I reached the junction with Sugworth Road and could see Stanage Edge in the distance. I’d be going there later, but for now I climbed over the stile to head in the other direction across the open moors. I had planned to follow the footpath, but the prominent boundary stones sticking out of the moors caught my eye, so I walked through the snow and heather to see whether they had an inscription on them, which they didn’t. The only footprints I could see were of hare tracks leading in every direction. (I assume hares and not rabbits because I saw regular hare droppings but no rabbit droppings.)
I followed the boundary stones back up to the track along Strines Edge. It followed the line of even more boundary stones, and let me make swift progress along the top of the moor. My eye was drawn to the patchwork pattern made by heather cutting which was exaggerated by the snow. Zoom in on the photo and you can see the shadows created by the taller heather on the lower white patches. On the horizon you can also see Win Hill, and the Cakes of Bread rock formation.
I kept on passing more boundary stones as I descended into Raddlepit Rushes. I’d been dreading this section, as I could tell it would be boggy from the streams shown on the map, and the name “Raddlepit Rushes” sounded to me more like a pond than anything else. I was thankful for the winter conditions that had frozen the bog (mostly) solid and I can imagine this being a tricky section to cross in spring and autumn. The track was iced over, but the ice was cracking and moving under my feet, and I had no idea how deep the water underneath would be. I hopped across carefully but quickly, and started the ascent up to Derwent Edge. A small plane flew low overhead, so I waved to the pilot and the pilot waved their wings back at me! Smiling, I looked back at the track and carried on.
It was at this point that I noticed the patch of fog rolling down the hill towards me. The bright sun was masked, and it felt like the air temperature had dropped five degrees. This was the worst point for the fog to draw in, as I was just about to leave the path. I took my compass bearing and set off, paying close attention to not lose track of which feature I was heading towards. This was difficult as the fog was patchy and the visibility kept changing, and best features available for me to aim towards were “the patch of grass just to the left of the other patch of grass” or “a rock”.
The next section of the walk was really tough-going. The heather became knee-deep, and the peat gullies were waist-deep, and completely filled with snow. Twice I stumbled over as I stepped onto snow which then gave way, plunging me down into the peat, and having to pull myself out with clumps of bog slushie stuck to my boots and gaiters. The third time was a bit different. When I fell, I found myself sat fairly comfortably on the edge of the dip, with my legs hanging down into the void. I took a photo of this one as I thought it was quite funny. But the rest of it wasn’t funny and I was getting quite fed up, so I was glad when I heard voices drifting from the distance.
Just then, the fog began to clear, and I could see the horizon again. I abandoned my compass bearing and started heading towards the rocks of Derwent Edge. There were people everywhere! My solitude had come to an end. But it was nice to have a view to look at again, and I walked along the edge for a short while before stopping for some lunch.
I found a space between some rocks that was sheltered from the wind, and had some amazing ice formations on the leeward side. Today’s lunch was a Summit to Eat 5 Bean Cassoulet which was very tasty, and some hot blackcurrent squash. I was glad I had brought the hot water in my flask so I could prepare my meal quickly and without having to take my gloves off for too long to assemble a stove.
After I had eaten, I continued south along Derwent Edge, dodging families and admiring the different rock formations, before reaching the bridleway at the crossroads and heading east to Cutthroat Bridge. As I descended, the snow and ice cleared, and I was able to keep up a fast pace. I still had a lot of walking to do, and the daylight was already beginning to fade.
Cutthroat Bridge is named after a historic murder, but has maintained that reputation in recent times as well…
After crossing the road I headed up through the woods towards Hordron Edge. I followed the track for a while, but my target was a stone circle shown on the map, so I followed one of the sheep tracks directly up the face of the edge. It was rather steep, and when I popped up at the top, there was a man lying on his back in the middle of the stone circle, gazing up at the stars. The stone circle is often called the Seven Stones of Hordron, although there are more than seven stones. The man left after a short while, and once he was out of view, I decided to see what all the fuss was about, and I lay down as well.
I enjoyed spending a minute watching the clouds move across the sky, surprisingly quickly. My peaceful concentration was disrupted when I stood up and received a handful of snow down the back of my neck, that had been scooped up by my hood. I’d never been on Hordron Edge before, but the views in both directions were beautiful. To the west you look back across Ladybower Reservoir, and to the East you look up to the imposing crags of Stanage Edge. There were some walkers about, but it was much quieter than Derwent Edge, and I’d recommend this spot to anyone.
I followed the track towards Stanage Edge, and walked past the most well-made grouse butts I’d ever seen. Sturdy stone walls with a well-drained gravel base and steps to make your way down. Very impressive. The snow got deeper as I gained height again, and I had to stop several times to catch my breath and rest my legs.
Once I reached the top, I spotted an abandoned hut just away from the edge and went to explore it, but at as I got near, I heard ice creaking and groaning beneath my feet. I quickly stepped off, and realised that I had just walked right across a small pond! I had broken some of the ice at the edge with my boot, and saw that the water was deep, and I was really glad I had made it across without falling through. There was nothing in the hut so I headed back to the safety of the path. From here, I could see both Win Hill and Lose Hill, so I stopped to admire the view for a bit before continuing along the Sheffield Country Walk down to the road.
The final section of my walk took me through Moscar. I was surprised by the huge width of Moscar Cross Road. It’s a BOAT but you could probably fit a standard dual carriageway down there! There is an 18th century guide stoop with markings to Bradfield, Sheffield and Hathersage, right next to a very 20th century electricity line.
The light was now beginning to fade, and I only had a short distance left to travel. I followed the path through fields of sheep, past the gas pipeline monitoring station and back onto Mortimer Road.
After a short walk, I was back at my car, with tired legs and not much daylight remaining. My slips and falls on the open moorland were a distant memory, and I reflected on the enjoyable day I had experienced. The snow had given picturesque landscapes all round, and the weather had been exceptional for this time of year. I had visited some wonderful new areas, including Hordron Edge which I will definitely return to, and I had managed to tick 11 new grid squares off my Peak Challenge, making real progress. All in all a great day out.