4th & 5th December 2019: Ladybower Reservoir to Baslow – 13 miles
I was up at 05:50, 10 mins before the alarm, and leapt out of bed before remembering I had a bad foot and a shit knee and so I hobbled down the stairs to the kitchen for a brew and a quick breakfast. I left the house without disturbing anyone other than the cat, who looked at me hatefully as I crept out quietly with my rucksack on my shoulder. I drove to my brother’s who helpfully gave me a lift to the station on his way to work. I sat in the huge echoing ticket room of Northwich station in almost complete darkness, with a few other passengers. All 8 strip lights in the ridiculously large room were dead, apart from the one above my head which flickered annoyingly trying to die with dignity like all his mates and not succeeding.
The train, unsurprisingly, was 5 mins late, but I managed to secure a seat and as we progressed towards Manchester the train filled rapidly with people soon crammed into the aisle. It arrived 15 minutes late into Piccadilly, which fortunately just meant a little less time hanging around, and not missing my connection. The Sheffield train out of Piccadilly managed to leave a minute late and lost about a minute every five, eventually arriving 12 minutes late into Bamford. Not sure how that’s possible on a line with no other traffic, but good old Northern seem to be able to fuck up even the simplest timetable! At no point on the journey did anyone scan my eTicket, although it was visually checked twice. If I wasn’t as honest as I am, I could quite easily have requested a refund through the app, less a £10 ‘admin fee’ – despite the fact that there’s no admin involved, it’s all electronic!
I’d booked a taxi from Bamford station to take me the 3 miles up the road to the start of the walk at Heatherdene car park opposite Ladybower Reservoir. The limited daylight means that walking that distance at the start of the walk would have been difficult. It would also have been an out and back walk, which seemed a bit pointless. Penny, my driver was getting twitchy at the lateness of the train and it was putting the rest of her morning’s jobs at risk. She pointedly said I wasn’t to blame, after I apologised, and said it happens almost every time she makes a pickup from the station. Stupid bloody Northern Rail 😡
I changed into my overtrousers over no trousers in the handy toilets at Heatherdene and set out along the path. I had a flurry of emails from work as I began walking and tried to sort them out as I approached the reservoir. The day was beautiful, clear skies, a good hard overnight frost and almost no wind to speak of. It was an absolutely perfect walking day. The views were enhanced by clear air and the tops of the surrounding hills stood out clearly in the winter morning sunlight.
I’d been unsure if I’d even be able to start this walk today. I was away with my brother last week and a short walk up to a trig point outside Masham had exacerbated a niggle in my right foot that became incredibly painful over the course of the next day or two. The pain had subsided Monday and Tuesday, so I decided to give it a go. It would have cost me almost as much to cancel as to walk it, so it was almost a no-brainer. My foot felt OK for the first mile or so, and I crossed the dam at the end of Ladybower and picked up a good gravel track above the River Derwent towards Bamford.
I had been worried about the possible state of the path too, after the ridiculous flooding of a few weeks ago, which had badly affected the Derwent Valley, resulting in the death of one poor woman who had been swept away by the river and drowned. As it was the path was pretty good all day. There were a couple of wet fields but nothing too bad, which is a result as far as I’m concerned.
The route back to Bamford is charming, mostly through woods along good paths and I was enjoying myself. Just out the other side of the village though I was climbing a steep little bank and I trod on a tree root with my right foot and I heard, rather than felt, something click or snap. A second later my right foot was in agony and I knew I’d just made it quite a lot worse than it had been last week. However, I’d been expecting to walk in pain so I pressed on, limping badly but still making forward progress.
The problem with the foot seems to be on the sole, it feels like an impact injury under the arch of my foot right in the middle. The result is that I can’t flex the foot without intense pain, so I have to place it flat on the ground and lift it straight up at the end of the pace, rather than bending the foot from the toes. The limp is quite exaggerated and it slowed me down quite a lot. I took a double dose of Ibuprofen and a regular dose of Paracetamol after eating a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer as you’re not supposed to take Ibuprofen on an empty stomach. Over the course of the next mile or so the foot felt really sore, but it didn’t get any worse. I decided to finish the day and see how it felt in the morning, I’m not bailing on this walk unless the pain is really bad or the foot slows me to the point of not being able to do the distance in the amount of daylight available to me.
I passed through some really quite lovely woods today, Coppice Wood being one of the nicest I think. Even with bare trees and muddy paths the scenery was great. Between the woods I walked through pastures beside the river, in warming sunshine. There are a lot of weirs in the Derwent and they all gave a good show today.
At Grindleford, about 7.5 miles into the walk I stopped in at the Community Shop, out of curiosity as much as anything else. I half expected it to be shut, but it was open and it’s a tiny Aladdin’s cave. It reminded my of May’s store on the Pennine Way, but a lot smaller, you’d struggle to fit 4 people in it at the same time. I ordered a mug of tea, had a large bag of C&O crisps and a huge flapjack bar, all for £2.60 and sat down on one of the 2 seats inside the shop. I was soon joined by an old boy who’d been out walking on the edge above. He was 90 (he told me) and was a bit pooped after 5 miles along icy tracks and a tricky descent to the village. He had a big mug of tea too and a cake to go with it and we chatted for a while. I would have loved to have talked for longer, he had been climbing in the area for over 60 years and no doubt had a treasure trove of old stories to tell. I still had about 5 miles to go though and it was getting on for 2pm now so I made my apologies and headed out again. It felt colder now after the warmth of the shop and I put my hood up, over my hat and pulled the collar of my baselayer up as high as it would go.
More delightful woodland and more sunlit meadows followed, but the sun was soon hidden behind a ridge to my right and it began to feel colder still. My foot had begun to feel a bit better by this point, maybe it was the painkillers or maybe I was just walking it off, not sure. It improved all the way to the end of the day, still sore and I was still limping a bit, but certainly better than earlier. I will walk tomorrow at least and see how it feels.
Just outside Bubnell I encountered the worst flooding of the day so far and was fully expecting to get wet, very cold feet, but fortunately I spotted a series of small stones crossing the worst of the water and although they played havoc with my right sole, I got across pretty much unscathed. Nothing like the wading I had to do on the way into Middleham a few weeks ago.
I was now slightly ahead of schedule and as I wasn’t supposed to turn up the B&B before 4pm I slowed down and fairly ambled into the little village of Baslow. I think walking slowly for that mile or so has helped my foot. I stopped at the co-op and bought some drinks and snacks for my room later. The B&B is about a mile outside the village and I certainly wasn’t planning on walking back later. I’d packed a freeze dried meal for tonight and the Irn Bru would wash it down nicely. I also bought some chocolate chip cookies that looked a bit lonely on the shelf – poor things.
The ridge to my right was long gone and I now turned to head into the setting sun, along a quiet tarmac lane to Bubnell Cliff Farm and my bed for the night. I walked slowly, soaking in the last of the sun and reflecting on a lovely day’s walking. Walking in December is a real lottery, quite literally any weather is possible and there’s a good chance of getting all of them in a single day. Last year’s December walk was 5 days of constant rain along the Westmorland Way in the southern Lakes and as enjoyable as it was, it was despite the weather not because of it. Today had been different, this was the reason I try and walk this time of the year, cold frosty morning, crystal clear skies and short days. Getting a sunrise and a sunset on the same walk is awesome.
I tramped down the farm drive and knocked on their door. I was welcomed in, despite being 20 minutes early (I couldn’t have walked any slower, even with a bad foot) and was shown to a lovely large room with an even bigger en-suite bathroom. I could have organised a five-a-side tournament in there, its huge!
There’s a cosy log burner in the guest lounge and I’ve been keeping it topped up for the last hour or so as I write this. The WiFi is pretty pants, especially the upload speed so I may not post this tonight. I’m their only guest tonight, which is another bonus of walking at this time of year, no one else to ruin breakfast for me 😜. The weather looks OK for tomorrow, more chance of rain, but it’s already freezing outside so it should start cold and frosty all being well. I’ll try and get to Matlock tomorrow, the enjoyment of the walk today outweighed the pain in my foot, and so long as that continues I’ll keep on walking. I have a ‘get out of jail free’ card from my brother who says he’ll come and pick me up any evening I Iike. I also have fairly good public transport options along this route, so if push comes to shove I have escape routes I can use.
If I have one complaint about the B&B, apart from the WiFi upload speed, it’s the WiFi password, it’s too bloody complicated! There’s no other building within a mile, so it could just as easily be ‘password’ or ‘12345678’ no need for the 14 digit mixed bag of characters 😁
My foot was painful during the night, and in the morning I could hardly put any weight on it for the first half and hour or so. I managed to get downstairs for a good breakfast and quickly realised there was little chance of completing another 12 miles today, 13 tomorrow and 12 more on Saturday. I checked the local public transport options and was pleasantly surprised. A mile walk to a bus stop then three trains and a final mile would see me home. The timings were tight and the biggest worry was the 25 minutes I had to walk that first mile! I packed and departed as quickly as I could and painfully stumped my way (downhill fortunately) to the bus stop. I caught it – just! At Sheffield station I squeaked onto the train – the last person into the carriage and only then thanks to the fact that it was running 3 minutes late!
I’m back home now and realise that compensating for the foot by limping for the best part of 10 miles yesterday and a couple today has impacted my left hip and my right knee, both are very painful too. I’m a feckin’ mess and feeling somewhat dispirited. For the first time in over 10 years I have nothing planned, never mind booked for the coming year. Watch this space!