Limestone Way 2
Ashbourne Heights to Bonsall- 13 miles
Despite the campsite being busy and rather a lot of rampaging children, I had quite a comfortable night at the campsite. As usual I woke early, but with a shorter day there was no time pressure so I was able to potter about and attempt to dry the tent that was saturated with condensation. More importantly, there was a tea wagon on the site which was doing breakfasts. It was a lovely morning to sit outside (if a bit chilly) so after packing the gear I mooched round for a bacon roll and a coffee and a natter with the owners who were also keen walkers. It also saved me worrying about lunch as they did sandwiches as well! (Thanks for the free shortbread too!)
After leaving the site it was a short climb back up to the trail before walking back down the same field to a rather tight pinch stile, something of a feature of the walk. Next was a road walk, climbing up to cross the A515 at a rather impressive gate that lead to the very attractive village of Tissington. The Avenue was a typical approach to a country house and it was a lovely walk in the morning sun. The village itself looked like a tourist honey pot, with loads of craft shops and tea rooms, not to mention the impressive Tissington Hall. Had I passed through later in the day I would most likely have lingered a while.
They way out the village passed through some lovely hay meadows, although the high vegetation which was covered in dew, did give me a bit of a soaking. A narrow quiet road turned into a farm track, crossing an old railway which now carries the Tissington Trail. Suddenly the views opened out superbly over the narrow Bletch Brook. It was a steep drop down to the water course which was little more than a trickle before climbing up to another attractive village, Parwich where I rested on a bench before negotiating some awkward stiles and climbing out the village.
There was a definite change in the landscape now, and after wandering through some more fields, the way started to climb past a sadly derelict church. Gone were the soft meadows and hedgerows, replaced by rough grazing and stone walls and the extra height climbed gave a wonderful vista over the surrounding rolling countryside. The ups and downs were more frequent now, along with the pinch stiles – I should really look where I’m going standing right in the middle of a cow pat while trying to negotiate a particularly narrow one.
Here the path took to the road again, Pasture Lane, and here there were well preserved extensive rig and ditch systems in the surrounding fields – the population here must have been considerable when they were in use.
The road became a track, and suddenly there were walkers everywhere. Up until this point I hadn’t seen a soul, but they were obviously making the most of the good weather, possibly from the nearby town of Brassington. This was now some gorgeous limestone grassland, along with some rocky outcrops – the trail starting to live up to its name.
The trail itself bypasses Brassington, by quite a way and I had a good rest watching the cyclists toil up the steep hill out of the village. After walking down this road for a short distance the trail once again took to the fields, the 1:25000 map showing that I had no less than 10 boundary crossings over the next kilometre or so. The worst point was crossing another old railway, this the Midshires Way and High Peak Trail and also an off road cycle route, with two horrible tight stiles in quick succession. I was beginning to curse them, and my backpack – the two just don’t mix!
Next stop was Grangemill, nestled in a narrow valley and a number of old quarries. I was very glad to see the pub, even if the outside did look a little worse for wear. The inside was, well, like walking into the 1950’s – and that’s not in a good retro 1950’s way.
A couple of rehydrating lemonades later I made my way up the steep climb out the village, complete with evil stiles, to start the last leg to Bonsall. There was a nice stile free road walk at the top, but again the map was showing the route crossing more field boundaries than I could shake my walking poles at! The landscape was an interesting patchwork of small enclosures in various states of repair . Despite the plethora of stiles it was lovely walking in Limestone Country, even throwing some more lovely grassland into the mix. It was however slow going.
Eventually the descent into Bonsall started down a lane before cutting through fields towards an old chapel. Here to posts acted as a narrow gate to the road. They both had barbed wire attached and as I passed through my sack caught on a barb, holding me fast. All I’ll say is that that when I finally got free, the post was no longer in situ.
My next mistake was an assumption I had made when planning the walk. I had arranged camping at the Barley Mow and thought it was in the middle of the rather spread out village (going by the beer glass sign on the map). I was wrong – cue a descent into the market square and the realisation that I had just walked to the wrong pub. Mine was around 1km away, back up the hill.
There was a festival on in the town with music going on in their small park along with various fancy dress and copious amounts of beer. The Barley Mow was heaving, and the landlady gave me a warm welcome and a well earned pint. It was an entertaining evening with morris dances, some rather drunk guys in drag and some fantastic live music!
Day Rating 9/10
Superb day, spoiled a little by the crazy number of pinch stiles, all of which were a bloody nightmare to negotiate. The scenery was outstanding, lots of wildflowers and wildlife made for some great walking. The weather helped too – rounded off with a great night in the Barley Mow, although I was quite early to bed.