Limestone Way 3
Bonsall – Monyash 12 miles
Despite the extended party going on in the village, I had turned in for about 9pm, the steady beat of music lulling me to sleep in the tent. I awoke early and packed the gear away, drying the dew laden tent as best as possible. It was a fine morning, but the weather forecast was ominous predicting heavy rain after lunch. Fortunately the pub had an outside loo which the landlady kindly left open for me, meaning I had access to the cludgie, and more importantly water as I used much of mine making breakfast.
It was 7 o’clock by the time I hit the road having a steep climb up some narrow village roads back to the path. This section carried on through Bonsall to Matlock, 3 or 4km away and the original start/finish of the trail before it was extended to Rocester. Passing through the upper town I was soon in fields and climbing steadily with fine views back to Matlock in the distance.
The paths here were wider and well worn and even at this time of day there were a few other walkers out and about in the distance. The pinch stiles were coming thick and fast once again, many of which had an added booby trap in the form of a highly sprung gates. These resembled a bear trap in the way they would snap shut while I was trying to negotiate them, switching between trying to trap me or propelling me forward like a rocket as they shut behind me.
The way marking here wasn’t great, but the path was obvious and widely used through to Winster through lush grassland. Despite the booby traps this was again delightful. There was plenty of cattle around too which varied between non-plussed and curious in demeanour, including a very large bull sat in the middle of the path – it didn’t bat an eye as I passed.
The route passed high above Winster, and having covered the 4km or so from Bonsall fairly rapidly I took a breather on one of a number of conveniently placed benches. On another day this was a place to linger and admire the rolling Derbyshire Countryside.
There was a bit of a missed opportunity here as well, a pub high above the village with a campsite attached which was quite busy. The extra milage added on to the previous day would have been a struggle though.
There were a few dog walkers out and about here and I even passed a large group of rather miserable (and overloaded) looking DoE award hopefuls. I always wonder how many of these kids are put off backpacking for life by the amount of gear they end up hauling around with them.
The fields were left behind for a while as the path took to a rough track then road, descending steeply towards the prominent limestone crags at Robin Hood’s Stride. The crags themselves were impressive lumps, lying almost jumbled on the ground and looking like large pieces of rubble that a passing giant had dumped there. Disappointingly there were quite a number of warning signs to discourage walkers, the usual “Private Keep Out” and “Keep to the Path” nonsense. A rare excursion through some woodland followed, a murky walk through a conifer plantation. Leaving the wood the path turned back on itself, and turning a corner, Youlgreave was spread out in front of me marking the approximate halfway point of the day.
The official route didn’t go into the town, instead following the bank of the River Bradford which had carved out its own, fairly deep, river valley below the town. In all honesty, at this point I was knackered and so I made my way up the steep bank to find somewhere for lunch, only to find everywhere closed (it was still only 1130) for at least another hour. This left me with a dilemma – do I wait for the pub to open and risk the weather (the weather front had been following closely most of the morning but had yet to catch me up), or just push on and hope that I could beat it to the campsite at the end of the day.
Being knackered, the first option won out – I figured I was going to be beaten by the weather anyway, so I would only be postponing a soaking by pressing on – I needed a good rest and lunch so waited for the pub to open, reading my book in the meantime.
The rain came on during lunch, but I had a good long break and rest, leaving around 1.30. Waterproofed up to the hilt I walked back down to the river, the still water dimpled by the steady rain. It was slippery, much of the path worn down to the underlying limestone (treacherous at the best of times) and as I started the steep climb away from the river I got a soaking from the lush vegetation surrounding the path.
The gradient eased as the path took to a road for a while then continued through old estate land. I was sweating with the effort too meaning that even with the waterproofs on I was soaked to the skin. The rain was now horizontal and sweeping across the land in visible waves.
For a while the trail took to open country, blessedly with few stiles, and there were a few other hardy fools braving the weather, mostly in the distance. The world was grey and hazy, the rain coming down in a thick mist that blanketed almost everything. There was, however a bleak, brooding and almost majestic feel to the land as Lathkin Dale approached.
This was one place I wasn’t looking forward to. It looked steep on the map and it was. The way down had slabs of limestone set into the ground as steps, but it was treacherous in the wet and a painstaking business getting to the bottom. On a dry, warm day this would have been one of the highlights of the trail, and even in the rain it was spectacular. The way out was a worse, with the steep steps like ice and I have to admit to being pretty drained once out the other side.
Passing through One Ash Farm there was an old bunk barn selling ice cream on an honesty basis in what used to be its kitchen/common room. Glad of the chance for somewhere dry I sat for a while listening to the rain pattering relentlessly on the roof. It was a bunk barn no longer, and being nosey I stuck my head through a door into what had been the sleeping accommodation. The place was filled to the ceiling with junk, giving a clue as to why it had fallen (sadly) into disuse.
From here it was less than 3km to the campsite at Monyash and there was nothing else for it other than to get back out and brave the weather. From here the trail left the open fields and took to an old lane, possibly an old packhorse route, squeezed in between two stone walls. While this did mean an end to the pinch stiles for a while, the lane was thick with high vegetation which encroached on the narrow path. By the time I reached Monyash my trousers and boots were sodden.
I’ve never been so glad to reach a campsite in my life. The site was soggy, and my tent even soggier as I put it up, but once inside I warmed up nicely getting into some dry gear before donning my soggy boots again and walking to the pub.
Day Rating 8/10
Despite the weather a really good days walking. The morning was superb (and dry), and despite the rain I did manage to appreciate the afternoon – in a pseudomasochistic kind of way! Fortunately the pub was open, doing food (and good beer), although it was going to be rather wet overnight.