Having been awake for 21 hours the previous day, and then been periodically woken during the night, I was somewhat sluggish for the main bulk of this walk. Matters weren’t helped when the Sun tricked me into leaving my body warmer at home, on a day when it had no real intention of putting in a permanent appearance. Anyway having parked in Parwich we set off around midday, crossing both Bletch Brook and the Tissington Trail (avoiding a low flying RAF transporter), before reaching Tissington itself some two miles in. Once there, and having admired Tissington Hall we settled on a bench to have our lunch, before the intermittent rain forced us to seek shelter in the graveyard of a nearby church. I had debated earlier in the day whether I needed a scotch egg to go with my cob and other assorted bits, but by the end of the walk all this extra fuel definitely proved necessary.
Once lunch was finished, we crossed a field before picking up the Tissington Trail for a mile or so, following which we headed for Hampston Hill. Eventually we found ourselves walking through the picturesque (in a mini Lake Distrct sort of way) valleys of Lin Dale. Molly dog obviously thought she was back in the Lake District again as she went on a variety of scouting missions looking for sheep (fortunately none around), before returning each time we gave her a whistle (females are suckers for that sort of thing).
Eventually we arrived at the stepping stones (across the water) in Dovedale where we messed around taking photos, as well as finishing off the last of our lunch packs. Moving on, but not across the water, we walked along the Dale where Helen was able to name several of the rocks and caves on our left. We also found a strange rock, embedded with several hundred two pence pieces. This section is obviously a popular one as we had to negotiate about fifty kids being led by a National Trust grown up, some guys warning us of a pregnant sheep further down the track (huh), and a woman with a black Labrador that we couldn’t seem to shake off, and whom I was never quite sure on whether she was talking to us or herself. By this time the weather had decided to drop the pretence of it being any sort of reasonable day, and instead started to chuck it down.
Now mindful of my yet to fully heal calf, I had previously asked Helen whether we could do a flat walk on this occasion (and to be fair it had in the main been just that). However when we then moved onto a very steep and long climb onto (or on) Alsop Dale, my injured calf started grumbling for the first time in the day, and physically I felt near out on my feet. Oh and did I mention it was raining even harder by now. Thus having reached the summit, I somewhat ungraciously told Helen that she needed to go on a map reading course to understand contour lines (just the sort of thanks you need really after taking the time and trouble to plan a walk for someone, but then that’s the sort of cad I am). So far be it for me to suggest that any of that had put Helen off her stroke, but shortly afterwards the map reading started to go somewhat astray.
From Hanscombe Grange we negotiated our way through a farm, and a pervasive whiff of slurry (which lived long in the nostrils), and then basically went walking down a road in the wrong direction. Now the problem wasn’t so much that we carried on for at least a mile and a half before realising this, but rather that it was getting seriously late in the day (which wasn’t all that bright a day to begin with). However just when we were coming to the conclusion that it was all going very wrong (which strangely coincided with my energy levels lifting back up again), we suddenly came across a sign on our left pointing a trail towards Tissington. Now although it had gone past 5 o clock, we figured as long as we didn’t mess up getting to Tissington, we were home and dry as we could then follow the two mile route we had already been down, in the opposite direction back to Parwich. Wrong on that count however, as although we easily made it back to Tissington (and Tissington Hall), we began to cock up again.
Now rather than quickly pushing on at that point, whilst we just about had enough light to do it, Helen had become seriously disorientated. This was because both the darkness, and the raindrops on her glasses, were preventing her from reading the map. Thus we couldn’t seem to agree on which way to go, with us wasting inordinate amounts of time asking various village idiots for confusing non-directions to Parwich. Now unfortunately I wasn’t really any help whatsoever here, as is my won’t when someone else is leading a walk, I tend to pay no attention to the route of where we’ve been, or where we are heading (something I need to get out of the habit of). Thus finding ourselves in the middle of a field in approaching darkness, and with still no clear sense of direction, we decided we urgently had to return to the road in Tissington again, before a drama became a real dangerous crisis.
Once back in Tissington and still unable to make much sense of the map by the light of a phone box, we decided there was no option other than to walk a four to six mile semi-circular route back to Parwich on a completely unlit road. Oh and before you ask there was no mini-cab numbers in the phone box, or pubs (or anything resembling civilisation) along the way. Were we in any real trouble at this point ? Well no, not unless one of the dogs had twisted its paw in one of the cattle grids we had to cross over, or if my calf muscle had suddenly pulled, or even worse than any of that, Helen had started to get hungry. No what we had to look forward to was the best part of two more hours walking, in pitch darkness, in the cold and rain. The other thing we also had to look out for was the occasional vehicle coming up behind us, and then came ‘The Miracle of Bus 411’. Thus turning round to clear the road of the first vehicle that had come up behind us for about 15 minutes, what came heading in our direction (with no one else on board) was the 411 to Parwich. This was in fact not just the last one of the night, but a service that only diverts off to Parwich once every three hours. Were we grateful or what when he stopped in the road to pick us up ? Once on board Helen was close to laughing hysterics, Luther felt relieved enough to start grooming and cleaning Molly, whilst I racked my brain to find ways to thank the driver enough (obviously the guy wasn’t a London bus driver, because he would have just driven round us as we weren’t at a stop, or alternatively opened the door before proclaiming in the best jobsworth tone: “no dogs”).
So still wide eyed at the miracle that had just happened, we arrived in Parwich where without the aid of a map, we managed to retrieve the car. Now Helen reckoned we did some 12 miles in total, whereas I think it was nearer 14, so splitting the difference I am settling on 13 (which is unlucky for some, but in the final reckoning not us).