James had postponed a backpacking trip to Wales due to the weather forecast for the Sunday, and instead contacted me to see if I was up for a day wander in the White Peak on the Saturday. As it happened, I had also postponed a wild camp in the Dark Peak due to the weather forecast for the Sunday…so a wander on the Saturday – which by all accounts looked like it was going to be dry and warm – seemed like a very good alternative.
We met up at the tiny village of Grindon, in the Staffordshire Moorlands, just west of the Manifold Valley. Dixie and I had got there rather early as, not knowing how long it would take us to get there, I’d allowed loads of time. We decided to have a little wander around the village while we waited. Unusually, as we pottered around the village green, I noticed that there was no sign on the church gate that said dogs weren’t allowed to set paw on the premises, so we went in and nosied around the peaceful churchyard. There was also no sign on the church door that said dogs weren’t allowed inside, but I decided that maybe that was pushing our luck a bit so we didn’t go in. On looking up Grindon on the internet later that day however, I wished I had gone in, as apparently in the south aisle of the church is a memorial plaque made up of wreckage from a Halifax bomber.
‘…It is in memory to eight men who lost their lives in the severe winter of 1946/7 when the aircraft crashed on these upland hills whilst bringing food to the village which was cut off at that time by a heavy fall of snow. Among those who perished were six crew members as well as two photographers working for the local media…’
Some of you out there may already know that I’m a bit of a plane and helicopter nut and like visiting the aircraft wreck sites in the Peaks, so it’s a pity I missed that.
Anyway, James and Rueben were soon parked up and ready for off too, and they led the way out of the village and down towards the Manifold Valley.
Before too long we were down at the valley floor, which we crossed and straight away started climbing up out the other side.
The Manifold Valley is now a much used footpath and cycleway but was originally (1904-1934), the site of a narrow gauge railway, used mainly for carrying milk from dairies in the region and acting as a feeder to the standard gauge system. It also provided passenger services to the small villages and beauty spots along its route.
One of those beauty spots was Thor’s Cave, which we got a splendid view of as we crossed over the cycleway.
Notice the huge tree at the bottom of the photo too – obviously come down at some time, maybe with the weather we’ve had this year?
Thor’s Cave is apparently a natural cavern, but over the years has yielded many bones and artifacts. I can quite clearly remember visiting it on a school trip when I was a mere 10 years old!
Anyway, climbing out of the valley, I soon began to wish I hadn’t put such warm trousers on. The sun had come out with a fierce determination and I was starting to overheat. It was also becoming apparent that there were no puddles or bits of water around for the dogs to drink, and they were beginning to wilt somewhat. A plan was hatched. As we reached the village of Wetton at the top of the hill, we decided a pub stop was in order. We could then buy some drinks for us, and they kindly allowed us to water the dogs to their fill and replenish our water bottles, so that we had plenty to give them later on in the walk. Good plan, don’t you think?
Once everyone was rested and re-hydrated, we set off out of Wetton in a north-easterly kind of direction.
Once alongside a 371m top near Wetton Hill, we cut across the access land straight up the slopes, to the summit. This was a perfect spot for a late lunch.
Lunchtime refreshments eaten, we continued on down the western slopes of the hill, before climbing back up again to the trig point north of Broad Ecton Farm. Climbing was hot work again and Dixie spotted a water trough in one of the fields for a long drink. I also splashed water all over her to help cool her down. She liked that.
There was a lovely, refreshing breeze on this edge, so it seemed another good excuse for a break to let the dogs cool down again after the climb.
On the home stretch now, we followed the edge southwards until we picked up a lane that took us back down to the Manifold Cycleway.
James had obviously planned this walk very carefully, as a welcome cafe was next on the agenda. Ice-creams, coffee and tea were eagerly enjoyed while Dixie took the opportunity for another rest.
And the final climb of the day back up to the village of Grindon, was a short, sharp reminder that White Peak walks are not always the easy option to Kinder and Bleaklow.
The shadows were already lengthening as Grindon finally came into sight. It had been an unexpectedly hot afternoon, but as usual James had come up with an excellent route.