Walking in the new year

The hills are alive with the sound of bleating

What do you do with January? The Christmas and New Year hubbub has receded, people are back to work and the weather reminds you why other species migrate or hibernate. Fortunately I’ve no pressing work to distract me and there’s a chink in the Peak District weather to exploit.


My circular walk starts in Baslow, often driven through but never explored. The river Derwent to the west of this seemingly large village flows south to Derby and beyond. There is a church, a few tasteful craft and interior shops plus a school that is producing a riot of noise this playtime.

Long shadows
Long shadows

Setting off south and keeping to the east of the river a footpath opens up into the ample grounds of the Chatsworth estate although the fierce low winter sun prevents me from seeing much of it. A smattering of ramblers aside it is quiet as expected on this weekday morning.

Winter stops play
Winter stops play

Beside the path a blue plaque commemorates the significant contribution of Capability Brown to landscaping the estate in the eighteen hundreds. The undeniable natural beauty of Chatsworth is far from natural. Beyond a thicket of trees I come across a thatch roofed cricket pavilion which transports me back to a balmy summers day a couple of years ago when I dropped by here to watch my cricketing buddies in action, only to turn up precisely as they filed into the pavilion for lunch. It will be four months and hopefully 15 degrees celsius until the new cricket season begins.

The constant gardener
The constant gardener

The pitch looks immaculate as does the rest of the estate. Groundsmen down by the river are dredging up tree branches from the water. It must take a small army of staff to maintain the 30,000 acres of Chatsworth.

Stately pile
Stately pile

As one of the country’s premier outdoor tourist attractions the crowded weekends here can be off-putting but on a cold Wednesday in January the uninterrupted views are delightful. I wonder how many big budget period dramas will be recorded here this year.

Red deer. Or maybe fallow.
Red deer. Or maybe fallow.

No visit to Chatsworth is complete without a glimpse of roaming deer. Their population includes red and fallow deer. I think these are the red ones…

Not the least intimidated
Not the least intimidated

The sheep are less timid. They are everywhere and quite oblivious to any notion of danger.

Sheep - oblivious to road safety
Sheep – lacking in road sense

Car horns make little impression upon sheep in the road. Eventually, when they are ready, they sidle over to the verge and the traffic can pass. I suspect they are licking the gritting salt off the tarmac.

Out of sight
Edensor – out of sight

The village of Edensor (pronounced Enzer) was relocated here around 1840 as it was “spoiling” the view of the Duke Of Devonshire as he gazed out of his stately Chatsworth House windows. He was a fool – it’s very pretty. It is also a tourist draw in itself and I myself am powerless to resist tea and cake in the quaint tea room opposite St Peters Church, resting place for many of the Devonshire clan not to mention JFK’s sister.

Edensor cottage
An Edensor cottage

This 6 mile walk is part of my physical rehabilitation. Six weeks ago I returned from my curtailed Norfolk coastal path walk with 2 injured knees. Since then my only exercise has been the 5 mile annual Christmas day ramble which they survived but complained about. You can imagine what a paucity of exercise during the eating season means to one’s wellbeing. The good news is that both knees are fine – so far.

The hills are alive with the sound of bleating
The hills are alive with the sound of bleating

The climb out of Edensor unfolds into a picture postcard panorama. Even this marginal increase in altitude has preserved the morning’s frosting of snow on the hillside. Quite breathtaking!

Lightly frosted
Lightly frosted

The highest section of the walk tops out at a modest 250 feet above sea level. Here above Pilsley the demarcation of snow and thaw is clear. Beyond Pilsley and perhaps 70 feet lower there is little trace of snow or frost.

In need of roofing
In need of roofing

Land here has been farmed for many generations. I see several mostly disused outbuildings is a generally poor state of repair.

In need of rebuilding
In need of rebuilding

Once again this region is serving up a great variety of scenery over just a short walk.

Baslow in the distance
Baslow in the distance

The final agricultural third of the route becomes increasingly muddy as the afternoon sun melts the icy fields into soggy ones. Boots I so meticulously cleaned are back to their soiled norm.

Stick in ground 1 - Anquet 0
Stick in ground 1 – Anquet 0

I have been using the Anquet mapping application on my phone to sense-check the route. The 1:25000 Ordnance Survey map data is first-rate but the phone app stinks. Fortunately the original signpost firmware en-route has proven to be more user-friendly.

The swollen Derwent thunders beneath a robust old stone bridge that returns me to Baslow. Church bells chime for 2pm on my second encounter with the school, where the children continue to kick up a racket. Surely they have been indoors since I set off this morning…


Rain is on the way. The high winds that uprooted 4 of my fence panels earlier this week are due to return. I have been lucky to enjoy clear skies and a low sun on this peaceful weekday. And my knees feel OK! 2015 I declare you officially open.