Day 38 – Ellastone to Youlgreave

As if in reward for persevering with yesterday’s tedious walk, today was great – full of variety, some beautiful country and a couple of nice energetic bits. I did make the initial mistake of following the suggested ‘clear path’ through the woods in the valley, rather than the Limestone Way following the ridge above, only to find that the path was muddy and blocked by fallen trees in several places, making for slow going. After struggling through a thicket onto the road (path? what path?) I decided to cut my losses and walked up to rejoin the Limestone Way, which was easy underfoot and with great views.

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After heading through Thorpe it was round the bottom of Thorpe Cloud (a very strange hill which looks a bit like a practice pyramid, complete with limestone ‘cap’) before going up through Dove Dale, which is pretty in all weathers and whatever the season. The Dove is a lovely river – shallow and sparkly, it does a good job of being properly pastoral and picturesque (it even managed to improve bits of yesterday!) and in the sunlight it was beautiful.

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After reaching Milldale at the top of Dove Dale, I carried on north through Biggin Dale – another steep limestone valley, less ‘pretty’ than Dove Dale but with a much wilder and more dales-y feel and virtually no walkers. No walkers, that is, until I got to the top, where I met no fewer than four Duke of Edinburgh packs (not sure what the collective term for DofE walkers would be – an expedition? a grump? a trudge? a plod?), all bar one absolutely lost. I confirmed to one group they were in Biggin Dale and they looked immensely relieved – I didn’t like to point out the large National Trust sign saying ‘Biggin Dale’ about four feet behind them!

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The Biggin pub was shut so I couldn’t stop for a much-needed pint, and pushed on along the High Peak trail (a disused railway line running high up in the hills, with great views) through Gratton Dale and into Youlgreave. I was immensely pleased with myself, as I estimated the distance at about 23 miles, and for once I was at the pub ahead of Arran so was able to have a pint (Theakston’s ‘Tour de Wot?’ – very nice) and some pork scratchings. Luxury!

Highlights: A sense of achievement at navigating cross-country to find the Limestone Way; children splashing near the stepping stones at the bottom of Dove Dale;  cool shade and sparkly water up the Dove Valley; limestone boulders and fat sheep in Biggin Dale; not being completely exhausted at the end of the day.

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