Day 39 – Youlgreave to Longshaw

I was worried that after the long day yesterday I would be feeling tired, but started the day full of enthusiasm. Now that we are in the Peak District it is really starting to feel like we are making significant progress – after the Peaks, the Pennines, and after that Scotland! This was another great day’s walking, first past two stately homes, then a wild end to the day on gritstone edges, looking ahead to the high moorland.

The route from Youlgreave goes over a hill, first past a pretty lake and then a long gentle downhill with views of Haddon Hall, looking very gothic (I didn’t manage to get a picture of the best view due to being distracted by a very enthusiastic spaniel). The hall itself was closed for a private party but the walk goes through the grounds with the hall visible in the distance.

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After that it was a long uphill through Calton Plantation (a managed woodland which was surprisingly full of joggers and walkers) and then down into the parkland of the Chatsworth estate, where deer were grazing. The route goes through Edensor, a village which the 6th Duke of Devonshire moved and had redesigned by Joseph Paxton; it is now a very pretty chocolate-box village complete with immaculate gardens and well-trimmed verges.

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I stopped for tea in the cafe and got chatting to a local couple who noticed my OS maps. The husband mentioned that he used to walk with John Merrill (a renowned long-distance walker) in a local walking group. When I made admiring noises, he grinned and said ‘Oh, he was a right pain to walk with – used to take off at incredible pace and never wait for anyone”, then told me about Merrill’s stress fractures which he incurred while walking round Britain (at incredible speed, naturally).

The path continues through the Chatsworth grounds, then up through Baslow village to Baslow edge, the first of a series of gritstone ridges leading north. This is some of my favourite walking, and the chance to follow the edges today and tomorrow was one of the main reasons for taking this route rather than starting the Pennine Way at its origin in Edale. The route didn’t disappoint – beautiful sunshine, views for miles over the valleys to distant moorland, and although there were other walkers around it didn’t feel crowded. Even the DofE groups were looking fit and cheerful!

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Unfortunately, then a minor disaster struck. As I stopped for a break I noticed that both my boots had split, right down the join over the ball of your foot where the boot creases – which meant they were no longer waterproof and I would have to get new ones fairly urgently. I was absolutely gutted – these boots have been great to wear, very comfortable and flexible, and I had thought they would last the whole way – plus the last thing I wanted to do was wear in brand new boots whilst walking long days. I decided to cut short the day at Longshaw, which is the point just before Stanage Edge, then try and find a new pair in Hathersage that afternoon, as I wasn’t confident about finding another good outdoor shop for the next few days.

With the aid of the very helpful man in the Hathersage branch of Outside, I purchased a pair of Meindl boots. These are much stiffer and heavier than the broken ones, and I spent a long time in the shop walking up and down worrying about whether I would be a mass of blisters. I took them home and attempted to wear them in as much as possible that evening. We met up with Richard, a lovely man who is planning to undertake LEJOG next year; it was great to be able to talk walking (as well as law and putting the world to rights generally) and I really enjoyed the evening. I went to bed worrying about the long walk tomorrow and how my feet would hold up, and vowing to pack Compeed and plasters just in case.

Highlights: The contrast between the manicured landscaping of Chatsworth and the wild ridges to the north; the fountain spray visible from about a mile away; two chatty phonecalls from work colleagues; the steep climb up to Baslow Edge; massive prehistoric boulders; the stiff formality of brand new boots.

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