Half term shenanigans

February half term was a mixed bag. The weather was fine but my daughter had a nasty cold that laid her low. All she wanted to do was curl up and die. I saw no reason not to let her after a busy time at school.

However I had three adventures for us up my sleeve so I knew it wouldn’t be a total wash out.

First up was Speedwell Cavern just up the road in Castleton. I didn’t really know what to expect beyond what I had seen in the photos, but I knew it involved a boat in a cave – very Jules Vern! And a little cherry on the top was that Speedwell Cavern is right where Winnats Pass starts. I challenge anyone not to be in awe every single time you drive through it.

Anyway, we arrived at Speedwell Cavern, thankfully appropriately dressed as I reckoned it would be chilly inside and it was. We went to the little gift shop next door to announce our arrival, bought a cup of tea and then we were ushered through for our turn. To our relief we were grouped with only one other family as we saw later on how busy it can get. Hard hats were donned and we were taken through a door to the top of 106 stairs (I know this because the young daughter of the other family carefully counted them going up and down).

Down we went and to my surprise we ended up on a little jetty on an underground stream that led into a tiny tunnel. Now I understood the hard hats. After a bit of a safety briefing, we sat in the boat and off we trundled. The boats were sort of large metal row boats which had been retro fitted with electric motors. We literally bumped our way down the tunnel, keeping our heads down.

Eventually we arrived at the cavern itself.

Looking straight up

I have to admit to feeling somewhat underwhelmed here. There wasn’t much room and on our arrival the large party there got into our boat after we alighted and left us there. The cavern may have been high, but it wasn’t particularly wide: I had in mind something more akin to Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

However, the whole trip was definitely worthwhile and a good way to pass half a day, particularly if the weather isn’t so great.

Next up was a trip to Sheffield to watch the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey game against the Glasgow Clan. This was our first experience of an ice hockey match and it was brilliant. It does seem to be very American in its format but because of that it is fantastic entertainment and very exciting. We quickly become ice hockey experts and gave each other our critique on the game (and the players 😍) as our new home team badly played their way to losing the match 5-1.

My final adventure, and trump card in my book, was to go wreck hunting on Bleaklow near Kinder Scout. There are literally hundreds of plane wrecks scattered across the moors, all meticulously recorded here including a B29 Superfortress on Bleaklow. Unfortunately we ran out of time to do this before we left. However I did manage to sneak in a walk up Thorpe Cloud and Dovedale on our return home.

If you’d like any information on any of the activities we did, don’t hesitate to ask.

Special Offer! 🍷

Due to a last minute cancellation, this coming weekend of 8th and 9th December has just become free.

If you fancy the idea of a cosy few days away, exploring the beautiful Dales or bagging a few Trig points before settling down in front of the fire with a good book or Netflix series, then why not get in touch. Just to help you settle in, I’ll throw in a bottle of red wine to help you relax.

Now doesn’t that look and sound good?

And don’t forget, I don’t force you out at some ungodly hour of the morning on the day of departure. You have until 5pm to leave so that you can make full use of the cottage all day.

For the Love of Maps

I can’t really remember when my love of maps started.  I do remember doing the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Challenge when I was 14 or 15 and I don’t know if it was during this or at some other time, when I was looking at a map, and looking around me, and suddenly everything clicked into place.  That church I could see there….. yes, it was right here on the map in front of me.  That ridgeline I can see there….. with the sheepfold at one end…. are these groups of lines here on the map.  Once you have set the map, ie aligned the map to north using your compass (at a push just using defining landmarks will do too), you can find anything you want!

A couple of my fellow Adventuresses in the Cairngorms

A couple of years ago I went on a Mountain Navigation and Wild Camping course, run by Backcountry Survival.  We were taught the much finer details of navigation, how to orient yourself in the dark/fog/heavy cloud, how to measure distances and be able to inch along the map as if we were completely blind. We spent three days navigating ourselves around the Cairngorms and camping in the mountains.  I loved it.  I love deciphering the Ordnance Survey maps; the detail of the landscape that is on them is really remarkable.

The Cairngorms

So, one of my pleasures in the Peak District is plotting new routes to go and run. Pouring over a map allows you to explore an area.  See what paths link one part to another.  There are so many possibilities, so many different and varied parts of the Peak District I don’t think I’ll ever explore it all fully.  But I’ll have fun trying!  If you are coming to stay in the cottage and would like a bit of help plotting an adventure I would be very happy to assist.

A 10 mile route I did recently from the cottage
Plotting a route along the Roaches on the phone

Lathkill Dale

Holly Cottage is incredibly fortunate to lie right at the start of Bradford Dale, which is one of the Peak Districts lesser-known Dales. However, if you follow the path along the river’s edge for a couple of miles, you are lead straight to the start of Lathkill Dale, one of the Peak District’s most famous and beautiful Dales.

From the cottage I did a 10 mile loop which took in Bradford Dale, Lathkill Dale, Cale Dale and a small out and back to Arbor Low, the Henge of the North.

I have already written of my love for Bradford Dale, and how beautiful and serene it is.

Once you reach the end of the Dale, you cross a road and take a path that still follows the Bradford until you reach Alport, which is where the confluence of the Lathkill and Bradford lie. Here again, you cross the road and now you have the Lathkill on your right, but you don’t reach the start of the Dale for another mile or so. Instead you have a pleasant amble along field edges and hedgerows.

Once you reach another road, you must take a right, over the bridge and now you can turn left into Lathkill Dale with the river now on your left.

Now you can trot, skip or walk along Lathkill Dale for another 2-3 miles. You can see the Caves and the valley closes in on you as you travel down it.

Eventually, you’ll come to a fork in the valley with a large footbridge going left. On this occasion I took this route, but when I stopped to look behind me (something you must always do in the Peaks so you don’t miss the view!) I saw more paths to explore.

See how the terrain has opened up, similar to Dovedale. I can’t wait to explore there next.

I continued along my planned route however, and soon came to a choice:

When I’d plotted the route, I could see Cale Dale on the map but no defined path along it. However I suspected it may be possible to travel along it and this signpost seem to confirm my suspicions and it looked like I might have hit upon a little gem.

Unfortunately it wasn’t.

As a runner I wear a skort and although I was wearing knee length socks, this meant the thigh-height nettles had a field day! However if you are walking/hiking this probably won’t concern you but I was reduced to a walk through this Dale – it is rather unloved with trees fallen across the path and rocks hiding under foot to trip you up so walking was definitely best.

Soon I climbed up and out of this little Dale and found myself on the track to the farm which led to the road. Here I planned to take a little detour and go and see what Arbor Low was all about.

This site is just 2 miles up the road from the cottage so you have a lovely easy amble back down hill the whole way.

All in all a lovely route and one I shall be doing again soon. Happy walking!

Edale 9 Edges Endurance Run

I wouldn’t ordinarily write a blog about a race I have done here, but seeing as this is also walking and climbing challenge, I thought it would be of interest to a wider circle of people.

Edale Mountain Rescue put on this annual event to raise money for the Team. You can, however, just pay an entry fee if you do not wish to fundraise. It is a beautiful route along 9 Gritstone Edges, heading south from Derwent Dam and ending at the Robin Hood Inn in Baslow and is roughly 20 miles long with 900 meters of elevation gain.

Walkers and climbers start anytime between 7.30 and 9am, with the climbers having to climb one route per Edge and finish by 6pm.

The route is stunning, even in the appalling weather we had that day. Starting at Fairholmes by Derwent Dam, you immediately climb straight up onto the moor. Normally you would head straight for the first Edge, Derwent Edge, but this year we were re-routed to protect the moor. However the views of the Derwent valley, even through the low cloud, were stunning.

Photo by kind permission of Simon Walkden and taken on a nicer day! But it shows exactly where the start of the race is.

This is the view I got from the top:

There are three main hills to climb at the beginning, as you can see from my elevation profile from the day, but once those are out of the way it’s actually mostly downhill.

The route meanders south, mostly following the river Derwent and you can see clearly from this map the moors, the Edges and then the drop down to the valley below.

The geology of the Peak District is fascinating and if you are interested why don’t you start with this Vignette about it and this Geological Society website about Stanage Edge in particular.

A friend of mine, Austin, came to run this event with me and it was his first proper visit to the Peak District. Despite the weather, he loved it and will definitely return. Once you’ve been I can almost guarantee the Peak District will entice you back again.

How a Dream Came True…..

So here is there story of how I came to own Holly Cottage.

3 years ago I visited the Peak District for the first time. I rented a little cottage in Youlgrave for 3 days and fell in love with the whole area. I ran each day, twice locally around the Dales and once I drove to Ladybower Reservoir and did a long 18 mile run exploring the moors and Edges up there. It helped that it was a romantic getaway, but this love for the Peaks was clearly permanent.

On my second run locally, I happened to run through a gorgeous, tiny hamlet where there was a beautiful little row of miners’ cottages, one of which had a For Sale sign outside it.

Out of curiosity I looked it up. I can’t remember exactly how much it was, but it was about the amount I had in mind to buy an investment property when my divorce finalised. Hmm. I was planning on buying a flat in Colchester or Cambridge and rent it out permanently but maybe I could buy here and then I could use it and rent it out as a holiday let…? As I ran down Bradford Dale for the 2nd or 3rd time I had this wonderful image of my daughter Charlie and our dog being able to come down to the Dale and play in the water; safely able to wander down by herself to explore.

Fast forward to December 2016 and we have finally sold the marital home and my ex husband and I could move on with our lives separately. I buy a small flat in a town locally and immediately start looking for another cottage in the Peaks. It took time, patience, false starts and more money than I planned but I got there in April 2018. By some serendipitous twist of fate, Holly Cottage is actually 2 doors down from the one I first saw for sale 3 years ago.

And this week my dream was realised. The weather was gorgeous so Charlie, her best friend, Mac and I wandered down the Dale and spent a couple of hours by the river, in the little area downstream that has been dammed for swimming. It took a lot of work and heartache and frustration and tears. But I got there in the end.

New Adventure Alert !!!

So today we went Paddleboarding on Tittesworth Reservoir. I have borrowed a child to keep Charlie amused (or rather to be cheeky to me in front of!!) and as the temperatures were set to continue to be high, I booked this activity a few weeks ago.

The reservoir is only 30 minutes drive from the cottage but makes sure you go through Longnor on the way and as you descend the switch back road you’ll see stunning views of Chrome Hill and the Dove valley.

When we arrived the Reservoir was alarmingly low but there were still plenty of people having fun in kayaks and canoes. We were issued with our life vests, paddles and off we went. It is bliss to be on the water in hot weather and although the Reservoir was restricted simply due to the water levels, it was lovely for the girls to have a splash and “fall in” repeatedly.

Definitely a fun activity and highly recommended by 2 twelve year olds. And it was reasonably priced too at £10 per hour for each paddleboard. Click here for more info Tittesworth Watersports

On the way back we went via Hartington – a very pretty little village with a rather nice looking pub which looks worthy of experimentation….. watch this space 😉🍻

As an update to the cottage availability, I have had a nightmare with my bed supplier and if there is one thing I cannot rent the cottage without, it’s a bed!! The good news is everything should be in place over the next week and I am confident it will be available thereafter. If anyone is interested in the following dates please let me know:

10th – 21st August – any dates but a single booking only

24th – 31st August – any dates but a single booking only

Building the foundations

After being away last week, it was such a relief to arrive today. I immediately feel calmer when I’m here, especially so after a trip down to the Dale. The water is looking stunning at the moment and the gentle burble soothes stresses and strains away.

Some furniture and lighting has arrived, so a productive afternoon was spent building the two bedside tables for the main bedroom. I’m enjoying taking a slightly modern, Scandinavian slant to things, which I think will blend in well with the natural oak in the cottage.

All curtains have now been bought or are being altered to fit the tiny windows. Tomorrow’s job will be putting up the curtain poles and hanging what curtains are ready.

An electrician is coming tomorrow morning to see the jobs I have for him – hopefully he can do the work soon to put up my new lights and prepare for the imminent Aga arrival.

I drove through Ashbourne this afternoon and noticed loads of home living shops so I feel a need to go hunting for the odd bargain might be on the agenda next week.

💃🐕 ❤️

Getting there slowly…..

Bit by bit the place is coming together. Furniture has been bought and we are awaiting delivery. New lights are waiting to be fitted. The Aga delivery is set for early July, as is the new loo and sink upstairs and a revamp of the downstairs shower.

A new extending kitchen table and chairs are coming, as is a wardrobe and drawers. Curtains are being made up; some new, some altered from Borley.

We are learning about the quirks of the house, listen to the funny bird noises that come down the chimney, the sound of lambs at night. It really is a slice of heaven.

The garden needs a make over; it has been unloved for over a year. But I bought a little outdoors table and chairs and sitting in the yard behind the house on a warm summer’s evening, with a glass of something and the little fire pit going is lovely. Cheers 🍷

We’ve Made It!

Finally, we have moved into Holly Cottage at last. There is still much to do: the main bedroom bed delivery has been delayed and the aga is yet to go in, but already it feels like home.

Mum moved in all her stuff that had been piling up in Bury and then last week the rest of our belongings arrived which had been in store since Borley. The lorry was bigger than the cottage!

Then Charlie came to visit – it was the first time she had seen it! And guess what? She’s already made friends with horsey neighbours who will let her ride their ponies! Clever girl ☺️🐕

Mum and I went for our first run from the house. We had a great adventure and we even met cows! But my Mum shooed them away so they weren’t able to eat me 😰. If you visit, do ask for some maps of local walks as we are having so much fun exploring the immediate countryside and will be happy to share them with you.

That’s it for now. Keep an eye out and as soon as we are ready to let the cottage we’ll let you know.