Archive for January, 2010

In the Snow at Grin Low

We have been to Grin Low cottage (situated south of Buxton) on 5 previous occasions over the last 10 years. Those being the new year weekends of 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007 and a Bonfire weekend in November 2003. As this was our 10th anniversary since we first set foot in the cottage, the Group decided to make this a special occasion by subsidizing the bednights, providing a free meal and free transport for those not traveling independently.

Thursday – New Years Eve

With my passengers, Dave and Margaret, I set off for Grin Low. Passing through Ashbourne, we noticed snow on only the very highest hills but as we started to head over higher ground towards Buxton, the snow appeared at the roadside to greet us.

We reached Grin Low cottage at about 3.45pm and were surprised that Grin Low’s car park was buried under 3 feet of snow. I had no option but to park on the side of the iced up driveway, at the side of the cottage, the long entrance to the Grin Low caravan park. There’s never any caravans here at this time of year, so I was puzzled to see so many other cars parked close by with hordes of people walking about. The snow had obviously galvanized the local population into winter pursuits, skiing, tobogganing etc. On past new year visits, it was rare to see anyone else around but this level of snow had changed all that.

On entering the cottage, we found that Norman, Ruth, Judith, Tony and Laurie had arrived a good hour before us. So we all set about laying out the New Years Eve buffet, At about 6.00pm, the next car arrived with Alison, Clare and Mikhail. But they got stuck, so I and Norman helped to get them off the main road and on to the driveway. Brian was the only one now that we were waiting for, He was bringing his Hi-Fi equipment, so we could have some music, but where was he ?

It was a lovely clear moonlit night and with all the snow, you barely needed a torch and I was sorely tempted to go on a late night walk to Solomon’s Temple, only half a mile away. But as the weekend organiser, I felt duty bound to keep a look out for Brian. Eventually, he arrived at 11.15pm, overshot the entrance and got stuck a few yards up the road, trying to turn around in a gateway.

But a few willing hands came out to perform the second rescue of the evening. Apparently, Brian had overslept after a tiring Wednesday evening. Probably been out drinking into the small hours again. But he arrived in time to see in 2010 with the rest of us. He was unable to join us on any walks, he’d forgotten to bring his boots.

Friday – New Years Day

Tony volunteered to lead a walk from the cottage to the Goyt Valley. The original idea would have been to drive up to the Cat and Fiddle pub on the A537 but it wasn’t worth driving anywhere in case we got stuck, the Cat and Fiddle was blocked off anyway.

So we set off minus Brian but plus Sarah who had driven up from Leek, to join us for the walk and to stay for one night. It was a nice sunny morning but we were to have a few snow flurries later on.

We walked on the A54 for a short while before turning onto a minor road towards Goyts Moss, though what should have been a road was now a snow track. The road was under 4 feet of snow, it was amusing to see the occasional top of a road sign sticking out of the snow. After this, we joined a footpath that led us to a road at Goyts Moss. It was hard going as we were sinking into deep snow most of the time. The road, when we reached it, was little better, as it was very icy underfoot. We arrived at the ruins of Errwood Hall for lunch, most of the walls were still standing but there’s no roof, lucky for us the sun was still out. It was quite noticeable that out of the entire group, Mikhail was the only one not wearing any headgear. Being Russian, he found the conditions rather pleasant as British winters just do not compare with what Russia experiences.

Our progress had been painfully slow so any ideas about walking up Shining Tor were dismissed, even walking a further half mile to see an old chapel wasn’t practical as we would have been in danger of losing valuable daylight.

So we headed back the way we came and couldn’t believe our eyes when a car passed us on the road. We reached a road junction, sorry I mean a snow track junction. We would take the left turn for a mile to reach Buxton but before we did, we noticed that the car that passed us was stuck on a hill leading towards the Cat and Fiddle pub, it was soon joined by 2 other cars. Dave tried to persuade one of the drivers not to follow the other idiots but to no avail. Admittedly, the road was a on a one-way system but considering the conditions, they could have been forgiven for driving out what was technically the wrong way, never mind the fact they shouldn’t have driven out there in the first place.

Back at Grin Low, we were greeted by the arrival of Andy, Chris and Alice and that evening we achieved a record of having all 16 bunkbeds filled. On past new year weekends at Grin Low we’ve only managed 13.

The 3 course (free) meal kicked off with an excellent starter, a butternut squash soup that Alison made for us, an idea that she had discussed with me before the start of the weekend, which I’m grateful for. The main course was down to me, a cheese and tomato macaroni with chicken. Here I’m grateful to help from Chris and Brian, special thanks to Margaret for bringing the garlic, skinning the tomatoes and providing some olive oil. I was a bit nervous about cooking for 16, so I’m very grateful to Alice for her help in organizing the preparation and to Sarah for some of the cooking and her advice which was invaluable. Everyone appeared to enjoy the meal, so I’m relieved about that.

We then tucked into a fruit salad provided by Ruth, which went down very well, originally, this was intended for the previous night’s buffet but I asked Ruth if she could save it for this following night’s meal, for which I’m grateful.

But all was not over yet as Dave treated us to one of his coffee liquors, for which he is famous. I departed to bed with a warm glow and a full stomach.

Before the night was over, Chris treated us to his “all in one” firework display, though it didn’t go off at first and appeared to be an expensive dud. Chris then very cooly examined it, picked it up, pulled the fuse wire further out (DON’T DO THIS AT HOME FOLKS) put it down, then relit it. Everyone, especially Alice, thought he might blow his head off and yelled at him to leave it be. But his plan, though extremely risky, worked.  We were then treated to a 10 minutes or so, firework extravaganza and thankfully it was the multi-firework that went off with a bang, not Chris.

Saturday – 2nd January

We awoke on Saturday morning to a fresh covering of snow and glancing at the sky, it was obvious there was more on the way. Andy, who had planned to walk with us before heading home, decided not to risk it and drove home early. Also on their way home was Alison, Clare and Mikhail. Sarah gave Margaret a lift home.

Kathy arrived with Dorothy, not to stay over but to just do the day’s walk with us. The original plan for today was to drive over to Macclesfield Forest but that idea had to be abandoned, it wasn’t worth the risk considering the conditions.

Instead, we walked from the cottage again on a walk led by Chris. We crossed over the Grin Low road and walked down a footpath, heading in the direction of Flash. Walking over Stanley Moor, it made a change to be roaming over scenery that you normally only see on Christmas cards. We passed walls now only 3 feet high thanks to the snow drifts. Passing over the hill of Brand Top we dropped down a valley and crossed over an icy footbridge. We then walked along a track to Summerhill. It was then half a mile up to the “Travellers Rest” pub. But it was a painful ascent as the snow just flew straight into our faces, stinging the eyes, even though with our hoods up and being forced to look down at the ground, it still hit us. You couldn’t admire the scenery, let alone see who was walking next to you.

After what seemed hours, we reached the pub and sanctuary. We were greeted by roaring log fires and a cosy snug atmosphere and sat down for lunch. Whereupon Kathy treated most of us to a glass of mulled wine and refused to be recompensed for it. It was a very generous gesture and most welcome. The mulled wine was just what was needed to warm us up. Those not drinking the wine had tea or coffee instead, no one was in the mood for cold beer.

As we were about to leave, Norman persuaded the friendly landlady to take a photograph of the group. We then set off in thick fog as the snow had eased off, along the main A53, this being the quickest and most direct route back to Grin Low. The one unpleasant hazard with this was that we had to endure being splashed with slush from passing vehicles. Finally, we were back on to the Grin Low road but it was disappointing to see it covered with ice and snow after it had previously been gritted. But it didn’t deter Kathy from heading back home, taking Judith with her. I was sorry to see them go because I’m sure Kathy would have appreciated Grin Low cottage but I know they had things to do back at home, especially Judith.

The idea for the evening had been to partake of a “takeaway” meal, but the intervention of more snowy weather put paid to that idea. Everyone except me had enough food to make a decent meal. Norman invited me to share a fish supper with him and Ruth, for which I was grateful and I shared my last half bottle of wine with them.

Saturday evening was rather sedate as there now was only 9 of us left in Grin Low but Norman did entertain us a little by showing us his slides with the aid of Brian’s lap top.

Sunday- 3rd January

The day dawned sunny and bright, and normally it had been a tradition that on the last morning at Grin Low we would take a short walk to Solomon’s Temple, but we agreed to pass on it this time. We decided to set off home as soon as possible. We all set off together, making sure that all our cars started up OK and that no one was stuck.

In Conclusion

The most successful new year weekend at Grin Low since Dave Self’s 2001 venture. But the success of this weekend is thanks more to the people who came along and supported it rather than my organisation, I owe it all to them. In the best traditions of our group, everybody mucked in together and enjoyed themselves. There was no one spoiling it for others, no negative vibes.

99% of our group that have been to Grin Low Cottage have enjoyed it, so it’s hard to comprehend anyone not liking it. Grin Low with its thick walls, always keeps the warmth in, this was particularly appreciated this weekend with sub zero temperatures outside.

The snow, by and large, did add to the atmosphere this time, though it did change our timetable somewhat. Norman summed up the mood by asking if this could be our last but one weekend, instead of perhaps the last.

The truth is, it doesn’t have to be the last. But it is the last one for me to organize. If anyone else wants to take the plunge and organise another trip to Grin Low, whether at new year or on any other occasion, they are more than welcome and if they do, I would gladly add my name to their list.

I thank everyone who took part on this weekend, what more can I say?

Autumn Gold in the White Peak

Two years ago I tried to book a weekend in Haworth. It proved impossible to get through on the phone and when the warden ignored my request for self catering prices . In the end I gave up. This time I did get through and as expected every effort was made to get me to go catering and I was told the catering facilities were totally inadequate – one day I will no doubt be told there is a gas ring in a shed up the nearest hillside and two sticks to rub together to start a fire.. Anyway this time I decided to persist and we were booked in self catering at £17.95 a night.

Having said all this we went to see the Autumn colours in Monsall and Chee Dale and were not disappointed. The hostel is a great old house built by your usual Victorian Industrialist, who had made a few bob ripping minerals out the ground, with a brilliant view and surrounded by a beech wood in full Autumn golden mode. Surprisingly the 70 bed hostel was virtually full with two separate “reunion” walking groups. However their warning about the catering was correct, one sink, one small fridge and one kettle between 70 people!

We also discovered a very good pub, the Anglers Rest, down the hill in Millers Dale with real ales at £2.50 a pint, good cheap meals and very friendly staff. The pub was very quiet and they must have been glad of our trade as nearly all the group went there rather than enjoy the keg Boddingtons at the hostel. These threatened pubs are vital in country areas and traditionally got good trade from walkers so it was sad to see no one else from the hostel. Hostels always played a key part in supporting local village businesses and this will decline as hostel catering takes hold.

Anyway on to the walking – the first day was foggy and damp though it promised better things. We trudged up the Limestone Way through traditional Derbyshire mist and mud with the vague shapes of bored looking cattle. All those who’d walked Monks Dale before swore to keep clear of it and eventually we stopped for elevenses (At Anne’s steadfast request) by a charming mist shrouded stone cross watched by a misty brown cow with triplets and a rather emasculated looking bull.

Then on to Wormhill where Dorothy was disappointed to find she had missed the sales and Liz looked in vain for Charity shops. Actually Wormhill was a picturesque village and we had a good lunch stop by a monument to a man called Brindley who built the Bridgewater canal (In Manchester not Somerset)

After that we finally got to the top of Chee Dale and it stopped raining. The view was brilliant with the valley going one way to Buxton, the railway cutting through towards Chinley and the old railway in the valley that’s now a walking trail. The sides of the gorge were covered in trees in autumn colours with some clinging on to the white limestone cliffs and the sun decided to threaten to come out as well.

So we went down to walk along Chee dale, the wildest bit of the Wye gorges going down to Monsal head with only a rough path right by the river side with two sets of stepping stones and the very high rail viaducts cutting across at regular intervals. It was very, as the Victorians would say, “gothic” with a deep gorge with sheer white limestone walls and Autumn golden trees all along the top with dense vegetation on the floor alongside the river. As it had been raining it was very wet with a bit of mist in the gorge to add to the atmosphere.

The wetness also made the limestone “Monksdale” slippery with the result that Boh headbutted the floor (But fortunately did not damage to the path) and Dorothy did a “wet limestone” slip but luckily no harm done . At one stage Liz dropped her pole over the edge where it was stuck just over the river. In harmony with the gothic atmosphere brave Sir Mick and Sir Boh rescued the pole for the damsel in distress before the dragon of the gorge leapt out of the river from it’s sleep and King Arthur appeared with a risk assessment.

We then came to the stepping stones which go along the edge of the cliff face. Last time Anne and I walked here the river was in flood and the stones were covered by about 4 inches of water. Our group waded across (Carrying a dog) and you got the feeling that if you slipped you would get carried away in a roaring torrent. This time the stones were uncovered and it was a bit mortifying to see that it was only about 6 inches deep around them!

We finally got out of the gorge and up onto the railway where we stopped at Millers Dale station though we’d just missed the last train. (Well by 30 years but you lose touch with time when you’re in the gorge). After that back to the hostel by several routes and then back to the pub to eat in the evening. (Apart from Dave who subjected the kitchen to his “curry test” first)

So next day, plus Andy who turned up, we did the quick post breakfast rush down the hostel back entry and up the gorge the other side. Nothing like that to wake you up and great views from the top to Kinder, Stanage, Bretton etc. Then along the top with a view of Taddington that Anne assures has a bunkhouse that was so cold that Captain Scott used it for training for his Arctic mission.

Finally then a view of Monsal Head and back along the railway to Cressbrook where there’s a good tea stop shop where you can eat your own food, it’s a good idea. The tea stop is in the old lodging house for the child labourers at the mill and Liz was even able to have a mini spending spree there. Then back along Water Cum Jolly and Cressbrook and back to the hostel and off.

It was a good weekend but Anne and I both wrote letters of complaint about the self catering facilities.. We both got fairly unapologetic replies from YHA and mine stated that groups who went to hostels that provided catering should use it, as the self catering facilities were not suitable for groups to use. Well I suppose that was being honest about what they’ve been trying to achieve by stealth for some time. Fortunately I have a copy of the Independent Hostels Guide.