Day 53: Perry Dale – Peak Forrest – Hay Dale, Peter Dale, Monk’s Dale – Miller’s Dale Station – Chee Tor Tunnels – Sparklow – Hartington Station – Alsop (nearly)

23.2 miles – clear sunshine all day, becoming baking hot later

Early morning sunlight near Peak Forrest village.

I left at 6:15. It was one of those mornings to rejoice in: crisp, clean air, my breath still visible in billows, the sun pouring forth its honeyed joy and dispersing the last of the sullen clouds from yesterday away to the west.

The tiny lane was gorgeous. Made broad by a great swathe of grass on either side, the cows had adopted the whole territory as their own. Most were amiable and took a live-and-let-live attitude to passers-by, but one took umbrage at something about me. There was no mistaking the look in her eye: “Get out of it!” I think perhaps another six feet closer and she would have charged me. The wall was unjumpable; fortunately there was a gate near at hand, and so through that I sidled slowly, giving the cow what I hoped was a nonchalant look. As soon as I had done so, she and her calf darted away, now looking rather nervous, and I could proceed in peace. But one does wonder whether these animals were quite ready to be let loose on a public right of way.

Some of the friendlier cows.
Freshly mown grass.

Hay Dale, Peter Dale and Monk’s Dale form a contiguous valley with steep banks or sheer cliffs. It is still, silent, and exquisite, but very slow going, clambering over boulders… and there were more cattle, heifers and bullocks this time, frisky and inquisitive. They ran towards me at speed, then stopped a few yards away. I believe they meant well, but should one have over-run its intended stop point, it would have been heavy enough to reduce me to dog food.

There was no way out of that valley except to carry on, so I did what I used to do as a child; I made my hand into the shape of a cow’s snout, and held it out in greeting. Eventually, one which was bolder than the others (a young bull) sniffed me then gave my hand a big lick. After that they all decided I was OK and left me alone.

Monk’s Dale
Inquisitive heifers.

Miller’s Dale Station has been beautifully restored in LMS colours; it has become a cafe for people on the Monsal Trail, and on this warm, bright morning there was considerable activity there. I met a lovely couple of about my age, who were genuinely interested in my story and we swapped experiences for half an hour. then I moved on westward through the Chee Tor Tunnels.

I felt a rush of joy!

This walk has made me realise how deeply embedded railways, and especially closed ones are in my heart. Now it was as if the old line spoke to me: “Look at all these people enjoying my stations and tunnels, my bridges and viaduct, and gazing into the valley at the trees and river far below: I died as a railway but I have been given a new life. I am at peace.”

Perhaps physical reality can be allegorical of an inner truth!

Miller’s dale Station
Chee Tor No1 Tunnel.

I passed the afternoon on another old railway, the Buxton to Ashbourne line. this one had quite a different feel, a white, dusty track in the shadeless heat.

I had been hoping to get almost to Ashbourne, but my poor, hot feet had had enough. I found a worthy bench with a little bit of bumpy grass behind it on which to pitch my tent. With the searing heat forecast for Monday and Tuesday, I’m beginning to accept that I might have to stay a while in Burton and put back my schedule by a day.

Hawthorn and rose bay willow herb in the heat of the day.
A lamb on a wall. It scrambled down my side after I took this photo, shortly followed by a friend who managed to jump up too. I guess the grass is always greener…
Hartington Signal Box.
A mug of tea at the end of a long walk!

Comments (12):

  1. Guy Harbottle

    19 July 2022 at 15:22

    That tiny lane with swathes of grass either side might be an old drove road again.

    • Toby

      20 July 2022 at 05:41

      It was actually the extension of the track I was walking along the day before (Day 52), which was almost certainly a drove road, and that could have been the continuation of the last section of the Pennine Way, so I suspect it was a drove road. Unfortunately the drovers didn’t drive all the cattle far enough!

  2. Guy Harbottle

    19 July 2022 at 15:25

    You might actually have been lucky with that cow and calf: I understand that they can be very aggressive – more so than bulls – when they feel the need to protect their young.

    • Toby

      20 July 2022 at 05:46

      That’s my opinion too. I’ve encountered three adult bulls face to face, all have been placid. This is the second time I’ve had this issue with a cow. The first time was on Day 43 shortly after leaving Alston. On that occasion I approached the gateway the cow was guarding ridiculously slowly and she let me past. Same hat? No, but same rucksack and trekking poles; I think I must have registered as a new and potentially dangerous species.

      • Guy Harbottle

        20 July 2022 at 18:04

        Pete and I encountered a bull in a field of cows in Somerset once. When it saw us, it heaved itself up (from lying down) and started lumbering straight towards us. It was so bloody enormous it couldn’t move very fast – at least at first. (The supertanker effect.) It was a fearsome sight, so we thought it prudent to retreat. We managed to get out just in time. My God, it was bloody furious! By the time we stopped we were about 30 feet the other side of a track fringed with two hefty, stone-filled hedgerows (the ones you get in the west country) but we could feel the ground shuddering from its stamping. Its snorting and billowing were truly awesome – even more so than the sounds that I’ve all too often witnessed emanating from Pete’s trousers!

  3. Guy Harbottle

    19 July 2022 at 15:26

    … maybe it took offence at your beard?

  4. Guy Harbottle

    19 July 2022 at 15:28

    … were you wearing that hat you were sporting on day 47?

  5. Russ

    19 July 2022 at 19:39

    This reminds me of a holiday we did to the Peak District some 20yrs ago. I wonder if we walked some of the same paths?

    • Toby

      20 July 2022 at 05:30

      I remember you telling me about it. I think you had to run for your life, didn’t you?

  6. Julia Bevan

    19 July 2022 at 19:58

    Heifers and bullocks are probably just curious – cows with calves can be dangerous!

    • Toby

      20 July 2022 at 05:29

      That’s what I thought too. Without ever having studied cattle, the look in the mother cow’s eye was unambiguous. My concern with the heifers and bullocks was that they could be clumsily over enthusiastic.

      • Guy Harbottle

        20 July 2022 at 18:06

        They’d make good TOSS members then.


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