Limestone Way Day 2 – Flagg to Matlock

Published 26 April 2012

Leaving Moneyash

Given its range of facilities (well, the only nearby pub) and much bigger size, Moneyash would have been preferable to stay at rather than Flagg. Unfortunately one of the village’s B&Bs was full, whilst the other had stopped offering it entirely. The only other option had been the Bulls Head pub, but with their website proudly stating that they didn’t do breakfast before 9am, Flagg it had to be.

We had time constraints, and that meant setting off early. At the end of the day we’d be returning back to London and in order to get there at a sensible time we’d need to be on the 4:15 rail replacement bus service from Matlock. Even under normal conditions, the 13 mile journey would have been easily achievable as long as we’d set off around 9. But only eating breakfast at that point? No chance.

So, just as the residents of the Bulls Head were tucking in to their sausage and bacon, we were always on the trial having walked once more down the sheet of ice that linked Flagg and Moneyash (which proved to be a trifle easier in the daylight), past Moneyash’s frozen duckpond and out on to the farm tracks and fields on the other side as we approached One Ash Grange Farm.

The farm had once been home to Cistercian monks who occupied the farm from 1147; legend proclaiming that the farm was a home to those monks who misbehaved. By the 18th century it was Quakers who were present instead, with the farm being given a licence to be a Quaker meeting place in 1700.

The farm’s long standing history was noticeable as we walked past some extremely old looking pig styes, all made out of local stone rather than the more modern approach of sheet metal. And just beyond, a building that initially looked like a limekiln, but turned out to be an old cold store once used by the monks.

Limekiln it may not have been but peering inside its rounded entrance way, what greeted us was far more surprising. Behind the gate at the front sat a large, garish and so very plastic nativity scene. A weathered Mary sat adoring her cheap looking, plastic off spring, whilst a bug-eyed Joseph stared out of the door; his wide eyes piercing through the grating at all those that pass by.

One Ash Grange Farm

“Path’s between those two buildings!” came a helpful but dismembered voice as we stood near a fallen signpost, trying to work out where we needed to go.

The dismembered voice was right too as we headed through narrow gap and towards Cales Dale, one of two dales that fork out of the nearby Lathkill Dale.

Once more ice was not our friend as we gingerly descended from the farm towards the dale, and along a ledge between the tall limestone rocks and an overgrown slope to the dale’s floor. With little shining in, but plenty of water dripping down the sides of the rocks, the ice was even more prevalent here than it had been earlier. Catherine abandoned the path, deciding to take her chances sliding down the slope, whilst I precariously tried to stand upright, grimly holding on to the rockface with a grim determination.

Cales Dale

Inevitably though, I slipped and soon found myself stumbling down the overgrown section, frantically trying to grab hold of anything I could to stop my progress,

Thankfully the slope was not that big; the danger no exactly life threatening. The path out of the dale would, however, not be an easy one as we’d have to climb up the other side of the dale on a set of small stone steps that were, inevitably even icier than the section we’d just come down, although at least with more handholds.

Images of slipping, resulting in broken legs, filled my mind as I clung on to trees, to undergrowth, to frankly whatever I could cling tightly to. When, having got to the top, I saw a steady march of walkers heading in the direction of the path we’d just climbed, I just wanted to wave a red flag and shout “No way! Don’t do it! It’s a folly!” but instead I just stood, catching my breath and being thankful that the most difficult section of the day had probably been done.

Snow covered fields provided a better grip for the walking boot as we headed towards the village of Youlgreave. Just outside the village the Limestone Way seemed keen to head down another lane to the River Bradford, but taking one look at the ice filled start of the lane, we opted for a more sedate option of walking down the tarmac road to the village of Middleton, before cutting across some more fields and re-meeting the Limestone Way outside the village of Bradford.

From there we strode across more fields towards the gritstone tor that is Robin Hood’s Stride; its base filled with happy looking families of Sunday walkers.

Sat near Harthill Moor, it’s said that the mighty Robin climbed up one of the large stones which stand at either end of the tor. Once up there he put one foot in front of the other and walked to the other one; a remarkable feat showing near superhuman abilities given there’s a huge 15m gap between them. Indeed it seems highly unlikely that Robin Hood ever even visited the place, but the local economy probably dined out on the legend enough over the years for anyone to suggest a slightly more accurate name.

Robin Hood's Stride

Still it was, at least, a good spot for lunch. Or would have been had we got any. We hadn’t asked for some lunch from our B&B thinking we’d be able to pick something up on a detour in to Youlgreave, but with the clock ticking away we had to make do with a biscuit and a sweet as we perched on a bench near the Stride. Our morning progress had been slow, resulting in worries that we’d not get to Matlock in time for the dreaded rail replacement bus we’d need to catch, and our rest relatively short lived.

A series of tarmaced lanes led us o the outskirts of Winster, but the thought of tiptoeing down yet another frozen walled lane up to Luntor Rocks was enough to put us off walking completely, and instead we diverted down Bonsall Lane which ran parallel to the Limestone Way. Fog hit the land and rain started to fall and as we walked through the cloud covered landscape the previous days bright blue skies seemed a long time ago.

The odd car passed us by, but all seemed quiet and calm. A poster on a telegraph pole invited us to hire a traditional mole catcher if we had such a need, and half a mile down the road the results of his work were clearly visible. Strung up on the rungs of a gate hung the dead bodies of ten or so moles like some grim and gruesome warning to others who felt inclined to dig up holes in local gardens and fields. Whether other moles on the neighbourhood saw their former colleagues and decided to move out to pastures new was another matter entirely.

Fields near Bonsall

Near Bonsall Moor the Limestone Way met up with we were on and we rejoined it as it meandered along another series of paths as they criss-crossed over snow covered fields as it headed towards Bonsall. But first there was Uppertown to pass through, a selection of houses sitting further up the hill yet still almost on top of its neighbour.

A farm shop offered such mixed delights as cigarettes, cans of Coke and hanging baskets and we left the main Limestone Way route to head off to Matlock.

When it originally opened the Limestone Way terminated at Bonsall’s larger neighbour, but since the extension to Rocester, the Matlock path’s now just a simple link path. For us with a train to catch, the two miles to Matlock was just too far away with Matlock Bath station being much nearer. After negotiating the icy laden path to Bonsall village we bade farewell to the Limestone Way for this trip and headed down on a path that took us through the village and past a quarry. Morose looking cows stared at the frozen land they were expected to eat from as we headed down hill and gained a view of Matlock Bath far below.

Matlock Bath

A series of house lined lanes led us down the steep hill to the valley floor and across the road to the station. A glance at the watch revealed we’d got there with about twenty minutes to spare before our rail replacement bus departed for the sunny climbs of Derby.

Sheltering under a tiny piece of canopy outside the station we stood and waited whilst happy looking families passed through the station to the nearby car park having had the thrills, spills and excitement of a trip on Matlock’s cable car.

An automated tannoy announcement revealed the bus would be there shortly and a taxi drew up meaning we weren’t alone in waiting but the bus was nowhere to be seen. And then, just as we were wondering what we were going to do, a bright red train pulled in to the station.

“We were waiting for the bus!” was our cry to the guard’s query if we were getting on board, his response being to look at us as if we were completely mad. As we left, another automated announcement informed us that the next service would be another rail replacement bus, leaving from just outside the station.

We leapt aboard the two carriage train, it’s heating turned up so high that it was more sauna than public transportation vehicle. And as we pulled out of the station half an hour after our bus was supposed to have gone, I couldn’t help but think about the extra half hour I could have had in bed if we’d known the trains were actually running. Or perhaps, mercy be, maybe we could have stopped off and bought some lunch; taken things a little easier.

Still, this train was nice and warm. Hey, guard. Would you mind putting some more water on those coals for me? That’s great, cheers now. And yes, of course you can see my ticket…

Next, six months pass by but finally the Limestone Way is returned to for more fun south of Matlock.

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