The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Up Hill and Down Dale
After a summer full of grey skies and heavy rain, it was beginning to look like autumn might go the same way. Then we unexpectedly had a sunny August Bank Hoilday and now, with autumn here, what did fate have in store for our September trip to the Peak District?
We’d hired Alstonefield hostel, a lovely converted barn in the little village of the same name. Set high above Wolfscote Dale, all you could see were rolling hills, stone barns and quaint houses, but a short stroll from the front door revealed the depths – well, Dales. Each Dale is a deep slice through the surrounding limestone, cut by the power of water after the last ice age. This has both pros and cons. The pro is that once you’re down there the walks are pretty flat, the major con has got to be that massive hike back up the hill at the end. So, how do we sweeten that pill? One way might be to pack in a lot of Dales before that inevitable sting in the tail.
Cress planned a superb walk packing in seven dales: Wolfscote, Beresford, Biggin, Mill, Hall, Hope and Dove Dale. We had an early lunch sat in the sunshine on a grassy bank overlooking the River Dove. This allowed us the luxury of a tea-and-pasty stop in Millers Dale. However we were unprepared for a thieving onslaught from the local ducks. They were clearly both very organised and used to fleecing the local tourists of their tasty snacks: using a tag-team distraction method for a snatch and grab raid. Sandwiches, sausage rolls, crisps, no food was beyond their thievery. At one point Cressida, clearly mistaking them for her students, cried out “That is unacceptable!”.
With the snack-stop over, it was time to plough on. From Millers Dale we followed the crystal waters of the River Dove through Hall Dale to the flaring nostrils of Dove Holes. There were climbers dangling from Ilam Rock and we watched them for a while before crossing the river and heading up the hill to Stanshope. From here it was just a mile or two back to the bottomless teapot at the hostel.
In an attempt to out-run the rain, we’d finished our 9 mile walk in record time, arriving back at the hostel shortly after 4. There was a brief shower, then the skies cleared to give the best weather of the day. Dave and I took advantage of this and ran out for a quick scramble down into Wolfscote Dale and back up Gypsy Bank. In the golden light of the evening the fields glowed green between the long shadows cast by the dry stone walls.
For our Sunday walk we cast our attention to The Roaches. This dark, gritstone ridge was a total contrast to the light grey of the limestone the previous day. Instead of green, rolling fields with deep dales, it was a high ridge with the stones eroded into curious shapes. Around the back of the escarpment is the famous Lud’s Church. This chasm is apparently the result of a landslip caused by the slippage of underlying mudstone. The result is a kind of twisty, gritstone slot canyon. The perfect place if you were a Lollard looking for somewhere to worship in the 15th century. In fact, Cressida was just sharing this juicy fact when she was shushed by a tour guide, presumably for stealing her thunder. Not so much religious intolerance, as tour leader intolerance!
For lunch we found some very well-appointed rocks just off the path, and were told off (in jest, I think) for stealing the spot from another group. I’m pretty sure it was the same lady we saw later in the tea rooms, so presumably having to lunch sat on a damp log hadn’t slowed them down too much.
Thank you Cressida for organising two such cracking walks. It was a brilliant weekend.
Saffron Trail Part 3
I’m not sure that this was quite as long as the advertised 12 miles, but the walk from East Hanningfield to Chelmsford packed in plenty of scenery for the miles. The half way point, and hence lunch, was Danbury Common. It would have been rude not to drop in at The Cricketers for little drink – no point in getting dehydrated on the trail. The second half of the walk involved walking along the canal into Chelmsford. Slightly reminiscent of our canal walk last month, but walking in the opposite direction gave it a different perspective. There was even time for a coffee once we got into town.
Our Annual General Meeting was held on 4th October, attended by 14 members of the group. Mike gave a summary of the year’s highlights, Ali delivered the Secretary’s report showing that despite some leavers and joiners, we still have 56 members, and Dave’s balance sheet indicated that we retained a small surplus, despite losses on some trips. The committee was re-elected, with Cressida now serving as Chair. The full minutes for the meeting are available from Ali.
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