The drive to Derbyshire seemed to promise fine weather but no sooner had we arrived than the skies filled in and a light drizzle began to fall. This was to turn to steadier rain the higher we climbed. Fortified by a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich before we set off, we began the 800ft, or so, ascent to Alport Castles. The first half of this ascent was quite steep and, I think, came as something of a shock to Josephine who hadn’t much experience of walking outside of Fenland.
The going became a little easier as we yomped across the open moorland of Rowlee Pasture, including the remnants of snowfields which were knee-deep in places. We arrived at Alport Castles shrouded in mist and steady fine rain driven by a fresh north-westerly breeze. As there wasn’t a great deal to see, we made a hasty descent across more snow remnants into the valley bottom some 600ft below where, after 2 hours walking, we stopped for lunch near Alport Farm. Luckily it had stopped raining by now.
Our next major obstacle was the crossing of the River Ashop. The footbridge had long gone and the only way across was via a ford. When I was last here the water was only 2 inches deep but with the recent snow-melt this had risen considerably but was still passable. Linda & Geoff ran/skipped across the ford but Barry and Josephine were wearing low-cut boots and didn’t want to get their feet any wetter than they already were. So, Linda & Geoff had to come back across the ford to join the remainder of the group as we made a route diversion along the A57 Snake Pass road. This half-mile diversion would have been quite dangerous on a normal weekday but, as it was Easter Sunday, the traffic was relatively light and we survived without incident.
We were soon back on track and next came a 450ft climb from the Rowlee bridge to Blackley Hey where we stopped for a coffee at the top sheltered behind a broken down wall. The next couple of miles were fairly easy on the level and then downhill through Woodland Valley for another crossing of the River Alport at Haggwater bridge.
Saving the best until near the end, we then had the killer climb of 400ft past Hagg Farm before we could begin our final descent back to Fairholmes. 400ft may not be much but it seemed never ending up a series of zig-zags all within an overall distance of about half a mile, which, by my calculation, makes this an average gradient of around 1 in 7. Steep enough for Fenlanders!!
The climbing behind us there only remained a 500ft descent on a permissive path through Hagg Side wood. I think that we all enjoyed the walk despite the poor weather and derived a sense of achievement from having completed the challenge. I have subsequently re-measured our revised route which works out at 10.23 miles with 2,512ft of ascent.
I’ve included a few pictures of my own together with the last 4 which were taken by Barry.