Alport Castles

Friday 19 December 2014. Linda was on holiday this week and wanted to do a more challenging walk so we made the near 250 mile round trip to do a walk at Alport Castles that we last did on 8 April 2012. It was a misty day when we last did the walk and we were hoping for better weather this time round. The forecast was promising as it was predicted to be bright and breezy. Sadly, only one part of this was correct.

I met Linda in Wansford at 07:45 for the car share journey north. The weather didn’t seem too bad until we got to the outskirts of Chesterfield where there was a huge rainbow in the sky. Nice to look at but we would have preferred blue skies. We drove through Baslow in a heavy shower but this had relented by the time that we got to the Fairholmes visitor centre where we met up with Jacqui who was joining us on this walk.

It was 10:30 by the time that we made a start on the walk with a steep climb of 500ft up through the woods to Lockerbrook Farm. Heavy showers on the first leg of this walk provided a taste of what was to follow. From here there was a short downhill section before we started the 2½ mile leg of the walk which took us across the bleak open part of Rowlee Pasture. For me, the name conjures up an image of green fields and grazing cattle, however, this is far from the truth as it is an expanse of open, often boggy, moorland. Thankfully, much of the path has been improved by the laying of stone paving slabs although they were slippery and often submerged in water. The 400ft climb to the top of Rowlee Pasture was on a fairly gentle gradient but the going was made difficult by a very strong (30mph+) blustery wind. To make matters worse we encountered more rain and hail, just as we reached the summit, which meant that we didn’t hang around too long looking down on Alport Castles.

The descent from the top of Rowlee Pastures was steep in parts and sections of the path often looked more like small streams as the rainwater found a way downhill into the Ashop Valley. We quickly descended about 650ft in the space of less than half a mile to cross the River Ashop and stop briefly for coffee/lunch in the meagre shelter provided by the walls of Alport Castles Farm. As it was still raining we didn’t stop for too long before following the farm access road to cross the A57 Snake Pass road. It was at this point on our walk nearly 3 years ago that we had to make a diversion as the only way to cross the river was through a ford. Most of us were okay with this but Josephine was wearing low-cut walking shoes and didn’t fancy getting wet feet. Luckily, in the intervening years, the local authority have built a foot bridge which was most welcome as we didn’t want to use the ford which today was covered by fairly deep, fast flowing water. There was a great deal of laying water and the small streams were full to the point of overflowing. One of these presented an interesting challenge as it was just a little too wide to cross safely. Linda’s long legs meant that she could jump from one side to the other but Jacqui and I took a more prudent course and made a small diversion through Upper Ashop farm where we were able to make a safe crossing.

Time was passing and by now it was 13:30. A decision had to be made: should we continue with our planned route or should we take a short cut back to the cars? The planned route would have involved 2 more climbs, one of 400ft to Blackley Clough and the descent back to the footbridge crossing the River Ashop. The second would have been an even steeper climb of 350ft up to the top of Hagg Farm. As the weather wasn’t great, it had stopped raining by now; we (I) decided to take the slightly shorter and less steep diversion route through Rowlee Farm which brought us to the point above Hagg Farm that we would have reached using the planned route. From here it was downhill all the way back to Fairholmes. This 9.3 mile walk with just under 2,000ft of ascent had taken us 4 hours to complete.

Linda and I stopped off in Hathersage on the way home for tea and mince pies followed by a browse around one of the outdoor clothing shops. Whilst we were inside, the heaven opened again and we were thankful that we hadn’t been out walking in the near biblical downpour.


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