|Day 30 – May 6||Ellastone to Hartington|
|Weather: Cloudy||B&B: Stanner Cottage B&B (£ 27.50)|
|Departed: 8:45 Arrived: 15:15||Walked: 5h 14m Rested: 1 hr 10m|
|Distance Today: 15.9 mi / 25.59 km||Total Distance: 477.6 mi / 768.62 km|
|% Complete: ~ 42.00%||Pint of the Day: Jennings Cumberland Ale|
|GPS Track for: Day 30|
Accessing the Internet has been difficult in the last few days. In Penkridge it was a case of the Wifi not working, in Abbots Bromley the owner thought they had wifi when in fact they didn’t, and in Ellastone they had it but couldn’t remember their password. However the owners of Cross Farm B&B very kindly lent me their own laptop so that I could check my email. They also dropped me off and picked me up from a pub in Denstone, where I enjoyed a fine beef curry. I hasten to add that Cross Farm also had the best shower of any B&B so far, in fact it was probably the best shower I’ve found in Britain (and certainly better than mine back home).
It’s Election Day in the UK and the predictions are much like the weather, hazy. It rained quite hard while I was having breakfast but by the time I ventured outdoors the rain had stopped and the skies were looking brighter. Nevertheless the pack cover was on as were my rain jacket and gaiters.
I walked through Ellastone and linked up with the Limestone Way just outside of the village. The next couple of hours were spent traversing the side of a valley, a long sweeping turn across countless fields and over dozens of stiles. Parts of the route were difficult to navigate and on one occasion I had to backtrack to find the correct route forward. Negotiating fields are tricky when they are large and oddly shaped like these ones were. There are no corners as such and even if there are you can’t always see them or, more importantly, the next stile. It’s at times like this when 1:25000 Explorer maps are invaluable as they are detailed enough to show where the field boundary goes and on which side you should be walking. After 7 miles of intently studying my OS map and GPS it was nice to finally reach an easy to follow paved track.
The landscape continued to evolve as I made my way further north and finally into the Peak District National Park. The valley walls became steeper, the trees fewer and hedgerows gave way to dry-stone fences. As I crested the next hill I could make out, despite the heavy mist, the magnificent green slopes that sheltered Dovedale, and what an impressive sight it was. As I drew nearer the fog began to lift, revealing hillsides dotted with sheep and a ribbon of dark water, the River Dove. It’s moments like this that remind me of why I love to walk.
I spent nearly three hours walking along the River Dove as it snaked its way through Dovedale and Wolfscote Dale. Much of the lower valley between the southern entrance and Milldale is wooded while the stretch north of Milldale is more open. I can see why this area attracts throngs of visitors although it was fairly quiet on this cloudy Thursday and so for the most part I had Dovedale to myself. This afternoon’s walk was definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far.
The last mile or two were spent following bridleways and local roads into the pretty village of Hartington. I definitely feel as I’m in the North now and for me the north of England has always felt like home. It seems like a friendly place and a popular one for walkers, many of whom where packing up their kit and preparing to drive home after a good day’s walk. A fine collection of grey stone buildings surrounded a small green and a pond, and includes several shops, a couple of pubs and my B&B for the evening.
The room is compact but includes everything I need. The owners don’t have wifi and so it looked like it might be three days in a row without a blog update. However my netbook picked up a very weak but unsecured wireless signal from a neighbour. Unfortunately the only place I could find a strong enough signal to connect was in my tiny bathroom cum office, which I now call the Blog Bog.
The local pub, The Devonshire Arms, was a very friendly place and I had a great chat with a local named Ted while I tucked into my Gammon steak and a pint of Jennings Cumberland ale. Now its time to enjoy a cup of tea and to listen to the breathless analysis as the election results roll in.