Friday, 3 August 2007

The Ups and Downs of Derbyshire....

With all the recent flooding, I decided that perhaps somewhere high up might be more suitable for a day trip. The Derbyshire Dales seemed the ideal choice. We headed for the Peak District National park about 40 miles north. Great roads on the way up which zig zag through the countryside. We arrived at the village of Wetton, high up above the Dove Dale valley. Parking was complicated by a stubborn chicken that kept on insisting on running into the space every time I made a move, it was eventually lured away with a piece of pork pie. We decided to head towards Thors cave. There was a footpath but as always we wandered off as the next field always seems more interesting. It wasn't long until we found ourselves in the middle of a field of what we hoped were friendly cows. One cow was particularly curious, and came over. She was a gentle chap/ chappess and so we distracted her with an apple so that we wouldn't be followed down the steep slope.

We could see the headland of Thors cave in the distance and making our way over to it managed to rejoin the path.

The cave entrance is sloped and you have to scrabble to get in. It's not the deepest of caves, but we came prepared with head torches so that we could explore. We managed to get to the far back, and even with torches it was difficult to see your footing. It was cold, windy and a little bit creepy as this was the site of a Bronze age burial.

Back in the light we took some photos. I briefly considered taking this alternative exit until I looked down and realised how the ground dropped away abruptly.

Our boots were now wet which made the way out quite perilous. The slope wasn't that steep but it had been worn smooth by thousands of feet over the years, and beyond the slope was a very steep drop that I was keen to avoid!

It didn't help that all the handholds were worn smooth too.

This photo was taken halfway down to the valley floor where there was a natural break in the Hazel coppices and you could glimpse a view of the cave above. It seems hard to believe that this headland was formed under a warm shallow sea somewhere south of the equator.

We made it down onto the path in the Manifold valley. The path is actually the old route of the Leek and Manifold Light railway which used to bring tourists to the region in Victorian days. The River Manifold runs alongside the path and curiously disappears below ground in certain stretches only to magically reappear further on.

The path was OK but a little too easy and anyhow we needed to get back and it wasn't heading the right way. There was an enticing hillside to our right and it didn't look too steep, we thought we'd give it a go. The plan was to get to the top, walk along the ridge and circle round to the village. It started off as a gentle slope but soon we were climbing on all fours!...

I began to think we might have underestimated things a bit when the birds of prey we had seen wheeling overhead were now alongside. The hillside got more and more vertical, but "just keep three points of contact and I'll be fine" I kept telling myself. Quickly I snatched a pic of the bird alongside me and then, I looked down... Suddenly I felt the need to have four points of contact and stopped moving. Frozen there for a while I eventually decided that I was more up than down and had better just get on with it.

It got really windy as we approached the top, which made me dig my fingernails in all the more. I was soooo glad to be at the top looking down on the Falcons, or Kites (never did figure out which they were).

The view of Thors cave from the top was spectacular. Most of the hard slogging done, it was a relatively easy walk back to the car. The chicken was being called in for its tea from the neighbouring farmhouse, that sounded like a good idea so we headed off....


photowannabe said...

Spectacular story and pictures. You are an adventurous person. Since heights and I are not the best of friends your storiy makes me hyperventilate.
Great post.

Angela Marie said...

That was a great story... and the pictures! Great as well. By the way, your story made me appreciate the picture of the bird even more! You are an adventuresome fella! Aren't you?!!

Great post!

p.s. great advice that you gave my daughter on the lavender rolled up in the sleeping bag!

Lavender said...

What an adventure, and such a gorgeous place to have one. Thanks for sharing it and your pictures!

Gillian @ Indigo Blue said...

Totally amazing photos and recount of your journey. Thank you so much for sharing!!! The last shot is priceless.

secret agent said...

Great shots
you are quite the adventurer..
looking forward to see what you "cook" up next time.

you lost me earlier with the pounds, math definately not my forte.

Anrosh said...

WoW ! Breathless view. Amazing photos

Lesley said...

That sounds fun!

Is there a story of why it is called Thor's cave?

barkfoot said...

There's no real story behind the name. It is thought it is a corruption of the old English 'tor' meaning hill. It was a popular tourist destination in Victorian days and it might be that it was changed to 'Thor' (viking God of thunder) just to make it sound more exciting.