Easter weekend at Hartington Hall – 13th-17th April

Introduction and pics contributed by Glenys Johnson – trip organiser.

Hartington Hall in Buxton, Derbyshire – http://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/hartington-hall – is  a lovely location for a weekend: gentle walking in Dovedale and Biggindale directly from the hostel; outdoor swimming a few miles away (for Torben and Rachael who are in training for the Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon in July, sponsorship appreciated, see details above); endless cycling trails that deserve much lengthier attention; and sightseeing at Chatsworth or Buxton for the less active.

Dales Easter Weekend

Story contributed by David Truzzi-Franconi

Hartington Hall sits atop a hill above the village of Hartington, surrounded by trees hosting a rookery and also home to some mistle thrushes. It was first built in 1360 by an order of nuns called the Poor Clares – Sister Immaculata digging the footings as a penance! It is one of my favourite hostels; the two oak panelled rooms have an assortment of soft chairs and sofas usually populated by figures poring over maps, reading, or staring gauntly into screens searching in vain for a signal.

A large group of nearly 30 of us would split each day into various factions and set out either by car and bus to visit the local attractions or on foot with the usual mix of a shorter walk with pub stops or a longer stride out along and over the Dales: the Monsal Trail, The High Peak Trail and the Tissington Trail which runs from Ashbourne to the quaintly named Parsley Hay Halt – one envisages puppets or an old ramshackle comedian in the booking office (and no, my application was turned down). Some mounted their bikes and set out on along the bed of the old railway line while a few of the more hardy members not only cycled in the Hathersage area but swam in the outdoor pool whilst it was raining! (You may wish to sponsor Torben and Rachel who are in training for their quadrathlon – I think you have to eat a jar of pickled eggs, drink a yard of ale and then do 100 press ups in the dormitory – well that’s what mine smelt like anyway!)

The River Dove lay in the valley and made for some easy scenic walking with dippers flitting from rock to rock, hawthorn in blossom and the woods carpeted in anemones and wild garlic – even wild raspberry in this area! The walk usually ground to a halt at Milldale where an enterprising couple were selling everything a walker could need from their front room shop: from pasties, soup and tea to Compeed and Ibuprofen. The limestone escarpments and undulating countryside formed by lead mining were full of young lambs, the fields scattered with celandine and a series of circular depressions called dewponds, presumably to collect water for the stock on the hills. Walking consisted of traversing fields and then trying to prise yourself through a narrow gap in the stone wall or negotiating a series of stone steps jutting out from it.

It was on a particularly steep descent that Andy found a pink flip flop – it now has pride of place at the centre of his growing collection of discarded footwear, safe in the oak display cabinet at his new home (visitors by appointment only).

Evenings were spent digesting, drinking, chatting, and mulling over the walks leaders had been kind enough to plot and assess – prior to making sandwiches for the next day and starting all over again!

A great start to another year. Thanks again to Glenys and all those who gave up their time to plan and lead the walks etc.

Day two at YHA Hartington Hall

Story and pics contributed by Christine Bail.

On Saturday morning, twenty IOGers joined Lou and Anne on a leisurely walk of eleven miles starting from the hostel. Paul and Clare were staying nearby since the hostel was fully booked over Easter and joined us for the day.

It was a sunny and rather chilly day with blustery winds. We walked at a leisurely pace which gave people ample opportunity to take in the daffodils and other signs of spring, as well as the lush green hills and fields around us. I noticed that the majority of the fields were rather small and divided by the stone walls typical of this part of England. We must have seen several hundred sheep and their lively lambs that day.

Our first stop was at the site of Pilsbury Castle which overlooked a lovely part of the Dovedale. A sign read that the whole castle had been built from timber – probably after the Norman Conquest in 1066 – and lasted for less than two centuries.

Part of the walk led us along the High Peak Trail which is great for cyclists since there is no traffic. We had numerous stiles to climb throughout the walk, however, which led to several humorous comments amongst the walkers. Along the trail stood a stone shelter, one of several in Europe. It had been given to the UK by Croatia when it joined the EU.

We stopped for ice cream and a coffee at Parsley Hay, a former station at the junction of two railway lines.

Towards the end, around 1.5 miles away from Hartington village, we stopped at the Waterloo Pub in Biggin. One attention-seeking customer had brought an exotic pet to the pub, a white and yellow snake which I identified as a corn snake. It was wrapped round his neck and was sure to attract attention.

A very enjoyable walking day indeed.

Thanks to Glenys our organiser, our committed walk leaders and everyone who helped out; this year’s Easter Trip was a great success.