Arriving ‘oop north’ for a week of Mum’s cooking and general 5-star service, my London-based daughter had already produced her bucket list:
A trip to a stately home (see my post on Harewood House); the new Jason Bourne movie; and, of course, another mammoth walk from the now very well-thumbed Green Book.*
My Gorgeous Girl (GG) had already pinpointed the most suitable place for our walk, one we considered during her last visit but rejected in favour of our Wormhill workout.~ Well, I’m only human - one marathon per visit is all I can manage!
Over Haddon is a tiny, picturesque village in the White Peak, a couple of miles from Haddon Hall, Bakewell where "Elizabeth”, "Pride & Prejudice”, “The Other Boleyn Girl”, “The Princess Bride” and no less than THREE versions of Jane Eyre were filmed in recent years.
The village itself has also had its drama. In the 17th century, for instance, a young lass called Martha Taylor starved herself to death. It took a while, mind: The “fasting Damsel” or “‘Mirabile Pecci” (whatever that means), swallowed nothing but a few drops of water with a little sugar and the occasional raisin for nearly two years, dying as a national celebrity at barely 20 years old.+
Centuries later, Over Haddon was again put on the map, being the birthplace of Sir Maurice Oldfield, a former head of MI6, who is now buried in the local churchyard. Another reason to spy out the land!
According to the Green Book, the walk is roughly 3 miles, although in our case it proved to be twice as long due to a (ahem!) little error of judgement!
To start with, however, the omens were good. We managed to find somewhere to park, a public toilet block and - oh joy! - sunshine! So it was with high expectations we set off down a hill from the village car park for the first leg of our journey.
“’At the bottom of the hill turn left along the riverside path,’” reads GG from the Green Book. She has obviously assumed the role of navigator and no one, least of all her Mum, can wrest the book from her grasp.
We stride gamely along the narrow path. Looking down on Lathkill River to our right. An unusual river, it has a habit of disappearing underground when the weather is dry, a process that seems to turn the deepest part of the river a brilliant shade of blue, but whether this is due to the clarity of these ‘Blue Waters’, or to the limestone through which it passes is anyone’s guess.
Strangely, for the school holidays the walk is really quiet. Except for two young families splashing about by the river edge, and a couple of solitary passers-by - gentlemen with back packs and spring-loaded walking sticks – we meet no one. I put it down to the weather forecast; the Beeb had given rain, a prediction backed up by threatening clouds as we left that morning. But now, the sun was out, the birds were singing their hearts out, and the scent of hedgerows and recent hay mowing lifted our spirits.
Suddenly, the peace was shattered! Further along the river, we heard a dog yelping frantically! Either it was injured or barking to alert someone to its owner’s distress….just like Lassie!
GG and I ran along the river and saw a collie in the corner of an inlet, jumping and yelping as though his life depended on it.
“Maybe he’s stuck!” I said and was just about to paddle to the rescue when a lady called: “Don’t worry! He’s not hurt or anything! Hush now, Willow!”
The lady owner and her companion had been following Willow from a distance when the dog raced ahead to dive in the river.
“He’s always doing that,” the owner explained. “Wherever there’s water, he just goes bananas! Here Willow! Fetch!” She threw in a stick for her pet to chase, no doubt hoping he’d stop once the object reached his mouth.
After a short chat, we parted company: Willow and the ladies vanishing up the fields; Madam and I crossing the river “by a humped-back bridge and continuing uphill on a narrow path through a wood.”
This was where it all went pear-shaped. Instead of “bearing left at the top of the path along a wide track”, GG decided to turn right. As I would never dare accuse my daughter of ‘erring’ in any way, there can only be one explanation: Whereas most of us have a dominant side, my daughter is totally ambidextrous, which means the concept of ‘right’ and ‘left’ has always been alien to her.
Blissfully unaware of this false step, we continued across open fields to witness the most spectacular views I ca remember – and we’ve see many in the Peak. They were breath-taking!
“I think this is my second most favourite walk,” declared GG.
“Well, I think it’s my first most favourite walk.” I replied. It was downhill too, which is always a plus when you get to my age!
We crossed a wide hayfield under a million acres of sky, now peppered with clusters of cloud, and followed a wall past a ploughed field and another where the hay had already been cut.
As we descended, we could see the turrets of Haddon Hall, looking as magnificent as ever.
“Strange,” I mused, “I never expected to come out here,” then stopped to take a photograph, much to GG’s displeasure.
It was only when we reached the A6 that our problem came into view. We’d gone miles out of our way.
“So which way from here?” said GG.
“Let’s google for directions,” I suggested and took out my phone, only for GG to snatch it from my hand.
“You’re too slow!” she said and began to pound the screen with her finger. Ten minutes later, she was still pounding, waiting and pounding, but help was at hand. A young man was running toward us, obviously in training. I leapt in front of him and, to my relief, he removed his earphones as I asked the way to Over Haddon.
“It’s miles away!” he replied. “Best bet is to walk to Bakewell.”
“But that’s along the main road!” moaned GG. Then the awful truth hit us. We just had to go back the way we came.....and it was all uphill!
......and it started raining!
BUT, we were rewarded by this beautiful sight!
*Short Walks in the Peak Park by William and Vera Parker