On Tuesday I had most of the day off work so I made plans with my Marcus to take my new (and first) car on a day out somewhere lovely. I’ve named my car Dafydd after a friend pointed out the Welsh made number plate. He’s running along quite nicely, although noisily and I suspect that a hole in the exhaust is responsible. He doesn’t really like hills either but overall we seem to be getting on well together and I am getting more confident and comfortable with driving every day.
I decided to take Marcus to Dovedale. It’s a beautiful, scenic destination at the southern point of the Peak District National Park where I holidayed as a child with my family. I haven’t been there in probably 15 years, and Marcus had never visited, so at just over an hour’s drive away I thought it would be the perfect place for our first road trip.
The weather was predicted to be cloudy with a few light showers and sunny spells, which seemed to me quite appropriate walking weather! We left Nottingham just before 10am and arrived at Dovedale embarrassingly lacking in car park change for the attendant. After a quick turn around and stop at a cash machine in nearby Ashbourne (which itself looked a wonderful place to visit another day – with rows of antique shops, independent shops and charming looking pubs) we got back to the car park and prepared ourselves for the walk. I’d made us both a pack of sandwiches, apple crisps and some cereal bars and we brought a flask too. I recently bought Marcus some great Scarpa leather hiking boots, size 11, from Oxfam for £15! This was to be their first test and as we put on our boots and locked up the car I couldn’t help thinking this was all very cute and grown up of us!
We started off the walk just after 12 midday with a coffee (for me) and a toffee ripple ice cream (for Marcus) from the shack café in the car park. Dovedale is a popular tourist destination at weekends and bank holidays but today, a cloudy mid-September Tuesday, I was glad to find that it wasn’t that busy. Usually, I prefer to ramble off path, getting lost and exploring my own route but today I had to make sure I would be back in Nottingham for work at 5.30pm, so I had printed off some directions and information from a walking website.
As we were walking alongside the river Marcus and I both stopped and said ‘Look!’. I was squinting at a small, long tailed yellow bird on the far bank of the river, wishing I’d brought my monocular out of the car and getting excited at the prospect of a Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) sighting. Now, I think it was probably a Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) – still lovely to see. Marcus meanwhile had spotted a Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) closer to our shore and I managed to get a couple of blurry photographs of it using my phone (which doesn’t zoom very well).
There were some things along the route that I remembered from family holidays when I was little, like the stepping stones of course. But others, such as Reynard’s Cave were unfamiliar. We took a slight detour up a steep hill (that I thought was Lover’s Leap until we came across that further along!) and ended up following a sheep path along the top where we saw some quite interesting funghi and had wonderful views over the valley. After eventually finding our way down to Lover’s Leap we continued along the path admiring Reynard’s Cave, Pickering Tor, the Dovedale Caves and Illam Rock.
We had a mini adventure crossing the river over an old fallen tree – I came back across a smaller, more slippery one but Marcus decided not to risk it and in the end I had to go back halfway over the first tree to give him a hand over the slippery bit! We laughed a lot 🙂
We stopped to eat our sandwiches at the Viator’s Bridge in Milldale and had a quick look around the hamlet. I bought a few postcards to send to my family. They’ve helped me a lot with the car so I thought I had better let them know about our first outting!
By this time it was nearly 3pm and I was beginning to worry about getting to work so we decided to head back the way we had come. Unfortunately we were unable to find a circular walk in this area but I will investigate more when we have a whole day (or more) to explore. Although we were in a bit of a hurry on the way back towards the car, I had to stop to take a couple of quick shots of a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) that had come out with the sunshine, and a wonderfully hairy White Ermine caterpillar (Spilosoma lubricipeda) bravely crossing the path in front of us! We also spotted a Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria).
It was an easy journey back to Nottingham. I arrived at work in time but with a few muddy scrapes on my knees that I quickly rinsed off!
I can’t wait for the next road trip!
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