Another month rolls by and another copy of TGO lands on my doorstep and whilst I’m always eager to feed my own insatiable addiction to magazines it has lately felt that I’ve been doing more reading about other people going outdoors than actually going out myself. I recently invested in copies of Chris Townsend’s Backpackers Handbook and Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways and lived vicariously through both. A lack of funds, a very wet summer and the logistical nightmare of summer holiday childcare has made exploring the hills trickier than usual. Rather than relegating the new TGO to my already extensive toilet library I spontaneously decided to make more practical use of it and chose a seemingly manageable 6km walk over Chrome Hill in the White Peak with Rufus and Toby.
The route started out from Hollinsclough, a quiet tucked away hamlet which sits just over the border in Staffordshire. We left the main road and approached Hollinsclough from Glutton Bridge, Chrome Hill and its strikingly pointy neighbour, Parkhouse Hill, both cut stark impressive shapes in the landscape. This was Rufus’ first “proper” walk, as far as 2 year olds go he’s pretty hardy on foot and will refuse to be carried anywhere preferring to make his own way. Though as I considered the approaching angular peaks and craggy limestone edges I wondered if I’d bitten off more than I could chew.
Once parked up we left the road and toddled down to the River Dove via a bridleway and came to a small foot ridge that introduced us to a steady 90m climb to Fough. Starting with a climb didn’t allow us to build much of a pace and the lads found the initial stretch a little unforgiving, this meant I had to fend off a few moans of “this is boring” and “I want to go home”.
I was reminded that walking with young children requires an abundance of patience and refined sugar. We took regular stops and breaks as we approached Fough and whilst we moved a steady supply of Skittles was distributed. If I wasn’t giving them out I was being asked for “noor deets, noor deets!” which is Rufus speak for “more sweets”. On the positive side, the weather behaved and we were blessed with some really beautiful conditions which cast a golden summery glow over the grassy hills. Whilst you’re never far from a road or farm building in this part of the Peak District it does look stunning and seems overlooked, I spotted a few potential bivi spots which I’d like to return to on the bike in the next few months.
An unfortunate mishap with the water gave us no choice but to approach an isolated house to ask if we could top up our bottles, the owner very generously agreed (thanks Kate!) and made sure we didn’t go thirsty. I’m not sure I would have been afforded as much sympathy if I had been alone, walking with kids does have its perks.
Our track continued in the shadow of Hollins Hill and once past Booth Farm we took a footpath over the fields towards Stoop Farm. A permissive footpath took us through fields of sheep that didn’t seem too keen acknowledge Rufus’ shouts of “ELLO DEEPS!” and they kept a comfortable distance as we stumbled down past Tor Rock. The kids threw a few shapes as they let gravity have its way, I decided to ignore the fact that they were rolling over copious amounts of sheep poo.
The ascent of Chrome Hill was a challenge, there are steep drops, uneven paths and a ridge that can be exposed to high winds. The kids also got a bit irked about the amount of nettles and thistles as they trudged onwards. We elected to have 5 minute breaks and Rufus was carried to the summit on my shoulders. Toby managed the entire climb without help and was a little red in the face as we joined the only other people we had seen that day at the top.
We descended on the Eastern side of the hill, both lads bounded along a grassy ridge towards Parkhouse Hill which looked like it would be a great scramble, but not today. As we climbed over a stile to a tarmac road I asked Toby how he felt looking back up at the great big hill he’d just walked over, “as tiny as an ant” he replied.
The last gentle stretch of walking took us back over the River Dove and through some fields where we passed cows and a large ginger bull, before long we were back at Hollinsclough. As we flopped into the car we watched as the local rush hour kicked into action.
TGO suggested a 2 hour time window to complete the route, we took about 4.5 hours which considering Rufus is about 3ft tall, the numerous stops to look at spiders and snails, toilet breaks and rest stops I think we fared pretty well. As great as it was to be out on a hill with Rufus, I was really impressed with Toby who had walked the whole route without any real help with a smile on his face (for most of the time).
On the way home we had some sub par fish and chips in Wirksworth (should have gone to Matlock!) and Toby was treated to a Dr Who magazine for his hardy efforts.