Friday, April 12, 2013

Notes From The Country - English Countryside Walk

Before we left for our trip to England, I looked up walks on the internet. I literally just picked a random walk in Derbyshire where I knew we were going to be, printed out the route (I favored this one because it included a hermit's cave and a grouping of rocks on a hill called Robin Hood's Stride - and if you know me you know I have always been a touch obsessed with Robin Hood) I printed out the route directions and tucked it in the luggage.

We did find the walk and it started in the town of Elton, which is described as an unspoilt village popular with cyclists and walkers. Basically, there's not much there. Some adorable houses, one pub, and the village is situated such that it is exposed to some harsh weather from the cold Northeast winds. We parked in front of this adorable house. The garden in front, if you look closely had Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs tucked into flower beds. That just put ordinary garden gnomes to shame. I knew then I had picked the right place.

Here's an example of the walking route instructions.
1.Walk from the church along the main street towards the B5056 and turn left at a stile just beyond the edge of the village, to cross the corner of a field and a farm access road.

2. Continue to angle to the left as you cross the next field, to reach a stile into Dudwood Lane.

3. Walk down to the bottom of the lane, and cross over the stile opposite and walk up the drive towards Cratcliffe Cottage, bearing left by a wall after going through an open gateway. 

Seriously!!!! First time in England. Here we are in this tiny remote village in the middle of nowhere and these are the instructions. gets better

4. Go through the cutting between Robin Hood's Stride and an area of woodland on the right. To make a detour to visit the Hermit's Cave, turn right at the footpath sign and then return to the same point to continue the walk.  So here's what happened. Obviously we found the stiles. That is what is shown in the picture above. Then it just got better and better.

I have to mention that on these walks you pass through peoples' property. Apparently everyone's property is up for grabs on walking tours. So we passed by this lovely field where someone was out feeding his sheep.

Yup. Just mingle. Did you know British sheep have accents? Their baahs have a certain lilt. ;)

This is me talking to British cows. I was asking them why their milk is richer than American cows. Not really those cows abide in Devonshire.....I fell in love with the little wild purple foxgloves all over the countryside in England. Digitalis purpurea. (Of course it was my dream to go to England in June when the gardens were blooming, and voila!) So on with the walk...

The Hermit's Cave, at Cratcliffe Rocks, where under an overhang of rock a carved crucifix remains, was at one time home to a hermit. In the middle ages, hermits were looked on as holy men. Appointed to lonely places by a bishop, they rendered hospitality and assistance to travelers.  You learn something every day

Legend has it that Robin strode between the tower-like stones at either end of the tor (I choose to believe this legend)
An alternative local name is 'Mock Beggar's Hall' and from a distance it is easy to imagine the tumbled rocks and turrets being mistaken for fortifications, especially in semi-darkness or mist. But there are real fortifications nearby, for Harthill Moor Farm, which can be seen from the Stride, is built on the site of Castle Ring, an Iron Age fort. This is one of the forts built along the ancient track known as the Portway, which passed just alongside Robin Hood's Stride.
And yes, I have a video of me pretending to shoot an arrow, to the accompaniment of my husband whistling the Robin Hood tune from ....the Disney version of Robin Hood. You know the one with the fox and the rooster and the little baby rabbits? Oh cmon!

This is the farm just past Robin Hood's Stride...I love saying that "Robin Hood's Stride"....

Continuing on ...this is what I call the Jane Eyre portion of the walk. All I needed was a long, grey, flowing, uncomfortable gown...minus the underarms....

As I envisioned, there are stone walls....everywhere along the countryside...and little stonehedges as you can see in the distance.

We also passed through Robin Hood-esque fern forests. You know how people always told you when you were out hiking or camping and you had to - you know - pee - they told you to avoid poison ivy? Well in England...don't pee by stinging can affect the rest of your trip. Don't ask.

After a very long, breathtaking, dreamfulfilling, weather-changing walk through the English countryside, we were, of course famished. The only pub in Elton was closed. But, never fear, pubs are not difficult to find in England, and we happened upon this lovely one in Tissington. The Bluebell. It just happened to have horses and chickens and was all muddy and damp and chilly and lovely in an English way.

And, I had one of the best meals of my travels in England there. A steak and kidney pie. Don't laugh. It was exquisite. And I had a Speckled Hen beer. And no, contrary to what I was told, the beer in England is not warm and soapy tasting. We can be such snobs here. ;) I bought two glasses which said Speckled Hen on them...and of course, left them at our Hotel. Which I am pissed about to this day.

If you ever make it to England, which I highly suggest, go for a walk!!

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