Thursday, 11th June, Blackwell to Hartington, 10.86
Today, we will be saying farewell to the Pennine Bridleway, having travelled 192 miles of it from the fog-filled start near Kirby Stephen in Cumbria to a sun-filled, blue-sky day in the White Peak District of Derbyshire. It is a lovely ride and one of the flattest to date. No major climbs or descents to negotiate, and a lovely free walk for Tommy along a section of the old dismantled Cromford and High Peak railway track which was a horse-drawn tramway that ran for over 33 miles, built chiefly to carry limestone and coal to the canals linking the Peak Forest Canal to the Cromford Canal.
We come across this self-confessed gypsy out taking his little stallion for a walk, stop for a chat and for me to admire his pony. As we say goodbye, he calls back to me to tell me he is a born again Christian. I say, good for you!
This is the moment we need to say goodbye to the Pennine Bridleway. The sign points to Hartington and that is where we are heading. It feels like a bit of a milestone. From now on, we won’t have the luxury of a designated, well-marked trail to follow. Even the gates from this point will be less horse rider friendly, as we follow the route of our own making. We head towards the lower end of Dovedale along the back roads, dropping down into the most glorious valley along a gated road with spectacular scenery.
Fields of yellow buttercups and hills studded with white-blossomed hawthorn bushes. And my first glimpse of the river Dove.
For Ruskin, North Derbyshire and the Dove valley in particular, were ‘….an alluring first lesson in all that is admirable and beautiful’. I too, have a soft spot for the river Dove ever since I came on a painting trip with Oliver Bevan and friends in Dovedale and Carsington some 20 years ago (my painting of Carsington Water won that years’ JJ Fox Painting prize).
It’s a glorious way to arrive at our next destination, Top Bank Farm, just above the delightful village of Hartington. I find something to tie Tommy up to and go in search of Jane where I find her in the farmhouse kitchen. I tell her I didn’t realise we were coming into Dovedale and she says yes, it’s the best bit because all the tourists go to the other end of the Dale which is more spectacular.
Before we can put Tommy out in the paddock, declining the offer of a roast beef sandwich because I have just had my egg roll which Trish made for me earlier (instead of a cooked breakfast), Jane kindly brings me a pot of tea and a scone while her son moves a couple of cows into a barn so we can get Tommy through to the paddock. I undress him and enjoy my welcome cup of tea sitting in the sunshine.
You can see him in the background.
Tommy is very happy to get tucked into the grass straight away in the meadow and start the process of chilling out for a couple of days.
And the same for me, in this lovely room.
With another delightful window to look out of.
I spend the evening catching up with some blogging.