On the marshes at Dartford


I’ve been down to Dartford in Kent with work 4 times since July this year, staying 2 to 3 nights each time in the Premier Inn to the north of the town.  Dartford’s probably best known for the crossing – a high level bridge south bound and a tunnel north bound) over the Thames which forms part of the M25 outer London ring road (although the crossing itself isn’t officially part of the motorway). Dartford itself is nothing special – just an ordinary working class town. Traffic can be awful though, due to proximity to the crossing.


As the town is within commuting distance of London, with trains to London Bridge, Charring Cross and Victoria, there’s a lot of new development both in the town and on the outskirts to the north. The latter is the “Bridge” development – with industrial buildings and housing estates built on reclaimed marsh land, just south of the Thames and the former power station and north of the ring road. This is where the Premier inn is located where I was staying.

During my latest stay, starting to become stir crazy, I managed to get out for a walk. I’d spotted a number of lakes as I’d been passing through the estate and Google Maps indicated that there were paths alongside the water. So that’s where I went.

It turned out to be quite pleasant and tranquil on an autumn evening. I even spotted some tufted ducks out on the water (too far away to get a decent photo with my phone, unfortunately).


There’s a special bus only route through the new estate (the Fast track route that goes from the town centre to the Bluewater shopping mall). I spotted some art works next to a couple of the bus stops that I passed during my walk.



Monsal Dale


The last day of our short break in the Peak District, we’d planned to go out for a walk. I had a few routes in mind but decided to “suck it and see” depending on the conditions. When we woke up it was raining, but the forecast was that it would clear before the afternoon so we would need to restrict ourselves to a shorter walk as I was working the next day and didn’t want to leave it too long before we set off for home. So after picking up some bacon and a few other items at the Chatsworth shop, we drove over to Monsal Head, a famous Peak District beauty spot.

We parked up by the Monsal Head Hotel – the large car park soon fills up at the weekend but there was plenty of room on a Monday morning. It’s in an elevated position looking over the Wye Valley at a spot where the Wye, flowing eastwards, encounters a band of harder rock and is forced to make a sharp turn southwards, carving its way through a of limestone ridge.  Until the 1960’s a railway line from Derby to Manchester ran westwards along the valley over the Headstone viaduct and through a series of tunnels. Today the railway route has been turned into a walking and cycling trail – the Monsal Trail. From the viewpoint we looked down over the viaduct and the valley.


Despite being a somewhat grey day, overcast with middling visibility, it was still a stunning view.

We walked along the trail some 26 years ago carrying my daughter, who was then a baby less than a year old, in a baby carrier strapped to my back. I remember her hitting me on the head to try to make move quicker! Since then the trail has been improved and the tunnels opened up so that you can walk or ride through them during the daylight hours.

Without a definite plan in mind, we decided to follow the trail westwards for a few miles and see where we ended up, so we took the path down from the viewpoint by the hotel down to the viaduct. This was the view looking north west along Monsal Dale


and south west, downstream.


We followed the former railway track, taking care to avoid being run over by bikes! It was reasonably busy despite being a Monday morning in early Autumn.

Views down into the valley itself were rather intermittent as the track was lined by trees that blocked the view for much of its length. Eventually the rather attractive Georgian buildings of Cressbrook Mill came into view.


Despite being a peaceful valley today, at one time, during and after the Industrial Revolution, Monsal Dale was a hive of activity with the river powering cotton mills at Upperdale, Cressbrook and Litton and with lime kilns further west in Chee Dale.

The first mill at Cressbrook was built for Sir Richard Arkwright in 1779 but this burnt down in 1785 and was rebuilt by his son in 1787. The large Georgian building visible from the trail is an extension built in 1814.

IMG_2881Just after the viewpoint we entered our first tunnel.

IMG_2883IMG_2926 Emerging at the other side there was a view down to very pretty part of the valley known as Water-cum-Jolly


Soon we were back inside another tunnel, emerging and looking down over Litton Mill. We climbed up the path to the top of the tunnel to get a better view


Built in 1782 Litton Mill became notorious for the poor treatment of the workers and apprentices – and that’s during a period when workers didn’t have an easy life, to say the least!

At that point we decided to retrace our steps, walking back through the tunnels before descending down into the valley at the deserted train station at Upperdale.

We crossed the river over to the small settlement. The distinctive blue/green paint telling us that the former famm and mill worker houses were now owned by the Chatsworth Estate. The larger house was a Band B while the other buildings had been converted to rental properties. Very attractive they looked too.


We followed the road for a short distance and then took a path that took us back over the river


and then under the viaduct and along the river south west from Monsal Head


Looking back towards the viaduct


We carried on walking down the valley beside the river


We didn’t follow the river all the way to the A6 but a short distance after the weir crossed over a bridge to the other side of the river and then followed the path that rose steeply up through  he wooded flank of the valley,


eventually emerging back at Monsal Head


We stopped a short while to admire the view and then it was time for a brew in the courtyard outside the pub next to the Hotel.

Up on the moors


Last Saturday, after a tough few days at work, I decided I needed to get out for a walk. It was a warm day and we probably haven’t got many of those left this year!

I wasn’t able to get out to the Lakes or Dales so decided on a walk closer to home. So it was off to White Coppice to set off up Great Hill and Anglezarke.  It’s a walk I’ve blogged about before but here’s a few pictures from a pleasant day up on the moors.

Starting and finishing at White Coppice near one of the lodges that used to supply water to the mill that used to be there many years ago.


Past the picturesque cricket pitch


Then up onto the moors



A walk around Kentmere and Longsleddale


The weather forecast for the day after we got home from Shropshire promised good weather. A pity we hadn’t stayed there longer as we would have been able to get out back on to the hills. I was still on holiday from work so I decided to make the most of it and took the train over to Staveley to get out on the fells. Last time I was here a few weeks ago I’d worked out a couple of circular routes that would take me from Staveley over to Longsleddale and back to the Kentmere Valley so I thought I’d give it a go. This is a very quiet part of the Lake District National Park. During the walk, after leaving Staveley, I saw only 4 other walkers on Brunt Knott, two locals in Longsleddale and a mountain biker during a 5 hour walk.

Leaving the staton I picked up a every tasty pork pie at the Bakery in the Mill yard, took the path along the river and walked to Barrley Bridge and was soon heading up into the fields.


Views of the Kentmere valley and mountains soon opened up to my left.



I headed towards Brunt Knott passing Brunt farm


and, although it was a slight diversion, decided to climb to the top. I took a rather direct steep route up to the summit – there’s the trig point dead ahead!


The views from the summit, on a sunny day, are outstanding in every direction

IMG_2414 (2)

Looking south west I could see as far as the Kent estuary and Morecambe Bay


and looking east there were the Coniston fells


the Langdales, Crinkle Crag, Bowfell and the Scafells


Red Scree, Helvelyn (I think!), Yoke and Ill Bell to the north


Kentmere Pike and and Harter Fell


Looking towards the east


the Howgill fells to the south east


After enjoying the views for a while, and grabbing a bite to eat, I set back down the hill and continued along the path east towards Longsleddale


It was starting to get rather wet and muddy underfoot


The fells to the left


Getting closer to Longsleddale


Starting to descend into the valley. Looks stunning


I followed the path north along the floor of the valley


Looking over to the other side of the valley I spotted an old Pele tower incorporated into a farm house – Yewbarrow Hall.


A little further along a lonely church – St Mary’s


Getting closer to the head of the valley


At the farmhouse at Hollin Root, I turned off taking the path up the hill heading back to the Kentmere Valley


Looking back down the path


and south, back down the valley I’d just walked along


It was a modest climb and I soon reached the relatively flat moorland. There were good views of the fells to the north east and Gatesgarth Pass at the head of the valley.



After a short while I could see Skeggle’s Water, a small tarn, to the north. No time to divert to take a closer look though. I needed to keep moving as I wanted to catch the train that left Staveley just after 6 o’clock (otherwise a two hour wait for the next one).


Carrying on across the moorland. It was a lot drier underfoot than the path I’d taken between Brunt Farm and Longsleddale.


Approaching the Kentmere Valley


Starting to descend off the moor


Cutting across the fields


Heading towards Low Elfhowe in the Kentmere Valley. ONly a few miles back to Staveley now.


The weir at Barley Bridge


Another kilometre to the station. I made it with about 15 minutes to spare before the train arrived.

This was an excellent walk in beautiful countryside in an extremely quiet part of the Lake District.

An evening stroll along Carding Mill Valley


Late morning on the Tuesday the rain started to come in, so we spent the afternoon taking it easy in our comfortable apartment, reading and listening to some music. By about 6 o’clock it had stopped raining so we decided to go for a short walk along Carding Mill Valley and take a look at the reservoir up New Pool Hollow. The small reservoir was constructed in 1902 to supply water to the Carding Mill. It didn’t have to fulfil it’s intended purpose for long; the old mill was demolished in 1912 and the factory turned into an hotel and café. Today the reservoir is an attractive feature at the end of a short steep sided valley and is frequented by “wild swimmers”.


It was only a short walk up Carding MIll Valley and it’s short side shoot, New Pool Hollow (named after the new reservoir – what was it called before 1902?). We stopped for a short while to take in the view.


The sun was starting to break through the cloud and it looked like it might develop into a pleasant evening, so we extended the walk by taking the high level path back along the valley before walking further up the main valley.

This is the view of the reservoir’s dam, looking back from the high level path.


and looking down towards Church Stretton from further along the path.


Rejoining the main valley


One of the locals taking a look at us!


A little before the intersection with Lightspout Hollow we turned round and headed back – it was getting close to tea time.


Passing the old factory building which has been converted into flats,


and then the National Trust shop and café in the Swiss Chalet.



After a short while we arrived back at Arden House


We chose the right time to go out – an hour after we got back it was raining heavily again.

Caer Caradoc and Hope Bowdler Hill


The Monday of our break in Shropshire was looking promising so we set off on a walk taking in some of the hills to the east of Church Stretton.

Caer Caradoc dominates the view to the east of the town. It’s a very distinctive hill that used to be surmounted by an Iron Age Hill Fort. That was to be our first objective.

We walked through the town and crossed over the A49 (luckily there’s a Pelican crossing) and then through an estate of houses. But after only a short while we were walking down a quiet country lane.


The hills soon came into view across the fields.


Rather than a direct assault on the very steep slope at the end of the ridge, we followed the track along the base of the hill


We crossed over the stile and then were faced with a sharp, steep, ascent up tot he summit


Looking back along the ridge with the Long Mynd in the background


At the summit the defensive ditches from the Iron Age Hill fort were clearly visible.


Looking north across to Little Caradoc, the long ridge of The Lawley and, in the far distance rising out of the flat plain, the distinctive shape of The Wrekin.


Looking west to the Long Mynd


and, to the east, Bowdler Hill.


After a short break to take in the scenery we set off north down the slope towards Little Caradoc, a  minor prominence to the north of the main summit.

Looking back


The view north from the summit of Little Caradoc


We took the path down to the bottom and then circumnavigated the hill following a path that took us back to the track that runs along the foot of the Caer Caradoc. This route was clearly not followed very often. It was overgrown and we had to fight our way through long stretches of bracken which wasn’t particularly pleasant and climb over stiles that hadn’t been maintained and were somewhat dodgy.


We eventually reached the track and our next objective came into view


There were a couple of options and I took the wrong one, following the path straight ahead. It was fine at first but then it petered out and we had to battle through yet more bracken and boggy ground


but we finally made it to a better, more distinctive path along the bottom of the hill and then reached the junction with the path which would take us up to the top of the ridge. Another short steep climb, this time through bracken. But at least it was a clear cut path.


Reaching the top of the climb we took a clear path over the ridge – not marked on the OS map but clearly very well used.  Bowdler Hill consists of a series of prominences and the path took us over them all.

Looking across the valley we had an excellent view of Caer Caradoc.


Looking back along the ridge,


and over to Church Stretton


There were plenty of sheep about


At the south end of the ridge we reached the distinctive Gaer Stone.


From here we took the path back down the hill towards Church Stretton


which took us through fields before retracing our steps along the metalled track and roads back to the town.

Time to stop for coffee and cake!


The Long Mynd and Ashes Hollow

Our main reason for choosing Church Stretton as a base for a holiday was that, as well as the peace and quiet, we wanted to do some walking in the Shropshire Hills. So on Sunday morning we loaded up our day sacks, put on our boots and set up for a walk up the Long Mynd, the large “whale back” hill that looms over the town.


The grassy plateau is about 7 miles long with steep valleys on its eastern flanks. We set off up one of these, the most popular, Carding Mill Valley which, like much of the Long Mynd, is under the stewardship of the National Trust.


The National Trust has some information about the history of the textile industry in the valley that gave it its name

In 1812 a carding mill was built to process local fleeces. The carded wool was then spun at home as a cottage industry.

In 1824 George Corfield bought the mill and expanded, building a factory and installing Spinning Jennies and Hand Looms to become a cloth manufacturer. Being sited away from the heart of the woollen industry in Yorkshire proved difficult so further expansion in 1851 took them into clothing manufacture employing sewers and dressmakers. The business remained under threat so diversification was attempted.

By 1881 part of the factory was used for ginger beer and soda water manufacture and another part as a tea-room. By this time many people had new-found wealth and increased leisure and Church Stretton was developing as a spa town known as “Little Switzerland”.

Two reservoirs were built, one in 1865 in Townbrook Hollow and 1902 in New Pool Hollow. The old mill was demolished in 1912 and the factory turned into an hotel and café. By 1920 the factory had been converted to flats and the Chalet Pavilion had been imported from Scandinavia to be used as a tea-room for the day trippers.

It’s a popular spot so on a Sunday morning in August there were plenty of people around. Many of them, however, seemed to be sticking around the lower part of the valley, which was flat, pottering around with children messing about near or in the river. There were some relatively easy low level walks. One in particular up to the reservoir that used to feed the former carding mill on the site.


We walked past the chalet building, imported from Switzerland, which today house the NT café and shop


It was too soon to stop for a brew (only 15 minutes or so since we’d set out!) so we carried on up the valley



Rather than follow the main route up to the top of the Long Mynd, we took a left fork up Lightspout Hollow, a narrow, steep sided valley leading up to the Lightspout waterfall.



As there hadn’t been a lot of rain over previous weeks there was more fall than water!


We climbed the steep stepped path up past the waterfall and then cut off the path carrying on up hill. A short distance away we spotted a group of ponies on the hillside


DSC02394 (2)

Reaching the top we carried on along the grassy plateau, heading for the path that runs along the ridge of the Long Mynd.


Looking back there was a good view of Caer Caradoc to the east of Church Stretton, across the other side of the A49.


Walking along the ridge we could see several gliders circling around on the thermals created by the hills.

DSC02399 (2)

DSC02400 (2)

As the top of the Long Mynd is a fairly flat plateau there isn’t a distinct summit, but we headed for the highest point on the ridge , “Pole Bank” where we stopped to take in the view.

Looking west towards Wales.


Visibility was OK but with a cloudy grey sky the light was rather flat, not great for photography, and we couldn’t see as far as the Welsh mountains which were obscured by cloud and the grey light.

We turned round, retraced our steps for a short distance before heading east and turned off down the path that would take us down Ashes Hollow.


It’s another narrow, steep sided valley, the path following a stream down hill. It was much quieter than on the way up and along the ridge – we saw only a few people, mainly coming up the valley. Most people were obviously descending by alternative routes.


Initially passing through rough moorland, as it descended the scenery changed into a pleasant rocky, wooded valley





eventually flattening out





Towards the end of the valley, passing through a meadow, I spotted a couple coming up from the opposite direction. The man was wearing a sweatshirt with a familiar badge on his chest – Wigan Warriors. I asked if they were from Wigan and it transpired that the woman was a born and bred Wiganer who now lived near Church Stretton.  So we stopped for a chat. It’s I surprising how often we bump into people from our home town  (I was once paddling in a canoe with our children when they were young teenagers on the Dordogne and was hailed by someone – “are you from Wigan?”) – it’s a small world, as they say.

We passed through a small camp site and arrived at Little Stretton, a small village a couple of miles south of the town where we were staying.


A small, affluent community of a small number of mainly ancient houses.





We followed the road back to Church Stretton. Time for a brew and a cake at one of the independent coffee shops.