WHAT can I say about today, except it was darn near perfect! Weather, breeze, time, just everything! We decided to go to Alport Castles, one of the largest natural landslips in Europe, but this time we would 'attack it' from below (we almost always have gone along the top of the cliffs, in the past). Quote from Wikipedia;
The Alport Castles are a landslip feature in the Peak District of Derbyshire, said to be the largest landslide in the United Kingdom. They lie north of the Snake Pass and north west of Ladybower Reservoir. Alport Castles are part of the National Trust's High Peak Estate.
Debris from the landslide has produced several mounds, the largest of which — the "Tower" — from a distance resembles a full scale motte and bailey castle. The remote Alport Castles Farm lies on the River Alport below the site.
We parked at the side of Ladybower reservoir - looking decidedly low, after the recent dry spell.
It was nice to see the first foxgloves of the season, reaching up. We saw a very strange anomaly later in the walk - bluebells and foxgloves blooming side by side!
We crossed the quiet road and entered the woods up to Lockerbrook farm, now an outdoor centre. The dappled light and vibrant greens were at their best today.
Some of the foxgloves were really forward in their growth.
We passed the farm, and climbed up to the ridge beyond to get this spectacular view of the Castleton skyline, before dropping down past Hagg farm, once a YHA, now another outdoor centre.
More walking through dappled light for Sue. We LOVE to walk in the week when it's quiet. Often, we go the whole walk without seeing anyone else. The serenity of these places really does the heart & soul good! Last time we were in this area, Sue saw a small deer in the woods. Not today though.
BUT WAIT, WAIT!!!! WHAT'S THAT?????
Oh no - it's just a sheep ;-)
We were surrounded all day by beautiful moths and butterflies. We're not sure what this one is. The wings were a dull brown when closed, but a lovely pattern when open.
This was a feeder we followed. We were surprised to see small fish, that looked like trout, swimming in it. The water was very brackish and brown.
The National Park are implementing a very bold 40 year plan to return the Alport valley back to deciduous from its present coniferous status. It's a huge plan, but the valley should look much more pleasing to the eye, and be very much more wildlife-friendly when it's completed. Click on the picture to enlare it.
We followed the River Ashop through the woodlands valley, crossed the snake pass again, and started our walk up the Alport valley. Our skin tingled, as we got our first glimpse of our goal - Alport Castles. The 'Towers', as they are called, peeped over the horizon as we walked.
As we climbed higher and got closer, the view became more dominant.
Just past Alport farm, this stile has a convenient lifting top rung. I've seen this many times before on the Pembrokeshire Coastal path, only on theirs, it says; 'codwch' (which, I assume, means 'lift' in Welsh).
We could now see the Towers VERY clearly, and we knew we had a stiff climb to get to the cliffs above, but first, it was time for tiffin! We crossed this lovely bridge.........
.....and did a bit of pre-climb relaxing .
During lunch, Sue made friends with a small grasshopper, which insisted on perching on her finger!
....but then it was time to make our way onwards and upwards.
The Castles were calling!
The view back to the Alport valley. A green heaven, if ever there was one.
Sue had really got the bit between her teeth now.....COME ON LES - KEEP UP!
I was doing my best to catch her, but with all this loveliness around, it was easy to get distracted.
Then, as we passed a nick in the rocks, we saw that we had drawn level with the towers.
Wow. So close, and yet..........
Sue said; "let's just walk towards them a bit - see how far they are away......."
"Look, Les - I'm SURE we could get up there, you know? We've got time, if we just......."
"SUE - STOP IT - THEY WON'T GIVE YOU YOUR PENSION, IF THEY SEE YOU!"
Queen of the Castle.
Looking across to the cliff face. There was a curlew screaming in the sky here - as dramatic as this place is and was, that bird made it all the more so!
Hopefully, you can see a short video here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV1uSsar2Es
Of course, I had to have a go too - Sue climbed down with the camera to get this shot.
It was time to stop all this shenanigans and get on with the walk. We still had lots of time, so no rush. There was a temporary bird hide on top of the cliffs and we had a short time in there too, watching for kestrels etc. Mainly though, it was a curlew day. We didn't mind, as this is one of our favourite bird calls.
After we climbed down and re-joined the path, we made our way onto the top of the cliffs. The views down to the towers is superb from here, but also the wide expanse of the northern moors opens up when you get on the top. It's often VERY windy up here, but today a gentle, cooling breeze accompanied us. The path turns right, and drops down the grouse moors to Howden reservoir. We saw MANY grouse butts to the left and right of the path. I would think the birds couldn't stand a chance against that lot.
Howden reservoir - greatly depleted.
Howden dam and the rhododendrons.
When full, the water runs over that middle section. Today, it was at least twenty feet below it!
The navvies who built the dams lived in a specially constructed village. Read more about it here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birchinlee
The low water exposed these old rail supports.
We saw a big patch of these fungi, which I think are birch boletus, a member of the penny bun family. I have eaten these in the past, but they were past their best (and had been nibbled by slugs).
We reached the end of the walk at Derwent dam. You can see by the silt sides how this has receded. We called in at the cafe for a welcome cup of tea before making our way home, very happy with what today had given us.