Despite having completed a fairly strenuous walk the previous day, the forecast of sunshine lured us into another trip somewhere a little closer to home. Holme. Just outside of the top end of the Peak District, the Holme Valley is a little over half an hour’s drive for us, and is comprised of yet more massive hills through which the river Holme flows, with towns and villages such as Holme, Holmbridge, and Holmfirth (the setting for the long running BBC comedy Last of the Summer Wine). This was the first route that Sammy had plotted, and I had only briefly scanned the map as she was pointing out the paths that would take us around several reservoirs and through the villages. The distance didn’t appear to be too great, and as reservoirs by their nature are flat, I wasn’t concerned about the topography of the area. We didn’t even pack a proper lunch, as I wasn’t expecting it to be a full day affair. You can probably tell that our theme of getting things wrong on these walks was going to continue.
A later than usual start meant that by the time we reached the Digley Reservoir car park there were no available spaces. We continued onto another that was full of parked up Minis and people stood around looking at them, and we began to wonder if our tardiness had ruined our plans. Once again a gravel patch by the side of the road came to our rescue, and after a brisk dash down the side of the A6024, we joined the byway at Rake Head Road, which led us down towards the Yateholme Reservoir. Our intended path was closed, and so began our first deviation from the plan. The diversion took us into the forest, down a steep bank and across a stream that flows from Gusset Dike (seriously), then back up into the forest along a narrow path. Unfortunately the changed route meant that we got to see very little of Riding Wood reservoir, instead taking us to the crossing between Brownhill and Ramsden reservoirs. At the other side we took a right and headed along the road until we reached the byway that passes Tinker Well (I can’t tell you what that was as we didn’t see it) and then continued up towards the top of Crow Hill, along the Kirklees Way trail. This section was quite steep, and the effect of the previous day’s hike soon started to make themselves felt in our legs as we climbed the rubble scattered track.
Instead of turning off onto the Holme Valley Circular (HVC) Walk – whose existence I’m only just learning of as I write this – I accidently directed us the way that continued along the Kirklees Way trail and onto Ramsden Road. This was another of our happy accidents, as it led to a bench with views across the valley and was our spot to sit and eat the meagre snacks we’d thought to bring. After snack time we wrongly continued down Ramsden Road until I realised how wrong it was, turned back on ourselves and joined the correct path that led down into Holmbridge. Nipping quickly across the road past the cricket ground, we joined the HVC Walk where it traces along the river. We ducked down from the main trail onto a dirt track along the riverside, which passed some unknown ruins and gave us a delightful stroll by the waterside. I genuinely believed this was the marked trail, but when we reached a dead end and had to scramble up a dirt bank and clamber over a wobbly dry-stone wall, it was clear we probably shouldn’t have ducked down when we did. If we hadn’t though, we wouldn’t have got up close and personal with the river, or played around on some stepping stones as we tried to lure our precious pooch into getting his paws damp. The fact that a couple who seemed to be taking the same route as us also followed our diversion, and even overtook us, did make us chuckle.
We emerged at Digley reservoir, where we had originally intended to begin the route. It was still busy with daytrippers visiting to walk around its perimeter, and our route soon synced with a large group of elderly ramblers. As we left the reservoir and took the public footpath up towards the village of Holme, I felt the need, for no reason I can actually think of, to try and put some distance between us and their group. With tired legs and having another hill to climb, it was only due to the ridiculously narrow stone gates we all had to pass through slowing the group’s progress that we managed to pull away from them. That and our slightly increased pace to escape some humongous and disgruntled looking cows that Herbie had decided to pick a fight with.
Holme itself is a charming little village, perched on a hill overlooking the valley, with chimneys puffing out plumes of smoke in a picture postcard manner. We enviously ogled the buildings as we wandered through, declaring this to be precisely the type of place in which we wish to buy a house. Perhaps it was this distraction that led to me taking us in the exact opposite direction to where we were meant to be going. We headed up the hill that passes a school and onto a byway called Issues Road. And issues are certainly what we got. As care-free Sammy snapped millions of photos of sheep, the track became perfectly straight, leading to the summit of Hart Hill. I wasn’t entirely convinced that we were going the wrong way, but I was certainly not sure we were going the right way either. The track appeared to be never ending, and as we continued to climb I remembered that we should in fact have been heading down a hill rather than up one. I stopped and considered the map for some time, checked our location with GPS, said ‘ah’ and ‘hmmm, yes’ a few times, then finally confessed to a no longer care-free Sammy that I had indeed been taking us the wrong way for a considerable distance.
Rather than eat humble pie and turn back, I spotted a path called Cliff Road, that would take us in the vague direction of the car. It’s called Cliff Road, unsurprisingly, because it leads to a massive bloody cliff, from the top of which we could painfully see the twinkling green paint of Sammy’s car on the opposite cliff over the valley. We turned onto a precipitous and ambiguous path that clearly hadn’t been walked in a while, down the side of the cliff through unkempt fields, and at length ended at the foot of the hill walking past a farmhouse onto the main road. Whilst happy to have survived the path to the bottom, we had to summon the last of our energy reserves to dodge traffic on the A6024 again as we climbed back up towards the car.
This was not the tranquil meander around a few bodies of water that we planned, but it was worth every kilojoule of energy expended upon it. Despite the aches and twinges gained through two full days of hillwalking, it was glorious to have squeezed the two routes into one weekend. Next weekend, we assured ourselves, we would do a flat walk. Give our legs a bit of a rest. Definitely. 100%.
Clearly that didn’t happen. More on that next time.