Peregrina Preparatio 8 : Milldale – Ashbourne (Derbyshire)

Today’s walk (in beautiful rural Derbyshire)took me by surprise by turning into a pilgrimage. There’s a heatwave in the UK at the moment, so I travelled light, with a tiny backback (for the water and map), and it was definitely shorts (and walking boots) weather!

Weather: hot and sunny, 24C (cooled down a bit later)

Distance : 18 km /11 miles

Duration 4 1/2 hours

There are no photos (of mine) as I forgot my phone, but this map at least shows the route I took.

I got a lift to Milldale and walked down the popular trail along the river Dove (which is the deciding river between Derbyshire and Staffordshire) to Dovedale. There was almost no one around and that’s when the walk morphed into a pilgrimage. I found myself walking along, caught up in the vibrant, lush colours of the riverbank (the rest of the countryside is very dry and brown because there’s been no rain) listening to the rushing water and then noticing the silence when the waters stilled after rapids. It was such a blessing to be caught up like that!

Then the number of people increased, (walking from Dovedale) and the mood changed and I slipped into a litter picking role for a mile or so. (It’s really hard to understand why people go to such wonderful beauty spots and not take their cider bottles or juice containers home, or throw cigarette packets in the bushes or on the riverbank – grrr!)

I decided against climbing over Thorpe Cloud (too hot!) and instead took a footpath around it towards the village of Thorpe!

English footpaths are signed very differently to the trails in Finland, and I had to recalibrate my thinking.

The way the signs work is that when you come to a stile or gate you must look at the sign before you move on, and then you have to trust it! So on the path to Thorpe, for example, one of the signs pointed straight on, and after the tiny gate I had to walk across an immense field trusting the ‘exit’ was going to be ahead of me, without there being any defined path and without my being able to see it! (Only once did this fail me, and either I missed the gate, stile or hole in the hedge or I’d misread it)

I loved this part of the walk. It was unfamiliar territory, and there was a real sense of freedom. I ended up on the little rural road that I assumed lead to the village of Thorpe (and it did) and from there I also discovered (with the aid of a map) a backroad that was lovely and quiet. I wished I’d had my camera as both ends of the road had a sign warning lorry drivers not to trust their satnavs … and for good reason this was a lovely single highway lane with no obvious passing places, and I loved it because again it was so quiet (and virtually litter free) that the feeling was more inclined towards pilgrimage again!

I was heading towards a village called Fenny Bentley to visit the church there …and that entailed more rural footpaths across fields and over tiny bridges across tiny streams …across the Tissington Trail and into the village itself.

St Edmunds is a medieval church with an amazing tree in the churchyard, but even more amazing was that the church holds the tomb of Thomas Beresford (Battle of Agincourt under Henry V).

Then it was back across fields to the Tissington Trail and back ‘home’ to Ashbourne.

All in all a good day out and about, and the hills in particular were great preparation for the Camino. It was hot and I was glad not to have a backpack (a luxury I won’t have in September /October) and today I wore my boots with a single layer of socks with no adverse effects (phew) … but I’m also noticing a new found confidence in both my walking but also my navigating skills.

A rest day tomorrow, but on Wednesday I’ll be tackling those hills again. God willing!

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