Sunday, 3 January 2016

New Year at Hartington

As has now become traditional, once our children had returned to Ambleside and Seville following a wonderful Christmas together, Heather and I loaded the car and pointed it towards Derbyshire and Hartington Hall Youth Hostel.  Typical of the weather for this winter, it rained heavily all the way and so we opted not to do our usual walk, but unpack and get settled in first.  Feeling like a blow, though, we decided to head out for a short 2 mile walk in the rain and gathering dusk to work up an appetite for the evening meal.

 We were delighted the following morning to fine the skies clear and were away early for our regular New Year's Eve walk; this year anti-clockwise.  Although everywhere was wet, we expected worse and Derbyshire, like Lincolnshire, seems so far to have escaped the excesses of this year's wet winter. In fact the river Dove was little higher than normal.  Our walk took us from Hartington into Beresford Dale and then Wolfscote Dale before climbing the very steep Gypsy Bank and walking across the fields to Alstonfield.  From here it was back down to the river at Milldale and then returning via Wolfscote and Biggin Dales.  In Wolfscote Dale we were fascinated to watch a dipper hunting under the surface of the river seeking out its prey of grubs and popping up onto a rock to devour them.  As a means of camouflage dippers constantly bob up and down and, with their white chest and dark uppers, they can be very difficult to spot.  It was also hugely satisfying to get several excellent views of a kingfisher on the river.  With the weather being mild, we noticed several instances of plants in flower: gorse, snowdrops and, notably, primroses.

Surprisingly the next morning saw a frost, although the morning quickly clouded over and a thaw set in.  Our walk took us the opposite way up the river as far as Pilsbury Castle and back to Hartington.  Nuthatch, several members of the tit family and tree creepers were all spotted on our walk.

We have booked again for next year and I suppose before we blink it will be here.

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