leaden bootSo it was getting closer to our Hadrian’s Wall Trek and that meant we were due for another little training walk! This time my friend and I decided to go a little further and tougher and so the route description for the Leaden Boot was dug out and we made our way to Alstonefield, which handily has three free car parks and public loos.

I had initially suggested that we cut out the steep climb out of Milldale and the even steeper descent into Narrowdale by simply walking straight down the Dovedale path, but we decided that we needed the practice and so headed up into the cloud to pick up the ridge path.

We managed the steep descent okay, but walking through Narrowdale I suddenly realised why the Leaden Boot takes place in May and not July.

The path was absolutely covered in the highest and most vicious nettles I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. It took us ages to fight our way through and our legs were a mess of nettle rash which stung and throbbed all day.

Luckily we had the steep lung busting climb towards Air Cottage to take our minds off our pain, plus by now the sun had burned through the cloud and it was hot. We were sweating as we made our way down the grassy flank of Bunster Hill towards Ilam Hall, but the views were magnificent- I feel so lucky to live close to the Peaks.

Descending to Ilam

Descending to Ilam

After stopping for refreshment at a handily parked ice cream van at Ilam Hall, we descended to the valley floor and followed the ‘Paradise Walk’ to fields and a long trail through wild garlic scented woodland, which was unfortunately very boggy and heavy going. Rather worryingly we kept coming across fresh looking cow pats, but didn’t meet any bovines.

After another steep climb we stopped for lunch with a spectacular view towards Dovedale and the steep cone of Thorpe Cloud- I wouldn’t mind this view every day!

That's what I call a lunch view!

That’s what I call a lunch view!

We descended to the ruins of Throwley Hall, where I took a group photo for a group of cyclists out for a ride, then passed by the dramatic Beeston Tor before a steep climb past Weag’s Barn to Grindon. We were both feeling the effects of the heat and had also become targets for horse flies out for an early evening meal.

Beeston Tor

Beeston Tor

Yours truly and Beeston Tor

Yours truly and Beeston Tor

Unfortunately the café at Wetton Mill was shut so a restorative ice cream was out of the question and on climbing Ecton Hill it was apparent that we were going to have to cut the route short. This was the longest walk my friend had done for years and she had managed very well, but the heat and the flies were taking their toll.

Descending to Wetton Mill

Descending to Wetton Mill

We selected a path signposted towards Ecton rather than continuing to the trig point, but unfortunately we lost this and came out onto a road, which we decided to follow. My map reading skills deserted me by this point and so we asked a lady walking with her son where the road went. We must have looked a sight as our legs were a mass of nettle rash and bites, and my friend’s were running with blood.

She told us it would take us towards the Manifold Cycle Track, but after a sit down and coffee from flasks we realised that we actually needed to walk the opposite way towards Alstonefield.

Hunting kestrel

Hunting kestrel

We set off along the easiest option- along the road back to the village, which proved to be a gradual climb but I must say the distances on the sign posts were rather suspect- the first one promised us that Alstonefield was 1 ½ miles away but on walking for what seemed like ages the next signpost informed us it was still 1 ½ miles away!

Evening light- approaching Alstonefield

Evening light- approaching Alstonefield

Eventually we got there, and had covered around 24 miles, but what with rampant nettles, mud and vicious blood sucking flies, not to mention heat, it was an ordeal! Hadrian’s Wall? Bring it on!

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