From: Rocester to Biggin
Distance: 15m / 24km
Cumulated distance: 477m / 768km
Percentage completed: 46.4

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Today I crossed the county border from Staffordshire to Derbyshire, heading into the beautiful Peak District. But quite frankly for the most part of the day I could have been walking in the Golan Heights, the Russian Steppes or indeed the Nullarbor. A thick mist came down mid-morning, obscuring anything more than a few metres away. It was such a shame as I knew the views, if only I could see them, would have been fabulous.

The Peak District became the UK’s first national park in 1951. It’s the southern end of the Pennines and is split into the southern White Peak, named because of the limestone in the area and the northern Dark Peak where the terrain is largely moorland. Oddly enough there are very few peaks in the District .. lots of rounded hills instead. With many, many sheep.

Setting off

The Peak District has been a massive, massive inspiration to all sorts of writers over the centuries. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was the first poem to be inspired by the countryside in the 14th century. From then on the list of authors who got all misty-eyed and lyrical when visiting the area grew at a staggering rate .. Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, William Wordsworth, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Beatrix Potter, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Samuel Johnson, William Congreve, Anna Seward, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Lord Byron, Thomas Moore, D H Lawrence were all inspired by the Peaks and more recent names include Geraldine Brooks and Stephen Booth.

And then there are the films which were made here .. The Dam Busters, Pride and Prejudice, Thornfield Hall, The Other Boleyn Girl, Elizabeth and The Princess Bride. My literary interest was seriously piqued, if you’ll pardon the atrocious pun. There are also beautiful houses to be seen: Chatsworth, Haddon Hall, Lyme Park, Hardwick Hall, Bolsover Castle and Peveril Castle .. I’d love to visit them all. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I must first tell you about my great good fortune last night. Being rather pleased with myself for arriving at my B&B, well in time for Pointless (guilty secret .. one of many), I found the place had been flooded a fortnight ago and was all shut up. ‘Thanks for the notice’, I may have been heard to mutter, as I turned on my heel and went back to the only pub in the village. The Red Lion however, did not do rooms, nor did they serve food. However, everyone enthusiastically put their heads together to see where I could get a bed for the night. A great team effort and several glasses of wine later we had a result! And wow, what a result .. a 16th century farmhouse, with the warmest hospitality to date .. Manor House Farm. Prestwood. The house has been in the family for 5 generations and is filled to the gunnels with the most fascinating artefacts. I wrote my blog in front of a roaring log fire, slept in a four-poster and had home-produced bacon and eggs from the farm for breakfast. I promised myself I would go back .. with Patrick next time.

Welcoming log fire in the sitting room


Nice early start from Manor House Farm

Feeling seriously lucked out, I got on my way. The farm tracks were pleasant and in the distance I could make out promising hills.

View across the fields

There was a long, long hill to climb before I came to the village of Stanton. I had my flask of tea in the porch of the church there, glad to get out of the wind. I was delighted to find that St Michael’s is in the parish of Melbourne!

Weather starting to close in at St Michael’s .. sure the view is splendid. But nothing to be seen today.


Cheering flowers in the porch at St Michael’s, Stanton

I met Ruby, the 11 year old black lab as I was leaving the village. She was very friendly and I’m sure would have liked to have walked the rest of the day with me! I know I would have loved her company.

Ruby outside the village’s defibrilator phone box

The fields on the approach to the village of Thorpe were an iridescent green. Not too surprising, given the amount of rain they’ve had recently. They were teeming with sheep and lambs, all wanting their photographs taken.

Selfie wannabees.


Bridge over the River Dove

As I climbed the stiff hill up into the tiny village of Thorpe, the weather really started to close in, becoming icy cold with a baltic wind. I don’t know how those lambs bear it.

See how the hills behind have just disappeared.

The wee village of Thorpe is the gateway to Dovedale. It has an 11th century Norman church with the squattest of towers and looks out on to some of the prettiest countryside .. or so I believe. Couldn’t see a blind thing today. Take a look as the mist got a grip ..

Tissington Trail

I spent a fair amount of time on the Tissington Trail today. It took me virtually all the way to Biggin, in fact. I only met one person, a cyclist, who slowed down enough to say, ‘Proper raw today, isn’t it?’ I nodded my head and then hunkered down against the gale that was now blowing, willing the turn off to Biggin to arrive soon. It would have been the perfect setting for another film to be made here .. maybe James Herbert’s ‘The Fog’.

The Tissington Trail served a very good purpose for me today. I could no longer see across fields to find stiles and so following footpaths had become very difficult. The Trail however, is a disused railway line which the Peak District National Park bought in 1971 and converted into a traffic-free trail for walkers and cyclists. It was also remarkably free of mud and puddles. The views would have been magnificent. But this afternoon it was simply a case of digging in, putting one foot in front of the other and listening to the mellifluous voice of Kirsty Young, as she recounted some of the highlights from Desert Island Disks over its entire history. If you haven’t heard it, give yourself a treat .. it really is a fantastic episode which touches the heartstrings, makes you laugh out loud, informs the world and is utterly charming. What other programme can do that so magnificently. Guests ranged from Nigel Owens to Dame Judi Dench to David Attenborough and into the archives to hear from the most extraordinary 2nd World War pilot Captain Eric Melrose “Winkle” Brown. He looped the loop in the navy’s one Spitfire, through all three of the Forth bridge arches .. and wasn’t court-martialled because no-one saw the number on the side of the aircraft. And the tune he chose? ‘Call me Irresponsible’ by Andy Williams!

Black Dog Tails
Mister was one of the detection dogs out at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan with the British troops. I love this one of him still managing to have fun in the searing heat, with his master!