With the return of bright sunshine on Sunday, we ventured a little further to walk up the Cuckoo Steps, across Heptonstall Road to the path leading to our favourite ridge. On the climb, black shadows of twisty thin trees criss-crossed the dusty pink shingle. Two women with dogs stopped for us, but although they stood aside, the dogs still blocked the path. As I hesitated they assured us that their fur harboured no germs as they had been in isolation for 2 weeks. Passing cautiously, Phil noted they were nice friendly dogs. I agreed, but told the women I was wary as this is not always the case. They sympathised saying “We’ll put the leads on if we run into us again”. “That’s kind but it’s fine.” Next, it was our turn to wait for a small family crouched on the verge. We side-stepped into the old quarry until they had finished doing selfies.
As we rounded the corner, we saw unsightly scribbles on Hell Hole Rocks. At first glance it appeared to be made with chalk, but on closer inspection turned out to be painted graffiti, thus likely permanent and a real shame. We checked the coast was clear and climbed the small steps up to ‘photographer’s corner’.
Wavering about whether to clamber onto the ‘viewing platform’, quite a few people approached form the opposite direction, making the decision for us. We gazed down at a more pleasing aspect of the big rock, without scrawls, and across the valley until it was clear to continue.
Heading for Slater Ings, an ageing hippie couple sat on a large flat rock right near it. They could easily have moved further away, but as they didn’t, we side-stepped as far as possible to the other side. The man greeted us to which I responded “that’s not 6 feet”. He said “Don’t worry about it.” “I do, it’s because of morons like you that the stupid lockdown will last forever.” As we hurried on past, he shouted “Stay indoors then… You’re out walking!” “Yes, but when I want a rest, I don’t just plonk down; I move away from the path!” “Do you remember the Nazis?” to which Phil retorted “No, I’m not old enough. Are you?” Tempted to go back and clatter him, I said it wasn’t worth it and anyway, it couldn’t be done at a safe distance!
Luckily, the wood was less populous. We soon spotted a patch of wild garlic and climbed down a slippery dry slope where deadwood crackled beneath our shoes – the feeble brook having dried to a trickle in the warm April weather.
A few people past on the path above as we gathered the pungent leaves. Taking a while to come back up, we spotted several pieces of broken pottery, indicating this was once a popular picnic spot.
Hitherto considering Slater Ings the wilder part of the woodlands, now I looked properly, it became obvious it had also been part of the Victorian ‘job creation scheme’. Why else would the large rocks be so picturesquely placed along the walking path?
Making our way between said rocks, bluebells and primroses lined the grassy edges. A woman with several kids in tow kindly took a detour for us and a second pair of women with dogs waited for us at a gap in the wall leading out to the lane.
Chancing a return via Heptonstall, we saw more people in one place than in the last 3 weeks. Locals stood chatting in small groups in their gardens while visitors lounged in fields and on benches, and walked, cycled, and drove along the road in both directions. The small community had rallied round with the post office offering a distribution service for local businesses and the pub doing ‘order and collect’ Sunday lunch.
Managing to keep at a safe distance we rested very briefly in Weaver’s Square and re-enacted a scene from the Pace Egg – sadly cancelled this year along with everything else during lockdown.
We continued on Heptonstall Road, down the steps to Lee Wood Road and onto The Buttress, where we made further waits a for slower elderly people coming up the punishingly steep cobbles.