The penultimate day of January, overnight sub-zero temperatures preserved the snowfall, to be followed by a beautiful sunny day. We left home early afternoon, noting that it did not feel as bitingly cold outdoors as the snowy scenes and internal temperature suggested. We climbed the Cuckoo steps, pausing to crane our necks towards the sound of tits twittering in stick-like branches above us. This also allowed me to catch my breath. On Heptonstall Road, roadworks blocked the pavement so we crossed over straight away and headed left up the path.
Initially, the path was sheltered by trees and remained snow-free. At the top of the ridge, lumps of ice clung to sprouting trees growing precariously at the cliff edge. White blankets weighed down heather bushes. Snow melted slowly from the branches. Water droplets created soft dripping sounds.
Further up, two dogs bounded towards us, then turned and ran the other way. I could hear voices slightly further up and supposing they accompanied the hounds, suggested waiting for them to go by. However, when a group of hippies appeared with no dogs, I was rather puzzled. We proceeded warily wondering if the dogs might re-appear but thankfully, they did not.
At Hell Hole Rocks, the pristine snow lay deep and squeaky underfoot. Lumps on nearby trees resembled Japanese blossom. From above, layers of white contrasted starkly with the dark rock. We climbed the narrow steps, taking care to avoid muddy icy patches and stood at the top awhile for archetypal views across the valley. Phil started walking North on the path, headed for the dank part of the wood. I refused to follow him in such wintry conditions. Instead, we took the path in the opposite direction, through a gate and along the top of the quarry.
Breath-taking scenes arrested us. Blue mist topped Snow-covered hills towards Lancashire in the west. Stoodley Pike appeared ethereal in the distance. Plants punctuated the cliff edge, their spike-like stalks adorned with snow crystals forming needle-like blooms.
We followed the path round, through a second gate marking the start of the newly-planted ‘wood’. Here too, snow studded the hedgerows where glacial thawing made wondrous shapes beneath a perfect deep blue sky. At the other end of the field, we noticed that the snowline stopped abruptly to the east with green fields visible below the white.
On Southfield, jackdaws gathered atop trees, while two magpies looked totally unflustered at being outnumbered. At the churchyard, a flock of starlings replaced the crows. They had descended from their usual roost in the clock tower onto trees by the outer wall. Their loud chattering sounded musical; almost choral – I had never heard anything like it!
A pair of staffies made a big fuss, to be berated by the woman walking them. We waited patiently until they calmed down before continuing into the churchyard. Inevitably, the ruin looked delightful in the snow.
All the way up, I had been attempting to keep my boots and jeans snow-free. I tried to shake some off when I noticed a massive lump on the bottom of my hem. Phil was a little way ahead of me and I called after him to stop so I could tackle it. Eventually, he came to look, declared “it’s frozen solid” and promptly walked off. I became annoyed but eventually managed to break the ice into smaller lumps and prise them off, to be left with a big rip in the hem and freezing cold hands.
Desperate for a proper rest, I headed for chairs outside Towngate Tearoom. I checked the time, surprised to find it had taken almost two hours to get to the village (it normally took 50 minutes). No wonder I felt tired and narky! I had thought the tearoom would be shut but thankfully, it was not. Phil ordered us a cuppa. A tray appeared, complete with china teapot and froufrou dolly-sized cups. We huddled under the awning, doing our best to avoid melting drips from splashing in our warming drinks. As we returned home via the road, I tried to keep my trouser hems from getting under my boots. This proved exceedingly difficult on slippery stretches. Near home, he volunteered to go for milk while I headed straight indoors to take my ruined clothes off and collapse on the sofa.
More photos at: https://1drv.ms/f/s!AjkK19zVvfQti5pTvcnw242kyhoLDg