It is very rare for me to suggest a walk in Crow Nest Wood during the winter months. But in mid-February, spring made an early appearance. Setting off in early afternoon sun, we initially embarked on our usual route: across Market Street, up to Palace House Road and up the signed path towards Crow Nest. I then spontaneously suggested turning up the next switchback. The attractive path was no longer signed ‘bar cliff’ as it had been in summer 2017. As we climbed steadily upwards, we paused for scenic views of the busy town centre below and over to Midgeley Moor and villages ‘up tops’. The sun disappeared and a few spots of rain fell. With no protection, I hesitated to continue until Phil lent me his cap. A few minutes later, the rain stopped.
At the top of the path, we passed through the metal gate, skirted Weasel Hall and followed the road round onto the lovely cobbled part of New Road. Behind stone walls dotted with holes, mysterious ridges lay in a field. We could only guess at their meaning.
We followed the line of the road west then east, to the TV transmitter. The grey steel structure keyed in perfectly with the steel grey sky.
Continuing to Old Chamber, a noisy family inhabited the ‘honesty shed’ outing paid to the idea of stopping for a cuppa. Water gushed down gutters, splashing into stone troughs. Bright primroses poked out of ceramic pots. Further on, we noted several changes. Among the farm buildings and fields containing very pregnant-looking sheep, some of the old buildings had been demolished with others converted into holiday lets.
Descending the steep incline proved hard work as the square grey cobbles made my toes hurt. At the bottom we looked back. The view up towards the line of trees at the top of the hill was marred somewhat by the clouds of smoke. We kept to the left of Wood Top Farm and turned left, to climb up once more.
The sun re-appeared, infusing the scene with a lovely yellow glow. We rested on the edge of a broken wall to enjoy some rays. On the ridge behind us, a tree covered in flaky green mould looked ready to fall – not the first rotted casualty of the afternoon. We continued on the grassy lane, sloping gently downwards to Crow Nest Wood.
The old quarry was totally dry – very uncharacteristic, especially in winter. We then climbed up again, along the rocky path to the top of the wood. I did not recall ever doing the journey this way round before. Phil strode ahead with absolute certainty of the route.
He made me laugh as he used familiar trees as landmarks, many of which he had given funny names such as ‘stone tree’ ‘smelly tree’ – the latter having rotten and collapsed, emitting a distinct stink of sulphur which followed us for some time. Others sported stripped bark, and desiccated branches hanging precariously and crashing into their neighbours.
We crossed the stream and commented that plants were already poking through the ground in the area resplendent with flowers during spring. I wondered if the garlic might actually be ready in March for once. Still unsure of the way down we soon spotted a small gate, marking both the place where the path straight down from Old Chamber emerges and the point where we could descend.
The mixture of loose stones and sticky mud was even worse on the toes than the Spencer Lane cobbles! Still, at least the dearth of water after a dry winter did not add to the discomfiture and made for a short easy stretch back to Palace House Road.
Before leaving the track, I stopped to admire pussy willows when I heard the sound of tits twittering. They flitted about so fast they were difficult to keep track of. I was still trying to follow them from branch to branch when midget dogs barked ferociously at us. Not even I was scared by them as the owners laughed, although I observed some training would not go amiss.
August 2019 brought copious rain. Tributaries poured from fields and bled from underground springs. New Road looked more like New River! We paused at the crest where bright pink and orange flowers dotted the verge and took in panoramic views before continuing to Old Chamber. This time the ‘honesty box’ was unoccupied.
I hoped it might supply lunchtime butties but alas not. I eschewed the tea and cake, settling instead for a cup of water on the bench outside. A gentle breeze ruffled grass in the meadows as small birds swooped between hedges and poles.
Proceeding to Spencer Lane, fat sheep grazed peacefully. A butterfly landed on the cobbles in front of us. It was hard to convince Phil, who claims to have only ever seen four species of butterfly in his life, to admit it was a different one, (even when I later identified it from a recently-acquired book as a ‘speckled wood’)
Hungry, we opted for a quick route into town via Wood Top, past the station and through the park. We took a table outside Rendezvous, ensuring full coverage from the awning in case of the predicted rain. As we finished our drinks, a downpour arrived on cue and we prepared for a drenching. But it stopped as we left (to return with more force later – story of the summer!)
More photos at: https://1drv.ms/f/s!AjkK19zVvfQti5t8WfxIrGFAg9r5UQ;