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Picture of Doodle - a 
black cat

Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chanson d'Automne

The end of Autumn is often seen as a sad time of year - summer now long gone, the trees naked and the nights longer and darker.

I've never seen it that way, and I look forward to the autumn days, first with delicious fruits and fungi, then the amazing colours of the turning leaves and finally, at last, the first hints of winter and the excuse to close the door and draw the curtains against the weather and enjoy a spot of hibernation.

No "saglots longs des violons" here - no sir.

A bright cool day in autumn shows Suffolk at its best, and a little venture into the hinterland uncovers the amazing variety of lifestyles hidden away in the countryside. One small cottage had a handwritten sign outside that simply said "Llama products", and sure enough in the adjacent field were llamas and ponies being attended to by a couple of very small children and a large gambolling tabby cat. We wondered what the llama products might be.

"Sausages?" I ventured.
"Don't be silly - it'll be knitted stuff"
"Llamas can't knit, surely? Their hooves won't hold the needles"

Picture of black pigA turn in the lane and over a stile, and the footpath went through a small wood by another cottage - with yet more domestic animals. This time half a dozen sheep and a huge black pig.

"Sausages?" I ventured. More certain of my ground here ;-)

Miss W was busy making friends with the porker, scratching his nose to a chorus of grunts & snuffles (the latter from the pig, not Miss W).

"No! How could anyone make sausages out of such a cuddly creature?"

"Well, woolly hats seem out of the question - the sheep have got that market cornered"

The pig gave a sort of squeaky squeal, which Miss W interpreted as my 'upsetting it', so off we went back to Lavenham, passing small stands outside houses with fresh eggs (including duck eggs), pickles and preserves, vegetables and fruit. Each ramshackle table simply had the produce on it together with a jar or a tin for customers to leave the money. Presumably nothing gets stolen, and everyone pays, or this just wouldn't work. It made me feel that I'd had a day strolling through an H E Bates novel - "The Darling Buds of May" perhaps. Made me feel quite jolly to know that life can be this way.

Sloes in hedgerowAnd to make the day quite 'perfick', we came across a superb crop of sloes in the hedgerow, and gathered enough to top up the sloe gin supply. Just in time - we're down to the last bottle. Our recipe, by the way, can be found in this post.

That was a week ago. Over this past weekend I enjoyed a very different couple of autumn days in Derbyshire with my brother in law, David (my walking partner on the 2004 TGO Challenge). David had planned a walk for Saturday, and I was to plan one for Sunday. Having gained a place on next years Challenge with the redoubtable Alan Sloman, part of the objective was to get a bit of ascent into a walk, and reassure myself that after the past years health alarms, I am at last pretty fit.

David's walk was exceptionally well timed. We set off from Cambridge at 7.30 and were walking in the Goyt Valley by 10.30 am, for a 17k canter with 650m of ascent. David reckoned this would take about 5 - 6 hours with a stop for lunch. That would get us back to the car by dusk.

I packed a head torch ... just in case.

David at the old ruinsAnd it's a fine walk. From the Errwood reservoir we went up to the oddly 'restored ruins' of Errwood hall (looking very spooky in the wind and rain, but no doubt a great picnic spot on a summer's day) and on up the valley to find a shrine built by the owners of the old house (the Grimshawes) in 1899. It was built to commemorate a favourite nanny, Senorita Dolores de Bergria. It's quite strange, being very small (you have to crouch to get through the door) and completely dark inside. But with the aid of the camera flash I got the picture opposite. A cold windswept hillside 400m up on the Derbyshire moors seems a sad & remote place to commemorate someone from the warm climate of Spain, but maybe in the driving rain and wind some of the charm of the location was lost on me!

Shrine interior
The shrine exteriorThen on & up to 'The Street' and Pym's Chair (great views through the gaps in the cloud) and the long, windy ridge walk south to Shining Tor. From there we returned south eastish to the Goyt Valley again, over the river and up Berry Clough to Burbage Edge. The lights were coming on here and there in Buxton far below us - and very cosy it looked too! But onwards we went, eventually descending via Wildmoorstone Brook to return to the car park at 16.15 - not bad going, given the wet & windy conditions. It was good to get to our B&B in Tideswell, the excellent Merman Barn, where we were welcomed with tea & biscuits and had a great room with, joy of joys, an absolutely first class shower.

We slept late after a night at the Star, and breakfasted at 8.30. The day had started bright but windy, and there was a minor dispute between two technologies. David's IPhone displayed an optimistic weather forecast from the BBC, whereas my Nike watch  - an altimeter thingy - showed a black cloud with rain when switched to weather mode, with a declining pressure graph. By the end of breakfast the sun had disappeared and the cloud was building - as was the wind. We ditched the BBC and went with the watch, and chose a realtively low level route.

Weir and Sluice at Cressbrook MillIt was a delight! Starting with an easy trundle down Tideswell Dale to Litton Mill, then across the river and up & over to the track above High Dale to Brushfield and on to Monsal Head where, by good timing, we arrived at the Stable Bar of the Monsal Head Hotel at bang on 12 noon. This excellent timing was assisted by the slight delay caused by David's attempt to gain entry to the railway tunnel at the end of the viaduct.

A glorious lunch accompanied by pints of the Monsal Head special brew, and we were sufficiently refreshed to brave the elements once more, and pushed off back over the viaduct and up past Arkwright's Mill at Cressbrook, up Cressbrook Dale, over the stepping stones to Tansley Dale and eventually back to the car at an impressively early hour for the journey home - delayed slightly as David had to risk life & limb on the B6049 to retrieve the map that I had foolishly left on the car roof.

All in all, some great autumn walking. Well - it is my favourite time of the year. Ah well, winter round the corner. Time to draw the curtains and  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

stepping stones in Cressbrook Dale



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent stuff!

I'm extremely envious of your sloe supply. We have none here at all! *sobs* So much for my own sloe gin plans. Doomed two years on the trot.

Um... that photo in the building is extremely cunningly done! I like :)

And that pig is a friend of my wee Philomena, btw. Good job Miss W went over to give him a scratch and a tickle. Philomena says the wee pig was very impressed by Miss W, but rather nonplussed by you. The reference to 'sausages' prolly swung things against you.

I can't wait to get my car sorted out so that Pigling and I can go walking again!

November 24, 2009 at 11:34 PM  
Blogger Alan Sloman said...

I shall supply you with a cheapo bottle of Gin on Sunday - Do you have enough sloes? Supplies are low...

It makes wonderful Chally Snifters.

November 25, 2009 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Alan Sloman said...

"saglots longs des violons"

I love it when you talk dirty...

November 25, 2009 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

Hi Shirl. I'll put a bottle of the sloe gin aside for you. Glad you liked the piggy. A very friendly creature - probably a bit of a pet really ;-)

November 25, 2009 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

A bottle of gin is always welcome here, Alan, as you well know ;-)

See ya Sunday!

November 25, 2009 at 5:24 PM  

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