21st February:

On an overcast but surprisingly dry morning, and not one in keeping with the overnight forecast which promised rain for most of the day, the walkers gathered in Wetton village car park for a 9.30 am start.

After the usual exchange of banter, attention turned to Martin C's stocking feet. He had arrived at the club hut the previous night minus his walking boots. Fortunately Bob G came to the rescue and loaned him a spare pair.

Just after 9.30 am and no Martin Pierce in sight (he had a sore throat during the previous day’s EGM), the party set off. A steady walk past Lett’s pub (the Royal Oak) led quickly to some open fields in a NE direction to Alstonefield. “Why were we heading north and not south?” some muttered. “Was a pub not included?” asked Bob G. “Maybe” the leader reluctantly replied. So Bob suggested the bar in the Ilam Youth Hostel.

Once through the village the path kept its line to the top of Gypsy Bank above Dovedale, scrambling down a muddy narrow path on wet limestone proved a tricky descent and “how do we cross the river?” some asked. Suddenly Coldeaton Bridge came into view and fear of crossing the raging Dove by stepping stones was quickly dispelled. In true DPC style those that first gained the bridge tried to sway it from side to side. Once the path southwards along the Dove was made the pace quickened and Mill Dale was reached in double quick time.

The opposite bank of the river was covered in a carpet of snow drops and looked like freshly fallen snow. At the stone bridge in Mill Dale, Bob turned right to the café. Martin bought a Cornish pasty for his brunch and two cups of tea, one kindly offered to the Leader. The Leader, aware of the lateness of the morning, encouraged the party to move on. Bob, Martin & Phil needed longer to drink their teas, and would catch up later…

Back on the riverside path, it was busy with walkers of all ages enjoying the sunshine that peeped out from behind the clouds and the splendid scenery. Good time was made but Axel had a rumbling belly as the clock hands approached noon. The leader was keen to keep moving in spite of a second attempt by Geoff to stop for lunch on a sunlit promontory high above the river.

At the stepping stones the party turned left up Thorpe Cloud. Geoff led the way upwards into an ever strengthening wind. Hence Graham had to hold Geoff’s legs as he was blown backwards. Once at the top the leader and Axel looked in vain for a sheltered lunch spot. In the teeth of the gale this idea was quickly abandoned and he decided to head down as quickly as possible. Geoff and John waited at the top to ensure the President arrived, before setting off down. Lionel had presided over the EGM the previous day and may have been feeling the gravitas of his responsibilities weighing heavily upon him. Would monies and loans be forthcoming or not from members and/or banks to finance the necessary building work to enable the hut to continue to be loaned out to other clubs in the future?

Lunch was taken in the valley bottom before the route over the fields to Ilam was taken. Not a good move considering the field conditions. Thick, viscous mud had to be waded through and Geoff likened it to quicksand.

At Ilam village, the leader pondered the whereabouts of Bob, Phil and Martin. Why had they not passed us on Thorpe Cloud? Were they in the bar at the Ilam hostel? The decision to bypass the bar was taken (just as well as it was closed) and to head for the metalled road at Rushley. In the hostel grounds, Axel pointed out the reappearance of the Manifold resurgence.. Then on reaching a roped off bridge a voice from the other side cried “You can come over – it’s safe!” Taking no notice of a lone Bob G, the party crossed the river higher up by a sturdier bridge. On rejoining Bob, the group questioned him about the whereabouts of the other two, but in typical lawyer fashion, the reply was suitably vague.

Yet another horrible muddy field was tramped through before the road was reached. This climbed steadily to Throwley Hall, the remains of which show it to have been a fine medieval manor house. John told how George Sampson had worked on the remains making any unsafe stone work sound. Once passed the Hall the way dropped steeply to Beeston Tor before picking up the old Manifold railway line. On the approach to Thor’s Cave, a right turn was made up the hill and back to Wetton and the pub. The time was just before 5pm. The cavers were already present and had eaten before the walkers arrived. Tony C drove over from Sheffield and joined them for tea. Ian was thanked by all for his hospitality.

PS. What ever happened to Martin Cland Phil?