* Trans-Atlantic readers should, on no account, attempt to interpret this word in an American context.
I wish Kate and Woss-is-name all the best, I really do, though I don’t actually know them. I am always happy to attend the wedding celebrations of any relative or friend who is kind enough to invite me, but my appetite for watching the televised splicing of a pair of complete strangers is minimal, to say the least.
I will not claim that every member of the party believes that in a mature democracy the people should be trusted to choose the figurehead of state rather than leaving it to an accident of birth, so maybe ‘Republican Ramble’ is a slight exaggeration, but with royalists sprawled over every television channel not devoted to shopping, I feel justified.
Despite its name the Peak District contains no real peaks – nor is this southern section, The White Peak, particularly white - but the two kilometre long rocky outcrop of the Roaches, with the detached hill of Hen Cloud at one end is a dramatic landmark visible from miles around.
|Hen Cloud from the Roaches|
The Roaches is much frequented by rock climbers. Our two hundred metre climb to the highest point of the ridge may not have require ropes, but it was steep enough to justify my use of poles and to ensure most breath was reserved for walking. A little remained available for moaning about the wind but none was spent speculating about Kate’s dress, what she was thinking or the state of Wills’ nerves.
|A strangely misplaced Japanese garden|
Descending at the end of the Roaches we found a dry-stone wall where we could sit out of the wind and drink some coffee. Francis moved away to water another section of the wall. Five minutes later, a wind-swept party crossed the stile and commented on our snug position. They walked on and sat down at the exact spot where Francis had taken his pee. We didn’t like to tell them - they looked so comfy - and what they eye doesn’t see……
From here the usual route is eastwards, towards the well kept beers of the Ship in Danebridge, but for once we went the other way, towards Black Brook in the deep valley behind the Roaches.
|Lee looks for an invisible cuckoo|
We followed the stream to the sound of curlews, usually easier to spot than cuckoos but hiding on this occasion and past Goldsitch house, which was surrounded by a swirl of swallows (we spotted the first of these three weeks ago near Milwich). Francis confidently identified a bird on a telephone wire as being a willow warbler. It was not much to look at, but it made a big noise for a small bird.
Climbing towards Gib Tor we encountered an area of peat bog, though the exceptionally dry April had turned the usual treacherous stickiness into a springy carpet. We heard a red grouse, which strangely likes this sort of territory, and watched it settle on the rocks, clearly visible against the skyline.
|Gib Tor Rocks|
The pub is named after a formation on the Ramshaw rocks and that was where we headed after lunch. Although close to the A53 we approached the rocks by first following a minor road into the moorland to allow a more gentle ascent from the north east. Having safely negotiated a morning of rocky paths, some of them quite steep and tricky, it was on the flat metalled road that I turned my ankle. It was painful and accompanied by a worryingly loud crunching noise.
|Not really the Winking Man|
The descent was steep and difficult, particularly when trying to protect arthritic knees and an increasingly sore ankle. It was slow going, for me at least, and the others had to wait at the bottom – for which I apologise.
|Among the Ramshaw Rocks|
|Into the dell behind Hen Cloud|
I spent the evening with my elevated leg attached to an ice pack. I woke this morning to see my ankle swollen and a bruise beginning to form. Below the bone is an angry red cross over a blue background against the whiteness of flesh that rarely sees the sun. It may be God’s way of telling me that He picks the head of state round here and I should accept it with due reverence. On the other hand (or rather foot) it might just be a bruise.