Sunday, 5 February 2012

Wee Beefy's pub walk bites - Birchover to Matlock all over again.


      here are the details of my Birchover to Matlock Bath walk - snow reprise. Please accept my apologies for odd layout and potential funny formatted text - I copied a line from another website (with reference/link included) and it must have been some sort of shitty format which I then contrived to spread throughout my whole post. It has taken me 4 hours to remedy this nonsense. If anyone knows stuff about formats, PLEASE leave me a message!


I was well aware this time that it would be chuffing freezing, and snow was predicted for about 18.00 so I was expecting things to get a bit tricky and a bit damp. I prepared by dusting off my huge bright coloured walking jacket and a hat, which it turned out was Chala's - luckily neither of us has a more massive heed than the other. Prior to setting off I had an even more ideal breakfast of Shepherds pie with curried red wine gravy - I assure you it tastes better than it sounds

I was meeting Christingpher who had also wrapped up against the biting chill and was looking forward to  a bit of exercise and real ale. We got to Bakewell on time and headed out through Stanton In Peak via less frost than last time before starting our walk on the road to Stanton Lees. We then walked down into Barn Farm and out onto Clough Lane as before then up the hill to the Miners Standard in Winster.

14 Pints of Lead

Not our beer order but the rough equivalent of the amount of lead ore placed in the dish that was used to measure the miners standard. Here we were grateful for the roaring fire and some sensibly priced well kept real ale, I hadn't really fancied a Greedy King beer to start with but even the usually disappointing elsewhere brew that purported to be Ruddles County was on good form here, a tribute to the Cellarmanship at this pub, and sold at only £2.50 a pint.

Crucially I also found time to photograph the initials and date above the door. The letters EP, EP, FP have two meanings it seems. According to John Merrill in his Winster Walks article (website Winster Historical Walk) the meaning is thus : " EP, EP, FP stand for the names Edith Ella and Frank Prince. In recent times the initials have come to mean - Every person entering pays for a pint."

On the Geolocation website (Geolocation - Miners Standard the family name has changed to Parker, but the adage appears to be the same. The only mystery then, is where I came up with it being the first letters of the words of a line from a lead miners song. A shame, since me and Christingpher spent a goodly amount of time attributing a meaning to the capitals, along the lines of Every Piece, Every Pig For Prosperity. ( a pig is a measurement of lead, lest you should be confused...)

Bonsall Moor and the early flakes

After stopping to admire the weather beaten pub sign and the lead house (and failing to find a suitable sounding line using the letters EP, EP and FP), we headed along Bonsall Lane and out over the moor heading towards a giant bank of white grey clouds. Remembering that it wasn't going to snow until after 15.00 at the very earliest we were confident this was no threat.

Before embarking across the moor we saw one of those quintessentially gruesome countryside sights that is not exactly charming, certainly bizarre, and not a little surprising. On a gate at the side of the road were tied two strings of dead moles, the string apparently pulled right through them. Close inspection of these thawing sleepy heads revealed they for the most part were still intact, but not why they were there, or how they had ended up being strung up.

I wondered if this was some sort of odd visual warning for mole incomers, or whether it was supposed to announce to passers by that the farmer was so practical and unemotional that if required, he could happily take out out a whole family of cute creatures. Either way it was a puzzling site on a cold windy road, that seemed to have no explanation. So just as we had mangled the lead miners song idea, we eventually came up with the perhaps somewhat kind interpretation, that the moles had simply died of cold in the sudden cold snap and had been hung out by the benevolent farmer as food for the many large birds that I have see swooping around the area. I can't say as am convinced of this altruism though....

Putting swinging mammal corpses to one side we strode out across the moor, only once getting a little lost as I took the first rather than second footpath right of Bonsall Moor Lane. We ended up on a farm track at the end of Able Lane and from there made our way down into the Dale, as sleat and then hard powdery white stuff started to fall. It was nearly 14.00. It wasn't meant to snow yet. Yet all we could see ahead were heavy white grey skies.

Luckily we could repair to the warmth of the Barley Mow, which was rammed, not that this is difficult, and we had pints of Thornbridge Lord Marples for me and Whim Arbor Light for Christingpher - pumpclip on handpump, but drawn from the barrel round the back. To be honest, Christingpher's Whim Arbor Light was the pick of the beers by a stretch: the Marples was OK but not brilliant, and after we had finished these I had a half of the Arbor Light and Christingpher the Doctor Morton's Ancient Grease. The Whim clearly came out on top, being lovely and fresh and hoppy without being overpowering, and its ultimate easy-drinkingness was made all the easier by its low strength. We did dally briefly with the idea of a chip butty, but the food orders were mounting up, so we finished up, said our goodbyes to the Lanlady and set off in the now more significant accumulations of white powder.

 Temple of Jupiter

We struggled up through the town past the white sprinkled cross and the church before setting off up Ember Lane towards Matlock Bath. As we got higher the snow, which is what it actually was by now, increased and in the mellee of avoiding taking the wrong path and in trying not to fall on my arse I led us down the wrong path, as I had done last time.

Joining the main steep path that we needed involved essentially sitting down and hand walking yourself on to the traverse below. Getting down here was even more difficult because it was basically irregular steps and loose stones and twigs, with a rough wall one on side to try and grab. As we came out on Upperwood Road at Matlock Bath, I looked up to the higher buildings to see the road coated in snow, yet as we were inching our way down to the gennel, a Chelsea tractor appeared on the brow. I have to say, I have nothing against a 4X4 if you need and know how to use it, and even to my untrained eye, the calm descent down the thin white road behind us seemed incredibly difficult, and carefully done.

By now Matlock was twinkling white in the grey haze of the gorge and it seemed like the only sensible option was to park ourselves somewhere warm and refreshing. Hence, we headed straight fr the Georgian fronted Temple Hotel. Once there we headed straight for the bar and as Blue Monkey BG Sips was on again it was no contest as to what we;d be having. We pulled up a chair at a table near the fire and settled down to a delicious and refreshing pint and a spot of sketching. I should point out that I only actually draw when I am out with Christingpher - he is in fact a portrait painter and illustrator, so he always has a sketch pad with him and a fine pen, which suits my slightly embryonic scribbling style.

Hence, in comparison to his work my output is very basic and odd, but a nice distraction that, depending on the absurdity of the image created, usually results in lengthy bouts pf laughter. This time, as you will, erm, potentially see further below, by my standards I got the pic about right. That's if you ignore his wonky left leg, and the fact that he seems to have been the recipient of some hardline Islamic justice...

We stopped for another pint in here and then I tried a half of the Thornbridge Sequoia, which wasn't quite how I remembered it but was a nice warming drink as the snow piled up outside. I didn't see much of Chris the bar this time, as he was out clearing snow off the path outside. All too soon we had to re wrap and join him in the cold, to start our descent to the A6.

Descent is fairly accurate since it is very steep and was covered in a silky white covering, but we made it to the main road unscathed. Traffic was slow and there was snow settling on much of the road, but we opted to concentrate on food, so got chips before walking up to the nearest bus stop. Here we managed to get a 6.1 into Matlock Station - the plan had been to catch the 17 into Chesterfield and then the train but a quick chat with the driver confirmed that the rather hilly 17 route was, as we half expected, not going to be running.

Station to Station

we managed to get a train to Derby though with no problem, ruined slightly by an abusive idiot who kept insisiting he was headed to Bradford, and then when asked by the conductor to stop swearing simply pretended he hadn't like a child, before getting aggressive again. Nobhead.

In Derby it was not clear how the weather would affect things so we headed straight to the Station for a pint of lovely fantastic Bass. It was quiet, likely due to a combination of weather and Derby playing tomorrow (or not as it turne out), so we had chance to talk to Dave and Dan, a Derby based Arsenal fan who I tried, despite his obvious levels of emotion, to persuade should support a more benevolent and magnanimous club where everyone was nice....

Two pints later and we stepped outside into heavy snow covering the roads and headed for the station where a train was just arriving. We got on OK and arrived back in Sheffield around 21.00. Just time for a last one then in the Sheffield Tap. I had a half of Thorndridge Black Hary and a pint of Marble Chocolate Stout.

The Black Harry was surprisingly sweet, I knew it was 3.9 which is why I thought it would be a nice foil to the meatier Marble chocolate but if anything it was like a weaker version of that beer but with malted milk. Not what I was expecting at all. The Marble was a fulsome, rich tasting chunky beer but again wasn't really what I had hoped for - there was a lttle too much end of a cup of hot chocolate going on, the malt was quite pally wih the chocolate so it was quite one dimensional, and there was not even a hint of bitterness, which might have taken some of the sweet edge off the brew. A rare duff offering form the usually reliable folk at Marble. Below is a pic of some folks drinking their beer in the Tap, for ease of reference.

By this time (around 22.00) all the bus services had been cancelled in light of the 1cm of snow and the fact that the main roads were clear. So thanks a fucking bunch to the slackdabs and panicking meddlers at First South Yorkshire and Stagecoach for leaving their passengers stranded in the City centre for no justifiable reason. If one part of a route is impassable, for instance in my case maybe the descent from Handsworth Top, don't cancel the whole service, continue running it to the nearest drivable point. Instead, I had to catch a tram with the last of my money to Woodburn Road and and walk along the clear bus route that the much lighter cars were easily able to drive along with no impediment.

Aimless and unprofessional bus companies aside, this was a challenging walk given the conditions but once again demonstrated that theer are a good range of real ales to be found in many Peak District pubs, everyone of which we visited was welcoming, friendly, sensibly priced and knowledgeable about keeping good beer.

Wee Beefy


  1. The moles - if it's owt like when I were a kid growing up in't bucolic rurality, them moles will have been shot by a hunter and strung out to show the farmer how successful the hunt was. Some sort of reward usually finds it's way back to the hunter.

    The practice of hunting moles is a great sight to see - generally involving a man firing a 12-bore shotgun, point blank in to the ground. You need eyes like a hawk to spot the ground moving.

    You'll also see crows strung up too. Rabbits and pigeon not so much as the reward for hunting them is the meat really.

    Hope that helps!


    1. Thanks DHB, I note you saw the obvious frailties in our explanation. I think I didn't suspect they were hunted for the very reason you provide - I thought they'd be too small to shoot. Our lass seemed to think the fur was worth something but you'd need about a 100 for a glove am sure. Had they been crows I reckon I would have worked it out eventually. Hope you didn't have to read my mid edit version btw - have had a chuffing nightmare with this post... WB