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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

Day 43 Hurdlow to Buxton

This was always going to be a tricky day. David drove me to Hurdlow where we finished yesterday, and said goodbye, going back to his life, our house, our dog, our friends. He has been such a support over the last week, and I have leant on him heavily. I find that when I am with my most trusted people, I’m emotional and can let out the fears and anxieties I hold about this trip. On my own I am more contained. Probably because that’s important, I have to rely on myself, and therefore I’ve got to be sturdy. My friend Sophie, who did this walk before me with her husband, said she cried a lot over him at the end of every day. I don’t normally do that if I’m on my own, though it does occur sometimes. But give me a loved face and I buckle.

The weather picked up the cue. It was gently drizzling for much of the walk. The sort of pernicious drizzle that you think is nothing when first venturing out, only to discover within minutes that everything you’re wearing is soaking. The beautiful Peak District landscapes had vanished into a grey murk.

This was not a day for walking slowly and relishing the moment. It was head down marching weather, hoping that the route that relied on what looked on the map like a slightly dodgy footpath would come up trumps. I had a back up plan, but it would have added 3 miles. I briefly paused to admire the preparations for a new section of dry stone wall though. Our taxi driver from yesterday was saying that only two countries still make walls like this - the UK and India. But then this is the same man who said that only 3,000 people live in Northumberland, so I don’t know that we can rely on the dry stone wall info.

I was so relieved to see the possibly dodgy footpath marked with cycle path signage. Those paths have been universally easy to navigate and generally don’t get overgrown or go through fields of cows.

Then followed an extraordinary mile or two. The path ran alongside the edge of the biggest quarry I’ve ever seen. There were many ferocious signs warning of the many dangers quarries can bring, and suggesting that I don’t trespass. Nothing would have persuaded me to, in the misty grey it was a very forbidding place. The depth was astonishing, and coupled with the noise of the machinery it felt alarmingly dystopian.

One of the reasons I was keen to accumulate miles over the last few days was that I had originally planned a longer than normal walk for today. I’d then realised that I would then get to Buxton without the energy to enjoy the place. So the sweaty walking in the heat was partly to give me a nice day today. I called in briefly at my B and B to drop off my rucksack, and headed the next mile or so into the town.

I’ve done well with visiting spa towns, having ticked Bath and Cheltenham off my list since setting off. Buxton is another lovely one. A bit grittier than the others perhaps, but with the same elegance and cultured appearance. I popped in to look at St Anne’s Well, where the waters were originally taken, and read the board which described the lives of the Well Women. The most famous was Martha Norton who started work in 1775. Her job was to clean and maintain the well and serve water to visitors. She lasted in the job till she was well into her 90s. The board described this as showing just how beneficial the water is. I thought more about that poor old lady cleaning and serving water when she might have wanted to put her feet up.

Just as it hadn’t occurred to me that my time in Glastonbury might coincide with the festival, so I didn’t consider the Buxton festival. It’s a bigger affair than I’d thought, running for over a fortnight, with international performers in all of the arts. I took the opportunity to go to a concert at the fantastic St John’s church. A great venue, with the perfect combination of an ancient building with excellent acoustics, coupled with video link to big screens so that those of us in the cheap (and hard!) seats got a great view.

An unexpectedly moving moment in the ladies. One of the cubicles had two memorials on the wall. Presumably the toilets were built well after the 1st world war, but in doing so it means that women share a moment with William and Cecil Brown. Presumably brothers, they died eighteen months or so apart, both aged 23.

I thought about them, and their poor parents.

Iestyn Davies is a counter tenor, my favourite type of voice, and Thomas Dunford is a lutenist, once described by a reviewer as the Eric Clapton of the lute. Thomas had had to endure the most extraordinarily difficult journey from Germany to get here, involving sleeping on a bench in an airport last night. You would never have guessed, his playing was sublime. It was a joy to sit and listen to two musicians at the very top of their game. Their encore was a Dowland song which morphed into a rendition of the Eric Clapton Tears in Heaven. It was utterly lovely.

Here’s a version from a concert a few years ago, where his lute isn’t as cool as the amazing lute/bass combo known as a theorbo that he was playing on today. Still great though.

The festival has an active Fringe too. I’m famous at the Edinburgh fringe for trying to fill every minute, sometimes taking in 7 shows a day. I got very excited at the idea of going to loads of shows today too. I thought I’d take myself off for lunch and consider my options. But as I was eating, I remembered what lovely Tamsin, the physio from yesterday had said. She advised me to rest my leg whenever I could to maximise the chance of it healing and therefore not stopping me from completing the trek. Going to three or four theatre performances wouldn’t really count as rest. So I decided that I would be content with the wonderful concert I’d seen, and head for home. How things are changed.

On the way I called in at Track and Trail, an independent hikers shop. Because of the ongoing sore/blister/toenail situation (I’ll possibly give more detail tomorrow for the hard core gross feet devotees!), I had a look at their light weight shoes. I ended up having a great chat with Vicky who has worked at the shop for 15 years. She’s a wild camping enthusiast, and we had a lot to chat about to do with women walking and doing solo adventures.

Then a walk back to the B and B which is a little way outside the town, ready to do more leg resting before tomorrow’s walk.


Distance travelled: 10 miles

Total ascent: 900 feet

Calories burned: 1200

Local tipple - Half of Santiago cerveza

Lunch at Santiago, Buxton - fantastic tapas, though the young waiter kept calling me ‘my dear’ which I found unnerving…


Frittura de pescado

Berenjenas con salsa romesco y queso cabra (aubergine fritters with goats cheese, romesco sauce and honey)

Santiago almond cake with cream

Video of the day (with a strange straight line section as the recording got paused temporarily!)

New song of the day

Robert de Visée - Chacon

Written centuries ago. This composer of whom I’d never heard before can take a simple descending sequence and elaborate over it to create something fresh and new. And this video shows Thomas Dunford playing on the amazing theorbo I saw this lunchtime.

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