Eighteen of us gathered at Ashford for today’s walk. A grey sky and a chill wind couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm though and we were soon on our way along the river and heading for Shacklow Wood. We paused briefly at the outflow of Magpie Mine Sough where, in 1966, a huge build up of water caused by a tunnel collapse led to a huge explosion from the hillside, the evidence still clear to see fifty years later. As the meet leader was pointing this out he was asked if he wanted a tip (probably it was to button up and get on with the walk). The path along Monsal Dale was in it’s usual state – muddy but negotiable. We passed under the viaduct and over the footbridge and admired the large flock of plump geese on the flood meadows – it would have been a tad insensitive to hum, ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ but the thought did cross a few people’s minds. Lunch was taken at Monsal Head before the last stretch back to Ashford with a detour to the lofty hill fort of Fin Cop. High above a bend in the river it gives views every bit as good as the classic ones from our lunch spot and was a first visit for several of the party. At 7.3 miles a smidgeon under the advertised distance so possibly a first for the meet leader – and definitely the last time it will happen!