Our first stop was the druid's temple, which looks something like an ancient stone circle but was build much more recently by an eccentric local. Bizzare.
Then Rob and I headed out for a circular hike over the moors and past a couple of small reservoirs. The trail followed a couple of fields and pastures steeply down to a small groves of trees. It was such a warm nice spring day, that we could actually hear the buds popping out on the trees. We hadn't felt such wonderful warmth for months and really enjoyed it.
A short section on the road had us climbing steeply up to the tiny village of Ilton, then finally out onto the open moor. That's when the navigator (ok, me) had a few map reading screwups all in a row. Oops. It all started with a new Grouse Butts path which wasn't on my map (but I thought it was even after walking to the end of it and realizing that we may not be where we wanted to be). For those of you with confused looks on your faces, a Grouse Butt is a small shooting barrier for hunters of ....Grouse. I should have realized we weren't in the right spot when the path took us close to the Grouse Butts, as usually those aren't built near established paths.
To compound a wrong decision, I didn't realize how far we were from the desired path, and and so we took off on a "short-cut" across the heather covered moor. Double oops. Bushwacking across the open moors through knee-high heather while trying to avoid the mushy spots is hard work. Rob was a good sport about it all, and since it was such a nice sunny day it was just an adventure rather than a hardship...especially as we were able to avoid boggy sections and keep our feet dry. We leapfrogged across strips of newly burned heather, which made for easier walking, and after about a mile finally spotted our path again. Yay.
I guess you could call our route over Shortlick Hill a "shortcut" but I'm sure it took far longer than the path would have. Oddly enough, we ended up walking a semi-circle (as I kept changing my mind about where we were) around a tower, which appeared to have no trail actually leading to it. We were too tired from heather-bashing to do any more to actually walk up to it.
Once on the path again, we passed a boulderfield of large rocks, which made for a nice lunch stop (we were definitely ready for a break). Then we dropped down to walk past Roundhill and Leighton Reservoirs. It was definitely a good day for birdwatching, as we saw countless numbers of geese, ducks, grouse, pheasants and songbirds.
From the village of Leighton, the path finally climbed back up to the Druid's forest and the parking lot. We were very grateful to see our car again, feeling quite tired from our off-trail escapades. With no watch out on the trail, we were guessing the time and were more than an hour off...it had taken us 4 hours to walk a trail which I had estimated at 2-3 hours. No wonder we were exhausted!
But even the drive home was nice, going over Pott Moor to Lofthouse, with new baby lambs in every pasture. In fact the road over the high moor was recently tarmaced, and looked so inviting that I roade my bike back the next day just to see it again But I'll think twice before heading out into moorland without a trail in front of me!