It was the start of Wimbledon fortnight – time to escape the constant tennis on the telly!
I had a couple of free days at the beginning of last week and a search of the YHA website found me a couple of nights cheap accomodation in the grand setting of Hartington Hall in the Peak District so last Sunday I was up early and driving to the southern part of the Peak to set out on a walk.
The Peak District isn’t so far from here, but getting there is a bit of a pain. I can catch the train to the north eastern part of the National Park but for other areasmeans a stop starty drive along the A6 (made a little easier by the link road from the airport that cuts out the need to drive through Stockport) or via Knutsford and Macclesfield. It’s so much easier to get up to the Lakes. But I fancied a change and the more gentle landscape of the White Peak compared to the rugged fells would certainly provide that. The area I was visiting was not so familiar to me but I’d discovered something that meant it had a personal significance – my family history research had revealed a connection with a main branch of my family tree.
The long range weather forecast had initially promised sunny skies during my short break, but it changed the nearer I got to Sunday, and now I was expecting grey skies and rain. But hey, ho, what’s the bother with a little water falling from the sky!
Hartington is an attractive old village and, consequently something of a “honeypot” for both walkers and motor tourists – but it still maintains an element of authenticity – much more so than bakewell where I stopped briefly on my way home at the end of my break. It’s one of the places where it’s permitted to produce Stilton , although it’s some distance from the village in Leicestershire that the cheese is named after, and there’s a popular Cheese Shop in the centre of the village opposite the pond and green.
Although I arrived reasonably early in the morning, the “free” parking spaces were already taken, but there’s a large car park on the edge of the village so I parked up, coughed up, booted up and set off. I was basing my walk on a route in the second volume of the Verterbrate Publishing Day Walks in the Peak District. I was doing it in the reverse direction, went higer on access land for part of the walk and added a diversion up a steep hill which probably has a family connection from a long time ago.
A short walk on tarmac out of the village passing the old church
and after climbing over a stile I was out on open country climbing the hillside on the east side of the Upper Dove valley
The skies were grey and gloomy, but it was good to be out on the remote hillside
This was limestone country (hence the “White Peak”) with rounded hills cut through by deep dales with outcrops of rock and dry stone walls.
Keeping to the higher ground, which was open access land, I diverted from the route a little, by-passing the small hamlets of Pilsbury (and the remains of its Motte and Bailey castle) and Crowdicote – although I have in mind another route where I’d take them in if I return to the area, which I’m certainly tempted to do.
In the distance I could make out the limestone reefs of Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill (hard to see on the photo given the poor visibility) and also High Wheeldon
Looking back across the Dove Valley
and looking across the vally in the other direction
Keeping to the high ground above Crowdicote the summit of High Wheeldon was dead ahead
And now there were better views of Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill to the north.
These distinctive “dragon’s backs” are the remnants of coral reefs formed when the land that became England was submerged beneath a shallow tropical sea around 340 million years ago.
After a short, steep climb, I reached the summit of High Wheeldon
The land was donated to the National Trust in 1946 and ther’s a war memorial attached to the trig column
I stopped for a rest and a bite to eat and, despite the gloom, enjoyed taking in the views
I decided to take the path down the north side of the hill. It was a very steep descent and I was glad I had my walking poles with me to keep me steady. But it didn’t take too long to reach the foot of the hill, facing a dramatic limestone cliff
I carried on and now rejoined the guidebook route, taking a path across the fields towards Longnor.
Reaching Longnor I’d left Derbyshire and was now in Staffordshire
Longnor is another old village of old stone buildings with alleyways and passages leading to the old market square
The car park in the village centre was full
and although there were not too many people around the little cafe on the square was busy and there was no room for a lone walker.
After a short rest on a bench on the square I carried on, passing through the village
and then taking a path past a farm and through the fields to join the Manifold Way
I was now following the course of the River Manifold in a valley separated from the Upper Dove Valley by a ridge of hills. The countryside was “pastoral” and the route passed through flat fields, running parrallel to the river, which made for easy walking.
The landscape becam more rugged to the south
By the small settlement of Brund the route left the Manifold way, following paths through fields back to Hartington via the hamlet of Sheen.
For a short while the cloud cleared above the village and I topped for a brew, sitting outside the village Post office which had a shop and cafe
Then it was time to return to the car, change out of my boots and drive up to the hostel to book in
The hostel was in Hartington Hall, which dates back to the 17th Century and is a Grade II listed building. It’s been owned by the YHA since1948.