Down by the Dove

The second day of my little break in the White Peak I’d decided on another walk from one of the little Vertebrate Publishing guide books of walks in the Peak District that would take me along the banks of the Dove, as far as Milldale then back via Alstonefield before returning to Hartington on a higher stretch of the Dove. The weather forecast was a little iffy with rain promised for Hartington late afternoon

The sky was looking moody as I set off along a track directly opposite the hostel, then through a field,

across a narrow road and down another old track (what would have been called a “lonning” in Cumbria)

This is dairy country

then around some fields and down a path leading down hill to the river

and emerging at Wolfscote Dale, a very attractive deep sided valley in the care of the National Trust, runs northwest to southeast and is deep and steep-sided with a series of weirs along the crystal clear waters of the River Dove. A riverside path runs along the Derbyshire bank of the Dove.

The scenery, even on a dull day, was impressive, as I passed a succession of massive limestone outcrops,

and through pleasant meadows and woodland.

At the end of Wolfscote dale the river is diverted west by a limstone mass known as Shining Tor. Search for this on the net and you’ll find plenty of references to a more well known hill of the same name on the moors not far from the Cat and Fiddle on the pass between Macclesfield and Buxton. there was a road crossing a bridge over the river and then running parrallel to it forking with one branch going up hill to Alstonefield.

Although my next waypoint was the attractive riverside village of Milldale, and the easy option was to follow the road, I took the harder, but more attractive option. Turning left I took a path running parallel to the road wending my way in the opposite direction to the village. After a short while Iturned right to take the path up hill to the top of Shining Tor. It was at this point that the heavens opened.

The wet weather was coming up from the south and as that was the direction I’d been walking I’d hit it as it was making it’s way towards Hartington. I expected that I was probably going to get rained on for the rest of the walk.

I donned my cagoule (expecting rain I already had the rain cover over my rucksack) as the rain came down in cats and dogs.

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Reaching the top the path turned west along the top of the ridge. Despite the rain, grey skies and cloud the views down the valley were still pretty good.

Approaching Milldale the path descended steeply. I needed to take care as the limestone rock underfoot can be treachourously slippy in the rain. Time to take my poles out to give me some stability.

A narrow bridge crossed the Dove and led into the small village. An old packhorse bridge known as the Viator’s Bridge, it’s apparently mentioned in The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton.

Milldale is the start of Dovedale, allegedly the most attractive stretch of the river which attracts a million visitors every year and there were quite a few people milling around. I was getting very wet at this point and needed to consult my guidebook. There was a stone shelter but it was already occupied by a few people, a couple of whom looked rather like motor tourists. Being careful of social distancing I tried not to get close and ended up trying to keep my guidebook dry as I consulted it standing half in and half out of the shelter. None of the occupants made any effort to make a little room for me. Rather selfish I thought.

As you’d expect from the name, there used to be a mill here. It wasn’t used to grind corn, though, but minerals mined in the area. Looking at the quaint scenery these days it’s difficult to imaging that this was once an industrial area, as indeed was the case throughout the Peak District. Indeed, even today industry isn’t far away, with a number of large, modern limestone and millstone grit quaries that scar the lanscape in some other parts of the Peak District

Carrying on I passed the attractive stone houses

I knew I had a stretch of road to walk along. It was very quiet, though and passed through a very attractive valley

I’d walked over a mile before I realised I’d gone wrong. There were two roads out of Milldale and as I hadn’t consulted my guidebook properly as I’d tried to keep it dry down in Milldale, I’d taken the wrong one. Consulting the OS map app on my phone (my paper map would have got soaked) I could see the road I’d taken would involve an extra mile than the “proper” route but it seemed that the best option was to carry on as returning to the village to take the other road would have involved a longer distance overall. So I had and extra mile to wlak on tarmac in the rain all uphill -yuk.

Reaching Alstonefield, wet and hungry I was feeling a little demoralised as I still had about 5 miles before I’d be back in Hartington and a dry room in the hostel. I lost the will to take photos and, in any case, the small town wasn’t so photogenic. I stopped and huddled behind a wall to grab a bite to eat and then set back off down the road. Fortunately I didn’t have to go too far down the tarmac before I reached a stile and the path over the fields.

It might have been wet but the scenery lifted the heart and the rain started to ease off.

I descended down Narrowdale, by-passing narrowdale Hill. On a nicer, drier day, I’d probably have climbed up to the summit, but today I carried on descending down the dale.

After a while I joined another “lonning”

I reached the footbridge over the Dove at the point where I entered Wolfscote Dale in the morning.

I crossed over and followed the path heading upstream along Beresford Dale towards Hartington.

It hadn’t been raining for a little while but the wet long grass brushing against my trousers ensured they didn’t dry out as I walked.

The path cut across the fields away from the river, reaching Hartington near the car park I’d parked on the day before. And then the heavens opened again.

I called in the cheese shop to purchase some Stilton to take home, queing outside in the rain while I waited my turn – it’s a small shop and only 2 people allowed inside at any one time. Then I had a walk up the hill to the hostel as the sheets of rain descended. I was glad to get back into my room where I could discard my wet clothing and dry off.

I was glad to get back but despite the soaking, which wasn’t completely unexpected, I’d enjoyed the walk (well, most of it!). And tomorrow the forecast was more promising!

Hartington to Longnor and back – via High Wheeldon

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.

Hartington Village green

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

Looking north towards the village of High Sterndale

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.

Looking back across the fields to High Wheeldon
Chrome hill and Parkhouse Hills to the north

Reaching Longnor I’d left Derbyshire and was now in Staffordshire

Longnor church

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.

Brund
Back in Hartington
Old farm buildings in Hartington

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

A rather grand Youth Hostel

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.