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)
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.
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!