As regular readers may know, I like to go on jaunts to the Peak District when I can. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to do that twice in one week, through the method of not being at work. For those of you who may also like to do walking, I shall recount my adventures herein:
WHEELSTONES AND BACK TOR (9 miles)
This walk was done on a cold, rather misty day, and starts at the top of Ladybower Reservoir, which is west of Sheffield: the best starting point is the car park at Fairholmes, due to the provision of toilets and refreshments (as well as potentially suicidal ducks. Don’t assume they’ll move out of the way of your car: they probably won’t). From there we headed up the east side of Upper Derwent Reservoir, past the dam where the Dambusters practiced:
Upon reaching the Abbey Tip Plantation, where Upper Derwent Reservoir meets Howden Reservoir, we turned right following a footpath up onto Little Howden Moor, past Howden Dean and Howden Edge.
We then followed the path up onto High Peak, which involved a rather narrow path and a slightly precipitous drop to the left, but did give us a view of an interesting-looking rock formation worn by a waterfall:
The path became rather indistinct up on High Peak, especially where we were supposed to pick up a flagstone path leading back south, which you’d have thought would be easy to find. We tracked it down in the end though, at which point we found that the bits of white we kept seeing were in fact snow drifts, still present even in late March:
Once we’d found the path it was easy to follow it along the Cartledge Stones Ridge until we reached Back Tor, at which point we followed a new path west back towards the reservoirs.
I can’t stress enough the importance of having an Ordinance Survey map on a walk like this, as it’s easy to become lost even in a place not *that* far from civilisation. The walk direction we were following told us to veer left when the barbed wire fence stopped, but there was no fence at all: if we’d just been followed the directions instead of checking our location against the map and the surroundings we’d probably have kept straight on and ended up very confused and in the wrong place. However, once we’d taken the correct turning then it was easy to follow the signposts back to the reservoir, and from there back to the car.
THE THREE DALES (9 miles)
In contrast to the above walk, we did the Three Dales (Miller’s Dale, Cressbrook Dale and Tideswell Dale) on Maundy Thursday, which was absolutely glorious weather: instead of being wrapped in hoodies and coats we were strolling along in T-shirts (albeit we were down in valleys instead of being exposed on the top of High Peak). We started from the car park at Monsal Head, which gives this lovely view:
We took the route to the right, and then kept right instead of veering left and heading onto the Monsal Trail, which while an excellent, wide and flat route (being a former railway line) tends to get very crowded. This is Upperdale, and we followed the road along until it reached the former mill at Cressbrook, at which point we took a right and started climbing.
The road keeps rising until it reaches a hairpin bend but we cut off slightly before then to branch slightly right and walk down past Ravensdale Cottages (wild garlic grows plentifully on this path, which was one reason for us choosing this route). This is Cressbrook Dale, a typical White Peak dale with impressive rock formations.
The path is clear and continues north: at one point you have the option of following the river bed or climbing up and to the right. The climb is obviously harder, but does give you nice view at the summit:
At the top end of Cressbrook Dale you cut left across a field just before you reach the unlikely-named Wardlow Mires, and then walk along what is basically the left-hand ridge in the picture above before joining a road. Here we were treated to the sight of a buzzard very close up, and heard it calling, and in fact when we were walking on the road we were able to look down on the buzzard as it swooped down into the dale, which is something I’ve never experienced before.
The road leads into Litton, which is a rather picturesque little village with handy benches for walkers who want to avail themselves of some lunch:
Out the west end of Litton you turn left, following the footpath that runs next to the road that runs south down Tideswell Dale. A little way down you turn left at a junction instead of turning right to Tideswell itself, and then you can cut left again through a gate to walk through a green area that runs next to the road but increasingly further from it.
Tideswell Dale runs south (past some usefully-placed toilets) to reach Miller’s Dale, where we turned left once more to follow the River Wye east back towards (eventually) Monsal Head. Miller’s Dale is actually possibly the most picturesque of the three in many ways, but I didn’t take any photos because by this point the path was someone thronged with other walkers and they’d have got in the way.
We once more decided not to take the Monsal Trail back and instead returned the way we’d come, with a final climb up to the Monsal Head Inn and then rewarded ourselves with a drink in the beer garden.
As I’m sure I’ve said before, anyone who wants good walks in the Peak District would be well advised to check out Walking Britain. This walk is actually an adapted one from there, since their Three Dales walk starts and ends in Litton and is only 7 miles since it doesn’t have the stretch along Upperdale.