In a couple of weeks I’m off to the Lakes with my family, including a 4 and 2 year old. I’ve been a couple of times the last year or so, but with my canoe club, getting some good long paddles and walks in. But this time I’m particularly excited about the chance to see my kids tick off their first Wainwright with me – a steamer trip to Hallin Fell awaits!
Being so preoccupied with planning a trip to the lakes, I forgot about some of the great family adventure walks in the Peak District. However, last weekend found us in Dove Dale (along with half of Derbyshire – but I love seeing people out!). My four year old was having great fun scrambling on the rocks around the stepping stones, and pointed up at the rocky staircase leading up the flank of Thorpe Cloud – “can we go up there Daddy?” she asked. So we left the rest of the family and our friends to set up a picnic on the meadow, while we headed up the hill.
For a four year old it was perfect – just the right blend of excitement, gradient and achievability. Being a self-declared girly-girl (at four!) it didn’t hurt that the Cloud bares a passing resemblence to ‘the Elsa Mountain’ too! So here’s a map and directions for the walk.
Thorpe Cloud – Route and Directions
Distance – just under 2 miles
Terrain – The way up is steep, some of it on grass, some a bit rocky, but there is hardly any exposure – don’t let kids wander off too far though.
1 – From the car park take the tarmaced path along the river to the stepping stones.
2 – Cross the stepping stones – small children will need a little assistance. Most of the stepping stones are full of fossils, mostly crinoids. Many of the rocks heading up the hill also have fossils in them – and the loose stone too. We found crinoids and various shells just on this small walk.
3 – There is a small rocky staircase leading up the flank of the hill, head up this, allowing younger kids to choose a route up through the limestone. This is the hardest bit of the climb!
4 – Once past the short rocky staircase the route becomes a steep path alternating between grassy and rocky. The path is fairly distinct and winds its way up to a small summit with views across the stepping stones and along Dove Dale.
5 – Follow the path as it leads fairly steeply up the hill to the summit. Thorpe Cloud looks every bit the mini-mountain from here, and is a great challenge for kids – there is no exposure, but don’t let them roam too far from the path!
6 – Explore the summit. The north-west side is just a little craggy, where it feels as though the hill just falls away, which can be a touch scary for younger kids. But there’s plenty to explore and views to see.
7 – If little legs are up to it you can go back down the steep section – but there is a path that leads off to the right down the northern flank of the hill. This is less steep, and possibly quicker as less time will be spent carefully placing each step!
8 – As you come to a dry stone wall the path turns back on itself to the left, heading back to the stepping stones. Don’t cross the walls. There are a couple of sections needing a little care back over the rocks, but these are fun for kids to scramble over.
9 – Back at the stepping stones you can either head off up the dale, if everyone’s legs are still keen, stop for a picnic by the river, or, if heading back stay this side of the river and head along the bottom of Thorpe Cloud.
10 – When you reach a stone bridge over the river cross it and head back to the car park.
(Mapping comes from OpenStreetMap)