Two walks in Dovedale

Over the years I’ve walked in Dovedale several times, but usually in the particularly busy bits. My daughter’s first hill bagging experience was up on Thorpe Cloud last summer, and I’d seen the stepping stones, Lover’s Leap and Dove Holes caves a few times on shorter strolls. Anywhere in Dovedale is special – and I really don’t mind crowds, it’s great to see people out in the countryside. However, I wanted to see some of the other areas around the dale I’d missed before. So, over the past couple of months I’ve had a couple of trips back to try and see some more of the place – and what a contrast they were!

My first trip was in pretty grim weather, with wind and rain for much of the day. Down in the dale itself the views were still pretty impressive. However, while bagging the summits of Bunster Hill and Baley Hill I could barely see my hand in front of my face at times! However, a couple of weeks ago the first real sunshine of Spring came out, so I headed back to prove what amazing views there are from those tops – with Bunster Hill giving particularly amazing views out over Dovedale and the surrounding countryside.

Walk 1 – Dovedale, Baley Hill and Bunster Hill – 7.5 miles

Get the Dovedale, Baley Hill and Bunster Hill  route card here

IMG_20170129_114940967_HDR
A great view even on a dull day.

After parking in the pay and display at the entry to Dovedale (sadly the car park at the entrance to the dale was missing it’s usual grumpy attendant – never make the mistake of asking him about the National Trust!) I was quick out and into the dale, crossing the river at the bridge by the gauging station before marching over Lover’s Leap. There are some amazing limestone rock formations all along Dovedale – and if anyone in your party likes a bit of a scramble the steep slopes are perfect, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.

At Dove Holes there was a team of climbers tackling the inside of the cave, then abseiling down from the roofs. They made it look easy work, but I’m not that nimble! Past the caves I was into new territory. As with the busier stretch before the dale is still easy walking with a solid path, but it widens out a touch, with Raven’s Tor looming in the murk to the left, and my target of Baley Hill out of sight up to the right. Viator’s Bridge at Mill Dale made a perfect lunch stop – the village really is as chocolate-box pretty as guidebooks make it sound, even on a gloomy day.

IMG_20170129_131627349_HDR
Mill Dale

After lunch I took the route up the hill towards Baley Hill. All the way to the top it was pretty easy walking on clear paths, with a concessionary route connecting to the access land occupied by the summit. The ridge of Baley Hill forms a series of raised humps of limestone, which are fun to explore – which is just as well as the views were almost none existent! Working south from the summit is The Nabs, where the little humps of limestone expand and form small crags, which descend steeply down towards a side-dale. I followed the ridges straight down hill. For the most part this was fine but steep – however the last section before joining the path back to Dovedale itself was really a bit too steep, requiring me to hang onto the rock and trees to avoid slipping. It’s probably best to skirt along the top of The Nabs until reaching the top of the path near Hanson Grange. The path back down the side-dale is steep, and was very muddy – but being forested it provided something different to the more exposed nature of the rest of Dovedale.

IMG_20170129_135321804
The limestone outcrops on Baley Hill approaching The Nabs.

Once back at the dale I turned left and headed for Ilam Bridge. My aim was to climb up out of the dale to towards Ilam Tops. The OS maps show a footpath apparently heading from besides Ilam Rock, so I tried to find this. A scramble up past the rock and I found what appeared to be a rough path, so followed it up the hill. It was very steep and direct, but always fairly obvious. At the top the path joins to a more well-worn and clearly planned path. I later found that this path (a newer path added as the old one was so steep?) actually appears in the dale slightly north of Ilam Rock, just before Hall Dale. Even this path is sign-posted as being very steep – but it’s probably the safest bet, especially as this initial part of the route I took required a small amount of very basic scrambling past Ilam Rock.

The path along from the Ilam Tops area towards Bunster is pretty clear, along with some ‘welcoming’ signs making it clear you mustn’t step foot off the approved line – which i’m not entirely sure is the ‘definitive’ line, but there you go. Bunster Hill itself is really just the southern end of Ilam Tops – it doesn’t even merit an addition on hill bagging sites as it’s prominence is so small. However, as with so much of the Peak District, the highest ground isn’t always where the walker wants to be aiming for (not least as Ilam Tops itself doesn’t have any ‘official’ public access – probably a problem considering the signage in the area!).

Like Baley Hill, Bunster is topped with small crests of limestone, which are great for exploring and give it a ‘dragon’s back’ appearance from Ilam (on a clearer day!). The actual summit is within a small copse of trees, but it’s barely any higher than any of the other bumps along the ridge. With no views on show today, I quickly took a fairly direct route down the steep flank of the hill, which is all Access Land. From there it was a short, but very muddy, walk past the Issac Walton Hotel and back to the car park.

IMG_20170129_153147141
The ‘view’ from the top of Bunster’s south ridge.

 

Walk 2 – Ilam and Dovedale – 7 miles 

Get the Ilam and Dovedale route card here

IMG_20170324_094903038[1]
View to Dovedale from Ilam Hall – Bunster Hill’s two ridges to the centre, Thorpe Cloud to the right 
And, then, with the sun shining! This walk really highlighted just how amazing the views from the hills surrounding Dovedale are – if you get the weather right! This time round I started from the National Trust car park at Ilam Hall, and once on the Access Land at the foot of Bunster Hill I left the footpaths and headed straight upwards. Bunster Hill has two ridges leading away from it’s summit. One heads south-west to Ilam, while one heads east. If the River Dove hadn’t ripped it’s way through the hill the dramatic peak of Thorpe Cloud would be no more than the end of the eastern spur.

IMG_20170324_102917545_HDR[1]
This is almost the same photo from Bunster as above – but with slightly more of a view!
After taking in the views across to Thorpe Cloud and across the lower Manifold Valley I descended down towards Dovedale itself. It’s steep, but never too steep, and a rough path helps guide the way down.

IMG_20170324_105033575_HDR[1]
Thorpe Cloud – is there a more magnificent small hill?
Heading over Lover’s Leap I started looking out for the path up to the natural arch and Reynard’s Cave. I’d always missed it, concentrating too hard on marching along the valley, so I wasn’t sure if I’d find it difficult to locate. But, just meters into a pretty distinct path (about halfway between Tissington Spires and Pickering Tor), the arch opens out in front of you, like a trick of the eye (think the invisible bridge in Raiders of the Lost Ark!).

IMG_20170324_115956106[1]
How did I ever miss that?!
To get back out of Dovedale I crossed Ilam Bridge – and passed the start of the ‘easier’ path up towards Ilam Tops (see above). Hall Dale looks to be a dry valley, and slopes fairly gently (by Dovedale standards) up towards Stanshope. There’s evidence of working of the limestone, which is confirmed by the remains of an old limekiln at the top of a concessionary footpath leading from the dale to Damgate.

IMG_20170324_130137486[1]
Hall Dale
From here it was a simple stroll through the rolling countryside of the lower reaches of the River Manifold’s valley. The views across to wooded hills are a contrast to those in Dovedale, with gentler slopes, more green (especially at this time of year) and more cows! As the Manifold falls into the Dove the walk ended back at Ilam Hall. And I can honestly say there’s no better place to have been walking on a fresh, sunny Spring day.

IMG_20170324_140116931[1].jpg
Manifold Valley

Dick Hill #RudePeak

It’s not big, and it’s not clever. There’s no hiding from it, this blog is puerile and probably shouldn’t be encouraged. Basically, we’ve been scanning our Ordnance Survey maps for the rudest-sounding places in the Peak District we can find. Like a child searching the dictionary for rude words – but with added walking routes…

The first one’s a cracker we think…

Dick Hill (SE 01509 05272) – 453m summit

rudep1
From OS Leisure 1 – Dark Peak – or access via OS Online
Saddleworth War Memorial
Pots n Pans Memorial

Happily for the purposes of our filthy theme for this post, Dick Hill is not only of fair girth at 453m, but it also sports a fine erection, just below it’s summit. The obelisk (at SE 01019 05122) is actually a war memorial, remembering the fallen from Uppermill and other surrounding towns in the two world wars. The monument is commonly known as the Pots n Pans memorial, named after a nearby rock feature said to resemble stacked crockery!

Although it initially looks very impressive, especially when viewed from the right angle at the base, Dick Hill isn’t really a true summit. The hill is a  spur from the higher ground of Saddleworth Moor and Black Hill to the east, nestled between the outskirts of Oldham and the Greenfield valley, which cuts into Saddleworth itself. Still, size isn’t everything, and what it lacks in height it more than makes up for in spectacle, with steep flanks and amazing views over the valleys either side and across to Oldham and beyond.

 

Links to walks, photos and information about Dick Hill:

Dick Hill on Geograph

View from Shaw Rocks
View west from Dick Hill

Dick Hill and Saddleworth Moor walk

Dovestone Rocks (taking in Dick Hill) – 12.5m walk

Pots ‘n’ Pans walk – 5m walk

Dovestones High Level Circuit – 12m walk

UK Trigpointing Entry for the monument

 

 

Re-resolving

First off, before we start, we all have to agree to not notice it’s already nearly March. OK? OK…

In 2016 I set myself a New Year’s Resolution – to do 1000 active miles throughout the year (but, cheating a touch, I included indoor miles in the gym…). I managed to keep up the activity all the way through the year and met my goal, to my own surprise, let alone other people’s (my wife was fairly suspicious I’d been replaced with some kind of replicant – a suspicion only given up when she realised I was still serving no purpose, useful or malign).

I lost some weight. I definitely got much fitter (which had been the goal). But the real bonus was the experiences I had in the great outdoors while clocking up some extra miles. There are are some photos below of some of the sights I would have completely missed out on if I hadn’t shaken myself into the habit of finding extra opportunities to get out and about for a walk, kayak, cycle ride or (and this was the shock) a run.

So, cut to the chase, I’ve set myself the same target for 2017 – but now all the miles have to be outdoors! So, 1000 miles, in any activity, all outdoors. To help me along, I’ve set up 12 challenges to clock up some of these miles – roughly one per month (we’re still all ignoring it’s nearly March right?). If anyone would like to join me on any of these please let me know – though beware, I am a slow coach, especially on a bike!

  1. A competitive canoe/kayak event
  2. Dawn to Dusk walk (December, on the equinox?)
  3. 10km run – anywhere, anyhow!
  4. An overnight canoe/camping trip
  5. Coast to Coast cycle route (in 2-3days)
  6. Do basic climbing course
  7. 100m bike ride (in one day)
  8. Three Lakes Challenge (not in 24 hours mind!)
  9. Striding Edge & Swirrel Edge – something to challenge my fear of heights!
  10. Moorgreen Duathlon – it’s less than a mile away, seems rude not to?
  11. Get onto moving water in a kayak – another challenging the fear one!
  12. 50 hills in a year (based on the UK Hill Bagging site)

#EssentialPeak – A Bagging list for the Peak

What would your ideal Peak District tick list look like? Anything like this?

Everybody loves a good bagging list right? Even if you have no intention of completing them all, they give you a chance to pour over the lists, making plans for future trips. The range of lists is huge – from those based on set, immovable physical criteria, such as the County Tops, listing highest points in our counties to the Munros, detailing the Scottish hills with peaks over 3000ft in height. Then there are the more subjective lists, most famously Wainwright’s ‘love letter to the fells’ covered by the 217 fells in his pictorial guides. The Trail 100 is another example – being Trail Magazine’s list of the ‘top 100’ mountains for walkers in the UK.

I’ve always loved the idea of developing a bagging list for the Peak District. But the problem is the reliance most bagging lists have on ‘hills’. Although the Peak is blessed with many fantastic hills, it’s not an easy area to translate into a bagging list consisting of high points only. For a start, some of it’s highlights don’t involve you going up hill, but down dale – what self-respecting list could miss off Dove Dale or Lathkill Dale? Even up on the hills, the summits often aren’t the greatest attraction in the Peak District. Kinder must surely have the lowest proportion of walkers reaching it’s ‘true’ summit than any other popular mountain. It’s a special sort that braves the bogs to test their skills at ascertaining which of a multitude of rough peat mounds is 10cm higher than the rest. While they do, most sensible folk are at the trig, or the waterfall, or scrambling any of the fantastic rock formations instead. Then there are the edges – a defining feature of the Peak District landscape that set it apart from other upland areas across the country. Again many would be missed by a traditional hill list.

We like to think of bagging lists as an exact science – the heighest of hills, the most prominent peaks. But very often personal opinion and preferences sneak in. No more so than on Wainwright’s epic list (if there is a better hill bagging list I’d love to see it). As two examples how did Walla Crag (sublime) and Mungrisdale Common end up on the list? Walla Crag is just a stumpy ridge/cliff (OK, so an amazing stumpy ridge/cliff!) on the route up to Bleaberry Fell. It’s long been suspected AW included Mungrisdale Common simply to use up space – it’s barely even raised ground, with a prominence of just 1 meter, and barely a redeeming feature about it! And quite right too. Walking is about more than writing off a hill because it’s prominence from the next is too small – it’s about the journey, and the view when you get there!

Even those lists that are based on a set formula don’t necessarily give the best walking experiences. Take the county tops – the highest point in Nottinghamshire is, technically, a trig point, lost behind fencing in a fard yard, with no public acces, right by the M1 motorway. There are plenty of other hills in the county which make for a much more enjoyable walk, and are within a few meters of the actual county top – but rules is rules. Any bagger just sticking to the county tops must visit Nottinghamshire and make a mental note never to darken the county’s footpaths again!

All of the above is essentially me stating my case for casting aside any pretense at making a bagging list for the Peak based on any scientific formula. There are just three rules for each entry on the list:

  1. It must be at it’s best on foot. Or, ideally, at it’s best if you arrive there by foot too. So Crich Stand is in despite it having a car park right by it – because it’s far more special to walk up to it from the canal below.
  2. It must add to the story of what makes the Peak District such a special place. Be that human history, geology, or nature. So Bugsworth Basin, Magpie Mine and High Peak Junction are all in – they tell the human story of the Peak, and they certainly fit Rule 1.
  3. It must be a defined point. The essential part of that location, rather than a line or area to dip in and out of. I’ve tried to include the famous trails in the Peak – the Pennine Way, our first National Trail, and the Monsal Trail. But I’ve chosen key points, rather than including the whole trail. That way anarchy lies!

My list therefore places each point into at least one (often more) of eight themes: Water, Hills, Edges, Dales, Human History, Natural History, Resources (quarrying, mining etc) and Trails. My aim is that anyone who has ticked off each entry on the list will have experienced something from all the stories the Peak has to tell. It’s a grand aim maybe, but one I’m having fun honing down!

The next key decision to make was on the geographical extent of ‘the Peak District’. Often publications stick fairly slavishly to the boundaries of the National Park. I didn’t want to take that approach. It’s boundary is set not by any natural limits, but by political, social and economic considerations. I know from living outside Nottingham that there are many places outside the park boundary to the South-East that are quintessentially Peak in character, and key to the story of the region. Leaving them out wasn’t an option.

Instead I decided to focus on the two key geological characteristics of the Peak – the limestone bedrock of the White Peak, and the darker, more brooding aspects of the sandstone Dark Peak. But even here drawing a line wan’t easy. I used the fantastic mapping resource from the British Geological Survey to try to draw a line around my ‘Great Peak District’ The areas I knew in the South-East, around Matlock especially, had a fairly clear boundary around them. But to the north the Dark Peak simply carries on as the Pennies stretch North through Yorkshire and Lancashire. In the South and West it was hard to decide upon a cut off too. Eventually I decided upon six core sections to base the list, which you can see in the map below. After setting upon these sections I remembered about Natural England’s National Character Areas. These break England down into distinct areas based not on political or cultural boundaries, but by factors dictated by the geography and character of the environment. I was pretty pleased to see my area match up pretty well with the various character areas on Natural England’s list relating to the Peak District!

And now, we really get right down to the nitty-gritty – what are the locations that should be included in the Essential Peak Bagging List? As you can see on the map below (and the spreadsheet below the map), I’ve tried to identify the places I think no list of Peak walking spots should be without. But I need some help! I’d love to hear views from anyone about the list – especially on places I’ve missed, or points that aren’t quite as essential as I thought! I don’t want a list ‘designed by committee’ – but I would like to know what people think!

Some particular issues – partly caused by rejecting the need to go simply for peaks or high points – were:

    • At some locations, what should be the absolute key spot to include – for example at Long Dale.
    • On some hills, Kinder especially, I’ve included more than one point where I think places are too important to miss, for example Kinder Downfall. Are there others that merit being a star in themselves, rather than being a sub-feature

So please – let me know what you think to the map above and list below, either by commenting, tweeting me @Peakrills or by email via Peakrills@gmail.com.

Area Name
Dark Peak Alport Castles
Dark Peak Back Tor
Dark Peak Bleaklow
Dark Peak Brown Knoll
Dark Peak Coombs Rock
Dark Peak Crook Hill
Dark Peak Crowden Tower
Dark Peak Crowstones Edge
Dark Peak Derwent Edge
Dark Peak Featherbed Top
Dark Peak Grindslow Knoll
Dark Peak Higher Shelf Stones
Dark Peak Howden Edge
Dark Peak Kinder Downfall
Dark Peak Kinder Low
Dark Peak Kinder Trespass – William Clough
Dark Peak Ladybower
Dark Peak Langsett
Dark Peak Lantern Pike
Dark Peak Lord’s Seat
Dark Peak Margery Hill
Dark Peak Mount Famine
Dark Peak Outer Edge
Dark Peak Ox Stones (Burbage Moor)
Dark Peak Pike Lowe
Dark Peak Stanedge Pole
Eastern Moors Baslow Edge
Eastern Moors Beeley Moor
Eastern Moors Big Moor – White Edge
Eastern Moors Birchen Edge
Eastern Moors Chatsworth Park
Eastern Moors Curbar Edge
Eastern Moors Eyam Moor
Eastern Moors Froggatt Edge
Eastern Moors Gardom’s Edge
Eastern Moors Matlock Moor Trig
Eastern Moors Padley Gorge
Eastern Moors Sir William Hill
Eastern Moors Totley Moor
Eastern Peak Fringe Alport Heights
Eastern Peak Fringe Black Rocks
Eastern Peak Fringe Carsington Water
Eastern Peak Fringe Crich Stand
Eastern Peak Fringe Harboro Rocks
Eastern Peak Fringe Heights of Abraham
Eastern Peak Fringe High Tor
Eastern Peak Fringe Lovers Walk
Eastern Peak Fringe Lumsdale Falls
Eastern Peak Fringe Middleton Top
Eastern Peak Fringe National Stone Centre
Eastern Peak Fringe Robin Hoods Stride
Eastern Peak Fringe Stanton Moor
Hope Valley Abney Moor/Shatton Edge
Hope Valley Bamford Edge
Hope Valley Burbage Rocks
Hope Valley Carl Wark
Hope Valley Cave Dale
Hope Valley Higger Tor
Hope Valley High Neb
Hope Valley Lose Hill
Hope Valley Mam Tor
Hope Valley Millstone Edge
Hope Valley Navio Fort
Hope Valley Stanage Edge
Hope Valley The Ridge
Hope Valley Win Hill
Hope Valley Winnats Pass
Northern Moors Alderman’s Hill
Northern Moors Black Hill
Northern Moors Dead Edge End
Northern Moors Dove Stones
Northern Moors Featherbed Moss
Northern Moors Hoarstone Edge
Northern Moors Rollick Stones
Northern Moors West Nab
Northern Moors Wild Bank Hill
Western Moors Axe Edge Moor
Western Moors Black Edge
Western Moors High Peak Canal
Western Moors Burbage Edge
Western Moors Cats Tor
Western Moors Chinley Churn
Western Moors Combs Moss
Western Moors Eccles Pike
Western Moors Castle Naze
Western Moors Goyt Valley Reservoirs
Western Moors Gun
Western Moors Hen Cloud
Western Moors Kerridge Hill / White Nancy
Western Moors Lud’s Church
Western Moors Ramshaw Rocks
Western Moors Shining Tor
Western Moors Shutlingslow
Western Moors Sponds Hill
Western Moors Tegg’s Nose
Western Moors The Cloud
Western Moors The Roaches
Western Moors Whalley Moor
Western Moors Windgather Rocks
Western Moors Cheeks Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Biggin Dale
Western White Peak Fringe Bunster Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Carder Low
Western White Peak Fringe Cauldon Lowe
Western White Peak Fringe Chrome Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Dove Dale
Western White Peak Fringe Ecton Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Gratton Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Grindon Moor
Western White Peak Fringe High Wheeldon
Western White Peak Fringe Hitter Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Hollins Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Milldale Bridge
Western White Peak Fringe Narrowdale Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Ossoms Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Parkhouse Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Pilsbury Castle Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Sheen Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Solomon’s Temple
Western White Peak Fringe Thirklow Rocks
Western White Peak Fringe Thor’s Cave
Western White Peak Fringe Thorpe Cloud
Western White Peak Fringe Weaver Hills
Western White Peak Fringe Wetton Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Wolfscote Dale
Western White Peak Fringe Wolfscote Hill
White Peak Plateau Arbor Low
White Peak Plateau Bradford Dale
White Peak Plateau Chee Dale
White Peak Plateau Chelmorton Low
White Peak Plateau Coombs Dale
White Peak Plateau Deep Dale
White Peak Plateau Deep Dale (Topley)
White Peak Plateau Eldon Hill
White Peak Plateau Fin Cop
White Peak Plateau Lathkill Dale
White Peak Plateau Long Dale
White Peak Plateau Magpie Mine
White Peak Plateau Miller’s Dale Viaducts
White Peak Plateau Minninglow Hill
White Peak Plateau Monks Dale
White Peak Plateau Monsal Dale
White Peak Plateau Monsal Head
White Peak Plateau Peters Stone – Cressbrook Dale
White Peak Plateau Slitherstone Hill
White Peak Plateau Sough Top
White Peak Plateau Wardlow Hay Cop
White Peak Plateau Longstone Edge