Welcome home to LEJoG Day 37
Day 37 pre-amble
Yes, this is my manor (guv’nor). Today’s route included:
- the classic walk from Dovedale to Milldale, which virtually everyone who’s ever visited this area has probably done at least part of, and which I’ve done more than a dozen times.
- a long stretch on the Tissington Trail, which I became very intimate with during my period off work.
- another long stretch on the High Peak Trail, which I hadn’t walked as often as the section from Cromford to Friden, but which I still knew very well.
- and most of the link between the latter Trail and Castleton, which I devised and road-tested back in 2016.
Unfortunately it rained. A lot. Easily the poorest weather of any stage so far. Well, it was also later in the year than any previous stage (there were no October days in 2017), so I guess I can’t really complain about the climate.
LEJoG Day 37 (Sunday 14 October 2018)
Dovedale to Miller’s Dale (19½ miles)
Cumulative: 532½ miles
Facts: Time on walk: 5 hours 45 minutes. Average speed: 3.39 mph. Weather: Wet underfoot and relentless rain until the last half hour on the Limestone Way. Also cold rather than cool.
Practicalities: Heavy rain on waking up. Left my breakfast and check-out as late as I could in case things improved. If they did it was only marginally.
Start: Izaak Walton Hotel, Dovedale, 10:05am. End: Wormhill Road bus stop, Miller’s Dale, 4:00pm.
The only unfamiliar part of today’s walk was the few hundred yards between the hotel and the Dovedale visitor car park. Thereafter it was like the proverbial pair of slippers, and just as well given the weather. For the first 10 minutes I followed the concrete path on the western side of the River Dove. Then you arrive at the stepping stones beneath Thorpe Cloud (see header image). This marks the start of one of the most written-about walks in rural England.
It’s difficult to find anything original to say about the next 2½ miles, so I’m not even going to try. There are guides galore all over the internet. In common with many Derbyshire (and Staffordshire, and probably Nottinghamshire) school children, I came here on a trip as a teenager, did probably half of that walk as an out and back and climbed Thorpe Cloud. I’ve done it many times since as part of a circular walk via Milldale, Alsop and Thorpe.
Due mainly to the rain and my required mileage, this is one of the vanishingly few occasions when I didn’t also climb Thorpe Cloud, so I shall dwell briefly on that hill now. It’s a great little challenge, always tougher than it looks, always satisfying to conquer and the views are exhilarating. It’s ever so slightly special to me now as the first real hill climb I did as a “serious walker”, just before going back to work after illness. Every subsequent climb has reminded me of that particular day. And of this song from the album I listened to most often in the year before my breakdown. Undoubtedly the most obscure song on my summer playlist, but now one of the most curiously evocative of my adult life I think.
Here’s a view of the stepping stones with Thorpe Cloud as a backdrop:
And here’s the signpost to Milldale:
Right then. Climb the steps to Lover’s Leap, look across the gorge to the Twelve Apostles, come back down the steps at the other side. Proceed past all the rock formations: Jacob’s Ladder, the Tissington Spires, the caves including the natural arch of Reynard’s Cave, eventually reaching Ilam Rock (about halfway to Milldale) and Dove Holes. Once past Raven’s Tor, the rest of the walk is perhaps less fascinating for a newbie. However it’s just as pleasant, meandering past countryside on the Derbyshire side and a slightly less dramatic gorge on the Staffordshire bank.
Apologies if it comes across that way, but we Derbyshire/Midland lads and lasses may be blasé about Dovedale. If you haven’t seen it, check out the links and rectify that as soon as possible. I’m only sorry the weather wasn’t conducive to frequent photo stops. Mind you, the sky would not have done it justice today in any case.
There is a public convenience at Milldale, a rarity on my rural walks it must be said. There’s also a little restaurant and shelter. Didn’t avail myself of any of these facilities today: too many miles to go. After leaving the parking/refreshments area, follow the road until you come to a bridge over the River Dove. Now, at this point there are two options for anyone wanting to pick up the Tissington Trail. You can walk alongside the road and head directly for Alsop-en-le-Dale car park, about ¾ mile away. This is my usual choice. Or you can avoid the road completely and continue walking by the River Dove, as I did today. Andy Robinson uses the riverside, and – should you not want to follow his route exactly – this also opens up other options upriver.
After about 10-15 minutes more by the Dove, you come to Coldeaton Bridge. Robinson (Day 25) continues to Biggin Dale, but as he is not planning to use the southern section of the Pennine Way, this is the last I see of him for quite a while. My priority was to hook up with the familiar and very flat Tissington and High Peak Trails as soon as I could, and the route from Coldeaton Bridge is the most efficient way to do so.
It does not look all that promising to begin with: a lot of rocks and stones jutting out of the ground make for slow progress, and there are lots of sheep around too. But as you emerge from the stony ground on a slight incline, the possibilities start to open up around you. Look out for a waymarked path to the right (SE) and follow it up a steepish hill (the last steep section of the day). After around ¼ mile you join the Tissington Trail near Nettly Knowe. And for the first time the limestone gorges are superseded by a less spectacular but much expanded vista of the Derbyshire Dales.
Looking back into the Coldeaton gorge, from Nettly Knowe on the Tissington Trail
What now, you may ask? Just keep walking. This is a trail designed for cyclists and walkers and it receives plenty of use from both. You are going slightly uphill as you head north/north west, but the gradient is so shallow you will barely notice. The Trail is a disused railway bed, so it’s very straight and any bends will have a huge radius. There’s an arched bridge about halfway between the Alsop and Hartington car parks which makes a useful milestone. Once past Biggin it’s about two miles to the Hartington Station car park and a further two to the junction with the High Peak Trail near Parsley Hay. After Hartington Station you are officially on the Pennine Bridleway, a relatively new National Trail.
Under normal circumstances, the cycle hire centre, café and picnic area at Parsley Hay would be an excellent place to stop. However, today it was too cold even to consider a rest. I hadn’t packed gloves and was keeping hands in pockets – my wrists were starting to become stiff with chills, as I found out when trying to piss behind a hedge a mile or so further up the High Peak Trail. As easy as these trails are to walk, and as quick as they should be, the scenery can become somewhat monotonous and you can start longing for the end even though it means returning to roads. Probably less of a problem if it’s not raining, but something to consider.
Anyway, my route takes me to the very end of the High Peak Trail near Dowlow. Total mileage on the two trails, incidentally, is 9½ miles, with Dowlow marking the 15 mile point. From here take a short footpath to the A515, then turn right, cross and take the first road heading north towards Chelmorton – another school trip location, for Geography and dry stone walls if memory serves me well. This is still the Pennine Bridleway and also marked as Midshires Way. I strongly recommend the Goyt Valley section of the Midshires Way from Derbyshire Bridge to Fernilee: one of the best walks I did during my time off work.
This section isn’t so great: a minor road which continues north as a track (Highstool Lane) before joining another road just SE of Chelmorton. Here the Pennine Bridleway continues north to Chee Dale, about a mile west of my destination, Miller’s Dale. Having tested out possible routes in 2016, I chose to take a right into Moor Lane and then a left into Sough Lane. The latter is a farm track road which forms part of the Limestone Way, my chosen route to Castleton. From here it was just a case of following the Limestone Way via Highcliffe Farm to Miller’s Dale. There’s a little climb near the farm, and there was a lot of muddy ground to try and avoid. But once over the ridge there’s a very heartening sight: it’s all downhill and that much bigger ascent over the road can wait until the next stage.
Having come off the walker’s track, you join the B6049 into the village. This is one of the few times where it’s best to break the cardinal rule of facing traffic: the bends are too sharp and there are no verges or pavements on the right. Cross and use the very narrow pavement on the left. Miller’s Dale is a small village on the Monsal Trail, another very familiar and flat Derbyshire walk. I was catching a bus out, so my stopping point was the bus stop rather the Monsal Trail car park.
After the walk
Waited about 20 minutes for the bus home. It took 15-20 minutes of motorised, sheltered travel before my hands started to feel their normal temperature again. Really did underestimate how cold I could get in October without gloves.
Postscript: My Listening Pleasure
Picture (taken 14 October 2018) shows the famous stepping stones at the outset of the walk from Dovedale to Milldale, looking south in the direction of the hotel and car park.