20091018_Goyt Valley to Peak Forest Linear Walk
When : 18th October 2009
Who : Midland Hill Walkers – Club Walk – A-Walk
Where : The Peak District, Near Buxton
Maps : O.S. Outdoor Leisure Map No.24 – The Peak District – White Peak area
Start Point : 018,759 (Goyt Valley)
End Point : 114,794 (Peak Forest)
Approx Distance : 12.7 miles, 20.3 km
Heights : 2165 ft ascent + 2070 ft descent
(Heights are totals per my memory map programme and include gentle ups and downs as well the more strenuous slopes/terrain)
Transport : Full size luxury coach – From Car Park in Kenilworth.
Summary : Goyt Valley, North West facing slope of Combs Moss, Combs Edge, Dove Holes (village), Peak Dale (village), Tunstead, Wind Low, Hargatewall, Peter Dale, Hay Dale, Dam Dale, Peak Forest (village).
My sister had been on a few walks with The Midland Hill Walkers and she’d suggested I’d probably enjoy a trip out with them too. The M.H.Walkers go out once a month (on a Sunday) and the first date I could join them was on their October Walk 2009, billed as the 2nd stage of a west-east traverse of The Peak District (It’s a pity I’d missed the first stage, but hey, that’s life I suppose). I do like walking in The Peak District, so I made some ‘phone calls, paid some money and was booked on for this walk and the next one in November (Llyn Celyn to Pentrefoelas) in Wales.
It meant a very early start though, as I had a bit of a drive (A45 + A46 mostly) to get from Rugby to Kenilworth for before 7-o’clock in the morning, which is when the coach departs for the day. I found it a little bit daunting climbing aboard the bus full of total strangers but soon found a seat near my sister and brother-in-law who were also out with them for the day.
Once on the go, one of the leaders made his way up the bus to talk through the two walks options with me; the A walk being more strenuous than the B. The club normally recommends newcomers to start with a B-walk, just to be on the safe side, but he agreed after talking through my experience that I’d cope with the A-walk, so that’s what I decided to do.
After passing through Buxton the coach picked up the A5004 and then soon turned left into the minor road of Goyt’s Lane to descend steeply towards Errwood and Fernilee Reservoirs in the Goyt Valley. I didn’t get a good view of the lakes though, as the A- party was dropped off just beside the small knoll of Burnsal Cob on the eastern side of the reservoirs. As it happens, my sis’ & her husband stayed on the coach to walk with the B-team.
Just for description purposes, I can effectively split the walk into three stages. It would seem sensible therefore to start at the start of stage-1 :-.
1st Stage :
As often happens on walks, the route started off steeply uphill and at a surprisingly quick pace and the group was soon spread out over a fair distance as we rose up a track swinging round in a generally north easterly direction. Several people spoke to me on that first climb, their opening line generally something like “I haven’t seen you out before, is this your first time with the club?” … a good way to break the ice and I was quite happy to have a chat as we all rose through the grassy moorland. The views back over The Goyt Valley were superb! I loved the autumnal colours spread out all around. Being towards the back of the group, I must admit I felt a tad out of touch from the leader, not a good feeling for the first time out and I was quite relieved when the whole party regrouped where the track crossed the A5004.
The path crossed straight over the main road and continued to rise still quite steeply and I resolved to keep myself closer to the leader now; just so I’d feel more comfortable in myself – it’s amazing how much easier the pace seems to be when you’re nearer the front than at the back. The terrain was quite wild; tussocky, grassy moorland and after the path had made a few twists and turns (including passing behind White Hall Outdoor Pursuits Centre) we crested over a rise where my legs appreciated the little rest-bite from the climbing done so far. The views ahead had really opened up by now with a series of knolls and rocky edges forming part of the vista dropping steeply from the mass of Combs Moss above us on our right.
I’d never walked in this part of The Peak District before and was enjoying the views northwards across a slightly lower and much tamer area of farmland below. The higher rougher ground formed a rough shaped bowl around the green almost manicured meadows and the handful of farmsteads beneath us; a lovely contrast, especially with a scattering of trees turning various shades of red and orange. The weather had begun to close in a little as well, but I think the contrast between the sunlit bright areas against the more gloomy shadows added a super depth to the landscape. By now we were again climbing quite steadily on a faint path, diagonally rising to the flatter almost plateaux like edges of Combs Moss. The path on my OS map is shown as a black dash line (not a right of way) so I assume the recent open access rules have opened up the moors to walkers – definitely our gain today!
A small group split away at the front, getting their heads down for the pull up to a small shooting hut positioned above a steep sided side valley cutting it’s way into the high ground. It was here that the party regrouped with a short refreshment stop and everyone enjoyed the views. I particularly liked the ridges on the hillside covered with drifts of purple heather and the shiny shimmering silver of dried grass tussocks; the soft colour palette in counterpoint to the harsh looking gritstone walls and rocky outcrops.
The last mile or so had been pretty much westwards but we now swung north for a few hundred yards before turning almost west, ignoring an inviting looking track, to instead climb a rough slope for a short distance up to a faint path running alongside a drystone wall (beginning to look like it’d seen better days). The views back across the lowland bowl to where we’d come from were brill’, amazing to see just how far you can cover by just keeping a good steady pace.
By now I’d relaxed into the walking much more, keeping up with the leader quite easily now even to the point of taking a couple of ‘photos of him in a rather clichéd pose on top of a rocky outcrop above Alstone Lee.. The MHW’s are currently using my pic’ in a fun caption competition asking “What’s Brian saying”. I feel quite honoured that they think my pic’ is good enough to use in this way.
The path and wall were now contouring easily around the edges of the moor swinging round from east to west and then northwards again … the last rocky outcrop we traversed is called Combe Edge before we dropped steeply down a short way to a minor road close to an ancient fort at the northern tip of the moor. We then turned right for a section of road walking probably for the best part of a mile.
After the rough terrain of the moor the smooth tarmac was quite welcome at first, being easier on the ankles and concentration in equal measure. I wasn’t sad however when we branched left onto a path into farmland at Cow Low, passing through Cowlow Farm before rejoining the road just on the outskirts of the village of Dove Holes.
This really marked the start of and by far the most uninteresting stage of the walk which I’m going to skip over pretty quickly … I didn’t take any pic’s for at least a couple of miles, which tells its own story. Dove Holes has a pretty name but is an ugly place – Sorry if I’ve offended anyone, but there’s no other way to describe it; the villages overall facade mirroring the extensive quarrying in this area north of Buxton not protected by National Park status – I guess industry has to have its place but this area looks pretty much devastated over large areas and it doesn’t look like there’s been much attempt to mask the impact. Having said that, we all like our roads and other constructions and the raw materials have to come from somewhere.
There was now some considerable amount of road walking as we left Dove Holes heading southwards to the next point on route, Peak Dale ; again a nicer sounding name than the reality. It was here that we stopped for lunch, spread out on the touchline of a community football pitch. This has to go down as one of the stranger places I’ve had lunch on a country walk. After lunch there was more road walking, to reach Buxton Bridge, where we crossed a railway to then climb steeply, still on the road. After so much tarmac it was good to turn off onto a path, in a stand of trees, heading towards Tunstead. The views down the hillside, overlooked the grey ugly plant of Tarmac’s Tunstead Works. Although undeniably ugly there’s something compelling about these types of industrial landscapes, and they are photogenic in their own way.
Leaving the works behind marked the end of the 2nd stage of the walk and the start of a more rural final stage of the day. Instead of the gritstone moors of the morning and the industrial stuff in the middle, we were now heading into limestone countryside [The White Peak] and we crossed the invisible line back into The National Park, just before skirting north of the settlement of Tunstead itself. We were now heading eastwards away from the works and I wasn’t sad to see the back of them as we rose up to the ancient site of “Wind Low”. No one knew quite what the strange lump of stone was on top of the hill and there wasn’t an info’ board to tell us … so guess work was the only option –
- An ancient burial site ?
- A drinking trough for travellers horses ?
- An ancient boundary marker at the top of the hill between ancient hill tribes ?
- Or my wild guess of an alms drop off point ? like the ones around the Eyam area when villages were isolated by the plague ?
A subsequent look on the internet has told me it’s on the “List of Scheduled Ancient Monuments in the National Park” and is noted as “SAM No. S13351” and the sites full name is “Wind Low Bowl Barrow & Standing Cross”. According to several sites I’ve looked at : The stone is the base of a medieval stone cross which in turn sits on top of a bronze age barrow (burial mound) ….so, Wind Low is really two things on one site.
The route was very much easier now as we picked up a track at Hayward farm. The easiness didn’t last long though as we came across a rather horrible difficulty as we passed Hargatewall. The walled track now doubled up as a shallow slurry pond stretching out ahead. There was no option but to paddle through the liquid cow poo deep enough to reach half way up our boots. Some of the back markers crossed into a side field in an unsuccessful attempt to circumvent the mess, but in the end they had to hold their noses and splash their way through … Yuk and double-Yuk.
Eventually we emerged from the not-so-green green-lane into grassy fields descending steadily to reach and then drop down into Peter Dale to join The Limestone Way quite near to Dale Head. I was now on familiar ground as I’d walked here on a number of occasions before. The Dale is shallow with quite an open aspect, the upper slopes a line of craggy limestone outcrops. This, combined with the autumnal trees makes a very pretty scene especially if you’re lucky enough to get some sunshine on the cliffs …. unfortunately the sun didn’t grace us with its presence and although dry it was quite grey giving a certain flatness to the view …. however, when looked at more closely there were some lovely colours in the trees and the landscape as a whole.
Turning left, heading northwards, the dale became even shallower, now not far from our final destination. Although a continuation of the same long valley the dale changes its name several times …. Further south it’s called Monk’s Dale then becomes Peter Dale where we joined it towards its northern end. It then becomes Hay Dale and Hay Dale becomes Dam Dale and then it peters-out into virtually no dale at-all as we finished the walk over easy farmland into the small village of Peak Forest; passing a large church on the way in. We then had a short time to enjoy a pint (or two) in The Devonshire Arms before the journey back to Kenilworth.
A good walk … well the 1st and 3rd sections anyway and more importantly, an enjoyable first time out with The Midland Hill Walkers, I was now looking forward to the November Walk already booked.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
Other Posts = Some Information about The Midland Hill Walkers
Midland Hill Walkers Leamington Courier Article
Midland Hill Walkers Newspaper Article
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