20130806-A_Alstonefield-Wetton-Thor’s Cave Circular Walk.
1st Half – Alstonefield to Thor’s Cave via Wetton.
Who : Me and my family
Where : The Peak District, White Peak Area, Staffordshire (I think) roughly between Ashbourne and Buxton.
Start Point : SK 132,556
End Point : Same as above (‘cause it’s a circular)
Full Circular Walk Distance : Approx 5.25 miles (8.5 km)
This half : Alstonefield – Thor’s Cave, via Wetton : Approx 2.5 miles (4km)
Map : Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Outdoor Leisure Map OL 24 The Peak District White Peak Area.
Summary : Not a long walk, but with lots of interest, taking in two villages, a country pub (or two depending on timings), a cave to explore and fantastic views over The Manifold Valley …. Oh and lots of opportunity to extend the walk if you want.
If you click on a pic’ it should hopefully launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream – At least I hope so because I’m trying a new way of attaching the images – The first time for this method on this diary – Please let me know if it works or not ?????
We’d booked a three-day short break in the peak district (two nights stay at The Navigation Inn at Buxworth) and we’d roughly planned the itinerary as following :-
- Day One = Travel, Short Walk somewhere in The White Peak, Travel to Buxworth.
- Day Two = Visit Chatsworth House and Gardens, Back to Buxworth.
- Day Three = Walk (for the boys) and Horse Riding (for the girls), Travel Home.
Well, I’ve already written some diary blogs about days two and three so, to complete the set, this diary write-up details (a little belatedly I’m afraid) Day-One :-
We started off by traveling north to Ashbourne via Motorways and A-roads. Once at Ashbourne we picked up the A515 towards Buxton and then after a few miles turned off left and found our way into Alstonefield on attractively twisty-turny minor roads: dropping steeply into and then out of Mill Dale crossing the famous River Dove en-route.
Although really not much to it, Alstonefield is a pretty little village, and includes a country pub (The George) and out front is a small, roughly triangular, village green with a smattering of farms, stand alone homes and terraced cottages nearby. It was on one of the roads here-abouts that we parked up as considerately as possible, donned boots and raised our day-sacks onto backs. Then, after I’d done a quick appraisal of the map to find my (and therefore our) bearings we set off in a roughly Westerly direction (down what I think might be a part of Church Street or maybe Post office Road) but I can’t find a map to 100% confirm this).
On our right was a charming row of terraced cottages, complete with climbing roses and other plants on the walls, and pretty hanging baskets in full bloom. At the end of the road we crossed a larger road to pick up a path (still heading west) and headed out into the beautiful countryside that is The Peak District, our route aiming for the village of Wetton.
The Peak district is really split into two distinctive areas
- The dark Peak (in the north) plus the eastern and western edges that are dominated by gritstone and peat moorland and are generally more rugged and harsh compared to The White Peak.
- The White Peak (in the south) is generally softer in appearance where much is given over to grassy pastureland for the rearing of sheep and cattle, the underlying rock is limestone and as such is pretty much free draining and the landscape features dry valleys and steep sided dales such as that of the River Dove (crossed by car on the way to Alstonefield) and The Manifold Valley (The farthest point of our walk today).
One major feature of the White Peak is the countless number of small fields, bounded by limestone dry-stone walls. The walls are complicated to construct (no mortar is used) and take ages to build – it’s a real skill ! ….. There are literally thousands of these walls dissecting the landscape, dividing the area into small parcels of land. It’s impossible to imagine just how many man-hours (or years) it would have taken to build them all from scratch. We would cross quite a few of these fields on the walk, often negotiating the lines of walls via squeeze stiles, so called because of the narrow gap allowing humans to pass through relatively easily, whilst preventing any livestock (even lambs) from getting to the other side.
In one such field (near Furlong Lane) a small collection of lambs were completely unfazed by the four of us walking across their “home”. I say lambs, but they were quite well grown and two of them were obviously fed up with eating the plentiful grass all around them, as they were pawing at an overturned feeding trough, desperately trying to right the plastic tray. They were obviously thinking there may be some kind of tasty morsels underneath. In the few minutes it took for us to pass by, they almost succeeded in their quest, and maybe they would have done if they’d worked as a team, but ultimately they failed, the trough staying stubbornly up-side-down. I suppose they would just have to return to eating the green sward just like their compatriots elsewhere in the field.
The path here rose to join the very minor road of Lodge Lane, where, instead of crossing straight over, we turned right for a very short distance to Brook Lodge, sat at a sharp bend in the road (Lodge Lane becomes Furlong Lane here). Here we turned left into and then up a track cum path, bounded on both sides by some more dry-stone walls, albeit looking a bit worse for wear in places. This “green lane” rises up in a shallow valley called Windledale Hollow. After a few hundred yards or so, we had to leave the lane, crossing the left hand wall into the corner of a field and then heading across the middle of the field rising as we went, our heading a little north of west. As we moved on through several more grassy fields, the path swung left in a long curve, so that we were heading a little south of west when we reached a minor road (Buxton Road) just on the outskirts of Wetton.
We now had a little road walking to do, entering the village passing a mixture of farms and homes as we went. One such home, with traditionally striped lawns had some rather striking and very un-traditional sculptures carved out of wood and “planted” in the garden. Some folk have a very odd sense of aesthetic, but I suppose it takes allsorts and the larger than life gargoyles certainly brought a smile to our faces. Just up the road a short distance however, the gardens were much more as expected with fragrant roses and other cottage garden plants enhancing the village appearance. A little farther on, we reached a very small village green completely dominated by a large tree and a circular wall “planter” … Happily there were a number of wooden benches conveniently placed for weary-legged walkers to park their bottoms. This we did as this was an ideal place for a break on our journey and a bite to eat.
Drinks wise, the pub (Ye Olde Royal Oak directly across the road) was just too tempting to resist. We were lucky to get served however, as they were about to close for the afternoon, but as we had crossed the threshold the land-lady was happy to serve us (a pint of locally brewed ale, a lager, a sweet cider and J20 was the round) and they were equally happy for us to carry them back across the road to the bench we’d chosen on the green. The only instruction was to “please place the empty glasses somewhere near their entrance door” because they were locking up and “going out” for a while. Just a couple of minutes after they’d turned the key and driven away, another party of walkers came past, only to be disappointed the pub was now shut. I’m sure there was an envious glance or two over towards us, sat as we were with our recently purchased refreshments.
Once our thirsts had been quenched, our hunger sated and our legs rested, we moved on, taking a path through the nearby church grounds/graveyard to emerge onto another minor village road (School Lane). We turned left, where-upon our son realised he’d left his walking pole behind and we allowed him to run (at a sprint) back to the green to retrieve them. Whilst waiting, I “played” at taking some “arty” narrow depth of field photo’s of some spiky plants growing in a very rusty length of guttering. My lovely girls (wife and daughter) meanwhile simply stood and chatted, which continued after son had re-emerged, just at a trot now instead of the manic pace of earlier.
We set off again, heading south-westerly on School Lane, pausing briefly to say hello to a brood (or peep / clutch ?) of hens, free ranging on the roadside and atop more dry-stone walls. At the end of the road we needed to bear right for a very short distance (Leek Road) to reach a junction with a farm track. This is where it could become a little tricky if you are doing this bit of the walk. The OS map shows a footpath heading off from this junction into a field, and there is indeed a finger post pointing this way – BUT – we ignored this, instead following the farm track itself which is a permissive way heading gently downhill – The easiest and most direct to Thor’s Cave. In fact if you zoom in close enough on “streetmap” (http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?x=413500&y=355500&z=120&sv=alstonefield&st=3&tl=Map+of+Alstonefield,+Staffordshire+%5BCity/Town/Village%5D&searchp=ids.srf&mapp=map.srf ) it labels this as Thor’s Lane (Track).
I’m quite happy walking with a little gentle conversation, but my family after a period of time tend to get a little, errrmmm, “silly” with their observations (the field next to us magically gained several hippopotami, various other wild creatures and if memory serves me right, some elves, goblins, orcs and even a wizard and some hobbits hiding amongst the hummocks and hollows). They also like playing word games and singing songs – even making them up as they go along sometimes – Thor’s Lane thus became an impromptu stage for various renditions and adaptations of The Worsels “I’ve got a brand new combined harvester” sang at quite a volume interspersed with laughter and delivered complete with long grass seed-heads jauntily poking out from their mouths.
At the end of the track, a path of sorts heads off (after crossing the wall on the right) over some roughish terrain eventually rising as a narrow (and a little muddy) pathway swinging around the right hand side of a hill. This soon spectacularly emerges high above The Manifold Valley, our little pathway merging with a much larger track rising steeply out of the valley. It is often very busy here, and today was no exception as we merged into other gaggles of people, either ascending or descending the hillside. Despite the earlier singing of my family, it was quite a shock to the senses really – Humans really are very noisy animals when congregating together. Anyway, the reason for the popularity of this spot was soon reached – Thor’s Cave.
This is almost a must-do on the list of things to see in The Peak District. The cave is large but needs a little scrambling (or at least scrabbling) to gain access into it and this alone would be interesting enough, but its position suspended high above a bend in the beautiful Manifold Valley enhances the viewpoint to well beyond the ordinary. Our kids headed up into the mouth of the cave, whilst my wife and I were quite happy to stand on a small flat bit of land, a bit like a wide ledge, just enjoying the vista.
Well, I’m going to break off here, just to linger and enjoy the views a little longer. The second half of the walk diary continues on a new post if you’d like to carry on reading.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome. I’d love to hear from you.