Archive for December 19th, 2009

December 19, 2009

A high level Dovedale circuit

by backpackingbongos

For a map of this route click here.

It was one of those weekends when you start suffering from cabin fever and find that you just need to get out of the house.  So it was up early on the Sunday for the hour long drive to the carpark at the entrance to Dovedale.  The route planning was done ‘on the hoof’ with a vague plan of contouring high along the rim of the dale.  The aim being to get the best views and escape from the crowds seeing as it was a Sunday.

8.2 miles with 870 metres ascent

The large carpark was strangely deserted with only 6 other cars already parked up, this popular spot is usually pretty busy at weekends.  December does seem to be the time to get out and about in the hills if you are seeking solitude, with people perhaps busy with Christmas shopping.

I walked towards the entrance to the dale next to the river which was raging from the heavy rain in the night.  I had planned to follow the path on the left hand side up to the stepping stones and then scramble up the rocky nose of Bunster hill.  However the path was completely submerged by flood water.  Instead I took a narrow path alongside a fence on the boundary of open country before striking directly up the steep rocky hillside.  The view into the entrance of the dale and Thorpe Cloud caught my attention and I sat on a rock for a while to get my breath back.

The rest of the ascent to the ridge was pretty punishing but thankfully short, it is then an easy walk to the top of Bunster Hill.

My aim now was to follow the rim of the dale all of the way to where it is intersected by Hall dale.  There is a short section where you can follow a right of way, but for most of the way I simply kept to the boundary of open country with its few narrow paths.  I did not pass a single person along this stretch.

The only signs of life were a few sheep, but they did not seem keen to stop and chat.

A right of way is eventually picked up high above Hall dale which slowly drops to the dale bottom.  I spotted some walkers so decided to head straight up the other side of the dale and follow open country round to Ravens tor.  At this point the walking got a little bit difficult!  The plan was to descend the steep hillside down to the river opposite Doveholes, except the hillside was covered in thick scrub and gorse.  A tricky contour above Ravens tor meant that I was able to make a very steep descent down to the river side.  Now which way to go?  I made an error and headed south to where a bridge is marked by Illam rock.  On the way I passed Doveholes on the other side of the dale where there was a climber suspended from the ceiling.  From this angle the caves have a striking resemblance to a nose.

The flooded river meant that I spent time sloshing through a flooded path or bush wacking higher up.  All was going well until just near the entrance to Hall dale my way was blocked by the river which was lapping right up to a cliff face.  A prod with my walking pole into the water confirmed that the way ahead was impassable.  If you come this way and find the route ahead blocked there is a rising traversing muddy scramble that crosses above the cliff, a bit dodgy but loads of small trees to grab hold of.  Gravity ensures that the descent on the other side is pretty quick on the steep slippery mud!

I finally got to the Illam rock footbridge, crossed the river and headed back north up the dale past Doveholes.  A path then heads east up a steep narrow valley towards the nabs.  The plan was now to walk along the eastern rim of the dale back to the carpark.  The initial stretch above the dale is spectacular with steep drops down into the valley below.  Unfortunately the views on a grey December day were pretty muted.

However within minutes the sun exploded through the clouds just as it was about to set over the western rim of the dale.  The dull greys were suddenly transformed by the setting sun and the atmosphere appeared to change.

An easy walk along a concessionary path rose and fell as small side valleys were encountered.  Again the hillsides were deserted with the exception of a farmer and his collie rounding up a flock of sheep.  I had intended to continue to the end of the dale and ascend Thorpe Cloud but it was getting dark so I took a narrow path that led down to lovers leap, a good view point for the still thundering river Dove.  Further downstream  the stepping stones were very submerged as was the main path into the dale.  A minor scramble across the screes of Thorpe Cloud brought me back to the nearly empty car park.

I had managed a walk in Dovedale without any crowds!