Archive for July 4th, 2011

July 4, 2011

A daunder around Milldale and Alstonefield

by backpackingbongos

After a long strenuous TGO Challenge it is good to get out for a walk where you do not have to worry about the miles covered.  A day when you can daunder with your partner and dog, picnic by the river and aim for a pub halfway round.  The White Peak is ideal for this sort of day, stunning scenery without too much effort.  You just have to be prepared for it to be busy in the summer.

7 Miles with 500 metres ascent

The car park on the Tissington Trail was indeed busy, full of cyclists, hikers and picnicking families.  We left the busy trail and headed across fields towards Shining Tor.  A flock of sheep were doing their best to impersonate Dougal from the Magic Roundabout.  They were very curious about Reuben who thankfully decided to ignore them.

Shining Tor is another of my favourite spots in the Peaks.  Steep grassy banks fall away to the River Dove giving views to the hills above Wolfscote Dale.  An airy perch which involves almost no effort to get to.  A grassy promenade along the footpath then leads you above Mill Dale.  At this time of year this part of the Peaks is a riot of greens, probably the best time to visit if you can handle the crowds.

The high level walk is over all too quickly and we descended steeply down to the Hamlet of Milldale.  A lovely spot right next to the River Dove but a huge magnet for those who like to mill about slowly whilst eating ice cream.  We joined the masses and grabbed an ice cream each and sat next to the river to watch parents shout at their children.  Reuben watched the ducks with interest.

Now I will let you in on a little secret.  If you want a small part of Dovedale without the crowds head behind the public toilet in Milldale.  Don’t just stand there or you will look a little odd, instead locate a narrow path that leads steeply up through some mean looking nettles.  There is even a sign at the beginning that says the path ahead is difficult, indeed it can be but only if the River is in flood.  You end up above the river on a path traversing though some woods before exiting in a flowery meadow, a fine view of Dovedale ahead.  For some reason no one appears to come here and the path is narrow.

And then the bovine hooligans appeared, racing down the steep slopes of the next field we wanted to cross.  They stood on the other side of the ladder stile, daring us to try our luck.  Mindful of Reuben I climbed over and waved my arms and shouted until they ran away, young bullocks can be a right pain when out hiking.  We sneaked Reuben over and gave them a wide berth climbing steeply up the hill before making a dash for the safety of a dry stone wall.

The path heads to the junction of Hall and Dove Dales, hugging the banks of the river until the banks above steepened to make escape upwards impossible.  There is a short section that would be impossible after heavy rain and then you are at a wide grassy spot that invites you to eat your lunch, which we did.

Hall Dale is your typical ‘dry’ limestone dale, steep tree covered slopes on one side, open hillside on the other.  I should go back and walk its rim one day.

The meadows at the head of the dale were putting on a fine display, a good way to get the nose dripping for us hay fever sufferers.

Heading into Alstonefield a large group of cows with their calves were given a very wide berth, they often don’t appreciate dogs and I never fancy getting into a cow / dog situation.  Alstonefield itself is a charming village, picture postcard in every way, we both had house envy on the way to the pub.  Being a hot humid day we both avoided the ale and had a coke each, over £5 for the privilege.

Alstonefield sits high above the Dove Valley and a walk across fields soon brings you to the steep edge opposite Coldeaton bridge.  Another fine viewpoint up and down the dale.

An unnamed dale branches off from Dove Dale heading east.  Another lush hidden valley, away from the heavy foot traffic of the main dale.  The air by now was heavy and humid and it brought out the scents of the trees as we passed.  We had the valley to ourselves as we slowly climbed towards the head of the dale.

From the depths of a hidden dale to the rolling hills above.  A contouring path climbed out of the valley into a softly folded landscape.

A final peek down into the valley through which we had come, Reuben transfixed by the huge numbers of sheep contained in one field.

We were soon back on the Tissington trail and back in a faster and busier world, you need to keep your wits about you with bicycles whizzing past.

The softer White Peak is easy to pass by when after a ‘wilderness fix’.  However now and then it is the perfect place to go and just chill out in the green folds of its hills.