Sunday, 11 March 2012

Walk 3 - Castleton Circular Via Cave Dale & Mam Tor Approx 6.5 miles (11 Mar)

Another local walk in the Peak District, about a 35 min drive from our house. Diane has been nagging to do this as its one of her favourite walks.  The walk starts from the lovely (but busy) village of Castleton, home of Blue John, a semi-precious stone that can only be found in this small village and nowhere else on earth.  Mass mined by the Romans and Victorians for its beauty and rarity.  Its still mined today up in the hills and there are a few gift shops in the village where you can buy it.  (Diane collects it!)

We always park the car in the public car park where the very modern Tourist Information Centre is, finding parking on the village roads is difficult and its a tad unfair on the people who live there.  For this walk we were joined by my cousin Kev and his dog Maisey.  Our Kev has just been bitten by the hiking bug and has completed all the blog walks so far.

From the car park, turn left up into the village, at the top of the village where the road corners sharp left, turn right up the road heading to the top end of the village.  Keeping left, pick up the brown tourist signs for Cave Dale, on the photo below you can see the sign below the window on the white house.

The entrance to Cave Dale is quite concealed so keep a sharp eye out.  It is sign posted but the entrance seems to go into someones garden, it doesn't so dont worry, the entrance is on your right hand side.

Cave Dale is very dramatic, extremely steep sides that only a suicide sledger would attempt when theres snow.  The dale is the remains of a massive underground cavern of which the roof collapsed a few hundred thousand years ago leaving behind this beautiful rugged Dale.  I know I keep saying this, but when walking up Cave Dale you really must take time to stop and turn around and take in the view, its a belter.

This is a photo I took to try and explain the steepness of the Dale, it doesn't really work but to put it into perspective, I am stood with my head tilted right back straining my next to get the full side in the shot!  (I still think as a kid I would have come down there on a plastic sack had I been dared too!).  

The walk up Cave Dale is a good one, it gets the lungs going a bit on the last bit.  After rain it gets really slippery so care should be taken, go after a hard frost and its like walking on sheet glass, hard but good fun and sometimes funny (if its not you thats gone arse over elbow)

As you reach the top of Cave Dale it narrows and if you look back you get sight of the remains of Peveril Castle on the left.

As you exit Cave Dale the land opens up and you continue straight on along the marked path for about a mile.  

Kev and Diane with the dogs

The whole area opens up to some spectacular views on a clear day.  Carry on along the path until you come to a hard track, you cant miss it as you have to walk through an old cattle pen to get through the gate.  When you get to the hard track turn right and go immediately through the gate.  Carry on along the track and you will notice it takes a sharp right heading towards the farm.  This way is possible but I very rarely use it as it shortens the walk.  Instead, carry straight on through the gate and the track rises gently up a hill, nothing too steep but again, it offers better views than if you went via the farm.

Looking back down the track the Farm is now out of sight

Once you get to the top of the hill you will notice a stile on your right, it has two Yellow Route Markers on it.  Climb over the stile and head off up the hill, its not a very well walked path but keep the wall to your left and you wont go wrong.  Carry on walking and you cross another couple of wall stiles, after the second one the Hope Valley comes into view and the Big Bad Boy known as Mam Tor begins to dominate the view.

Diane, Kev, Maisey, Milly and Monty with Mam Tor at 10 o'clock from Kevs head

Carry on across the open fields and follow the path to the hard track and main road.  The photo below shows Milly a hundred yards from the hard track, head to the corner of the field to the gate.

Mam Tor dominating the landscape

Its at this point you can feast your eyes on the climb ahead, actually its not as bad as it looks.  No, I cannot lie, it is as bad as it looks!

From where Milly is stood you can comfortably be at the top in half an hour, it is a bit lung busting but it doesn't go on for ages, its short and sharp. 

Continue to follow the path to the gate in the corner.  Cross the road in front and go through the gate opposite just to the right into the field.  Its hard to get lost here as where you are going is so obvious.  Continue through he field to the next gate and the road.  Through the gate and cross the road to the gate opposite to the left, go through the gate and this is where the ascent begins, from here, 20 mins to the top so take some deep breaths.  Just follow the path in front of you to the gate, go through and take the hard path on the right that takes you to the summit of Mam Tor, there is a distinct lack of photos for this section due to the fact I was concentrating on staying alive and no, I wasn't listening to the Bee Gees on my Ipod!

As you climb up take time (again) to turn around and look back as once you get to the summit, the views behind wont be there, its also a good excuse to stop and have a breather!

The road below and in the centre of the picture the steep sides to Winnats Pass

It doesn't take long before the trig point comes into view offering the relief and knowledge that from here its down hill all the way.  Once on top have a good walk round and take in the view, you can see across to the Kinder Scout Plateau on your left, Hope Valley in front and to the rear open countryside all the way to Cheshire.

Also, stop here and have a well earned brew out of the flask!

Diane Looking over towards Kinder Scout (Edale 2 o'clock from her head)

When the coffees gone its time to crack on and head back to Castleton.  Walk past the Trig point, keeping it to your right and follow the well built path in front of you down towards the ridge.  Its a nice steady walk from here on in.  Follow the ridge path until you come to an obvious cross roads (or cross paths).  Be careful here and make sure you take the correct path!  I have marked on the following photo approximately where the cross paths is:

Kev struggling with his camera batteries!

While walking along the ridge path it really is worth taking the time to soak up the view.  To the right and behind have a look at the road at the bottom of Mam Tor, here you will see the remains of the road where a couple of decades ago the side of Mam Tor slipped and totally destroyed the road.  The road has never been repaired as its thought the Tor will slip again, hence its nick name the Shivering Mountain.

The road in the center of the photo is all thats left from the land slip

OK lets get back on track.  When you get to the cross paths you need to take the path to the right, here it could get a bit confusing as there are two paths that go to the right.  Just take the left, right path, sounds confusing but you will understand what I mean.  The path to the right - right heads back towards Mam Tor so believe me when I say, you really dont need to take that one!

The path you should now be on takes you down off the ridge, its well marked and easy to follow, treacherous when wet so care should be taken, I nearly lost a very expensive camera on this stretch once, were it not for my lightening speed reactions!  Follow the path down until you come to a gate on your right, the path cuts under some trees and between hedgerows heading down to a tarmac road.  The walk between the hedgerows can be fun if its been raining as its a stream when wet, this is where good waterproof boots come in handy.

At the tarmac road go left and follow it all the way back into Castleton, its not a busy road and on this walk we only saw one car but make sure you are aware that cars, tractors etc do use the road and to keep an eye on kids and your favourite family pet.  

The road brings you out at the top end of Castleton where you can take time out to get some Blue John and some well earned lunch at one of the many pubs in the village, be warned though, Castleton gets extremely busy when the sun is shining so getting a meal in one of the pubs could be quite hard.

While in Castleton have a walk round, take in one of the caverns and have a trip underground to see the where the Blue John comes from.  My particular favourite The Devils Arse (yep you read it right) where back in the day they used the vast cavern as a workshop where ropes were manufactured.

This really is a brilliant walk, its not far and on a good day it opens up the whole of the Peak District to view.

Next walk is planned in a couple of weeks but that will probably be in Snowdonia!  

Hope you enjoyed the tale and if at all possible, get out there and complete the walk, you really wont regret it.


Mark, Diane, Kev, Maisey, Monty and Milly!

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