Dovedale is home to the river Dove that runs through this great county of ours. The actual walk starts at Dovedale car park which, I believe, sits just inside the Staffordshire boundary. This is a local walk for us, just a 30 min drive from our house.
The secret to a good Dovedale walk is timing. Yesterday (26 May 2012) we were bathed in glorious sunshine as we have been all week so the secret is to get up there early, you will see why as the blog goes on. This is a walk we normally do in the winter, preferably on a cold, clear frosty morning.
The walk starts from Dovedale car park which is well sign posted from the main Ashbourne to Buxton road as you approach Tissington, the home of the well walked/cycled Tissington Trail. The car park at Dovedale costs £2.50 and that's all day. There is cheaper parking (£1.50) on the approach which is also well located for the walk, just adds on an extra half mile.
The path along Dovedale is extremely well signposted and very easy underfoot. You start your walk by heading along the path that runs adjacent to the toilet block. After a couple of hundred yards you have a choice, either continue along the road or cross the bridge:
We always cross the bridge, don't know why, its just something we have always done, its a bit more wobbly underfoot than the road but I think the initial view of the Dale is better from this side of the bank but its all about opinions. If you prefer a gentle meander then take the road but you do have to cross the river at some point and the choices you have are the above bridge or the stepping stones.
After you cross the bridge turn left under the trees and Dovedale opens up, as you can see from the photograph above the path is well worn and easy to follow, basically the walk is all about following the River Dove so you are hardly going to get lost anytime soon. The river itself looks stunning, its waters are crystal clear and on a hot day like yesterday, very tempting to throw yourself in!
Continue along the right bank of the river, the path changes depending on the level of the river water but either way its easy to follow. It gets a little bit tasty in parts therefore I wouldn't recommend this way if you have very young children.
You will notice that the alternative road from the bridge follows the left bank, a lot more steady underfoot.
As the river corners left you come to Dovedale Stepping Stones. This feature must have been photographed a million times. Google Dovedale and the stepping stones will be the first images you see.
In the image above we have walked past the stepping stones and are looking back. You can see on the right hand side where the road ends therefore you have to walk across the stepping stones to get to this side of the river to continue the walk. The stones are incredibly stable and easy to walk across so don't worry.
You will notice I have referred to this walk as Noah's Walk. Noah was a little tiny boy who's Mum I know. Unfortunately little Noah didn't make it and his Mum sprinkled his ashes in this very place. The little soul now watches over us who walk this beautiful Dale so if you do ever try this walk, tip your hat to Noah, say hello and tell him his Mummy loves him. This truly is a special place, made even more special by little Noah being here.
We took some flowers along to make him smile and to let him know he is still in peoples thought and prayers.
We found a nice little spot to lay the flowers and we took five minutes to reflect on Noah and all the other little ones not with us.
As peaceful and quiet as Dovedale looks on these photos, rest assured it is an incredibly happy place for children of all ages as you will see later. I am probably a little bias but the spot Noah's Mum picked is perfect for her little boy.
As you see on the photo above you can just make out the gate on the right. For some reason this is locked most of the time why I have no idea but to the right of the gate is a stile that you can scramble over. The gap in the stile is very narrow and poor Milly just cant fit through but she just jumps in the river beside Noah's flowers and swims around the wall.
Follow the path that winds down into the vale.
This is the view as you look back towards the stile, you can just make out the stepping stones crossing the river. Remember this view as later in the blog I will demonstrate just how much this view changes as the day goes on!
The path does climb in places, in fact it can get a bit steep but its not a place to rush around so take your time and enjoy the view. This trip I noticed far more trout in the river than I had on previous walks, whether that had anything to do with the gorgeous sunshine I have no idea but its worth keeping an eye on the water as you will see some trout.
There are points where the path is replaced by a boardwalk as the river runs flush up to the rock face, but they are steady enough and there are no issues using them.
If you bring kids along they are going to love this walk, as you walk down the river you come across a few caves and caverns for them to explore, the kid still hidden within me cant help but take a look.
This is one of the larger caves you will come across:
Come on, who in their right mind wouldn't want to explore that baby!
After 1.75 miles you come to a wooden bridge that crosses the river, its right beside an impressive rock called Iiam Rock the bridge does come into play later in the walk but for now, just follow the sign for Milldale:
Now you can see why I was so precise about the 1.75 miles :-) Milldale is the half way point of the walk but we come back a different way which adds the extra mile.
As you approach Milldale you cross a little pack bridge:
As you can see, the bridge wasn't really built for modern day traffic, more for the pack horse I would suspect. Must be a few hundred years old. It actually has a name, its called Viators Bridge. I have no idea why but am intrigued so if anyone does know please let me know by leaving a comment on the blog. Even if you don't know, you can still leave comments about the walk or ask me any questions.
Milldale is a good place to recharge the batteries. There is a small shop, actually thats not quite true, its the window of a house where a very kind and polite lady sells sandwiches and drinks and also the odd map and trinket. The shop is easily visible as you cross the bridge just look to your right, you cant miss it. I reckon they open everyday as I have never been and it be closed.
There is a decent shelter, (again you cant miss it) that you can take lunch should the weather be a bit rubbish, it also has a supply of fresh drinking water so you can top up your water bottle. There are also toilets here.
As it was a nice day we decided to take our lunch on the river bank with the local ducks which kept Milly occupied, she was strictly on her lead and well and truly miserable because she wasn't allowed to chase them.
Our lunch venue:
You can see where the village gets it's name. Obviously this was the site of a mill many, many years ago, the Millstone in the picture probably having be in the same spot for decades if not hundreds of years.
After lunch its time to head back to Dovedale car park. Normally it's a walk back the same way you came but if you have been following my blogs, you will know I prefer my circular walks.
You cant miss the toilets in the village, they are right where you cross the bridge. If you take a sneaky peek to the right of the steps that leads up to the gents you will notice a sign for a footpath that indicates that after heavy rain this path becomes impassible. A long time ago I noticed it so I got my map out, found out where it went and we have used the same route to return to the car park ever since.
The path climbs quite steeply and is what Diane and I call a calf killer. It is worth it though as you will discover. (If you are a bit unsteady on your feet then I would suggest you go back over the bridge and return to the car park the same way you came. Its still a wonderful walk back so dont feel like you have missed too much).
As the path climbs it swings left, following the line of the river but from much higher up.
As you can see above the path is a bit dubious but it is obvious and well trodden so you wont get lost. The path continues to climb upwards through some trees then as you come out of the trees it opens up into a beautiful meadow, you could be forgiven for thinking you are in the Bavarian Alps in the summer. Diane certainly thinks so below, here she is giving her Julie Andrews impression!
The path is marked by small wooden posts, just keep following them and look for the stiles. There are a couple of stiles this way but they are easy to negotiate.
As you continue to climb the view of the river eventually comes into view. Continue on the path until you cross a stile that has a small barn to the right of it. This bit is important. As you walk across the field you will note that there is a sheep path that goes up the steep bank on the right. This is not the footpath but I ask that you walk up it for about 75 yards, its hard work but worth it. Plonk yourselves down and take a photograph of this view:
Please, please take this detour and take this photo.
OK, after getting your breath back walk back down to the track and pick up the trail again, turning right and heading back down toward the river. Very soon you reach the river, the track is nowhere near the same quality as the track on the other bank that you used to get to Milldale but it is obvious and you can't get lost.
Continue along the path which in places gets extremely close to the rivers edge but it does give you the opportunity to take in the smell of the wild flowers if thats your thing as the bank is covered in them. The walk down this side is really pleasant and if you are lucky you will be accompanied along the way as we were:
Milly wasn't too impressed mind as it meant her being on the lead as she would have jumped in and scattered them. They were soon hurried along though by the flow of the river and were quickly out of sight which meant Milly could resume her water pursuits.
The path eventually ends up at the wooden bridge I mentioned early, you know, the one next to Iiams Rock?
Here you can see Diane patiently waiting for me; I was trying to capture a photograph of a bird that I had seen but I never got the shot and got nettled for my efforts. Milly is probably in the shot but in the water I would guess.
Cross the bridge and take the trail to the right, its signposted Dovedale carpark 1 3/4 miles. Hmmmm remember that one?
You are now back tracking along the same path you came on earlier. Continue along the path to the car park. If you are reading the blog and not just looking at the pretty pictures you will recall I said something about remembering an image, of how peaceful and quite Dovedale can be.
Similar shot, later in the day!
This is the approach to the stepping stones on the way back. As you can see, on a warm day it becomes very busy with families:
The shot above was taken from where we had left flowers for Noah, a couple of hours earlier we were the only ones in the Dale but as you can see it's a very popular picnic spot and why not! The kids we saw were loving it, paddling in the water, fishing with hand nets and generally having a great time. This is what I meant when I said Noah's Mum had picked a happy place. Perfic as Del Boy Trotter would say.
At the stepping stones we decided to cross and make our way back to the car park by the road. The road is car free so Milly was able to make the most of the river, she virtually swam it back to the car park which by now was full to bursting, with cars actually queuing to get in as opposed to our arrival earlier that morning and ours being one of only 3 cars parked up.
I really recommend this walk anytime of the year, if you do get the chance to walk it, please stop and give a couple of minutes of your time to remember Noah who rests in this beautiful place. Something I noticed when I took the above photo off my camera. You may not see what I see but take a look at the tree in front, about two thirds of the way up between the middle tree and the right tree I see a dark green patch in the shape of a heart. How apt!
Thanks again for reading the blog and continuing to show an interest in our 100 mile adventure. As always, feel free to leave comments below, ask any questions you like about this or any other walk.
We are off to the Yorkshire Dales on holiday for a week soon so I suspect the next blog will come from that area.
Mark, Diane and Milly.
This walk we dedicate to little Noah