Friday, 4 March 2011

Cressbrook canter

Today was such a lovely day, not perfectly clear, but nice and bright. We decided to do a walk with a lot of climbing in it to ready ourselves for our trip to Madeira next week. We also wanted to see how work was progressing on the opening of the Monsal trail tunnels. You can find out more here;
We left the car and passed by the now-restored Monsal Head hotel.

The viaduct looked as impressive as ever, even on a drab March day.

When we reached the trail, it was obvious work was progressing in earnest, but far from complete. The huge metal doors had been removed though to allow access for the machinery being used to restore the tunnels.

This is what it looked like before.

The trail bed was taking a hammering though, and this too would have to be restored before it was safe to walk and ride on it. They had cleared a LOT of vegetation at the track side as well.

Looking into the tunnel, there were no lights yet, and the floor was bad.

At the next tunnel, we turned off to the right, looking down to Cressbrook mill below us. Now residential, you can live here, if you have the money!

If you've a LOT of money, maybe you could live here - Cressbrook hall.

We ascended the path known as 'the alpine path' which runs high above Water cum Jolly dale. the views back to Cressbrook Hall and Water cum Jolly dale were impressive and clear.

We had lunch perched on the top of the crags, accompanied by stunning views (and a chilly wind). You can see the restored mill nestling in the dale bottom, and on the hillside on the right, a 'breather chimney' for the old mill. After lunch, we dropped down to the trail again, and into the hamlet of Litton Mill.

This section of the trail had been heavily used by contractors vehicles, and was showing very bad erosion. This will (should) all be repaired by the time the trail re-opens to the public in about a months time.

Looking into the tunnel, only the contractors lights are running, at the moment.

We descended the path through the woods. It would only be a few weeks before these woods would be bursting with bluebells and wild garlic. Birdsong was already noticeably increased as the birds prepared for the mating season.

Looking up the peaceful river Wye from the footbridge to Litton Mill.

The snowdrops here were lovely, and of course, I just HAD to capture them!

Also, there were a few crocus out, not the wild type, but the garden variety. The wild ones wouldn't be far behind them, though.

We started the climb out of the dale, and upwards towards another hamlet, Cressbrook. From here, you can see our route along the alpine path, and the circle is where we sat for lunch. That hump of solid limestone is where two tunnels pass through to Monsal Head.

Looking over to the other side of the dale reveals evidence of mining in the past. You can clearly see the remains of where people had worked. We could see many 'rakes', and follow where the miners had gone in their quest (mainly for lead).

Now then - here's what the politicians have been telling us all to look out for.

(and Catkins too........)

Although this looks like a stony outcrop, it is, in fact, a rotting tree trunk.

Cressbrook Methodist chapel, with its lovely curved end wall.

As we reached the top of the path, and just before we dropped into Cressbrook, we could see forward to where we'd begun the walk - Monsal Head (those buildings on the skyline are the cafe and pub).

We arrived in Cressbrook, investigated the pub there (we just looked at it, as it was closed), and continued down into Cressbrook dale. Our goal was to go to the trig point of Wardlow Hay Cop, high up on the other side. We also wanted to stand on these clifftops called Ravenstor. They only used to be accessible to climbers (who often rent the cottages below the crags), but since the open access law, all can now enjoy the heady heights!

We crossed this mossy, hidden bridge.

Soon we were once again up high. This view is up Cressbrook dale.

In this view across the dale, you can clearly see what I was talking about re; mining rakes. You can see how the miners have followed the vein of lead down the hillside. There are also three or more shafts there. The dale in the middle is called Tansley dale.

A big surprise, we came across a lone figure with three dogs. It was Geoff, our friend who owns the Three Stags pub at Wardlow Mires (one of our favourite watering holes). We attended his 75th birthday party last weekend, and here he is, walking the dogs on high and uneven ground.
I'll have a pint of whatever HE'S drinking!

Not one for the lower slopes, we sat and watched as he took the dogs back towards home, not the easy way in the dale bottom, but along this route on the steep dale side.

Time for us to move on, and here's Sue walking the top path towards Wardlow Hay cop.

In no time, we were at the trig point. You have to go here to really appreciate the fabulous panorama that is there. It really stops you dead in your tracks, as you can see for many, many miles in every direction. Behind me is Eyam moor, with the gliding club at Great Hucklow located on that 'hunch' to my left (as you look at me).

These tiny fungi were growing in the fields, the only fungi we'd seen today.

This dew pond (or 'mere', as Geoff tells us they are called), has been lovingly restored, and now just awaits the kiss of nature to bring it to life. They've fenced it off against animals (a paradox, as they were originally to water the animals), and now they are hoping newts, Great Crested and ordinary, will make their home here and flourish, along with other aquatic species.

Here we are, on top of those cliffs you saw earlier. These are Ravenstor cottages. Only ONE of these twelve cottages is lived in full time, all the rest are holiday cottages!

We made our way along the tops, then dropped into Hay dale, back along the Monsal trail for a short while, before climbing back up to the car. The walk had been just shy of eight miles, but with over 2,000 feet of ascent (most of it really steep dale sides), we knew we'd done it. As the sun began to set, we made our way back home to Bakewell, tired but VERY happy


  1. One of our most very favourite walks - and Rosie will be along soon saying the same thing i'm sure!! Such a stunning part of the world - we are very lucky to live so close by. I noticed in Autumn that the tunnels were being restored - I dont like tunnels and dont know if I will be brave enough to go in them - i'll have to see (or get some dutch courage at the Monsal Head! xx

  2. Lol - well here I am, just as Diane predicted saying the same thing! Definitely one of our favourite walks and I've enjoyed walking along again with you. It will be interesting to see what happens with the tunnels. Hope you enjoy your holiday:)

  3. Me too! One of my favourite walks! We did a very similar route about a year ago! Looking forward to reading about your holiday adventures!

  4. Rosie, Louise and myself need to all live nearer each other - Ashford in the Water would be nice! xxxx

  5. One of my favourite areas to go walking too; and I'm really looking forward to the opening of the tunnels.