A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 4 July 2014

A Walk In The White Peak

The Peak District has two distinct areas and personalities: the Dark Peak in the north, which is all about cloughs and groughs, moorland and millstone grit; and the White Peak in the south, with its softer landscape of limestone villages and dales, of crystal-clear rivers and streams. This geological yin-yang aspect to the National Park creates a satisfying contrast and complementarity. Last week I walked on the wild side in the Dark Peak; yesterday, in the White Peak, I explored my more feminine side. I began my walk in the village of Hartington, which lies by the exquisitely-named River Dove.  

In the woodland of Beresford Dale butterbur grew tall between path and river. Other plants included buttercup and herb-robert and, growing in the river itself, water-crowfoot.

Wooden footbridges hardly ever fail to seduce me. However, I resisted the charms of this one, which led into Wolfscote Dale. I remembered I'd crossed it before — 25 years ago. Instead, I left the river and climbed gently up the dry valley of Narrow Dale. I don't think many walkers come here, and I had only wheatears and redstarts for company.

On the limestone plateau above the dale some field paths and a quiet road took me to the sleepy village of Alstonefield.

The pub was not yet open, but I was content to eat my sandwiches and drink from my flask of coffee on a bench on the village green. (Sandwich filling: egg, onion and cheddar cheese mayonnaise — an absolute favourite!)

Leaving Alstonefield and its stone, slate-roofed cottages, I followed a delightful path — lined with a multitude of wild flowers such as the bright-blue meadow crane's-bill — to the top of Gipsy Bank.

Here Coldeaton Dale joins Biggin Dale. 

I thought the view from the top of the bank was very fine. You can see Coldeaton Bridge below — and that's the river Dove again.

The meandering riverside path eventually led me to the head of Biggin Dale, where a foot and cycle-way curved over the hill and back to Hartington.

This is Hartington Hall. A country gentleman's retreat, you might think — or perhaps a five-star hotel? No, not at all. It's a youth hostel! Could this be the most beautiful youth hostel in the world? And it's got a bar . . .

It had been a really great walk, and it was with reluctance I left this limestone paradise. The Peak District is the National Park I know the best: for long periods of my life I've lived in Staffordshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire — all within easy reach of this outstanding, lovely region.


The Weaver of Grass said...

Years ago, when we lived in Lichfield, the Derbyshire Dales were a favourite place to visit. Haven't been for years.
Like the sound of that sandwich filling - shall try it.

The Solitary Walker said...

That's probably the best sandwich filling in the universe, Pat!

Anonymous said...

I'm a sucker for The Dark Peak end.

Went for a swim in Monsal Dale, though. If I lived down there I'd probably walk in the Dark and Swim in the White.

Anonymous said...

One of my favourite sandwich fillings is tahini, soy sauce and spring onion. Probably best when walking on one's own.

The Solitary Walker said...

I love both areas, Dominic. Sometimes you're in the mood for one, sometimes for the other. Swimming is definitely a no-no for me, however.