One of the best things about living in Nottingham is that you’re situated pretty close to the Peak District. Coming from Nova Scotia, where 75% of the land is forest, I struggle a bit living in a city with a population of just 100,000 less than the whole province I grew up in. I always spent a lot of my free time at home in the woods, or just outdoors somewhere, hiking.
The Peak District National Park has a never-ending list of walks for visitors to enjoy year-round. So, lucky for me, the Peaks are easily accessible and always a fantastic spot to spend time away from the city. One of my favourite things is the feeling of freedom and success when you reach the peak of the hill you’re climbing, and just sitting back, enjoying the view and the quiet sounds of nature.
Sadly, I haven’t been able to visit the Peaks for the last couple of months thanks to Coronavirus drop-kicking any sense of normality into oblivion. My walks lately have consisted of constantly side-stepping people and cutting across to the other side of the street in attempts to keep 2 metres distance between me and the seemingly huge amount of other people who have just started walking around my neighbourhood.
I’ve been anxiously awaiting the time when I’ll be able to get back out into nature and walk on footpaths and earth instead of pavement or concrete. And with the beginning of easing lockdown restrictions, I’ll soon be able to do just that.
So, I thought I’d make a post of some of my favourite walks in the Peaks I’m looking forward to getting back to, to celebrate surviving the ridiculousness that has been the year 2020 so far.
1. Ilam to Dovedale and Thorpe’s Cloud
This is a pretty easy walk, until you get to Thorpe’s Cloud. But even then, to hike to the top of Thorpe’s Cloud is just a short ascent, so this is a great walk when you’re not interested in a long, grueling hike.
I start out at Ilam Park, which is a National Trust site, so I get free parking as a member. There’s also a lovely cafe here, and toilets as well. Ilam Park itself is pretty small, but you can take a stroll around the park and along the river before heading across to the Dovedale Stepping Stones.
It was extremely hot the first time I went here – nearly 30 degrees in the summer of 2018’s heatwave. But luckily, once I reached the top of Thorpe Cloud, it was super windy, so I got a nice cool down in the middle of the trek. I stopped at the top to sit and take in the 360 degree views, and eat my sandwich lunch before heading back to Ilam Park.
2. Longshaw Estate and Padley Gorge
Longshaw Estate is another National Trust site, so free parking for me again. Once the Duke of Rutland’s shooting estate, the lodge here was built in 1827 as a retreat for his shooting guests, including the likes of King George V and the Duke of Wellington. After it fell into the hands of the National Trust, it was a holiday guest house, then made into private flats.
The house played an important role during WWI, when it served as an overflow hospital to the Military Base Hospital in Sheffield. Soldiers on the road to recovery were sent here, where they were allowed to roam the moors, sail on the lake, and visit local houses nearby (such as Haddon Hall and Eyam Hall).
There’s some great walking trails just along the property which are nice and easy for a stroll, but I choose to also cross over to Padley Gorge.
I like to go here in the fall when the leaves have turned colours, because it’s just gorgeous. The trail along Padley Gorge follows alongside the river, with some splendid little waterfalls along the way.
You can do a straight walk, along the river and turn around to head back along the same path, but I tend to go up across the field towards Owler Tor/Surprise View car park, and loop back to the Longshaw Estate from there.
3. Froggatt’s Edge, the Eastern Moors
This walk has fantastic views of the town below, and the first day I visited was quite foggy. When I began the hike, and for the first while, it was so foggy you could hardly see anything at all. But partway through, the sun decided it was going to try to burst through the fog and the clouds, and it made for an absolutely spectacular sight.
The sun burning off the fog, making the dew drops on the trees below sparkle like thousands of tiny little diamonds was like nothing I’d ever seen. Of course, pictures can’t capture it properly, but I gotta say, it was just incredible to sit and watch it for a while.
4. Derwent Valley Reservoirs
Another pretty easy hike, but another one with pretty enjoyable scenery. This roughly 5 mile walk begins and ends at the Derwent Valley Dam car park, making a loop around the Ladybower Reservoir. The terrain is quite flat with well-made paths and no stiles, great for cyclists as well.
At the end (or start, depending which way you head off) of this hike, there’s the Derwent Dam, constructed between 1901 and 1916. The reservoirs created by these dams are also famous for their use during WWII by the ‘Dambusters’ squadron of the RAF. It was here where they practiced for their raid on the Ruhr dams in Germany, using newly created ‘bouncing bombs’ specifically designed to bounce over the torpedo nets protecting the crucial hydro-power supply to the major German industrial area surrounding these dams.
Alternatively, (or additionally, depending how eager you are) you could walk up past the Derwent Dam and do the loop by Howden Dam and around the Y-shaped reservoir as well. The circular walk around Derwent and Howden Reservoirs is just over 10 miles and is relatively flat, perfect for cycling too.
5. Fairbrook & Fairbrook Naze
Finally, a hike that isn’t just an easy stroll. This walk has a long, slow ascent along Fair Brook up to the top of the hill, but rewards you with a fabulous view when you finally reach the summit.
I parked on the A57 Snake Road and walked along the River Ashop edge before beginning the climb up along Fair Brook to the interesting rock sculptures at Fairbrook Naze. The path along Fair Brook gets quite stony and a bit awkward, but not quite a scramble. When you reach the top of this path, you’re on the edge of Kinder Plateau with views of Bleaklow and the Derwent Edge.
6. The Roaches and Lud’s Church
Another circular walk (in case you hadn’t noticed yet, I much prefer circular walks to taking the same route in and out), with a bit of a moderate difficulty I’d say. This is a roughly 7 mile loop with one of the most unique sights I’ve seen in the Peak District.
This walk starts with an invigorating climb up to the Roaches, a rocky, gritstone edge with 360º views surrounding you. After a gradual descent from this edge, you carry on into the woods to discover Lud’s Church, a deep chasm about 300 feet long with rock walls 30 to 40 feet high, covered in lush green vegetation. The walls are between 6 and 10 feet wide, making this a damp, cave-like area with a bit of an eerie vibe to it.
7. Chee Dale & Middle Black Clough
This walk takes you through a deep gorge, by limestone ledges, leapfrogging over stepping stones in the river, and back up to stroll through pastures while overlooking the secluded gorge you just made your way through.
From Miller’s Dale old station car park, head down the multi-purpose trail to Wye Dale. Just before a terrace of cottages, after crossing a footbridge, you bear right to carry on down the riverside path toward Chee Dale. Along the River Wye, you’ll see beautiful viaducts and cross a unique path – stepping stones through the river. Note: if the first set of stones are even a little bit underwater, you won’t be able to continue on this trail – the next set of stepping stones will be impassable.