We started our walk from the pretty village of Tideswell and headed off along Church Lane. We had just under a mile of road walking before we could turn off onto a footpath running along Litton Edge. From the edge we could look down on the village of Litton. It had finally stopped raining but visibility was still poor.
We had another short distance of road walking before we could branch off onto a footpath heading for Wardlow Mires. Below us to our right we could look down into Cressbrook Dale with what looked like a fast flowing river in the valley.
No river was shown on the map. A local man out walking his dog explained that a couple of days ago the valley was dry. The river was the result of snow melt from the few inches of snow that fell last week and lots of overnight rain. He said that we should be able to get across a little bridge “if it was not under water” We made it and followed a path along Cressbrook Dale, one of the five dales that make up the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve. The water was 20 – 30 feet wide flowing either side of a dry stone wall and occasionally bursting through gaps in the wall.
Ahead of us was Peter’s Stone. It is also known as Gibbet Rock. It was here that the last public Gibbeting in Derbyshire took place in 1815. It is said that this was a 21 year old man from Tideswell called Anthony Lingard. He was convicted of killing Hannah Oliver, the toll-keeper at Wardlow Mires. After his execution at Derby Gaol his body was hung in chains on Gibbet Rock for 11 years until it was eventually removed following complaints from locals about the gruesome chattering of his bones in the wind.
We passed below the rock and continued along the dale to cross a footbridge and enter a wooded section. It was beautiful with the moss covering the walls and the branches of the trees. No sound except the rushing water from the other side of the wall.
Eventually we reached a lane which we followed down to Cressbrook but not before a close encounter with some bullocks.
We had managed to keep our feet dry but only just.
We followed another minor road alongside the River Wye heading towards Monsal Head. We stopped for lunch at a picnic spot, a rare chance to sit at a table to eat our lunch. We were joined by a couple of robins who we eager to snap up any crumbs. We then crossed the river via a footbridge and climbed up the far bank to join the Monsal Trail.
The Monsal Trail is an 8.5 mile stretch of the old railway line and provided easy walking, a chance to escape from the mud. We could look across at Cressbrook Mill.
Once powered by water from the River Wye, Cressbrook Mill was built in 1779 by Sir Richard Arkwright. It was burnt down in 1785 and rebuilt in 1787 by his son. At the rear of the mill are the apprentices cottages, built to house the orphan children brought from the cities to work in the mill. During the 18th century the mill produced high quality cotton for the lace making industry. It finally ceased operations in 1965 and the present building is used as private apartments.
There are several tunnels along the trail. seen here is Cressbrook Tunnel.
We followed the Monsal Trail as far as Millers Dale. The station here was once the largest station on the Midland Line. Built in 1863 by the Midland Railway, Millers Dale was an important railway junction. Passengers from Buxton made connections with express trains running between London and Manchester. The station originally had two main platforms but three more platforms were added in 1905. A second viaduct was constructed across the valley. Every morning local farmers brought in milk to catch the ‘Milk Train. There was also an increase in industry as the railway provided easy access to the limestone deposits in the area. Several quarries opened and in 1876 a lime works opened up above the station and a series of lime kilns were built. It is hard to believe that there was so much activity in the area just over 100 years ago as now it is so quiet and peaceful.
We left the trail at the station and headed back towards Tideswell. An unintended diversion took us into Monks Dale but we soon realised we were on the wrong track. Our intended route was along the Limestone Way.
It ought to be renamed the ‘Muddy Way’.Six inches of sticky mud and flooded stretches that had us clinging on the the dry stone wall for support. I thought I had made it but one little stumble and I was on my hands and knees in the mud. No injury except to my pride. I looked like the creature that had just emerged from the black lagoon. ( No picture)
A final section of field paths led us back to Tideswell as once again it started to rain.
It had only been 11 miles but it felt like much, much more.