White Peak Walk – Monsal Head, Taddington, Litton Mill and Cressbrook
This White Peak walk is a a moderately long circuit which takes in Monsal Dale, Taddington, High Dale, Litton, Millers Dale, Cressbrook and back to Monsal Head. It is close to Bakewell and takes in some excellent White Peak scenery.
Behind the Monsal Head pub, about 10 minutes drive at most from Bakewell, you will find the car park for this White Peak walk. Stay focused – resist stopping at the pub or the next door team room and instead go through the squeeze stile on the opposite side of the road. Take the steep path on the left that descends into Monsal Dale in a south westerly direction. Follow this along the bottom of the dale unto you reach the A6. Cross this carefully to the parking area and take a path off to the right before you reach Deep Dale which takes you up through a small valley to Taddington Field where you pick up a track which takes you almost all the way into Taddington, the last few yards are on the road. Whilst in Taddington take a look around, it is a fascinating little village; if you are there around the time of the harvest festival then make sure you go into the church as they make a really big effort.
Take the road out of Taddington that heads north east. Cross the A6 again and take short track which angles up to the right then drop suit down into High Dale which has a very geometrical shape, it almost looks as if it has been cut out by hand it is so regular. Where the dale widens out, take the bridleway up the fields to the right; turn left along the track then right where the track turns abruptly left. He be so next stretch of the path passes through a former mining area where you can the remains of the old bell pit style of mineral extraction used extensively in the Peak District. You then drop steeply through the fields and find your self on a section of the Monsal Trail, a disused railway line. Turn right along this and very soon this White Peak walk drops you steeply down to cross the river Wye where you find your self at Litton Mill. Litton Mill was notorious for the exploitation of child labour, a grim past indeed. These days the mill is more welcoming and has been converted into luxury apartments. When you have finished looking at the river and the mill race, follow the river downstream all the way to Cressbrook Mill. Be warned that during the winter after prolonged periods of rain this section of path is sometimes underwater – we have experienced it more than knee deep! An alternative to this section of this White Peak walk is to just follow the Monsal Trail where you meet it at Litton.
Cressbrook Mill did not have same dark history as Litton mill and has itself been converted into luxury apartments. At least these fine buildings are no longer in ruin. Re-join the Monsal Trail before you reach the actual mill building and follow it back towards the starting point at Monsal head. Shortly after passing through the disused and ruined station you will cross the river Wye once again using the Headstone viaduct, an impressively high example of railway engineering. Take the steep footpath to the left to return you to your starting point.
OK, now you can stop for a well earned pint or cream tea!
Disclaimer – probably not necessary but here it is any way … This is an outline wrote description only and should not be used in this form for navigation. You should check the route before starting using your own map – we suggest the OS outdoor leisure sheet number 24 at a scale of 1 to 25,000, we find that is very good for the area. Please also make sure that your party is sufficiently fit and correctly equipped for the conditions prevailing at the time of your walk.
Local points of interest
Bakewell – an important town in the peak district of Derbyshire probably the best known for the local delicacy called the Bakewell pudding which was created accidentally when a kitchen maid added the ingredients to a pudding she was preparing in the wrong order. Bakewell is also often called the gateway to the peak since it is effectively an important crossroads. It is a market town with a large and contemporary cattle market. It is an important shopping centre which attracts a lot of tourists as well as locals. The bridge carrying the Baslow road over the river Wye is old, narrow and of great historical interest. The church at Bakewell has a collection of Anglo Saxon carvings in the door way. The railway is long gone and the station has become an industrial estate whilst the bed of the railway is now the Monsal Trail.
Country bookstore – popular and well known bookshop on the outskirts of Bakewell backing on to the Monsal Trail.
The Monsal Trail – disused railway bed converted into a walking and cycling trail. The tunnels were re-opened in 2011 and the trail has become extremely popular. It is now possible to walk, cycle or ride your horse through to Blacwell Halt, taking in the spectacular scenery of Chee Dale. The line was built by the Midland railway company and terminated at Buxton. The line was originally intended to follow the line of the river derwent however the Duke of Devonshire objected. The Duke of Rutland allowed the line to pass behind Haddon Hall on condition that it was hidden from sight in a cutting. I believe that there are plans afoot to re-open this section at some point in the future, which would extend the Monsal Trail to Rowsley.
The Magpie Mine – the remains of Magpie Mine can be seen in the fields near Sheldon and there is a footpath that goes right past the winding house. If you are a caver and wishe to explore the mine you will need to contact the mining museum at Matlock. Underground, when the mine was in its heyday, there was a lot of competition with the nearby Magshaw mine. At one point the competition were so intense that several deaths resulted from a deliberately started underground fire. In 1964 the drainage sough which surfaced in Great Shacklow Woods became blocked, eventually the pressure of water behind the blockage had built up to such a level that the side of the hill was literally blasted out.
Great Shacklow Wood – local beauty spot with a great path winding through, fabulous autumn colours. Car parking available at the Taddington end.
Ashford in the Water – pretty little or peak district village famed for the Ashford marble which has been used not just in the UK but throughout the world; is not in fact marble it is simply a very dark limestone. The cricket ground is typically English and the local Ashford team play a challenge match against the Derbyshire county side each year. The church contains a couple of very rare paper funeral garlands from the fourteenth century. The bridge near the church is called Sheepwash bridge because that is exactly what happened there. It is possibly the most photographed bridge in Derbyshire! In the summer, you can see loads of trout in the clear shallow waters of the River Wye from the Bridge. Several of the village wells are dressed during the well dressing season.