Monday, 17 December 2012

Millers Dale from Litton Mill

Last weekend I met up with Milly, Maria, Robin, Kate, Steve, Elaina, Ben and Jo. It was Milly's annual Christmas get together in the Peak District. She booked the fantastic self catering cottage Riverside House in Litton Mill. Riverside House is situated in Miller's Dale in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales one of my favourite areas in the Peak District National Park. I set off late on Friday night as I was working late and didn't get there until nine o'clock. Luckily Miller's Dale is only an hour from my house. At Dove Holes I foolishly decided to turn off the main road and take the shortcut over the higher minor road via Wormhill. This was a big mistake as the steep and unlit road was treacherous in places covered in black ice and snow. I would have looked a bit of a wally had I been rescued as I was donning a big red furry Santa hat I had purchased on the way. When the road dropped altitude and descended to Wormhill the conditions improved and I arrived safely still donning my Santa hat.

Robin, Milly and Kate outside Riverside House, Litton Mill
We played the fastest pop quiz in the world ever on Friday night. Robin often falling out with Maria for not taking the game serious enough and talking over the intros. I drank a little too much Baileys whilst Robin handed out Port and cheeses. As I was last to arrive I had to sleep on the collapsible bed in the hallway. After a fairly good nights sleep I was woken by the familiar sound of early morning Milly working away in the kitchen as she does first thing in the morning. We had discussed possible routes the night before. Milly and I are both local and know the area well. Milly wanted to show the guys the area to the west along Millers Dale to Chee Dale, Wye Dale, Deep Dale and then a detour to the pub at Chelmerton. This was a fairly long route and I was feeling rather tired after a hard week so I decided on a shorter circular route that I had done a year ago from Monsal Head. This route passed through Litton Mill so I thought I would do the same route just starting from Litton Mill instead. This route also takes in my favourite Peak District pub the Red Lion at Litton. We decided the night before on a route that would take in up to five possible pubs along the way and intoxicated by Baileys and Port we decided somewhat optimistically that we would attempt a pub crawl. As you will see somewhat unsurprisingly that plan never materialised. We all woke up and breakfasted a little later than expected so didn't set off until late morning. We split into two groups. Robin, Maria, Ben and Jo all went with Milly on the longer route. Kate, Steve and Elaina joined me on my shorter route.

Litton Mill, Miller's Dale, Derbyshire Dales
We set off along the icy road towards Litton Mill. The mill is now swanky apartments. I would love to be able to recite a story of historic industrial success but Litton Mill is more famous for its lack of success, bad timing and socially unacceptable child labour. As Milly pointed out, it would be a strange place to live in if you knew its dark past. It is still an impressive building architecturally and in a stunning location by the River Wye.

Kate and Elaina photographing misty River Wye
After Litton Mill we crossed the bridge over the mill outflow, which was like an ice rink. We turned left and followed the path between the mill outflow and the River Wye, which was fast moving and in spate. As we approached the first bend on the river there was a lovely moment where the warm sun rays were hitting the surface of the River Wye. This produced rising wisps of mist from the water.

River Wye, Miller's Dale, Derbyshire Dales
It was a wonderful scene especially as the woods in the background were so enchanting. Dark trees with many branches stripped of their leaves by the autumn fall silhouetted like black veins in the mist.

Water-cum-Jolly Dale above River Wye, Miller's Dale
We continued along the path passing the huge cliffs at Water-cum-Jolly Dale. As we turned the corner towards the mill pond behind Cressbrook Mill I could see that the river was getting closer to the bank. I know that sometimes when the River Wye is in spate it is impossible to walk the river side path to Cressbrook as it can become completely submerged. There is a high alternative path that ascends to Cressbrook Hall which has to be taken when this happens. We passed the alternative path and continued in the hope that it would be passable. We soon realised there was no way we would make it along the river side path as it became ankle deep and looked even worse ahead. So we turned back and headed up the steep path to Cressbrook Hall.

Elaina and Kate by a swollen River Wye, Miller's Dale
The path across the fields to Cressbrook Hall was covered in ice that had developed from freeze thaw of recent snowfall. We managed to skirt the ice most of the way by tramping over lumps of frozen grass and nettles. At Cressbrook Hall we descended the tarmac road to Cressbrook Mill. At Cressbrook Mill we headed down the footpath behind the mill to reach the wooden footbridge over the outflow of the mill pond.

Rubicon Wall, Cressbrook, Miller's Dale, Derbyshire Dales
A beautiful Robin begged for food as we looked at the impressive limestone Rubicon Wall across the mill pond. Elaina and Steve obliged and handed the lovely red breasted friend some of their tasty muffin. The outflow from the mill pond was very fast flowing and the canyon below looked awesome.

Kate guarding bridge above Cressbrook Mill Pond outflow
I said to Steve that it is times like that when you can see the shear force of water that it is easy to understand how it shapes the land. We crossed the wooden footbridge and climbed the path on the other side. After a short distance on the path above Cressbrook Mill we reached the Monsal Trail.

Cressbrook Mill Pond outflow with Rubicon Wall behind
The Monsal Trail is a unique cycling, walking and horse riding trail. It is a fantastic multi-million pound resource that has been built using the abandoned Midland's Railway Line that once linked Manchester with the Midlands. The thing that makes this trail unique is its tunnels. The tunnels were relined and lit creating a continuous trail through the hills and dales. We were stood at the exit of the Cressbrook Tunnel. We watched groups of cyclists on rented bikes appear from the darkness of the tunnel. We could hear them making noise and then there lights. That is the great thing about the Monsal Trail, cycling through the tunnels you leave the landscape of one dale then exit the tunnel at the other end entering the different landscape of another.

Fossils in limestone step below Monsal Head, Peak District
We continued along the easy surface of the Monsal Trail to Headstone Viaduct. There are fabulous views from the Headstone Viaduct up and down the dale with the River Wye far below on the valley floor. On the other side of the Headstone Viaduct and just before the trail enters the Headstone Tunnel we turned left and ascended the path to Monsal Head. The path was fairly icy in places on the higher steps. One step caught my eye as it was a huge block of limestone with an abundance of fossils.

Headstone Viaduct from Monsal Head, Peak District
At Monsal Head we entered the Stable Bar at the Monsal Head Hotel. This is a great pub with some brilliant local ales. Its only problem however is that it is very cosy, which isn't a problem in the busy summers months as you can sit outside. Today however was too cold for sitting outside and inside it was already full. We decided therefore to head back to the Ellery's Tea Rooms.

Apple and Parsnip Soup and Bakewell, Ellery's Tea Room, Monsal Head
The food and service in Ellery's is always top notch. I had delicious and warming Apple and Parsnip soup followed by a tasty Bakewell slice. We laughed at what our pub crawl had turned into. We left Ellery's and descended the road into the dale to head back to Cressbrook along the valley floor.

Ravensdale Cottages, Cressbrook Dale, Derbyshire Dales
Just before Cressbrook we saw people on canoes heading down the River Wye. We could hear their instructor  shouting to them warning them to get out of the river as there was a farmers barbed wire across the river at this point. We continued along the road to Cressbrook then at Cressbrook ascended the steep road on the right. At the top of the hill we turned right down the road to Ravensdale Cottages.

Muddy floor of Cressbrook Dale, Derbyshire Dales
After the idyllic Ravensdale Cottages the road turns into a very muddy footpath through the floor of the always damp dale. The environment in these dale floors is always damp, whether in warm dry mid summer or cold dry mid winter it is always temperate and damp in these dale floor woodlands. The trees are always cloaked in colourful lichens and mosses.

Wooden footbridge over swollen stream in Cressbrook Dale
The stream through the dale floor was just a foot wide the last time I came through here in summer but today it was in spate and at one point completely submerged our path. We crossed the footbridge over the swollen stream half way along the dale.

Footpath through Cressbrook Dale, Derbyshire Dales
The walk along the floor of the dale beyond the bridge was fairly icy in places. The stream that is usually a trickle and sometimes disappears all together, was around a dozen metres wide in places.

Kate admiring the far end of Cressbrook Dale, Derbyshire Dales
At the top of the dale where it is usually much drier, I was shocked to find a lake of water. When I passed through here in the summer there wasn't even a stream here, now there was a wide lake with ducks.

Kate on footbridge to Tansley Dale, Derbyshire Dales
We crossed the footbridge to Tansley Dale. In the summer you can usually just walk across the dried up stream bed. From the other side of the stream we watched big fat rabbits playing on the steep grassy hillside above.

Skirting icy path up Tansley Dale, Derbyshire Dales
Tansley Dale had a very icy path so we simply skirted it all the way to the top. The views back over the top of Cressbrook Dale were great with the low winter sun bathing the limestone escarpments.

Wardlow Hay Cop, Derbyshire Dales, Peak District
When we reached the top of Tansley Dale we crossed the large stile into the farmers fields and headed in the direction of the buildings at Litton. The track in between the two fields which has tall sheltering stone walls was an ice rink. I hadn't realised this when I jumped down from the second stile on to the track. I slipped but managed to keep my balance somehow.

Kate skidding along icy track near Litton, Peak District
We all crept up the track to the next stile whilst Kate did her best dancing on ice impression for the camera. Over the next field and stile we were in the village of Litton. The village of Litton has what is in my opinion the best pub in the Peak District, The Red Lion.

The Red Lion at Litton, Derbyshire Dales, Peak District
The Red Lion at Litton has it all. Warm real fires, local ales, tasty food and a great atmosphere with friendly bar staff and even friendlier locals. It is a great place to visit and every time I have the locals have always said hello and joined in with conversation, it is a really welcoming place.

Warm and friendly Red Lion at Litton, Derbyshire
We were happily warming our cockles. I was devouring a refreshing pint of Barnsley Bitter when I looked outside and realised it had gone dark. Looking at the map we realised we still had at least three kilometres to walk back to Litton Mill so we drank up and reluctantly left the warm surroundings of the Red Lion. We walked a kilometre down the road through Litton Dale, left at the road junction, then left through the stone wall to the road side path into Tideswell Dale. From the visitors car park onwards it was dark and the path was icy. We passed the famous giant wooden Water Vole and took the usual silly photos. After this point the path got treacherous and we had zero visibility so we all put on our head torches and micro spikes. Both of which made the next kilometre a lot easier.

Birthday boy Steve with his roman numeral birthday cake
We returned to Riverside House and there was no sign of the others which wasn't surprising as their route was a lot longer than ours and we guessed that like us they may have found a warm pub in which to sip a few drinks. A quick look on Facebook on one of our phones confirmed as such. A cheeky message was posted by them saying how grateful they were that we had got back before them and that we would be preparing the Christmas meal. We made a pot of tea and birthday boy Steve who was thirty one plus twenty today got his chocolate birthday cake from Kate with roman numerals.

Christmas table set, Riverside House
I set the table and then Gilly, Maria, Robin, Ben and Jo all came through the door with tales of their day. After showering the cooks worked their magic in the kitchen and produced a fantastic Christmas meal. We enjoyed it so much that we all forgot to take a photo of us all eating it!

Big children playing games after Christmas dinner

After Christmas dinner there was a race of pull back toy cars on a track which came in some of the crackers. It wasn't the most high tech of entertainment but Robin provided the technology by filming the photo finish. The purple car won by a mile. Those who weren't slaving over the cooker earlier cleaned up and then we all sat down for what has to have been the most overly complicated secret Santa I have ever experienced in my life! It was a fantastic weekend with fantastic friends and I really needed the break.  Hugely grateful to Milly for organising it!

Route Map...

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  1. Great part of the world, though very wet on this occasion. I was there a bit earlier in the year ( and love the Red Lion

  2. That's a nice little route, Jamie. I've often done a 'Xmas Walk' over a similar route but heading south from Monsal Head rather than visiting Litton. Litton Mill (the mill) was derelict for several years so it's good to see it now having been put to good use. I wonder whether the locals' fear of overloaded roads and parking problems arising from its redevelopment were realised - I suspect not.

  3. Good stuff - and in the very best of company too!


  4. Hey really good report! I enjoyed the read!
    Gareth Evans, a FB follower!

  5. As you suspect Martin that road is still very quiet, especially this time of the year. The people who live their seem to respect the area as you really wouldn't know that so many people live in the dale, its still very peaceful, litter free and beautiful. Thanks for the comments guys! :-)

  6. Nice post with amazing pics. A good stuff i really like it.Thanks for sharing this.