...Princess of rivers
Beautiful Dovedale is loved and visited by a million plus visitors a year - mainly to cross the newly capped stepping stones and enjoy some all too brief fresh air? You should stay awhile and stroll to Milldale for the full Dovedale experience...
Dovedale, dubbed by Compleat Angler co-author Charles Cotton as “the Princess of rivers,” hit the headlines recently when Derbyshire County Council capped the famous stepping stones at its entrance to make them safer for the million or so annual visitors.
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The stones, worn glassy-smooth by generations of local people and visitors, were capped with mortared limestone slabs at a cost of £7,000 to make them level and well above the level of the river, which is prone to sudden flooding. The protests at the action hit the national press, and even a Facebook group was set up in protest.
Protesters claimed that the action was “unnatural” and “Health and Safety gone mad”, but the council and the National Trust, who had called for the work to be done, claimed that the stones had become dangerous, that the work was necessary and would soon weather in.
However you enter Dovedale, either by crossing the river at the stepping stones or the footbridge further downstream, the famous valley soon proclaims itself as the most popular and best-known of the limestone dales of the White Peak. Guarded at its southern entrance by the twin sentinels of Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill, the beautifully clear river forms the boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire for much of its length.
Dovedale is most famous for its impressive limestone rock formations, such as Lover’s Leap, Tissington Spires, the Twelve Apostles, the Lion’s Head, Ilam Rock, Pickering Tor and the cavernous Dove Holes. Higher up the dale in its middle section is the natural rock arch known as Reynard’s Cave. All these formations consist of the harder, more resistant, limestones which grew on the edges of coral reefs in a sub-tropical Carboniferous sea, around 350 million years ago.
Much of the dale is well wooded, with some of the finest ash woods in the Peak which are home to rare plants such as the pink-flowered mezereon, mountain currant and spurge laurel. The river is home to rainbow and brown trout and a threatened population of native white-clawed crayfish.
The best way to explore the dale is to take the well-engineered and easy three-mile path alongside the river, between Thorpe and Milldale, which will reveal each of the dale’s rock features in turn. Beyond Milldale, the dale becomes known as Wolfscote and Beresford Dale, before reaching Hartington
The whole of the Dovedale valley between Milldale in the north and Thorpe in the south was made a National Nature Reserve in 2006, and is managed by the National Trust as part of its South Peak estate.
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Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015