Longnor 6 mile walk
...one great view after another
This absorbing stroll around the hills of the Upper Dove Valley from Longnor reveals the finest of the few real peaks in the Peak District...
Peaks of the Upper Dove
This absorbing stroll around the hills of the Upper Dove Valley from Longnor reveals the finest of the few real peaks in the Peak District. Chrome, Parkhouse and High Wheeldon Hills really live up to the name, and provide exciting scrambling and marvellous views.
The gritstone village of Longnor clusters around its cobbled Market Square on a narrow ridge between the Dove and the Manifold. The gabled 19th century Market Hall, which still exhibits a scale of tolls for traders on its walls and is now a shop, café and craft centre. Longnor stands at the junction of a number of formerly important turnpike roads which crossed the Staffordshire moors. Another indication of Longnor’s former importance is that it still manages to support four pubs in a village with a population of just over 400.
Start from the cobbled Market Square in Longnor and walk up the charming little alley of Chapel Street, across Church Street and into a lane. Follow the footpath sign (right) and follow the wall up the hill to reach a stile and a fine view across the valley to the hills of the Upper Dove.
The Upper Dove Hills
It’s hard to conceive on a winter’s day, but the upstanding hills of the Upper Dove were formed under conditions very similar to those that exist today on the Great Barrier Reef, off the eastern coast of Australia. All that was around 350 million years ago, of course, when Britain was much closer to the Equator, and this area was submerged under a warm, shallow tropical sea. On the edge of this shimmering sea, coral reefs built up, eventually to form the more resistant limestone from which the present Chrome, Parkhouse and High Wheeldon hills were eventually created. It is this so-called reef limestine is also responsible for the isolated pinnacles and crags of the lower reaches of Dovedale downstream.
Follow the path which leads down the bank to join a farm track leading to Yew Tree Grange, which leads up the the road junction (B5053). Turn right here and just before the road starts a sharp descent to Glutton Bridge, turn left on the lane to Dove Bank and through two stiles to reach a footbridge over the Dove. You now join the minor road leading up into Dowel Dale, turning left under the serrated shadow of Parkhouse Hill (372m/1,221ft) with its attendant sharply pointed outlier which is known as the Sugar Loaf.
After a few steps you will see a sign on your left pointing out the concessionary footpath which allows access to the fine ridge walk which crosses Chrome Hill – locally and appropriately known as the“Dragon’s Back.” Follow the ridge up the steep grassy slopes to a stile by a stately sycamore tree, with outstanding views back down the valley of the Dove and across the slightly lower but no less impressive pinnacled ridge of Parkhouse Hill, to which there is also now access under the CROW Act.
Locally pronounced “Croom,” Chrome Hill (430m/1,411ft summit) is thought to have taken its unusual name from the Old English crumb meaning curved or sickle-shaped. This is a perfect description of the curving ridge which constitutes the finest ridge walk in the Peak District – an area not usually well-blesssed with such features. The Chrome Hill ridge is sensational, weaving and dipping between limestone outcrops and small caves and arches and requiring a good head for heights if you stick to the actual crest all the way. The view from the summit is outstanding, extending as far as Axe Edge to the west and the dim outline of Kinder Scout beyond Buxton to the north, and nearer at hand, down the length of the Dove and neighbouring Manifold valleys.
At the foot of the ridge, a waymark points the way to a path which skirts a walled enclosure with Tor Rock upstanding to the right. Passing through an old wall and several stiles, you reach the drive to Stoops Farm and the junction with the Dowel Dale road opposite High Edge. Turn right on this unfenced road and walk past Greensides to drop down into Dowel Dale by the open pothole known as Owl Hole on the left.
Steep-sided Dowel Dale was formed as an undersea channel between coral reefs and although now dry except in its lower reaches, was once fed by a galcial meltwater stream which helped to carve out its steep sides and joined the Dove between Chrome and Parkhouse Hills. At the foot of the dale, in the cliffs opposite Dowall Hall, Dowel Cave has revealed evidence of Old Stone Age occupation perhaps 20,000 years ago, when it was used by hunting parties seeking out game in the surrounding hills.
At the head of Dowel Dale just before it turns to head due south, take the stile on the left and the path which leads steeply uphill and then more easily, crossing a farm track and leading into another and down to the minor road near Harley Grange. Turn right here and walk down, crossing the Longnor-Buxton road and into Earl Sterndale.
The limestone cottages of Earl Sterndale may have family links with King’s Sterndale, across the A515, but the “Earl” is thought to derive from William de Ferrars, Earl of Derby, who held the estate in 1244. The village clusters around its small green, and is perhaps most famous for its welcoming pub with the unusual name of The Quiet Woman. Why she is quiet is obvious from the signboard – she has no head! The refurbished church of St. Michael’s contains a 12th century font.
From Earl Sterndale, take the village street leading south east, and then the minor road which branches off right past a small dewpond (locally known as a “mere”) towards Abbotside Farm and the old quarry beneath Alderley Cliff. A National Trust sign opposite the quarry leads to a stile and a path which ascends steeply up beside a drystone wall towards the impending conical summit of High Wheeldon. This is reached by a path coming up from Wheeldon Trees on the left, past the ruins of a lime kiln.
The long ridged summit of High Wheeldon (422m/1,383ft) is one of the finest viewpoints in the White Peak taking in much of the route of the walk, and including the splendid peaks of the Upper Dove. Southwards, it extends to Longnor on its ridge and the Manifold Valley beyond and down the length of the Dove. Looking north-east, Longstone Edge above Bakewell can just be made out, as can Chelmorton Low and Eldon Hill, towards Castleton. Just below the summit to the north east is the locked entrance to Fox Hole Cave, where Stone Age remains have been discovered in a 54m/180ft long fissure-type chamber.
Turn south from the summit and follow the path which leads steeply down to a drystone wall turning right where it meets another and contours down to meet the road to Crowdicote. Turn left on this and then right onto the unsurfaced but walled Green Lane which leads down to Beggar’s Bridge across the River Dove.
From the bridge, the footpath crosses ancient ridge-and-furrow cultivations before climbing to a gate near a barn. Bear left for the final climb of the day to Top o’ th’ Edge and a walled lane that leads back to the village street of Longnor. Turn right to regain the centre of the village.
Start/finish: Longnor Market Square Car Park.
Distance: 10km/6 miles
Approximate time: Allow about 3-4 hours
Highest point: Chrome Hill, 430m/1,411ft
Map: OS Explorer Sheet 24, White Peak
Refreshments: Pubs and café in Longnor, pub in Earl Sterndale
Terrain: A stiff climb to a narrow limestone ridge, not for vertigo-sufferers, then field paths and lanes and another stiff climb to High Wheeldon
These walks have been adapted from Roly Smith’s Rambler’s Guide to the Peak District, published by HarperCollins in 2000.
Copyright Let's Stay Peak District 2010
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015