The Dragon’s Back
15th November 2009
Map: Landranger 119
Weather: A short shower, followed by intermittent sunshine
From Earl Sterndale over to Glutton Grange farm, along to Dowel Dale and return via Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill: 4.5 miles by Satmap Active 10 gps
Copywright OS - click on map to enlarge, use back arrow to return to blog
It was a late decision to drive over to the Peak District for a quick stroll, and the weather forecast wasn’t too bad. Despite that there were a few rain clouds hanging around us at the start, but they were soon gone. I hadn’t been down this way since ‘freaking out’ as an eight year old. We walked up Parkhouse Hill with the old fella, ma, and brothers. We got halfway up the flank of the hill (this was in the days before good access was allowed) and I had to go back down with my ma. To this day when I’m high up on a grassy summit – I mean over a couple of thousand feet – I tend to get a little closer to the ground. I don’t know why as I’m OK on rocks over vertical drops, but grass? I digress; it was only 35miles to drive here, about 1hr through the White Peak, so I was relaxed before the start – no rush to get the miles done for an early start. We had Robbo to lead the way today, and it made a nice change to the usual testosterone fuelled ridge walks in the Lakes or Scotland – not a Wainwright or a Munro or anything else in sight. Ironically the walk started from the church in Earl Sterndale opposite the local pub – ‘The Quiet Woman’.
A confused start – back through the yard – Earl Sterndale church behind
The Dragon’s Back peeking above the pasture
Our route ahead was up the dry valley to the right
Above the farm we head up along farm tracks
We walked around the back of the pub and took the wrong path through a gate, passing some rusty old ironmongery and terriers in a cage. But Robbo soon corrected the route and we dropped back down the field and made a left turn. The rain started to patter down on the surrounding bits of metal, and it was the usual story of stopping, and on with the waterproofs. We were tempted to have a race on a discarded scooter, but the ground was too boggy. The shower didn’t last long, and to celebrate out came a rainbow bowing down gracefully over Parkhouse Hill – a good sign for me. As in much of the White Peak area most of the land is grazing and at this time of year is limited to grass and not much else. The occasional hawthorn tree can be seen, with a patch or two of gorse dotted around. Despite the two sharp hills of the Dragon’s Back, today’s walk was quite a gentle affair as long as you were ok with heights – smallish heights, but steep drops. We made our way over the side of Hitter Hill and reached the farm at Glutton Grange by a swift U-turn along the fence – and the ladies talked....
Gentle ascent through the fields
Looking over to Chrome Hill from Dowel Dale
Dowel Dale ahead
The ground wasn’t too bad and once Robbo was into his stride the way ahead was clear. Through the farmyard at Glutton Grange we walked through a gate to the right of a drystone wall and up a gentle ascent of a dry valley called Hatch-a-way, and the ladies talked....Up at the top of the valley we came out on to open land and made a turn left up along a muddy path – a good day for gaiters, with blue skies ahead. There was more gentle ascent up the farm track and out along the grassy fields, and we had a good view over to the Dragon’s Back – Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill. I quite like walking at this time of the year, dry and cool, with low sunlight adding a gentle glow to the hills. It helps to bring out the geomorphology of the landscape and all the lumps and bumps. We are blessed to have a long history that stretches back thousands of years and there is always something that catches the eye when out and about. Derbyshire has much medieval history – old field patterns, ridge and furrow, and some older pre-history as well with burial cairns, stone circles amongst others – Arbor Low and Minning Low are probably two of the best.
The road near Owl Hole
Plenty of choice of routes
Looking back over Tor Rock with High Edge behind
We continued across the pasture and looking across to Chrome Hill we could see a crocodile line of people stood at the summit. At Dowel Dale we dropped steeply down a grassy slope to the roadside and squinted into that rare thing – bright sunlight. Here we were passed by a couple in a rangerover, map in hand and looking flustered. They passed us twice more looking for the way ahead – that reminded me of my folks who were always looking for the road to Flash and a grey telephone box – they never could find it too easily. Nearly 40 odd years ago the access was via farm gates, and it was in and out of the car to open and shut gates as we went along. The valley was quiet and like many small dales here – steep sided along a narrow dale, and the road steadily climbed up towards higher ground at Owl Hole – a hole to trap Owls? The air had cleared by the time we reached open ground and we could see far to the north – well as far as the High Peak at Edale. High Edge was also prominent, but up on the top the landscape is a little bleak, and in winter time it is very cold at times. There were signs of old lime kilns dotted around, but only the arches at the base of the kilns were left, the left of the stonework probably robbed away to build something else. We walked past the lost couple again, still looking puzzled, and we diverted off the road to walk towards Chrome Hill.
Chrome Hill ahead
A bit of quiet in the valley
Plenty of people coming down from the top of Chrome Hill
The chatter turned to all manner of pills and cures, and I’m sure I could hear a collective rattling with the amount consumed every day. I still think that fruit pastilles are a perfect vitamin supplement! Robbo reckoned that he took so many Cod Liver Oil supplements in various disguises that his legs go wobbly. He also showed me his Geocache coins & travel bug that he was going to place in one of the two caches to find today – an interesting hobby and I suppose it adds a little interest finding the hidden containers – as long as you don’t lose the contents. We could see the Dragon’s Back looming up ahead, but not before we crossed some boggy pasture....and the ladies talked. We had the camera ready for any slips & trips, but nobody hit the deck today. The initial path dropped down the south side of Chrome Hill, losing a little height before cutting back up a steep little rise to reach the crest of the ridge – and the ladies stopped talking.....but not for long, as I said to Paul ‘how do they breathe?’. As we ascended Chrome Hill all of the walkers we had seen earlier finally started to descend from the summit – 11 of them all in a row. There was a lovely glow about the landscape now, and it was an impressive sight looking along the flank of the hills.
The flank of Chrome Hill with Parkhouse Hill beyond
Looking back down the spine of Chrome Hill
A little peep hole
We all had that warm fuzzy feeling
The very distinct shape owes its origins to being Reef Limestone, with the surrounding softer rocks eroded away leaving this spiky spine. It was great fun to walk up with the North side being steeper, with a fair old drop from the top. There was a rock arch about ¾ of the way up – a nice shelter if you need it, or a frame for a picture. Up on the summit of Chrome Hill we had great views all around and back to East Sterndale at the start of the route. In fact it was so nice to be up there that Robbo forgot to look for his Geocache. I took a rubbish group shot as the camera just focussed on the grass in front of the camera, leaving us all of a blur.
Hollins Hill to the left and High Edge to the right
Parkhouse Hill ahead, Earl Sterndale to the left
It was a steep grassy slope off the top of Chrome Hill
However what goes up must come down and the route off Chrome Hill was steep and grassy, but again nobody slipped – which is a good thing. Up ahead looking slightly more sinister was Parkhouse Hill, with an inviting pinnacle to scale at the base of the hill. A big buzzard was hovering overhead, but never near enough for a decent shot – camera not gun. One thing about Parkhouse Hill is that you get up there pretty quickly – it’s steep. As we approached the hill memories came flooding back of me as an 8 year old thinking no way I’m going up there. But today we decided to have a little climb of the pinnacle. It was too slippery to go up the front side, so we nipped around the back and climbed up from there. There was a good view from the top, but not much room and a bit windy – well it was a bit of a drop!
Parkhouse Hill, the little pinnacle is at the base
Our route had been the other side of the hill up Dowel Dale
Parkhouse Hill looming large
I met a couple coming down the hill, she sat hugging the ground, he telling me about walking all the welsh 3000footers – she was like me all those years ago, just wanting to reach ground level. This was turning out to be a wonderful little walk with great views back to Chrome Hill. We had a butty stop once we had reached the summit, except for the second walk running (that doesn’t sound right – walking/running) Brain of Britain didn’t pack any rations. In my defence I thought we were going to eat in the pub afterwards. So I kept some distance between myself and Mrs RP, and Robbo kindly offered a squashed roll, and Paul an energy bar. I just settled for some Jellytots. In the meantime Robbo remembered his second Geocache, but it only turned out to be a small one with a paper roll and small badge in it. Up went the cry ‘oh no I’ve dropped it’. So looking down the vertiginous grass slope I offered to go down and fetch it – only the ‘it’ wasn’t a roll of paper, it was a crust of bread. Up went the cry ‘ it’s OK...it’s in my pocket’ and Paul had a good laugh again, but at least Robbo finished the day in one piece this time – see here for our last adventure - http://ramblingpetewalks.blogspot.com/2009/10/nantlle-ridge-cwm-ciprwtht.html
The pinnacle with Chrome Hill in the background
The view from the top, looking back at Chrome Hill
Robbo and his cache
The Dove valley – way before it gets to Dove Dale
There were fine views down the Dove valley and up ahead on Hitter Hill there was a line of old mining along a mineral vein. Apparently there are some deep caves going into the sides of these hills, and down below this are some faint old ridge and furrow patterns. It was very steep coming down off the end of Parkhouse Hill and Mrs Cogstar decided to use five points of contact for the descent, and again nobody slipped. We returned to East Sterndale by the same route over Hitter Hill, and behind us Parkhouse Hill bathed in sunshine...the ladies chatted on. So we didn’t go into the Quiet Woman Inn as we wouldn’t have passed the trades description act. It was off with the boots and muddy overtrousers to have a pint and a chat, before saying our goodbyes to some great company and it was delightful to have the ladies along with us – my ears have stopped ringing now.
5 points of contact coming down Parkhouse Hill
The farm at Glutton Grange – our route was up to the right
Looking back to Parkhouse Hill
The old grey phone box
We popped into the local craft centre/cafe for a not so good lunch – I’ll bring sandwiches next time. We drove back along the road and there beside a few houses was a grey telephone box and the road to Axe Edge and Flash – a happy day, happy memories.