I was back with my usual walking companion today, The Walking Dan, for a bit of Easter holiday weekend walking. The skyline above Dove Stone Reservoir was our destination today.
Dove Stone (not Dovestones) lies in the Greenfield Valley in the South Peninnes, but is officially according to The Walking Dan (and Google) also part of the Peak District… just.
Getting to it usually involves a race across the A635 from Holmfirth, although today the heavy wind kept speeds well below the legal limit. The fact the wind was almost flinging my car into oncoming traffic gave me some indication of what was to come. The view of the valley from this direction is magically in the Summer and following snowfall in the Winter.
We parked in the main car park, below the main Dove Stone Reservoir. The car park cost doesn’t take your breath away for once, but the state of the public toilets here does and suggests there’s a correlation between the two. The car park can be really busy and I’ve spent many a time circling round and round it waiting for someone to return to their car, so an early start is recommended. The car park is also the scene of my worst walking injury, although I didn’t know about it at the time. I’ll cover that off in another blog. Those who’ve heard the story a thousand times breathe a deep sigh, the rest of you have probably had a lucky escape.
We headed off clockwise along the top of the dam, towards the imposing overflow structure, with Alderman Hill ahead of us. I’ve never climbed it, but it’s on the to-do list for sometime in the future. It’s next to Dick Hill too, apparently. This reminded me of O’Level Geography at Holgate Grammar School in Barnsley where (when studying the South Downs) we used to compete to see who could say ‘Fulking Hill’ the loudest. Don’t judge me, I did eventually start paying attention in class.
Skirting up the leftside of Dove Stone Res, the biggest of the three in the valley, leads you quickly to Yeoman Hey Reservoir where a slightly longer walk brings you to the last of the trinity of reservoirs – Greenfield. There’s a decent sized overflow watercourse at this point which we once saw rammed full of of frogs. It was just frog-spawn on this walk, but loads of it, a prelude to the frog apocalypse to come.
Beyond Greenfield Reservoir (and surely the world’s smallest beach) the path starts to narrow and climb, with Greenfield Brook to your left, until you reach the juncture of the brook and Birchen Clough. This is as far as I usually go if I’ve got Chris and Alex with me, as from the car park to here and back is a good 90mins/2hrs depending on the route you take back.
Birchen Clough is a decent challenge, and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but one well worth it as you scramble up nothing more than a sheep track, beside small photogenic waterfalls. I nearly fell a fair few feet into a waterfall pool on an earlier trip, with only the swift acting Walking Dan (grabbing me by the hood) saving me from injury and an early bath. I christened Birchen Clough ‘Brian Clough’ years ago, so all the way up I had his voice in my head saying ‘Careful, Young Man, Careful’.
Heading this way once previously we had to create a small production line up a particularly steep bit in order to pass Trev the dog, from man to man to man, to get him past it. Once past the waterfalls, you need to take a right and head up to Raven Stones Brow for some of the best views in the area. Thankfully the wind that was to blight us for the majority of our walk couldn’t be felt here as we were protected somewhat by the Brow itself. In reality, it’s not all that high here but it feels higher, much higher and at this time of the year the views and landscape feel a touch alien-like too. Jon, one of my oldest/bestest friends once had a mega-vertigo fit up here and ended up trekking in-land 10 metres or so, not giving a monkeys about the deep boggy area he’d wandered into. It’s not for the faint-hearted with the distance between the path and the drop being… well, non-existent.
If you conquer your fear of heights you will quickly discover The Trinnacle, a trio of stalagmite-like rocks reaching imperiously for the sky. From below you can barely spot there’s anything special here, but standing next to them is truly majestic. Take a pew here and take as many pics as you can.
In fact, you’ll be tempted to take pics for the entirety of your time up here as Raven Stones Brow melds into Ashway Rocks with panoramic views screaming for your attention at every turn. It’s proper ‘Dove from above’ views.
The name of the blog is a reference to Vic and Bob’s Shooting Stars show, of course, and takes me back to a younger, much more innocent and infinitely immature time of my life where my friends and I had nothing better to do than ‘coo’ at each other and say ‘uvavu’ and ‘eranu’ in deep Vic-like voices – along with references from other comedy shows. In fact I’m pretty sure that an entire weekend stag-do in Portugal was completed back then without anyone communicating in anything other than ‘Fast Show’ quotes. And, no, ‘A fe fe fe fe fe fe Boutros, Boutros-Ghali’ got us nowhere on the dance-floors of Lisbon. Strange that eh?
As we hung a left into Ashway Gap, the weather found us – just wind at this point, but it was a bracing wind. My much-reviewed new Whymper Jacket, however, laughed into the face of the gusts and we marched bravely on. The Walking Dan was wearing Gore Tex Pro gear too, so he was ok to, albeit his is just slightly less bright a colour than mine. I’m pretty sure the brightness from my jacket could power a small third world country.
At this point you can either plough on towards Dove Stone Rocks or aim towards the top of Ashway Gap and visit the Ashway Cross (a memorial to a former MP of Oldham). We did the former this time, randomly stumbling across a single lone fir tree.
We stopped for a quick snack and drink here and both put on our waterproof over-trousers as we could see rain clouds heading our way in the distance. I’d forgotten my flask of coffee this week, but Dan (ever the boy scout) had brought enough for two. I’d forgotten to bring cake too (I had ONE job!) – but Dan had brought some sugary-Italian-cakey thingies that we both tucked into.
Refreshed and better protected from the elements we next hit Dove Stone Rocks, the triangle-shaped rock visible from the banks of the Res below. Superb views again from here, but also a plaque (below) to a couple of climbers who lost their lives in the Dolomites.
Memorial plaques like this are to be found irregularly across the various peaks I’ve climbed, all the way from highly visible ones like this to those hidden away from all but the extremely curious (or extremely lost!). Humbling and sad.
Another one of my favorite spots is Bramley’s Cot, a derelict, ruined old shepherd’s hut on Dovestone Moss, overlooking the valley. Despite it being obviously ‘there’, you could easily saunter past it without seeing it , especially is overcast conditions like today. Built straight into the rock (one of the walls is the rockside), it’s a brilliant understated feat of building work. It’s also a great spot for lunch, but we’d planned to have lunch on the banks of Chew Reservoir, just 20mins or so onward from the Cot.
Those 20 mins or so, from Bramley’s Cot to Chew Reservoir, is my least favourite part of the walk, when the path melds into bog and peat and every step becomes a kind of walkers Russian roulette. Bah!
Chew Res, when it was built, was the highest reservoir in the country. A failed Google search denies me finding out what currently has that accolade. It’s pretty desolate up here and the Res freezes completely most Winters, giving it a proper ‘top of the world’ feel.
We stopped for lunch on the bank of the Reservoir with the two hardy ducks (below) sniffing around for any leftovers. The Walking Dan, for reasons only known to him, had brought Barbeque Spare Ribs for his lunch – leftovers from the previous night no doubt. Thankfully it wasn’t Crispy Duck otherwise our two guests would have raised an eyebrow – at least. Do ducks have eyebrows?
The final 90mins of our walk along the skyline of the southern side of Greenfield Valley takes us along Hoarstone Edge offering regular views of Chew Brook and the Reservoirs, but also views over (from left to right) Stockport, Manchester, Oldham and Rochdale. Your best photo opps towards Manchester are from Alphin Pike. I did hear a rumour that Snowdonia can be seen from here (I’m not convinced), but you can definitely see Pendle Hill in the distance and, looking’ the other way Kinder and Mam Tor.
You’re on the one of the incoming flight paths into Manchester International Airport up here. On a clear day the planes look really close to you and on an overcast day they ‘feel’ even closer, uncomfortably close sometimes and you will find yourself irrationally ducking as you look upward to see if a pilot has strayed too close to where you are.
Our descent took us past Alphin Pike, with great views over to the village of Greenfields, down to where the path splits off towards Oldham and down to the small lane (Bradbury Lane, I think) that takes us back towards the car park.
At this point, on a previous visit, the Walking Dad and the Walking Dan became the Running Dad and the Running Dan as we’d could actually see a tangible wall, a curtain maybe, of rain heading towards us at great speed. Running’s not our game and it caught up to us with a spectacular light and sound electrical storm too.
This time the rain and wind that had assailed us for half our walk had died down, giving us an easier route back. Your final walk along Bradbury Lane takes you alongside the quaint terraced houses that make up Dovestone Edge. They have the feel of holiday lets, but Dan assures me that they are properly lived in.
We finished our walk bang on 5 hours after we left, having done 11 miles altogether – dry as a bone too despite the weather. Thank you Gore Tex Pro.