The Insider's Guide: Chee Dale
Chee Dale is one of the lesser-known and perfectly tranquil parts of the Peak District. Located near Buxton it's an easy (ish) place to get to for some quality time in the Peak District.
Now over to Dan, Campaigns Manager for Experience Peak District & Derbyshire, who LOVES Chee Dale...
I’m Dan, a 30 something bloke, originally from the south (an Essex boy at heart), sports fan, outdoor enthusiast (kind of), husband, father, and I work in the marketing team at Experience Peak District & Derbyshire, and I'm going to tell you about the spot I love most in the Peak District, Chee Dale.
Sitting just below the Monsal Trail where hundreds of people are walking, jogging, running, cycling and riding blissfully unaware of the beauty which lies beneath their feet in Chee Dale. Before the tunnels on the trail were reopened in 2011, Chee Dale was the only way of getting to the end of the Monsal Trail at Blackwell Mill, but since the tunnels have been brought back in to use people can now whizz along the trail all the way from Bakewell!
Nestled below the Monsal Trail, Chee Dale winds back and forth along the course of the River Wye and provides a haven for wildlife with an abundance of birds, ducks, little mammals, and fish in the river of course, so it comes as no surprise that this area is a Derbyshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve. It’s calm and quiet, and the particular walk that I to embark on offers a beautiful amble of some two, to two and a half miles to Millers Dale (a hot spot for abseiling groups dangling a stomach churning 80 feet above the floor), before returning on the Monsal Trail itself.
If you’re arriving to the start by car, then you can park at the pay and display car park at Wyedale, Topley Pike, just off of the A6, and buses stop just by this entrance too. Walk through the car park and follow the river Wye for 5 or so minutes you reach Blackwell Mill cycle hire centre, hang a right to join the Monsal Trail, or, do as I suggest and head left instead. Cross the river using the small bridge, admiring the gorgeous row of workers cottages nestled in the bottom of the valley (these are people’s homes though, so please respect their privacy and stick to the footpath). Turn immediately right after leaving the bridge and begin to follow the river as it heads in to what seems to be thick and impenetrable vegetation, you might want to wear trousers to avoid the stingers around your ankles. I learned this the hard way!! This is also a walking boots only kind of walk, even in the height of summer the path can get a little wet and muddy, and rocks can be quite slippery, so we wouldn’t want you falling over.
Shortly after starting you’ll come to a fork in the path, stick to the right here and further along you’ll arrive at the foot of an imposing viaduct. Don’t cross the bridge here, instead drop down the stairs to the left and continue following the river. A quick game of Pooh Sticks is highly recommended first though! A bird commonly spotted along this stretch of river is the ‘Dipper’ with its characteristic bobbing up and down, flapping its wings. You’ll probably find that they seem to follow you as you continue walking, maybe it’s just a coincidence though!
You’ll pass under another viaduct (the Monsal Trail being overhead) and a few hundred feet further along are the first set of stepping stones. This is limestone country with large, sheer cliffs hanging over you on both sides. This area is frequented by climbers, so say hi, they’re always a very genial bunch! Roll up your trousers (in case you fall in) and begin your nervy hop across the stepping stones, of course taking the obligatory selfie as you go. Obstacle tackled, follow the path, cross another bridge, you’ll head up hill a little, and stick to the left at the next fork, pass under another viaduct (I told you it was a winding walk), cross another bridge, hop over another set of stepping stones, follow the path underneath the towering cliff face, before reaching a section of boardwalk.
After this the path can get a little muddy, and you’ll have a few sections of rocky path to scramble up and over. This isn’t a hard walk, but it’s not the easiest either, so if you’re a little uneasy on your feet, and not up for a bit of clambering over things then it might not be the one for you. If you can manage it though, it’s well worth the effort. I have tackled this walk with a 20 month old baby strapped to my back, so it’s not too bad.
Soon enough the valley begins to open up a bit as you leave behind the cliffs of Chee Tor, the path greatly improves and levels out and from here it’s a relatively short, but no less beautiful walk to the imposing Millers Dale Bridge mentioned earlier. From here, summon up that final bit energy to climb the steps carved into the hillside to join the Monsal Trail. Turn right at the top of the steps, follow the trail back to Blackwell Mill, passing through the railway tunnels of the former Midland Railway. Funnily enough, the return leg is much easier and can be completed in a fraction of the time. All in all, it’s a round walk of approximately 4 miles, and given the terrain, and spectacular views, should take somewhere around 2 to 3 hours to complete. Something as beautiful as this should not be rushed!
Anyway, it’s been a great pleasure sharing with you one of my favourite places, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it, and I hope it’s inspired you to give it a go yourself, but don’t forget, sssh… it’s a secret, don’t tell everyone about it! ;-)
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, and want to find out more about the Peak District & Derbyshire then visit the website www.visitpeakdistrict.com to be inspired to book your next trip. Also, keep up to date with us on social media at facebook.com/VisitPeakDistrict, Twitter @vpdd and Instagram @visitpeakdistrict
Coming up next month, join our newest member of the team, Rebecca as she takes you on a journey to Grindsbrook Clough.