Dove Stones – keeping the festive tradition alive

In recent years the festive season has been marked thus: a ‘stolen day’ on Christmas Day when the other half and I get the chance to spend some time together, juggling various family commitments, making a festive pie and other ‘delights’ from leftovers, riding my bike as much as possible and getting into the hills (all the rest permitting).

The latter usually comprises some grand plan in the Peak or Lakes with an overnight camp. However, the weather and other commitments invariably get in the way and I settle for a trip around Dove Stones reservoir. Every year I grumble to myself that this is second best, every year it seems to offer something new.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a frequent flyer to the Dove Stones complex. This place is not without its problems (unthinking litterbugs and dog owners at lambing time) but get beyond its well ploughed byways onto the tops and you can lose yourself on bleak moorland and among green and brown stained hillsides.

Raven Stones above Dove Stones ReservoirThis year, I ventured onto these slopes in gales. This weather was the main reason I abandoned my wild camp… other backpackers did try though.

To add a bit of excitement, though, I revisited a favoured route and clambered up the shattered slopes of Birchen Clough to gain the tops. This requires you to cross at the mouth of the clough. I normally achieve this a little further up the valley but far too much water was pushing through the stream today and I crossed gingerly at the mouth, glad I decided on boots and gaiters.

Although no path is marked on the Ordnance Survey map, a well-worn trail has been blazed on the easterly bank of the clough. It traces a haphazard line across broken slopes and, at times, causes nerves to jangle as loose ground falls away under foot. It demands you proceed with care.

Perhaps half way up the clough and I reached a precipitous rock wall. Although I’ve walked this route many times, this obstacle always makes me pause for a split second until I see the platform of slabs which sit above the waterline and provide easy passage for pedestrians.

Rock Steps in Birchen Clough above Dove StonesNature has provided a perfectly engineered solution and negotiating this section was all the more exciting today as brown water thundered over falls and swirled in murky pools below my boots.

From here, the route becomes far more straightforward, although you need to cross the stream again in order to head west and south back to the car. More adventurous folks can continue on an easterly bearing to Black Hill on  the Pennine Way.

I considered a few options for crossing, but chickened out and carried on upstream until things got much easier. Contouring the slopes of the clough I found the well-used trail at Raven Stones and paused to admire bizarre gritstone formations.

Having been sheltered from the wind on my ascent, the easterly gale now made itself keenly felt. Zip pullers and the fabric of my shell jacket snapped violently in the assault while my trousers billowed and flapped above gaiters. Progress was tricky into the wind and especially with it to my right… a times snatching air from my lungs, at others, puffing out my cheeks as I tried to inhale.

I found other walkers at Ashways Stone hunkered down and munching sandwiches. They bade a grim good morning. I didn’t feel like lingering and pressed on.

At the upper reaches of Charnel Clough, this inconsequential stream had delusions of grandeur and started to perform the Kinder Downfall trick of ‘flowing upstream’ in wind.

I was showered with spray as another wall of wind pummelled me.

By now, the right side of my face stung from the onslaught. I was keen to get down and soon found the Chew Reservoir and the service track to the valley floor, joined other well-wrapped up folk as they strolled off the excesses of the festive season.


6 thoughts on “Dove Stones – keeping the festive tradition alive

  1. I always seem to end up doing the same at Christmas. A grand plan which the weather destroys or I come down with my only cold of the year and feel rotten. I was going for a backpack around Cross Fell but the weather was truly awful, so I settled for a day trip on the Howden Moors and Margery Hill. Maybe better luck next year for us both !!

  2. Hi Mark,

    Yes, I forgot to mention the illness. Was struck down twice over the festive break and am just getting over it (in time for the return proper to work!).

    Wishing you the very best for the new year.

  3. Your post reminded me that I haven’t done that walk for years, I must make it a priority now. I took my 7 year old grandson up the Alphin Pike route to Indian’s Head and the Chew Reservoir in the summer – he loved it, start them young!

  4. Absolutely! I love getting off the beaten track around here. The terrain can be unforgiving at times, but it’s as good as anywhere in the Dark Peak in my book.

    Thanks for dropping by and the comment, Bill.

  5. Sounds like a wild day out, been ages since I went up that way, some memorable days in the deep cloughs and black peat. My favourite scrambling cloughs were Wildboarclough and Dowstone Clough on Bleaklow.

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