Summer in Dovedale


We’re moving forward to another season, and so there’s the opportunity to try out five great walks in my new Peak District Year Round Walks Book. We’ve already enjoyed spring and the chances of a bluebell walks that it throws at us, but now it’s time to get down to picnics and paddling in rivers. There are wonderful spots for this all over the National Park, but a particular favourite is Dovedale. The walk from Dovedale sets off from Ilam Hall, a great National Trust property with a fantastic cafe, and meanders over the hills before dropping down into Dovedale itself.

No visit to Dovedale would be complete without a hop over the famous stepping stones that have made this place picture-postcard perfect since the 19th Century. Like many occasion when people have altered the countryside landscape, the stepping stones did not have an instant appeal but over the decades they have become strongly associated with this quaint, beautiful valley. In truth, you don’t have to go over the stepping stones to get to the other side because there is a bridge a little further down the valley towards Ilam. But where’s the fun in that? In the summer months, it’s quite normal to see people queueing for some time until it’s their turn to head across. People can only make the journey across the River Dove in single file and so there can be a fair bit of congestion at either side, but it’s something you just have to do! Storms leading to rising river levels and flooding have swept away the stones and led to significant damage. There have been times when the popular tourist cross-river route has had to be closed off. But it’s always been worth investing money to get the stepping stones renovated and the picturesque scene back to its best. The fossil-laden stepping stones are one of the main reasons this remote dale has the high number of visitors that it does.

Here are some “must-do” recommendations for a day out in Dovedale.

  1. Get involved at the National Trust cafe at Ilam Hall. Treat yourself to a cream tea, and debate whether it’s jam or cream on top.
  2. Enjoy an ice cream at the entrance to the Dovedale trail – there’s some amazing flavours going on there!
  3. Queue up to take a trip across the famous stepping stones. And don’t fall in. Everybody will be watching.
  4. Annoy everybody waiting to cross the stepping stones by taking time to crouch down and see the ancient fossils in the limestone rock. These are amazing. Take your time.
  5. Save time for a paddle in the river on a cool, summer day.


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Langsett – it’s on the level

Not everybody wants to head up to the highest hills when they go out for a walk at the weekend or on one of our wonderful summer evenings. In my new guide to the best things to do in the Peak District throughout the year, I’ve mixed up some of the more challenging routes with some of the easiest. But they all have one thing in common – they’re a rewarding adventure!

There are five walks for each season in Year Round Walks in the Peak District, and we’re well and truly into the ones that make spring extra special. In a previous blog, I described the benefits of heading to Hayfield for the bluebells. Here, I’m suggesting a day at Langsett Reservoir to enjoy the smell of fresh pine and see the ferns emerging on the moorland. It’s largely on the level, save for a small climb to sample the peaty moors. On a warm day, it’s a delight to feel the breeze from the water. And if the rain should come, the trees offer some shelter. It’s ideal for stretching you legs in spring.

There’s also some Tour de France nostalgia to get immersed in. When the opening stages of the Tour de France were held in Yorkshire during the summer of 2014, few would have thought the legacy would be so long-lasting and profound. They were a very special couple of days in these parts of Yorkshire, with thousands of people lining the streets before the best long-distance cyclists in the world hurtled by at break-neck speed. Langsett featured on Day 2 – the final day in Yorkshire before the event moved to London, and then France. The cyclists hurried down the A616, turning off near here at Midhope before going over the hills to Bradfield and finishing off in Sheffield city centre. Years later, the villages in these parts are still immensely proud of their involvement on that fabulous, busy day, when festivals were held every few miles along the route and a significant number of families gained a lust for cycling that still endures. As you drive along the route it’s possible to see some of the words of encouragement painted onto the road, and the trademark yellow bikes are still visible, maintained. At Langsett, look out for the sign at the bar of the pub featuring a crest made up of different Tour de France jerseys. The most prominent feature for miles around, though, is Bank View Café on the main road close to the starting point. To celebrate the biking event, the café was painted white and covered with red spots to match the “King of the Mountains” jersey given to the rider who tackles the climbs triumphantly. It’s a very popular spot for cyclists to stop off at and have a break, including those not so great at getting up the demanding Peak District inclines.

Top Tips for a Langsett day out:

1: Make time for a stop in the cafe

2: Arrive early to ensure a car parking place near the start of the reservoir walk

3: Bring a camera – there are amazing views from the moors and through the pine forest

4: Pack binoculars to check out the local bird life



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Niagara Falls – Worth the Hype?


It’s not even all that big, they told me. Hardly the most impressive natural sight you’ll see. A bit of a cross between Las Vegas and Blackpool. Don’t get too excited.

Having breathed in all the advice before my trip to Niagara Falls, I wasn’t getting my hopes up too high. People had warned that it would be a let down. I decided to still pay a visit to the famous waterfall on my visit to Canada – you just have to, don’t you. It’s too big a thing to overlook. But I was more than prepared to move swiftly onto other areas.

I needn’t have listened to any of the nay-sayers. Standing next to Niagara Falls – in roughly the same spot that Superman rescued the kid who fell in during Superman 2 – the sheer amount of water cascading over the edge was mesmerising. The sound of a million bathtubs a second pouting over was ferocious, the sight of curving Horseshoe Falls genuinely hypnotic.

Visitors should go with an understanding of what they’re going to see. This is not one of the top ten biggest waterfalls in the world and neither is it a natural wonder in the middle a pristine environment. This has been a concrete jungle for decades, a huge physical feature surrounded by expensive hotels and cheesy visitor attractions. But as long as you pin your expectations at a reasonable level and don’t go expecting a wilderness with bears catching salmon in the plunge pool, you’re likely to get a lot out of a trip to the falls.

Here’s my top five tips for a fantastic trip to Niagara Falls.

  1. Avoid the peak season. Ok, so you might not get a trip on the iconic Maid of the Mist and you might have to deal with snow on the ground and chilly temperatures. But there are advantages to being here in February and March, mainly that hardly anybody else will be. You won’t have to jostle for position when viewing the falls and if you’re lucky you’ll get to see the rare sight of the frozen falls.
  2. Book a falls view room. Pay a little bit extra and upgrade so you can see both the Canadian Falls and American Falls. The room price isn’t that much extra, but don’t get sucked in to buying food and paying for parking at your hotel as this is a real rip off. You’ll be able to park for $5 a little way down the street and there are plenty of cheaper places to snack than the hotel restaurant.
  3. Take the plunge and buy the Niagara Adventure ticket. It takes you down to the tunnels behind the falls, there’s also a 4D cinema experience and free transport on the buses for two days. You’ll also get to go to a really nice butterfly house, too.
  4. Hire a car and head for Niagara on the Lake. It’s a quaint town and you’ll follow the river from Niagara Falls all the way there until it empties into Lake Ontario. On the way, there are plenty of wineries to stop at, where you can sample the local sweet varieties and the icewine speciality.
  5. Embrace the cheesyness of Niagara. The main town is particularly ‘out there’ but it’s worth having a walk along Clifton Hill just to stare. I mean, it’s not often you see a huge Frankenstein sticking out of a Burger King tucking into a massive Whopper.
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Spring into a bluebell walk!

Spring is finally here! In the Peak District, patches of snow are still lingering about but the bulbs are making headway as they push on through the remnants of winter. We’ll soon be arriving at one of the most joyful times of the year, when woodlands are transformed by the fabulous bluebells that bloom and create a carpet of colour. In this blog over the coming weeks I’ll be looking at some of the best places in the Peak District to explore – all from my new Year Round Walks book. One of the main places you want to head for over the next couple of months is Hayfield, on the park’s western fringe, where you’ll find the aptly named Bluebell Wood.

Tackle this walk in April and May and there’ll be thousands of bluebells flowering, so take your camera and allow plenty of time to stop and wonder. The spring wonder takes place in a nature reserve you’ll come across after only a few meters from the car park for the Sett Valley Trail. It will provide lasting memories. Accessibility is the key in Bluebell Wood; the path for the public has been upgraded in such a fashion that it’s possible for pushchairs and wheelchairs to get all the way around. Duckboards to negotiate the trickiest surfaces have been made out of recycled plastic to ensure they it lasts as long as possible and isn’t sat in a landfill for years to come. Although the main reason people come here is to experience the festival of bluebells that lasts a few weeks in the spring, there is plenty to see during the rest of the year. Stoats, mice and weasels live in the wood, with badgers and deer also passing through. Wild flowers include wood anemone and marsh marigolds, while the many tree species include oak, maple and willow. It’s a superb place and a real highlight of the walk.

Find out more about the walk and other places to visit in the spring in Peak District Year Round Walks, which is out now through Countryside Books.



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Which time of year inspires you to get your walking boots on?

What’s the best time of year to put on your walking boots and head out into the Peak District National Park?

Many people don’t fancy the idea of getting togged up in thick coats and waterproof trousers to brave the snow and heavy rain we’ve been experiencing in recent weeks. But there’s a lot to be said for a winter hike, even if it’s a low level one around a reservoir admiring the snowy tops of nearby hills.

Moving into spring, there’s a lot to experience as the days grow longer, the temperature increases, and many woodlands are filled to the brim with a beautiful carpet of bluebells. The amount of wildlife you see is on the rise as well. Surely the spring is the most fascinating time to go for a walk – what do you think?

But then we hit the summer. T-shirt weather and the best opportunity to take a picnic to the top of the highest hills, with the lowest chance of getting wet when tucking into your cheese and pickle sandwich. Enjoy the heather turning pink in late August. Summertime anyone?

For me, the autumn is up there at the top. Crunchy leaves, conkers on the ground and the majestic spectrum of colour transforming deciduous woodland. An awesome time to get amongst the trees and enjoy the Peak’s woods.

The truth is, all the seasons are fantastic times to head out into the Peak District and that’s why I’ve thoroughly enjoyed putting my new book together – Peak District Year Round Walks. There are 20 walks in it, with five falling in each of our four seasons. I’ve tried to maximise the seasonal joy that can be experienced at that time of year and point out some interesting things to see along the way.

Let me know what your favourite time of year to walk is, and why you love it so much!

Peak District Year Round Walks is available here:


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The top 7 gems of the Peak District


I was invited along to do a radio interview this week, talking about my new book about walking on the moors and tors of the Peak District. The inevitable question came about which was my favourite place to visit in the National Park. I was ready for this, but it’s not an easy question to answer. Favourite places depend on the mood at the time, the weather, the time of year and countless other factors which mean they can change from one day to the next. But here is my collection of the top 7 places to visit in the Peak District. If you have never paid a visit to this wonderful National Park, these are the places I suggest you start with.

1 Edale

Gaining a lot of attention this year because of the Pennine Way’s 50th anniversary, Edale is a lovely village with a couple of good pubs. It’s here that you’ll find the best rambles up to Kinder Scout, the highest peak in the National Park and there are some smashing tors up there to discover.

2 Padley Gorge

Not too far from Grindleford and within easy walking from the National Trust’s Longshaw Estate, Padley Gorge has footpaths that go alongside the river, passing waterfalls and through nice woods. In summer it’s often packed with picnickers, but there’ll be a spot for you on what can be a lovely day out.

3 Castleton

Nice to visit at any time of year thanks to walks up to Mam Tor and a decent range of shops, Castleton is a popular Christmas destination. The shops put trees and lights outside and there’s a programme of carolling events taking place in the caverns.

4 Lathkill Dale

A walk out of Monyash to Lathkill Dale takes you into limestone country, with fabulous formations and the chance to see fossils in the rocks that once lay at the bottom of a tropical sea.

5 Dovedale

It’s a pleasant walk up the valley, but there are several special features that make this a must-do trip. Firstly, there a fossils all around to take a look at, then there’s the picturesque scene at the Victorian stepping stones across the River Dove. But make sure you also pop by the car park for some award winning ice cream and visit the National Trust’s Ilam Hall for a creamt tea.

6 Chatsworth

A stately home to be reckoned with, this place prides itself on never using public or Lottery money, instead being self-funded through visitors. And there’s so much to see and do; a farm for the kids, an adventure playground and of course the house and gardens. All this in addition to some cracking walks up to Calton Pastures through the estate grounds. Nearby Haddon Hall is also worth checking out for a fine example of a historical building.

7 Monsal Trail

This trail makes a wonderful walk and an even better bike ride, not too taxing as it used to be a train track that was kept as level as possible. The gems here are the old tunnels that were repaired and opened up after decades being closed, meaning you can once again tread the route of the tracks.

What would your numbers 8, 9 and 10 be? Please contribute via Twitter or by posting a reply!

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Happy Birthday to the Pennine Way!


This is Andy Bentham. He’s a Park Ranger in the Peak District National Park and he’s pictured here with his pride and joy. It took him the best part of a week to make this oak gate that’s going to be fitted into a fancy dry stone wall in Edale. The centre panel will have a map engraved onto it and it will be a nice addition to the countryside in the Dark Peak.

But this is more than a gateway to a footpath from any old countryside village. No, this is going to mark the start of the Pennine Way, the famous long-distance footpath that begins in Edale and trudges north for 267 miles until it ends up in Kirk Yetholm, three weeks, two tired legs and one satisfied grin later.

The Pennine Way is 50 years old in April, half a century since the ambitious outdoor mind of Tom Stephenson saw his dream become reality; a winding route through the backbone of England. I visited Edale recently to get photographs for an article on the anniversary and generally to soak up the atmosphere in such an idyllic setting. It was a weekday morning, so I didn’t expect the rush of a summer bank holiday. Even so, the place was fairly busy. There were backpackers heading off to tackle the first stages of the Pennine Way, a TV crew filming a show about the path, a school group from Sheffield who were exploring the famous route and, of course, locals who were proud of the beauty on their doorstep.

There was also Andy Bentham and the team of Park Rangers. Noisily cutting stone for the wall and proudly gazing onto the newly built gate, they were delighted to be providing a focal point for the start of the Pennine Way. It’s not just for those who are embarking on the full route, it’s for everyone. For those who are in awe of the length but wouldn’t tackle it, for those who want to experience part of it, for those attempting to do it in weekend stages.

The Pennine Way may not be the longest path in the world, and it certainly isn’t the toughest. But it has developed a mythical reputation in its short lifetime and is a firm favourite for folk to put on their bucket list. It’s even becoming a well-known brand, with many Pennine Way related goods being available in the local shops. And long may it continue.

Happy Bithday to a Peak District legend.

The full article will appear in Derbyshire Life.

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