We join our friends from Large Outdoors and after leaving Hartington we’ll head towards leafy Beresford Dale, which becomes Wolfscote Dale after crossing a footbridge. The River Dove crashes through this rocky dale with limestone cliffs towering on either side. Upon reaching the head of Dovedale we’ll turn away from the dale going steeply uphill pasing through the villages of Alstonefield and Wetton. From Wetton it’s a short climb to the huge Thor’s Cave offering truly amazing views out over the Manifold Valley. We then head steep downhill to reach the River Manifold following its course past numerous caves to reach the tea rooms at Wetton Mill. After a refreshing break we’ll climb Sugarloaf Hill following the river from high above the valley before crossing fields to return to Hartington.
Hartington is the major village on the central section of the valley of the Dove, and is therefore an important tourist centre, so it can be very busy on summer weekends. An old village, which was granted a market charter in 1203, it has a long history and some nice buildings. The village is centred around the green, with its duckpond.
Beresford Dale is a beautiful part of the Dove valley. It is narrow and leafy, a charming miniture of the Derbyshire ‘gem’ Dovedale. Leaving Beresford Dale, the valley opens up into low lying meadow, permitting wider views before resuming its progress through the limestone canyon of Wolfscote Dale. Here by a ford, legend has it that the last wolf that roamed the area was killed. A rocky profusion of pinnacles and massive outcrops dominates the cascading grassy slopes. The abrupt magnitude of the dale reaches its peak between the high masses of Gratton and Wolscote Hills. The scene is diversified by long screes, the occasional cave and the sparse tree coverage clinging to the tors and crevices.
Alstonefield is the major village of the region which lies between the lower Dove and Manifold valleys. It is a pretty village which has not been spoilt by the large number of tourists it receives each weekend. Near the village of Wetton is Wetton Hill, a ‘reef knoll’, formed from the ancient remains of a coral reef. The area around here has been farmed since Neolithic times, and there is a Long Barrow at Long Low (towards Castern) which is at least 4,500 years old, and slightly more recent barrows on Wetton Low.
Thor’s Cave is the most spectacular sight of the Manifold valley, dominating the central section of the valley. The rock in which it is set rears up out of the hillside like a giant fang with the cave entrance forming a hole in it ten metres in diameter, a sight which is clearly visible for several miles. Excavations have shown that the cave was occupied as long as 10,000 years ago and this occupation probably continued until Roman or Saxon times, making it one of the oldest sites of human activity in the Peak. Stone tools and the remains of a range of now extinct animals were found within the cave.
9.45m – 4pm
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With thanks to Large Outdoors