A quirk of geology has produced a strand of sharp limestone hills which erupt like a string of vertiginous miniature mountains from the haymeadows and soft pastures of the higher Dove Valley, near Buxton.
The Dragon’s Back range are often cited as the only true peaks in the Peak District; a line of pinnacles said to resemble the ‘plates’ along the spine of a stegosaurus dinosaur. This exhilarating walk includes seven short, steep climbs to each summit.
The walker’s reward is ending up at Earl Sterndale’s pub, the cosy Quiet Woman, a wonderful hark-back to the village pubs of yesteryear.
1. Green for go
From Earl Sterndale’s green, join the road for Harrington. Head past the duckpond towards the conical hill of High Wheeldon. In a further 400m, fork left up the track marked ‘Unsuitable for Motors’; at the higher lane bear right. In another 450m, just before a fork, look right for the path into pasture. Dip past the pylon and up the steep flank of High Wheeldon to the trig pillar. Above are the shapely limestone knolls soon to be climbed.
2. Down the farm
Head south (hard-left as you approach) to the nearby bounding wall and put this on your left. Plunge down the hillside and turn right along the lower fenceline above ash trees to a stile in the bottom corner of the pasture. Descend the road to the cottage and fork right. Walk this lane through Underhill farmyard, continuing on the part-walled way through several gates to the main road.
3. Steep peaks
Look left for the phone box and turn right on the lane behind this. Cross the cattle grid; then head for the fin-like Parkhouse Hill to your right. Walk upfield to the walled corner, continuing up beside the wall. From the top corner, head up the ferociously steep ridge to reach the peak. Now head west towards the sturdy heights of Chrome Hill.
4. Dragon's den
The way off Parkhouse Hill is extremely steep. Start just left of the ridge-top before crossing to the right, dropping to a minor road. Turn right to the nearby cattle-grid. Immediately before it use the stile onto a path for Chrome Hill and High Edge. The path rises over hummocks of limestone to reach a handgate beneath a tree, then climbs to the summit ridge.
5. Winding back
Advance along the declining ridge; beyond a low arch drift right, steeply down to find a wall-side way and bend left with it to use a corner handgate. Follow signs to another handgate; then turn uphill, shortly heading left along the top of pastures to reach a cattle-grid and farm road.
Turn right to the minor road.
6. Time for a pint
Turn right, entering Dowel Dale’s valley. Descend this until a point 50m before a pronounced right-bend. Look for the waymarked handgate, left, and climb right to a handgate through the skyline wall. Continue past a waymarked field-post to find a field road. The path heads downhill left of this. Cross it, then head left to a tarred lane. Turn right to Earl Sterndale and the welcome of the Quiet Woman.
Find out more about the Peak District
Main image ©Alamy
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