3 places to explore on the Peak District Boundary Walk

View from Birchen Edge

View from Birchen Edge - Credit: Helen Moat

Friends of the Peak District launched an ambitious project – to devise a walk that would take in the entire park boundary.

The Boundary Walk climbs into the bleak beauty of the Dark Peak moorland, drops into deep-sided dales cascading with wildflowers in spring and summer, crosses gently undulating pastures and woodlands and passes through fine country estates and historic Peak settlements.

Here are three lovely stretches of the boundary walk, one linear and two looping you back to your starting point.  

Chee Dale

Chee Dale - Credit: Helen Moat

Buxton to Peak Forest 
Did you know the Roman name for Buxton is Aqua Arnemetiae – Waters of Arnemetiae?
That legacy of aqua is still very much part of Buxton. Fill up your water bottle at St Ann’s Well and admire the newly refurbished Crescent spa hotel across the road.

Buxton is truly the Bath of the Midlands with its gorgeous Pump House, opera house and dome on the hill.

Stride out to the edge of the town– and the beginning of the Peak District Boundary Walk. Stop for an ice-cream at Lime Tree Holiday Park, its static caravans tucked into the countryside beneath a sweeping viaduct. Climb to the lovely hamlet of King Sterndale passing through the parklands of Cowdale Hall. 

Drop down into Deep Dale. The climb up the other side is lung-busting and the path along its edge dizzying; the valley has certainly not been misnamed.

Wye Dale is equally dramatic. I recommend the suggested alternative boundary walk route through Chee Dale, surely one of the most beautiful valleys in the Peak District with its limestone gorge, two sets of stepping stones, marshy islands and soaring railway bridges. It’s tough going in places but your efforts will be rewarded. 

Leaving the Wye Valley behind, climb up to the village of Wormhill. Catch your breath on the bench by the James Brindley Memorial, inventor of the modern canal system and engineer extraordinaire.

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Leave the road behind to hike through Hay and Dam dales, finally reaching Peak Forest after a ten-mile tramp, the end of Stage 1.

Plan your walk carefully to coincide with the infrequent 190 back to Buxton, but of course there’s always time for a pint at the Devonshire Arms, or even a meal, if it’s a while before the bus arrives.  

Nelson's Column on Birchen Edge

Nelson's Column on Birchen Edge - Credit: Helen Moat

A trio of escarpments – Birchen, Gardom’s and Baslow Edge 
Stage 11 of the Peak District Boundary Walk takes you through woodlands up onto the high moorlands of the Dark Peak before dropping down to Beeley.

The walk along Birchen Edge is one of its highlights. Diverging from the long-distance walk, return to your starting point, adding two more edges to the mix.
This walk of four miles offers stunning vistas over the Derwent Valley, strangely weathered rock formations and wild upland beauty.  

Parking just off the Sheffield Road on Clodhall Lane (east), go through the gate on the corner of the intersection and climb up to Birchen Edge through open access land.

From the top, far-reaching vistas ripple across the Dark Peak. Continuing south along the escarpment, you will come to three distinctive outcrops, the stones curved at the front like the bows of three ships (with a little imagination).

Each of them is carved with the names ‘Victory’, ‘Defiance’, and ‘Soverin’, the names of Nelson’s warships. And sure enough, further along the edge you’ll come to Nelson’s monument, a slender column commemorating the great admiral in landlocked Derbyshire.

The popular climbing routes on the escarpment continue the seafaring theme with names such as the Crow’s Nest, Sail Buttress and Trafalgar Crack. Drink in the panoramic views of Baslow and Chatsworth estate before dropping steeply to Robin Hood Inn.  

Enjoy lunch at the pub before diverting from the boundary walk. Walk a short distance along the pavement on the same side as the pub on the A619 and follow the fingerpost right to hike steeply up towards Gardom’s Edge and on to Sheffield Road.

Crossing carefully to the other side, take the path up through Jack Flat woodland onto Baslow Edge. Lo and behold, you’ll come to another monument, this one paying homage to the Duke of Wellington who ended the Napoleonic Wars at the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium.

Continue east along the edge, stopping frequently to take in the stupendous views. The escarpment path comes to an end just west of Sheffield Road on Coldwall Lane.

It’s a short drop down the road to the crossroads and your starting point.  

Ilam Bridge

Ilam Bridge - Credit: Helen Moat

From Thorpe to Ilam  
At Thorpe the Peak District Boundary Walk follows the Limestone Way to cross the border of Derbyshire into Staffordshire.
Park at Thorpe Railway Car Park and make your way to Church Lane in the Derbyshire village, lined with elegant stone-built villas of high chimney stacks and quaint cottages.

Pass the little church of St Leonard with its squat Norman tower, to the end of the road where lane gives way to farm track.

Tumble down to Coldwall Bridge, where the long, arched crossing carried humans and animals over the River Dove along the old turnpike route to Cheadle and the Potteries in times of yore.  

The boundary walker turns right here to leave the Limestone Way behind, joining the Manifold Way and a new waterway.

The route passes through meadow and woodland above the River Manifold, emerging at Ilam-Moor Lane bridge in the fairy-tale estate village.

Pause to admire the Ilam Cross monument, erected by Jesse Watts Russell of Ilam Hall in 1841, a memorial to his much-loved wife.

Look out for the cheeky imp among the angels, then admire the Old English estate cottages across the road with their steeply pitched roofs, shingled fronts and decorative bargeboards, the work of eminent architect, George Gilbert Scott.  

Continue to Ilam Hall, now a Youth Hostel, its lovely parklands managed by the National Trust.

Pop into the Church of the Holy Cross and peer into the atmospheric burial chapel of St Bertram, a place of pilgrimage. The crown-shaped annex has a very different feel with its grand Pike Watts Monument and Mausoleum, paying homage to the rich industrialists whose fortunes funded the rambling Ilam Hall (now a shadow of its former self but magnificent for all of that).

Don’t miss the lovely Italian Garden with striking views to the sheer-sided Bunster Hill and Thorpe Hall. The National Trust offers refreshments behind it.

Continue along Paradise Walk, its riverside garden and pathways that meander along the deep-cut valley.  

Here we leave the boundary walk behind to continue on along the riverside to Lodge Lane. Walk along the lane back through Ilam, then take the grassy footpath across fields behind Thorpe Road.

The path drops down to the River Dove. Walk up the lane and cross the popular stepping stones, continuing down the altogether quieter Lin Dale back to your starting point at Thorpe.

Finish at the Old Dog for a well-deserved pint, an old-time pub with a rustic but contemporary feel, oozing hygge.  

www.friendsofthepeak.org.uk/boundary-walk

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