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Walk Derbyshire – A Walk from Grin Low & Buxton Country Park

Walk Derbyshire – A Walk from Grin Low & Buxton Country Park

There are not many walks claiming to start downhill, but this one does (although the height lost must be regained at the end, but nothing is perfect, is it?)

The walk starts from the car park accessing Solomon’s Temple before dropping down to the centre of Buxton and its Pavilion Gardens, returning by way of Poole’s Cavern Country Park. A once devastated landscape covered with small scale limestone burning has changed into a pleasant hillside, where mature woodland criss-crossed with meandering footpaths leads to three interesting features.  The walk explores them together with the rest of the byways.

Around the early 1800s Grin Low hillside was devastated by the results of two centuries of quarrying and lime burning, leaving a lunar landscape of humps and hollows where whole families lived like troglodytes.  As part of his ambition to turn Buxton into a northern spa, in competition with Bath and Harrogate, the 6th Duke of Devonshire planted the 100 acre wood with a mix of broad leaf trees such as beech, oak and sycamore together with a few conifers.  These have now grown into maturity and along with the grassy moor around Solomon’s Temple they have created what is now designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) where swathes of rare sub-alpine species bloom, along with many wild animals and birds making their home here.  

Along with paths meandering through the woods and across the open hilltop, there are three specific features that will provide plenty of interest to young and old.  Starting from the car park and picnic site, these are:

Poole’s Cavern

Arguably this is the most natural cavern open to visitors in the Peak District.  Even though it was never mined, it has links with ancient people from long before the Romans settled in what became Buxton. Formed by the action of floodwater, meandering passages are lined with stalactites ranging from delicate straw-like growths to huge columns that seem to hang without support.  Rainwater falling where there are still large amounts of waste lime powder, percolates down through the earth, laden with calcite that precipitates in what has been aptly called the ‘Poached Egg Chamber’.  The stream flowing through the cave rises far into the hillside, way beyond the end of the public access section, eventually forms’ part of the Derbyshire River Wye.

When Poole’s Cavern was first developed as a tour cave, it was decided to remove a large section of glacial sediment blocking the easiest entrance to the cave. By doing this it links with the cavern’s earliest users whose story came to light in the shape of animal bones, iron objects and pottery, suggesting that people had sheltered in its damp recesses since at least Neolithic times (between 2000 and 1500 BC).  Bronzesmiths plied their trade in its shelter during the Roman occupation, making domestic objects for the wives of soldiers stationed on what were then the wild uplands of ‘Peclond’. 

Who Poole was, the man who supposedly gave the cave his name has never been proven, but the traditional explanation is that an outlaw called Poole or Pole sheltered in the cavern sometime around the mid1400s; there was however, a Poole family living at Hartington, a mere 10 miles away and records dating from 1432 state that John Poole Esq held a large area of land in ‘Buckstone’, so it could be that as law abiding people they owned the cave, or maybe a renegade member of the family hid there.  Whichever story is true will probably never be known, but what is on record is the visit Mary Queen of Scots made in 1580 during her spell of captivity in the Peak.  A hundred years later, Charles Cotton listed the cave as one of his ‘Seven Wonders of the Peak’, and in so doing put the attraction on the visitor map.  Poet laureate Sir John Betjeman visited the cave in 1980 and thanked the guide for ‘moving his unwieldy body through the vast wonders of the cavern’.

Go Ape

A few yards uphill from the play area beside the car park, a purpose-built modern wooden building marks the start of ‘Go Ape’, billed as the UK’s number one tree-top adventure.  After being fitted with safety harness, adventurers tackle zip wires, Tarzan swings, rope ladders and complex high-wire crossings linking a course through the forest.

Solomon’s Temple

There are at least four ways up to the airy ridge-top tower known as Solomon’s Temple – you could even fit it in with a quick spin around the orienteering course if so inclined.  The name given to the tower links it to the original benefactor who paid for it as a ‘job creation scheme’ for unemployed local quarrymen.  Built in 1896, the folly or look-out tower, call it what you will, overlooks not only Buxton, but a wide swathe of Peak District scenery.  The effort of climbing the hillside from the car park should only take about 25 minutes, following the wide woodland path, and the effort is well worthwhile.  Don’t worry if you hear explosions coming from the group of buildings on the hillside over to your left.  They will be coming from the Explosion and Fire Laboratory of the Health and Safety Executive, where they have been known to assess the explosive characteristics of custard powder!

Useful Information

A short 1½ mile (2.4km) easy stroll downhill and back up (totally 880feet – 268 metres) using open footpaths, side roads and public parkland.


Ordnance Survey 1:25000 scale Outdoor Leisure Explorer Map, Sheet OL24 – The Peak District, White Peak Area.


 Hourly TP service from Derby via Matlock into Buxton Market Place.


 Chaise of many pubs, cafes and restaurants, in and around Buxton town centre.


Above Grin Low camp site. (Honesty box payment).


From Grin Low campsite car park (signposted off the Harpur Hill/A53 Leek road link), walk uphill on a footpath through a small wood.

Go through a kissing gate and bear right, downhill.

Climb over a low stile and swing to the right away from the main path, aiming across the undulating grassy moor.  Aim upwards towards the prominent tower of Solomon’s Temple.

After returning from climbing to the tower’s viewing terrace, do not bear left on the main path, but go directly downhill as far as a stile in the boundary fence.  Ignoring the path going left, continue forwards, through a gate as far as another fence.  Cross this and enter woodland.

On the far side of the wood, continue downhill as far as a track leading half left towards Green Lane.  Cross this and take the road opposite (College Road) as far as a cross roads.  Go forwards on to Hartington Road for a few yards as far as the entrance to Broad Walk and Pavilion Gardens.

Walk forwards through the park, past a series of ponds to the far end of the park.

A visit to the hot house is recommended before turning left back through the park as it is usually full of colourful plants surrounding the attractive aquarium.  

Leave the hot house and follow Serpentine walks through Pavilion Gardens, as far as a side road and turn left on this.

Follow the road to its end at the junction with Hartington Road and the B5059.  Cross over and take the right fork – Temple Road, as far as its junction with Green Lane, opposite the entrance to Poole’s Cavern car park.

Go past (or visit) Poole’s Cavern and begin to climb uphill through mature woodland, past ‘Go Ape’ adventure track.

Continue uphill through woodland for about a quarter of a mile until the path reaches a stile in the boundary fence at the top of the wood.

Climb the stile and climb to the right to join the track leading back to Grin Low car park.


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