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Walk Derbyshire – Fernilee & The Goyt Valley

Walk Derbyshire – Fernilee & The Goyt Valley

The South Manchester town of Stockport gets most of its water from two reservoirs filling the narrow upper reaches of the Goyt Valley near Buxton.  It is hard to realise that  this was a self-supporting estate with its own coal mines and small industrial estate where gun powder was made. 

Errwood Hall, the central building in this complex,  its ruins now partly hidden in a side valley draining from high moors to the west, was the home of the estate’s owners.  The family’s children were educated by a Spanish governess.  Loved by the children, when she died prematurely, her grave was placed in a beautiful woodland situation, alongside senior members of the Grimshaw family.  There is also a wayside shrine above the valley. More akin to those in the Alps it stands high on the hillside, below the summit of Long Hill road and is usually decorated by floral tributes.

The Upper Goyt Valley is surrounded by high moorland surrounding mature pinewoods, to the west is a long ridge that overlooks both the valley and sweeping hills  dominated by Shutlingsloe, Cheshire’s highest hill, a steep sided cone that can claim the title of a peak, a rarity in a county more commonly known for its low-lying or flat-topped hills, than sharp-tops, better known as peaks, proof that the word ‘Peak’ in the title of the Peak District has nothing to do with sharp-pointed hills. The meaning behind this expression is said to connect the district to the tribe of ‘Peaclonders’’ who inhabited the region in Celtic times.

The eastern side of the valley is mainly open treeless moorland overlooking the spa town of Buxton far below.  The heights of Combs Moss, one of the Peak District’s lesser known features, shelters Buxton from most of the cold scouring winds blowing in winter.

A railway, one of the earliest lines in the country, entered the realms of the Goyt Valley by passing through an abandoned tunnel cut through Burbage Edge on Goyt’s Moss. Originally catering for horse-drawn wagons, it pre-dated steam and as it was originally constructed by canal-builders who were unable to take on the idea of trains of goods wagons climbing by their own power, the line was cut as though it used locks to climb up or down hillsides.  As a result, the line from Cromford Canal to the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge, climbs the dry limestone hillsides aided by fixed steam engines at several points along the way.  One of these steam driven haulage sections is now used as a surfaced road leading steeply downhill beyond Burbage Edge from Long Hill to the dam that created Errwood Reservoir and is where the walk begins.

The walk is in two halves.  Leaving Errwood Reservoir and the road at the western end of the dam, a woodland path is followed steadily downhill towards the western bank of Fernilee Reservoir.  Beyond this point, the path begins to climb steadily, before dropping down to a track along the dam wall.  This track is followed, soon uphill, to the Long Hill Road.  This famous road,  is followed to the left for a few yards in order to join a farm track bearing right towards the edge of a wood. The field track joins a minor road for a short distance, climbing past a farmhouse to where the road bears left.  Do not continue along the road, but turn right and cross the nearby stile. Walk down the field as far as the road and join it, to the right as far as a sharp right-hand bend. Here we must climb over a stile and go steadily downhill towards a stream. Climb steeply up the far side and aim for a ruined barn in order to downhill on a grassy path.  On reaching the road beside Bunsal Cob, turn right and cross the dam wall back to the car park.


• From the car park beside Errwood Reservoir, drop down towards the maturing pinewood at the head of Fernilee Reservoir. Follow its bank until the path begins to bear left, uphill.

• Turn left and climb uphill for about 100 yards to join an upper path.  Turn right at this point.

• Climb the stile above the end of the reservoir and turn right, away from the reservoir, following the dam wall.

• Bear half-left along the reservoir access road at the end of the dam wall and then climb up to the main roads.

• At a signpost, turn sharp right and walk steeply downhill towards the head of Fernilee reservoir.  Turn left and follow the reservoir for about a quarter of a mile.

• Where the path meets is a deeply cut stream.

• Turn left and follow a footpath on its far bank until it joins an upper path and turn right to follow it.

• Walk on through mature pinewood and cross over another stream, feeding the reservoir.

• Drop down to the western end of the dam wall and turn right.

• Cross a stile and turn right to follow the farm lane over the dam.  Begin to climb bearing left uphill from the dam’s far end.

• Turn left on reaching the main road and follow it for about 100yds.

• Climb over a stile overlooking the road and turn right to follow an uphill path, heading towards a farm lane but not reaching Overhill Farm.  Keep well to the right of the farm buildings.

• Turn right, following the farm lane for about 80 yards and bear left to cross a stone wall by a stile.

• Aim uphill past a small plantation.  On reaching the moor lane, turn right and follow it past an isolated house.

• Walk on for about 150 yards until the lane bears sharp left.  Do not follow it round the bend, but turn right to cross a dry-stone stile.

• Do follow the path leading directly into the valley to your front, but turn left towards the top of a small wood.

• Bear right on to a grassy path, parallel to and then below the line of the main road.

• Follow the road as far as a sharp bend and where the old coach road crossed the steep sided valley turn left and walk down the roughly surfaced track.

• Aim for the left of two clumps of trees and follow a grassy depression. Aim for a ruined barn by the third clump of trees.

• Climb up to the minor road laid on the site of the long-abandoned Cromford and High Peak Canal Railway.

• Turn right on joining the road, follow it steadily downhill, past the rounded hump of Bunsal Cob.  The car park is at the far end of Errwood  Reservoir.



By using the car park further along the Goyt Valley Road, an attractive, all weather walk (cum extension to the Fernilee walk), takes you  up to the ruins of Errwood Hall, especially nice in early summer when the Azaleas planted by Grimshaw at the height of the Victorian rhododendron craze are in flower.


From the car park about a half mile along the valley from the dam, follow a path uphill until it joins an old coach track.

Turn right along the woodland path until it joins another coming from the right.

Follow this path up to the romantically situated ruins of Errwood Hall.

Walk past the hall’s remains and go down a path leading into a side valley.

Cross a footbridge and climb the steps of another path that leads to the skyline.

Turn right and walk along the path, gradually making your way back downhill to– if parked higher up the valley, access to it is to the right.

This walk can also be used as a short summer walk beneath the budding trees.


A moderate 5 miles walk (8km), with one 394ft (120m) climb.

Ordnance Survey 1:25000 Scale Outdoor Leisure Map Sheet ` – Dark Peak.

Buxton to Glossop service to top of Long Hill

West side of Errwood Reservoir and pinewoods.

Shady Oak, Fernilee (Off route, but can be visited after the walk, especially by motorists).


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