The dales this walk covers are within a mile or two of each other and even though they join later, both are entirely different in character. Their names are the Manifold and the Dove. Their character is mostly determined by the rocks over which their rivers flow; gritstone shales for the Manifold and carboniferous limestone for the Dove’s bedrock. Limestone being the main underlying rock of this part of the White Peak, manages to take over lower down the manifold where the river disappears temporarily through cavernous systems carved millennia ago.
Starting in Longnor, an attractive one-time market town, the walk follows the broad, middle section of the Manifold before crossing over an airy grassy ridge in order to drop down into the valley of the River Dove. In this dale the scenery is entirely different; to the north beyond Crowdecote, dramatic limestone hills point skywards, looking for all the world like a row of shark’s teeth. In ancient geological times they marked the sea-washed edge of a tropical lagoon and, as a result are technically known as reef knolls.
Longnor stands at the boundary of the Dark and White Peak and is also where several pack horse and drove roads meet. Until the beginning of the twentieth century it was an important meeting place for local farmers who came to this upland village in order to sell their produce and animals. The original owners of the village and lands round about, the Harpur Crewe family from Calke Abbey, built the market hall and cobbled its frontage. With the coming of efficient road transport, markets are no longer held there and cars park where cattle pens once stood, but it is easy to imagine the bustle and noise of a busy market. A list of tolls levied against animals sold there stands proudly above the entrance to the market hall. Where farmers’ wives once sold freshly plucked chickens and geese, cheese and eggs, it is now possible to buy light refreshments, or admire the work of local artists in an adjoining studio. There are still pubs where for centuries farmers met their friends and neighbours. Directly opposite the market hall, the Crewe and Harpur Inn was once where it was customary for those farmers to pay their rent to the estate. Further up the road, the Cheshire Cheese, a pub still renowned for its excellent cuisine, takes its name from its origins in 1464 when it was used as a cheese store. Being at the junction of so many ancient paths and trackways makes Longnor a popular venue for walkers and cyclists.
In a village where many of its houses were built at least two centuries ago, narrow alleys lead towards the church, which although being ‘improved’ in Victorian times, is built on Saxon foundations. If one of the gravestones is anything to go by, Longnor is a place of longevity. William Billings who died aged 112, was born in a cornfield and became a soldier who took part in the capture of Gibraltar in 1704; he saw action at the Battle of Ramillies in 1706 and fought against the Stuarts in the Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1745.
Another hint of Longnor’s age can be seen by the number of narrow fields’ to the left and close to the paths used soon after the start of the walk beyond Longnor. Known as ‘strip system fields’, they are the width a plough hauled by a pair of oxen could cover in a day. No longer commercially viable for modern farming, they are still marked out by not quite so ancient stone walls, and are preserved for their historical importance.
4 miles (6.4km) of moderate walking on field paths and farm tracks. Two moderate climbs and one descent.
Muddy sections beyond the second crossing of the River Dove.
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure Sheet 24, The Peak District – White Peak Area.
Public Transport: High Peak 442 service running daily every two hours between Ashbourne and Buxton calls at Longnor.
Car parking in market place or roadside in Longnor village.
Refreshments – village pubs and a café in Longnor where there is also a fish and chip café, but be warned – muddy boots and dogs are not welcome! The Pack Horse pub in Crowdicote makes an ideal stopping place half way round the walk.
The Walk :
Follow the road east for about 150yards away from the market place in Longnor.
Turn right along the signposted farm lane to Folds End Farm.
Go left through the farmyard and the climb over a stone stile.
Turn half left beyond the stile and then right at a path junction to follow a grassy path downhill to the River Manifold.
Follow the Manifold’s left bank, downstream.
Go forwards where a wider track bears left and then cross three fields.
At a four-way path junction, turn left and climb up to Over Boothlow Farm.
Keep left through the farmyard and then right along a concrete track.
Through a gate the track becomes rougher, follow it uphill to the ridge-top road.
Pause on the way up to the road and admire the view. Longnor is to your right beyond the narrow strips of its Saxon fields. The wide basin of the Manifold was once considered suitable for flooding as a shallow reservoir, but as this would leave an ugly muddy scar during periods of drought, the plan was dropped in favour of the much more attractive Carsington Water.
Turn right along the road for about 500yds (460m) and then cross a stone stile.
Turn sharp left and begin to go steeply downhill across three fields.
Turn right on joining the track down to Under Whitle Farm.
Pause again to admire the view, this time along the valley of the River Dove. In the valley bottom, to your right, grassy mounds mark the motte and bailey of Pilsbury Castle. In its time it was a wooden-staked fortification built by the Norman overlords in order to control the native Saxon population.
Cross a stile at the top of the farm’s garden in order to follow a way-marked path as far as an access drive to Upper Whitle Farm. Do not go into the farm yard, but bear left on the way-marked path.
Keep going downhill, past a couple of barns and, still following waymarks and stiles, cross a series of fields in order to reach the River Dove.
Turn left, upstream until you reach a footbridge. Cross over and turn left, continuing to walk upstream.
Turn left along a farm track, following it into Crowdicote village.
Crowdicote takes its name from the Saxon Cruda built the first farm on this spot. The Pack Horse Inn is a welcome sight half way along the walk.
Turn right along the road and just past the Pack Horse Inn, turn left along a side lane. Follow the lane for about 100yds (94m), as far as Meadow Farm.
Leave the lane beyond the farm and fork left to follow a open fields for about a half a mile.
Here is another view, this time it is of the sharp pointed Parkhouse and Chrome Hills. Looking for all the world like shark’s teeth, two of the only true peaks in the Peak District, they are the remains of a reef that once bordered a tropical lagoon millions of years ago.
At a four-way track junction, turn left along a wide grassy track. Go down to the river.
No one knows who the beggar was who waited beside the river at this point, but he is likely to have used the vantage point in order to prey on passing drovers’ charity.
Cross the footbridge known as Beggar’s Bridge and begin to climb a low rise in order to reach a shallow side valley.
Turn left at a stone barn and climb,at first along a gravel lane which gradually improves all the way back into Longnor.