This is the second of my walks in Collins Walks in the Peak District which I am currently checking for any changes. Fortunately there are no alterations necessary to the actual route, but there is one interesting addition to features seen along the way. This is a Millennium project to mark various points along the parish boundary with what became known as Sites of Meaning. When I planned the Collins walks the project was in its early planning stages and so it was impossible to include it in my walk, but as my apparent neglect did not affect the description of the walk, I justifiably left it out. Each marker, for that is what they are, is unique; but all have an appropriate phrase carved into their face, whether it is flat on the ground or upright. A stone table next to the playground in the centre of the village has pointers showing the direction to each sculpture and also the individual phrases on them that were chosen by members of the village and local school children. This walk passes three sites, but there are many others which could while away a day or so this spring. Two little known White Peak dales are explored on this walk which starts from the secluded village of Middleton-by-Youlgrave. The first, Bradford Dale, has a river haunted by trout, but Long Dale is dry. Between them, high limestone pastures are crossed along the way, offering wide-ranging views over the surrounding countryside. Middleton might seem a sleepy place today, but it has seen plenty of activity down the centuries. It once had a castle although nothing remains apart from a mound and during the English Civil War a bloody skirmish took place nearby.
6 miles (9.5km) of moderate field paths and open limestone pasture. Can be muddy around the exit from Bradford Dale and near the head of Long Dale. Public Transport: Hulley’s 171 service from Bakewell runs hourly via Youlgrave on weekdays and Saturdays, then at 10am on Sunday & Bank Holidays, returning at 5:35pm Car parking space is usually available near the children’s play area at the road junction in the centre of the village. Recommended Map: Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure 1:25,000 scale, sheet OL24, The Peak District – White Peak area. Refreshments: none in Middleton or along the walk, but nearby Youlgrave has three pubs.
• Walk upstream and then cross the narrow footbridge to your left. Climb the metal ladder to the top of a limestone outcrop. Turn right across the slope and go down to the river again. Recross the stream by a wide stone-slab footbridge. Cross the next fields by using stone stiles in their boundary walls. A partly overgrown pool in the bottom of the dale is the uppermost of a series of mill ponds that once powered a small textile mill nearby and also a lead-crushing mill at Alport lower down the dale. Trout now take advantage of the clear waters. The side stream issuing from an beneath an overhanging rock beside the path is a ‘sough’ (pron: suff), dug to drain nearby lead mines. Look out for the phrasing carved on the stone-slab bridge; it is part of Middleton’s Sites of Meaning series, but is already showing signs of wear due to the passage of feet.
• Go over the narrow lane and climb the stone-stile opposite to follow the brook upstream, keeping it on your left. Where it bends to your left, continue ahead and uphill, bearing right above a wooded ravine. The underlying limestone strata on your side of the stream dip sharply towards Rowlow Brook. Rocks on the far side of the brook have been worn into overhangs by water action, partly by the stream, but mostly by meltwater at the end of the last Ice Age.
• Turn left when you reach the upper road and follow it until it makes a sharp bend to the left. Continue ahead, slightly to your right at this point, climbing along a sunken track and then through open fields.
Viewpoint 1: Look back along the way you have come. Bradford Dale points towards the prominent square tower of Youlgrave Church. Beyond and across the deep trough of the Derwent Valley, wooded slopes above Chatsworth climb towards heather-clad Beeley Moor, a riot of purple every summer.
Viewpoint 2: Almost secretive, Long Dale is below, a completely dry dale supporting short but succulent grazing. On the opposite hillside the curious grassy corrugations are the result of gentle slippage of the hillside in wet weather. The clump of trees on the far skyline marks the site of Minninglow tumulus. In summer tiny blue or yellow pansy-like flowers known as ‘heart’s ease’ dot the hillside.
• Drop steeply down into Long Dale to visit three standing stones in a small enclosure; this is another boundary marker in the Sites of Meaning series. Turn right away from the stones and walk uphill along the dale until you reach a short barred plank section in the wire fence across the path. This is not a stile and the correct thing to do here is to turn right and follow the fence uphill as far as a real stile. Cross this and drop back down into the dale bottom and turn right to continue along the dale bottom.
• Continue along a narrow field, first with trees on your right and then on both sides. Go through an old gateway and follow the grassy path as far as the road.
• Climb up to the road and turn right along it for a little under half a mile. Where the road crosses the head of Long Dale look for the third of the Sites of Meaning stones; this one can be mistaken for a milestone and does in fact mark the way to Newhaven on the A515.
• A few yards past the entrance drive to a farm on your left, turn right over a stile and diagonally cross five fields, using stiles and gates to find the route.
• Turn right along a farm lane. Where it forms a crossroads beyond a large sycamore tree, bear left along a walled lane. Viewpoint 3: Bradford Dale reappears below and leads the eye towards the Derwent’s heather moors. Land to your left and right is based on limestone all the way to Elton, the former mining village to your right. The opposite or southern side of Bradford Dale is mostly gritstone as indicated by a proliferation of trees that grow best on the moist and acidic soils based on a foundation of gritstone.
• Drop down into tree-shaded Rake Lane and turn right. Follow the road back into Middleton. If time allows follow the Youlgrave road for a little way as far as the tiny Methodist chapel beyond the last houses on the left. Walk up the narrow path beside the chapel to find the tomb of Thomas Bateman, an early local archaeologist who discovered numerous prehistoric artefacts buried in Peakland tumuli. Fittingly his tomb is marked by a stone reproduction of a Neolithic urn.