Dovestone Reservoir and Chew Valley – A High Level Circuit
This walk in the north-west corner of the Peak District explores the hills surrounding Dovestone Reservoir and Chew Valley, including Aldermans Hill, Dick Hill, Ashway Rocks, Dove Stone Rocks, and Alphin. It was a walk that had been on my ‘to-do’ list for quite some time, and I was eager to return to the Peak District after a very enjoyable day out on Chrome Hill & Parkhouse Hill the previous month.
It was a Tuesday and, as I normally do these kind of walks at the weekend, I unfortunately didn’t take into account the fact that I would be attempting to travel during the morning rush-hour traffic. I set off around 7.30 am and ended up stuck in quite a few traffic jams, so by the time I arrived at Dovestone Reservoir it was almost 10.30 am; it had taken me around 3 hours from Nottingham! Further annoyance was to follow when I found that the car park at my destination was Pay & Display, and I had no cash on me at all. I had to get back in the car and drive to nearby Mossley in order to find a cash machine.
Eventually, after much faffing, I was sorted and ready to make a start. Visibility didn’t look particularly promising on the summits of the hills; they were obscured in a thick blanket of cloud. I headed back up the road from the car park towards the A635, taking a small detour on the way to have a quick look at Dovestone Reservoir. After crossing the road and heading for a short distance up a farm lane, I followed a couple of lesser footpaths until they met up with a bigger and more clearly defined one that makes up part of the Oldham Way long distance footpath. Following this eventually led me uphill and to the war memorial, which is sat on the top of a rock littered corner of Saddleworth Moor. Visibility was poor as expected, and so photo opportunities were limited. The mist lent the place an eerie atmosphere which I actually quite enjoyed as it increased the feeling of isolation, and allowed me to easily imagine that I was the only person for miles around. This may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ but I personally find it brings about a feeling of tranquility. I headed roughly north-east to Shaw Rocks before backtracking a little and heading south over Dick Hill and eventually Alderman’s Hill. The mist started to clear around this point, and some great views of the reservoirs appeared below. I probably didn’t choose the best of routes to descend from the summit as I ended up opting for the straight line approach over steep and rocky terrain.
After reaching the bottom of the hill, I crossed back over the A635 and headed down towards the the bridge/path that separates Dovestone Reservoir and Yeoman Hey Reservoir. Some great photo opportunities were available whilst crossing this, which I naturally tried to take full advantage of. After crossing the reservoirs, the path veered to the right. Eventually, on the left, there’s a man-made cascade that feeds Dovestone reservoir – but just before I arrived at this, I came across a very steep path that appeared to head straight up the hill. I was in the mood for a challenge and so opted for this route. It was perhaps the most difficult part of the walk as the uphill slog went on and on and on, completely relentlessly. It’s fair to say that I felt totally knackered by the time I reached Ashway Rocks, but was rewarded for my efforts by some fine views back across the reservoir and to Alderman’s Hill, where I had been only a short time ago.
From here, the route is easier, and the difficulty much reduced. Backtrack slightly towards the memorial – which looked like it was going to crumble at any moment – and then simply follow the path, and the edge, across Ashway gap and towards the high level Chew Reservoir – passing Great Dove Stone Rocks on the way. The simple navigational rule to follow is keeping the drop and the fantastic views on the right, and the plateau on the left.
A little bit of route finding was involved on occasion as the ground gradually became more and more peaty, and the path unclear. Eventually I arrived at Chew Reservoir where more photo opportunities became available – both of the reservoir itself, and also of the view directly into Chew Valley. I crossed here, then began the journey back – this time on the opposite side of the valley. Again, the route is simple – just continue following the edge back towards the last summit of the day – Alphin. On the way, the path came and went as it frequently crossed areas of exposed peat. It also crossed a variety of brooks and gullies, some of which appeared as though they would make an interesting scramble from the bottom. Maybe I’ll try that some day. For the final section of high level walking, on the approach to the Alphin summit, I found that the path became much firmer and defined as the areas of exposed peat disappeared and were replaced by a huge expanse of lovely red coloured Heather. Alphin has a clear trig point located on the opposite side of a wind shelter which, as well as marking the summit, also marks the end of the Chew Valley horseshoe. After admiring the views one last time, I started to walk down the path from the top – which is clearly defined and fairly obvious, and found it much easier going on the knees than I expected. Eventually I arrived at Intake Lane where I headed right (east) until the path forked. I took the left hand fork along Bradbury Lane and past a row of old terraced cottages and eventually ended up back at the car park for Dovestone Reservoir – just in time for it starting to go dark.
In summary – this was a fantastic walk in the Peak District with some outstanding views, and well worth the 3 hour trip to get there. I just wish it hadn’t been so hazy as I could have take some much better photographs!
Walk completed on 3rd November, 2015. Total distance: 12.2 miles
GPX file for the walk
My Google photo album for the walk
Dove Stone Reservoir – Wikipedia page
Chew Valley – Wikipedia page
Chew Reservoir – Wikipedia page
Another route description at walkingenglishman.com