This walk, with breathtaking views of The Goyt and surrounding hillsides, covers an area much changed over the last 150 years. Whilst anyone travelling forward in time from that era would probably still recognise it from the lie of the land, they would be amazed at the differences that have occurred in this beautiful Peak District valley.
Although only approximately 3 ½ miles long, the walk takes in varied terrain and changing scenery almost from the start, which, incidentally is about half-way down Goyt’s Lane, off the A5004 Buxton to Whaley Bridge Road. At this point you will see a small reservoir on your left with a car park next to it, and this is where we begin. (Grid Ref 023751 on the White Peak OS map).
Already you will have been wowed by the views facing you; the high moorland of the Tors Ridge on the horizon, a patchwork of managed heather and conifer woodland below, then down in the valley the shining waters of Errwood and the more distant Fernilee Reservoirs; it is probably one of the prettiest areas anywhere in the Peak District. However, on with the walk…
To begin, cross the road from the car park and, almost immediately opposite, you will see a footpath sign and gate which leads you down a fairly steep grassy track heading North West, with Fernilee and the distant outskirts of Whaley Bridge in your sights. The path is well worn and easy to follow, although a little boggy in places. After half a mile it turns almost at a right-angle to the left and takes you back over the lower part of Goyt’s Lane. Here, cross straight over the road and continue on the path opposite - you will now find yourself skirting bands of coniferous woodland running parallel to Errwood Reservoir, just below you to the right. Here and there are small patches of heather and a few scrubby bilberry bushes, but mainly the terrain is dominated by rough moor-grass until you reach the part where the path splits beside an inlet of the reservoir.
At this point, there is a clearing amongst the ferns where a memorial bench invites you to pause and admire the views across Errwood. An unofficial path has been trodden down the steep bank to the side of the reservoir and whilst care is advised as the water is deep, it is worth a wander down to experience the peaceful atmosphere beside the waters edge. On the opposite bank, hidden by trees, is the ruin of the once impressive Errwood Hall, former home of the wealthy Grimshawe family from Manchester. The hall was built in the 1830’s, but when the last of the Grimshawe’s died, it was bought by the water board prior to the construction of Fernilee Reservoir in the 1930’s; a hundred years after its conception, the hall was pulled down for fear of contamination to the reservoir. In 1967, the second of the two reservoirs was completed, thus altering once more the face of the valley.
As mentioned earlier, the path splits at this point and becomes two tracks. Keep on the lower one, skirting the contour of the inlet and following the rocky bed of Wildmoor Stone Brook, passing high gritstone walls and banks of bracken. Soon after, the bracken on one side gives way to bilberry bushes and if you are lucky enough to be passing in August, make sure you have a container with you to harvest the sweet purple berries. A little further along here and you reach a cross-road of paths beside a foot bridge over the brook. It is an ideal picnic spot if you happen to have brought any refreshments with you. Again, time it right and you will be rewarded by the sight of a glorious purple heather-clad hillside across the bridge.
Our route continues straight ahead - not over the bridge - but be warned as the sign posts are a little confusing. One points straight and is signed Wild Moor, but you will see no obvious path and for a good reason, as the ground is much too boggy. Instead, take the next one, still pointing the same way but slightly higher, heading South East to the head of the valley and still parallel to the brook. Other paths lead off, but stay on this one as it ascends steadily upwards; after a longish climb, you top the hills and find yourself on a track, with the closed “Burbage Tunnel” on your right. You have reached what was the upper part of the High Peak Railway, although it was 1892 when the last trains ran along this section. The remainder of the walk is simple. Turn to your left and follow this level, easy track where you can admire the panoramic views without fear of stumbling in a bog or having to watch where to put your feet. It is truly glorious. As you near the end of the track, just before you reach a metal barrier, there is a minor path on the right which skirts the side of the small reservoir to the car park where you began. By now, you may have realised that this reservoir was something to do with the railway and it was in fact constructed to supply water for the steam engines. The other historical feature to note is that Goyt’s Lane was in fact previously Burnsal Incline and was originally part of the same railway.
Imagine, therefore, what Mr Grimshawe of Errwood Hall would think if he stood on this spot today - his hall and the railway gone, but looking down on the glistening waters of two much more beautiful manmade features in their place.
Judy & Simon Corble