On the A6, a few miles to the east of Buxton is a large lay-by on the left beyond Topley Pike and this is the start of a 7.5 mile walk which takes in the little-known village of Wormhill and one of the Peak District’s most spectacular river paths.
At the far end of the lay-by, a zigzag route – part of the Pennine Bridleway –takes you down the steep hill, over the Monsal Trail at the bottom, then over a footbridge crossing the Wye at Blackwell Farm Cottages. Just after the footbridge the bridleway turns right, so follow this wide green path up the steep hillside – the equivalent height and steepness of the one you have just come down. This is longer, however, and switchbacks through three or four long stretches before reaching the top.
Once there, bear right through the yard of Mosley Farm – you can be in no doubt of the route as a gable end has ‘Footpath’ painted across its width in huge letters. On reaching the lane, turn left on a slight incline, and after a quarter of a mile you will find a path crossing three fields to the right. Once over the fields, bear left at the bottom onto a path which runs along the rim of the impenetrably deep and narrow Flag Dale. After skirting the head of the deceptively gently sloping entrance to the dale, pick up a green lane to the right which goes straight ahead for a short while, bears round a right-handed corner and then turns into a long, straight track, which eventually leads through another farmyard at Hassop Farm on the edge of Wormhill.
When you reach the road, head left into the heart of the village to discover a pretty little place with a central green and the delightfully unusual church of St Margaret’s, incorporating the remains of a small chapel, originally built in the 13th Century. The earliest Parish Register records the birth of the Peak District’s famous son, canal builder James Brindley, who was born at nearby Tunstead in 1716.
The walk continues through the churchyard where you will pick up a footpath that crosses diagonally right over five or six fields and then reaches a road. Here you cross a stile and turn left. Near the end of the lane, a little path on the right takes you behind a few houses to cut the corner, if you wish. Back on the road once more, turn right, and go down the hill to the former Monsal Station.
The route is now along the Monsal trail to the west, as far as the lime kilns, where you take the path down into Chee Dale and its glorious riverside walk. The way can be slippery and difficult in parts, with some narrow scrambles on an undulating path, and of course there are stepping stones to negotiate too, which sometimes disappear when the path floods after heavy rain. It is such a dramatic dale; high torrs, white water, overhanging cliffs and mossy trees. In the river you may well spot dabchicks (little grebes), mallards, dippers and the odd moorhen or two, scuttling through the reeds, and if you are lucky, perhaps a tiny goldcrest in the thorn bushes.
This long but wonderful path comes to and end all too soon and you find yourself back at Blackwell cottages, where you just need to re-trace your steps back up the hill to the lay-by on the A6, hopefully exhilarated by some of the best of what the Peak District has to offer.