Padley Gorge is one of the most mystical and magical places in the Peak District. It is a fairy glen of a place, with moss covered tree roots creating hiding places for imaginary folk. It is a really wonderful place for dog owners to be able to let their dogs off their lead without fear of upsetting wildlife, observing the dogs on the lead rule in the moorland of Burbage Moor of course, but also a really fantastic place for the children of all ages, with the gently trickling Burbage Brook at the top of the Gorge, creating wonderful areas for paddling and picnics in a safe environment, but then to the adventure which is the Gorge itself, torrents of water gushing over dark grit stone, it really is a spectacular sight and an adventure created.
It is between the village of Grindleford and the A6187 road and there are plenty of car parking opportunities at the side of the road, or in the pay and display car parks, before grabbing the cooler box and setting off for the short walk across the moors or down the path to the river. The land to the north and east of the gorge is moorland, but there are relics of stone circles and also millstones dotted around the area. The wonderful rugged sheep that live up there are quite tame and in the winter, their fleeces are so long they look like they are in need of a haircut but fit in perfectly with their wild surroundings.
It is a place for photographers to spend hours in solitude, with so many nooks and crannies and photo opportunities to explore and it is a large enough place to be left alone and to find places off the track to discover soft mossy areas, in stunning surroundings with copses of silver birch, their leaves gently tinkling on the breeze as you lay back and relax and enjoy the summer sun. Follow the tumbling stream across the open heather moors and discover the oak covered slopes and you have the perfect Peak District picnic spot and day out for all the family.
Burbage Brook begins its life in the purple heather moors above Sheffield and when it enters Longshaw Estate at the wonderfully named Toad's Mouth, it has turned into a gurgling stream. It meanders gently amongst silver birches and the open grassy banks make it an area of paddling potential. With weather beaten grit stone rocks offering wonderful climbing opportunities for adults and children alike, discover the child within you and have fun with the family.
The steepening ground turns into woodland as you wander further and this is when the water cascades over rocky boulders and makes its way down the Derwent Valley far below. It is an area renowned for its sun dappled rock pools, with native oak and birch but it is also a magical home for unusual species, and especially rich in birdlife as well as providing plenty of quiet places to simply sit and relax.
For the children, tripping in an out of the exposed tree roots is a delight in itself but when they come across the old tree trunk which has fallen long ago, watch the delight on their faces as they have found The Coin Tree, covered in pennies from all eras with invitation to add more yourself if you wish. The trees cling to the rocky hillside, and many are twisted into Tolkien like shapes and they attract visiting summer birds such as pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers, ring ouzels, dippers and grey wagtails. With other exotic species, care does need to be taken if you are sitting on the ground, because there is a rare kind of wood ant which has chosen to share their Gorge with you, but they may expect you to share your picnic with them if you're not careful!
Following the path on either side of the river is a circular walk and at the bottom is a wonderful footbridge to cross, providing adventure as well if you wish, or carry on further down to the junction to visit the mediaeval Padley Chapel. Two priests were discovered here in 1588 and were sentenced to death for high treason. Their Catholic martyrdom is remembered by annual pilgrimage and the chapel is open to visitors on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons in the summer.
If you want some refreshment after having had a wonderful picnic at the top of the gorge, you can reach Grindleford Station Cafe and this no-nonsense establishment is a mecca for walkers and has been so for years, offering a welcome drink before the return leg back uphill. Once you have made your journey back up to the top, there is usually a very welcoming ice cream van by the roadside and finishes off a memorable day filled with Peak District fun and probably a few wet feet as well! .