A Walk from Buxton – Burbage Edge and the Goyt Valley

An energetic walk of about eight miles.

If you are based in Buxton, here is a walk straight from the town centre into some of the most stunning moorland scenery that the Peak District has to offer.  The route takes in some very boggy areas and is best attempted during the drier months.

Starting behind Buxton’s Opera House, very near the railway station, the A53 takes you in the direction of Leek and Macclesfield.  Follow this, and after less than half a mile, a turning to the right, (Carlisle Road) is signposted “Cavendish Golf Club”, (the start of your walk, proper).  Another smaller turning to your left (Watford Road) brings you up almost as far as the imposing clubhouse.  Just before this, however, there is a small layby-cum-carpark on the left, (you can always drive to here) and the start of a track up through the golf course, complete with warning signs for low-flying balls, as well as gunfire after seven o’clock, (rabbits?)

Keep to the main track (i.e. to the right) being alert to the obvious hazards.  It is an attractive course, designed to blend in with the natural environment by the renowned Dr. Alistair MacKenzie in 1923.  If you are a connoisseur of golf courses, this should impress you; if you are not, then not to worry, at least you are enjoying some gorgeous scenery.

images/watfordwoodbeech.jpgSoon you reach a gate and more warning signs; this time about “cattle and bull in field”.  Don’t be too disturbed; most of the creatures on this farm seem docile enough.   Go through the gate and leave the golfing greens behind you, following the winding track up to Watford Farm, where it loops both left and right, around the far side of the farm buildings, to continue uphill, just below the magnificent Beech trees of Watford Wood.  Officially, the right of way skirts the woodland, but if parts of the track are just too soggy for comfort, no one will blame you for a slight diversion through this atmospheric woodland, completely devoid of undergrowth beneath its towering canopy of dense foliage.

Another wooden gate lets you out onto the open moorland, here bristling with attractive grasses.  This is also the start of the open access area, which is just as well, as from hereon the path is either indistinct, or offers you many different routes through some very boggy ground.  As long as you are heading uphill towards the white buildings of Longhill Farm, you cannot go far wrong.  Pass through the large gate to the left of the farmyard and the path loops through the small paddock to its top corner.  Here a stile takes you onto a short path, up and away from the farm, to meet the junction of the A5004 and Goyt’s Lane, down to the left, which is the next section of the walk.

Goyt’s lane should be a quiet byway, but it can get a bit busy on a summer weekend; motorists should be in a relaxed mood, however, as the only reason to this route is to access the wonderful scenery of the Goyt Valley, just ahead.  A short way down the hill and a small roadside Roman Catholic shrine on the right-hand side of the road.

/images/wildmoor-brook.jpgThis is a small remnant of the estate belonging to the Grimshaw family.  The Grimshaws owned Errwood Hall, now in ruins in the forest across the valley; their private chapel was dedicated to St. Mary.  The views from this spot down the valley to Fernilee Reservoir, surrounded by forest and hill, are well worth a pause.

Someway further down the lane, you arrive at a very small, triangular reservoir and a meeting of ways.  Leave the road and take the footpath sign-posted “Wildmoorstone Brook”.  This leads down a moorland clough, through heather and bilberry, to the most idyllic spot of the walk, the brook.  Your path continues over the metal footbridge, but you will want to pause awhile by the stream and perhaps have a picnic; on a day with a little warmth it is a perfect suntrap.

images/errwoodreservoir.jpgOver the bridge and the track winds uphill once more through this fantastic upland landscape, bursting with heather, and bracken and dotted with wild Rowan trees.  A reaching arm of the Errwood Reservoir, just below, looks like it has always been there.  The path continues through heather, and over boardwalks, above the wooded, Upper Goyt Valley until, after more than a mile, it swings up to the left, into Berry Clough.  Now the hard work begins, as for the next mile or more the route is relentlessly upwards.  The views continue to be superb, however, so there is every excuse to pause and look back!   The Cat and Fiddle Pub is clearly visible on the horizon, just below the imposing Shining Tor.

When you reach the very top of the climb, the path off the moor, to the right, is not for you.  This walk has a summit as its goal, that of Burbage Edge.  Fortunately it is not far and only a short and gentle climb to the trig point at exactly 500 metres above sea level.  It is due North and reached by an unofficial route over the moorland on what is still open access land.  Just turn left and keep heading upwards. Needless to say that the multiple views from the summit are perhaps the best of the walk.  And the best of these is the way down.

/images/wildmoor-descent.jpgContinue in the same direction, down the long ridge, with the wind-stunted woodland to your right.  Before you get too far into the valley, you will find a wooden ladder stile on your right, over a wall.  Hop over this and follow the a little path that eventually meets up with the official public footpath from the opposite diagonal.  Turn right onto this and it leads you over another ladder stile and down between two sections of woodland, with the town of Buxton now clearly visible ahead.  A sharp turn to the left takes you through some cypress trees, to a set of giant steps down to a lane.  Turn left up this, below another impressive beech wood, (actually called Beet Wood).  Don’t be put off by a sign saying “private road” – this is still a public footpath; only vehicles are prohibited.  Wild raspberries line this road in abundance and are welcome sustenance in July and August, for this final uphill struggle.

The road terminates in what looks like a very private garden, with no obvious way through.  Once more, do not be deterred; the sign on the gate that looks like it ought to say “private keep out”, actually reads “please shut the gate”.  Pass through, in front of the house and then, unbelievably, just past (not through) a small wooden pergola, a path takes you into the woodland.  You are back in Watford Wood.  The exact path should pass over the ridge to meet the road just before the farm where you started the wild part of the walk, but what with fallen trees and the ravages of time, it is not so easy to pick out.  Not to worry, it is easy walking and a very pleasant end to an exhilarating hike.

Simon Corble