A Walk through Biggin & Wolfscote Dale from Hartington

Starting in the rightly popular and idyllic Peak District village of Hartington, this walk of a little over 6 miles is fairly easy going, taking in some typical limestone countryside and lovely dales.

The duck pond in the village seems as good a starting point as any – so from here head up the main street past the gift shops and pubs – trying not to get distracted by the wares on offer this early in the walk.  You will soon find yourself going uphill and, as you leave the village, will see the Youth Hostel on your left –  hard to believe, but the Jacobean Hartington Hall, (built 1611) is probably one of the grandest ones in England!  Not only that, but it has a lovely beer garden which is open to the general public – so bear it in mind for later.  Not far beyond the hostel, you will find a footpath going off to the right, which slopes gently upwards over a few fields before joining a track known as Highfield Lane; apart from weekends, this route is seldom busy; flowers line the track in spring and summer, and larksong will probably be the only sound you hear at that time of year.

The lane slopes down to meet a very minor road at Dale End – bear right here and continue for 20 yards before taking a right turn into the head of grassy Biggin Dale – an ideal habitat for redstarts and goldfinches , so look out for them as you approach the trees and thistles further down.  Beyond this point the terrain gets stony and it can be very wet at times – the rich vegetation where the dale closes suggests that a stream does indeed run through here in the winter months. At the bottom of the dale however, you turn right onto the very dry and level path where Wolfscote Dale runs alongside the clear waters of the Dove.

The broad bottom is deceptive and for a while you may forget that you are in a dale at all, but look around and upwards and you will feel dwarfed and awed by the impressive cliffs alongside.  If you are not too busy looking upwards, or for dippers flying along the river, you may spot the odd Daubenton’s bat out hunting for food – they are quite often seen close to water and do venture out in the day time; the craggy, surrounding rocks offer ideal roosts for them.

On reaching the end of Wolfscote Dale, cross the river and head over flat, sometimes soggy fields towards Beresford Dale. A footbridge takes you over the river again onto the path at the start of this very pretty dale.  The river tipples loudly over its little weirs and drowns out any other sound, and the waterside plants are often so high that it is sometimes hidden from view; a rugged limestone pillar – covered in lichen and moss – sitting mid-stream, is easily mistaken for a rotting tree trunk in this dense waterworld, and head-high hogweed provides deep cover for small mammals such as water voles.

At the end of the short but sweet Beresford Dale, you reach open farmland and from here you keep on more or less a straight line, all the way back to Hartington.  Now you have a dilema – which pub to choose from!

There is the aforementioned Youth Hostel, with its lovely beer garden, or if you prefer the heart of the village, the The Beresford Tea Rooms are situated in the Market Place, as is The Charles Cotton pub (named after the poet and friend of Izaac Walton – he of Compleat Angler fame) and The Devonshire Arms – both serving local ales and food daily.

If you still have some energy left, take a little time to wander around the village and take in the local shops; Dauphin antiques, Hart of the Country Gift Shop or Rookes Pottery to name but three…perhaps you will find a memento of the day to take home with you…

Simon Corble