We have just arrived home from a long weekend in the Staffordshire Peak District – I think everyone will know that this weekend was a bit soggy due the the arrival of Storm Alex – a bit soggy meaning very wet! However, we didn’t let the rain dampen our spirits, and we were lucky enough to still be able to get out and about for a few shorter walks. I think the dogs were probably secretly pleased to get an easier weekend as they are still pretty pooped from our trip to Scotland last week!
While our original plans for the weekend went out of the window, we still managed to find plenty to do, by checking the weather forecast religiously for potential gaps in the rain and googling for any dog friendly indoor activities for the worst of the weather! It just goes to show you should never let the weather put a downer on your excitement for any trip you have planned – there’s always something to do if you look in the right places and you’re prepared to get a bit damp!
Originally, we had planned a 10 mile circular walk taking in the Roaches, Lud’s Church and Hen Cloud. This had to be very quickly revised to just do one of the three and we eventually decided on the Roaches!
The Roaches are an impressive formation of rock popular with both walkers and climbers (we saw a few mountain bikers too – rather them than me!). The rain hadn’t quite arrived when we did this walk, so we managed to catch some lovely views of the surrounding countryside, including Tittesworth Reservoir. It was however very windy up on the ridge so make sure you wrap up warm in winter!
We followed a three mile circular route from our Countryside Dog Walks – Peak District South book. This is a great book with lots of shorter/easier walks – ideal if you are dashing out in-between downpours! I can’t find the route we followed online but the Roaches Tea room website has 8 walks around the Roaches of various lengths, so you are spoiled for choice!
Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This walk is very popular with dog walkers – they were pretty much the only people we saw on our walk (although that might have had something to do with the weather forecast!). We did keep ours on the lead as there were quite a few steep drops up on the ridge – better safe than sorry! There is a small area of water called the Doxey Pool on the plateau which is great for a paddle on a hot day.
On the Saturday, the weather was not on our side. We therefore decided to stay local enough to the cottage to be in easy reach of the log fire and kettle! Tittesworth Reservoir was a 10 minute drive from our cottage and has two way marked trails – and plenty of trees to keep off the worst of the rain!
We did the longer 4.5 mile circular trail which circumnavigates the reservoir. The path was refreshingly well surfaced throughout (maybe we should do more walks like this!) with no boggy or wet patches. There were a few short sections of ascent but I would say if you are reasonably fit this shouldn’t pose any challenge – and if you do get tired, there are benches every 500m, including a few with motivational quotes to keep you going!
The reservoir has a very large car park which is where both of the way marked trails start from. Parking is £3 for up to two hours (we just about managed the walk in this time) or £5 for all day. We did walk very fast though to get around the trail before the light rain turned into heavy rain! Once you’ve finished your walk the dog friendly Lazy Trout is in the nearby village of Meerbrook – we didn’t manage to get a table but all the guest book entries in the holiday cottage raved about it!
Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There are signs up on this walk asking for dogs to be kept on leads in many places so this should be adhered to. Additionally, there are warnings that there may be blue green algae in the reservoir, so sadly there aren’t many swimming opportunities. There are however plenty of poo bins around this walk, which made a nice change to not have to carry poos with us for the entire walk! When we visited it was very quiet with only one or two other dog walkers around – however given the size of the car park I imagine in summer this walk can be pretty busy!
Treak Cliff Caverns
On the Saturday afternoon we conceded defeat and decided to look for an inside activity. There was a leaflet in the cottage for the Treak Cliff Cavern, a working Blue John Stone mine and show cave, which was also dog friendly! We pre-booked tickets to the mine online and downloaded their app which takes you around the self-guided tour. The caves all have very cool names and the tour explains how they came to get these, as well as telling you lots of facts about the formation of the caves and the history of the mine. The cave pictured is Aladdin’s Cave, named by the miners who discovered it, due to the brightly coloured stone which reminded them of a pantomime set! Sadly the colours haven’t come out brilliantly in the photograph so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was very impressive. At the end of the tour, if you want, you can pay a bit extra and polish your own Blue John stone.
When driving to the Cavern, follow the Sat Nav, and not the road signs! I ignored the Sat Nav (and Sam) and followed the signs for Blue John Cavern – this is actually a different cave! So make sure you only follow signs for Treak Cliff or stick to the Sat Nav.
Dog friendly rating – 4/5. We were allowed to bring the dogs on this tour which was fab! I’ve just knocked off a point as some dogs may not like being underground – ours were fine, but we did see another dog who had sat down and was refusing to move! Dogs also obviously need to be on leads in the mine, just in case they were to run off and get lost!
We were very lucky on the day we headed home – the weather actually defied the forecast and brightened up into a beautiful day! We met up with some family on the way home to do a 5 mile circular walk from the Upper Burbage Bridge car park. Again I can’t find the exact route we followed online but there is a similar route which is a few miles longer available on Peak District Walks.
In terms of views this was probably the best walk we did the whole weekend – the Northern Peak District is just that bit more wild and rugged than the South. We had lovely views over the valley, including views of Mam Tor, Stanage Edge and Castleton.
We did see quite a lot of cows on this walk, however, they weren’t remotely bothered by us or the dogs – they must be used to people passing by! At the very end of the walk, just before you reach the car park, you need to cross some stepping stones next to a bridge over the river. Everyone else managed to get across clean and dry, but on my turn to cross, three separate cars drove through puddles on the bridge – each one sending water over the side and drenching me from head to toe! (I’m not exaggerating, it looked like someone had poured a jug of water on my head). The bridge was high enough that the drivers wouldn’t have been able to see me so I’ll let them off – it did make for a bit of a soggy drive back though! (At least it was at the end of the walk and not the start!).
The path generally was uneven in places, but shouldn’t present too much of a problem for those with sturdy boots. The car park seemed to fill up pretty quickly despite the weather forecast, as did the nearby parking lay-by, however we were still fine getting a space at 10 o’clock.
Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. This was a great walk for the dogs – the ground wasn’t too uneven for them and there were no really steep ascents or descents. We did keep the dogs on the lead as there was livestock (cows) around, but we did also go through some wooded areas where we would have been able to let them off the lead if we wanted to. Merry especially loved the section along the river and tried his hardest to pull me in for a swim!
Where we stayed
We stayed in the absolutely wonderful Hen Cottage near Leek and I couldn’t recommend it more. When the rain abated enough for us to see the view from our bedroom window (which happened the morning we left!), we could see across to the Roaches and to Hen Cloud, the hill which gives the cottage its name. The view was stunning, and the inside of the cottage was equally lovely, being brightly decorated but tasteful at the same time. We especially loved the extremely comfortable super king size bed (I now want to buy a new bed) and the wood burner with a big basket of logs – it definitely made the rainy afternoons extra cosy!
There are two cottages here, Hen Cottage (where we stayed, ground floor) and Cloud Loft (first floor). The cottages are attached to the farm house at Whitehouse Farm, and despite only being a 10 minute drive from Leek, feel completely away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Dog friendly rating – 4.5/5. This cottage was absolutely wonderful for the dogs! Coal absolutely loved curling up in front of the fire and Merry loved the tasty chews which we found waiting for us in the kitchen. There is even a bag hanging up in the hall which has both Peak District Countryside Dog Walks books, a torch and a dog towel! The cottage only allows one dog (we booked this before we got Coal) but the owners very kindly let us bring two. The only reason I have knocked off half a point is because the garden is shared with Cloud Loft, so you may need to keep your dog on a lead in the garden if they are liable to run off like ours are!
I hope you managed to make the most of the weekend wherever you are! If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog today make sure that you subscribe below: