Nellie and I were on a mission to check out a footpath where my boots and her paws had not before stepped. To start the walk we headed to the former Millers Dale Station. It was a glorious day with powderpuff clouds scudding across blue skies and the car park was filling fast.
A quick walk up the road from the entrance then we ambled down a path through part of Monks Dale Nature Reserve that brought us down to the side of Millers Dale Church. It was built in 1884 as a chapel of ease to Tideswell, and is dedicated to St Anne.
A left along the B6049 for a few yards and we could then head up a very quiet side road known as Meadow Lane which took us on a huff-puff climb to high ground. It was after passing the drive to Monks Retreat that we came to a fingerpost sign and small gated stile to follow a footpath through pastures new and along the top of the wooded slope beyond. At the far end we reached a fantastic vantage point where someone had placed a pair of chairs for anyone to sit and admire stunning views across the valley.
I could clearly see many golden fields, bleached by recent hot weather and now harvested for hay or silage. Wooded slopes rising up from river level were still lush green, their leaves hiding redundant quarry workings and lime burning kilns. Deep in the heart of the valley I could make out the famous twin viaducts beside Millers Dale Station. The 10 mile or so stretch of line between Buxton and Bakewell stands testament to the masterpiece skills of Victorian engineers. Where else in the country can you find such a succession of tall bridges striding over a meandering river as well as long tunnels constructed to forge through our limestone hills in a virtual straight line. No doubt initially the railway would have looked intrusive to our wonderful Derbyshire dales, but now these structures blend so well they have become an integral part of the landscape.
After Nellie and I had rested for a while we began the steep descent to familiar ground from where we were to follow part of the Limestone Way, heading north along a most glorious walled path that I have walked many times.
Initially uphill, Nellie and I then continued on a circuitous route turning right at several junctions whilst enjoying almost two miles of grassy trackway between hay meadows and grazing pasture. Beyond the patchwork of fields I could see buildings on the outskirts of Tideswell, Litton and Cressbrook. Eventually we were treading tarmac again on the lane back to Millers Dale.
After descending to river level, we crossed over the main road to look at an information board about a Meal Mill recorded on this site in the Domesday Book. There is also a surviving but restored waterwheel some 13 feet in diameter that dates from 1860. At one time the mill belonged to the Devonshire Estates and for several generations was worked by the Dakin family.
Nellie and I then crossed over the river by means of a long wooden footbridge. A steep footpath beyond led us up to the Monsal Trail so that we could teeter back across one of those magnificent viaducts mentioned earlier, to end our walk.
Before heading for home I took a look inside the newly restored Goods Shed where information boards, displays of memorabilia and hanging banners tell the story of the former Midland Railway Line, Millers Dale Station and how both have been transformed as part of the now renowned Monsal Trail.
My own personal connection to this building is that my great grandfather, Charles Farmer, moved with his family to Litton so that he could work at Millers Dale Station as a railway engineer. Over a century down the line and I was probably inside what might then have been his workplace.
FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: I’ve developed a new trick that I call ‘splodging’! Mum and Dad often lie on the big bed with me or sit watching telly on the sofa whilst giving me a lovely snuggly wuggly fuss. However, if I think they are going to get up and leave me I quickly splodge myself across them by making myself as heavy as possible and with my legs as long as possible in each direction. As I’m around 21kgs, I’m not exactly a lightweight lapdog and so this makes it very awkward for them to move, so I get extra cuddles as well as making them laugh. It works every time! Slurpy kisses and heavy splodges.