This is a very scenic walk from the heart of the Derbyshire spa town of Buxton to Whaley Bridge, through the beautiful Goyt Valley. Our route includes beautiful views of the moorland and forests surrounding Errwood and Fernilee reservoirs, before following the course of the River Goyt as it meanders through the valley towards the friendly pubs and restaurants of Whaley Bridge.
It was a cold, crisp, winter's day when Big Col, Matt 'Gadget' Clarke and I set out on this lovely walk.
The basic information is as follows:
Route: Buxton - Goyt Valley - Fernilee - Taxal - Whaley Bridge
Distance: 10.2 miles
Total Ascent: 1,177 ft
Total Descent: 1,537 ft
Time required: 4 hours
Difficulty: There are no difficult climbs, although there are short, steep ascents in a couple of places. The majority of the route is on well established paths, although there is one part crossing open moorland where the paths can be indistinct and it would be advised to make sure you have a map. Most of the route is covered by OS Explorer Map OL24.
Getting there: We travelled to Buxton by train on the Manchester to Buxton route. The route starts from Buxton Station and ends at Whaley Bridge Station. There is parking available at both sites if you prefer to use your own transport and Whaley Bridge is on the same line, so you can easily jump on the train back towards Manchester or Buxton at the end.
Refreshments: There are ample food and drink establishments at both ends of the route, and we pass by the Shady Oak pub in Fernilee.
Accommodation: In Buxton, we would recommend the Old Hall Hotel, which you can book here.
The Shady Oak, which is mid route, is also highly recommended and can be booked here.
So, upon arriving at Buxton Station, cross the road and head down the pedestrian path, through the bollards, which will lead down to the main shopping area on Spring Gardens. There's a good selection of coffee shops to provide a pre-walk caffeine boost before heading out on to the moors.
Once we'd filled up on Caffe Nero's finest, we set off towards the Slopes and past the Crescent building, which is a Grade 1 listed building, currently undergoing extensive renovations to restore it to its former glory.
Behind the scaffolding stands a building based on Bath's Royal Crescent. It was built for the Duke of Devonshire between 1780 and 1789 as part of his scheme to establish Buxton as a fashionable, Georgian spa town. It originally included a hotel, five lodging houses and an assembly room.
Across the road from the Crescent, at the foot of the slopes, you can fill up your water bottles from St Ann's well, which was built around 75 years ago on the site of wells dating back to Roman times. All I would say is, if you haven't sampled it before, the water is surprisingly warm. In fact the water emerges at a constant 27.5 degrees C from a mile below the ground.
Leaving the Crescent behind, we crossed the road and passed by the Buxton Opera House on our way into the Pavilion Gardens.
The Opera House is a lovely theatre, built in 1903 and designed by Frank Matcham, who also went on to design the London Palladium and the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool, amongst around 150 other theatres.
We entered the landscaped gardens by the gate adjacent to the theatre and were immediately surrounded by the sounds of ducks and geese squabbling over bits of bread thrown by delighted children, alongside the babbling water of the stream.
The gardens are beautifully landscaped and complete with a lake, a bandstand and even a miniature train which threads its way between the bemused gaggles of ducks and geese.
Big Col made a mistake at this point. He was brazen enough to attempt to eat a cheese and onion pasty he had purchased from the nearby bakers. As he made his way through a noisy throng of canada geese, two of them decided they should have the pasty, rather than him and flew towards him menacingly, shrieking loudly.
To his credit, Big Col, (whose keen appetite has previously seen him named Colin The Buffet Slayer), held on to his pastry treat with great determination. In fact, Matt and I decided that, had the incident become fatal, we would have discovered his body in the morgue, still gripping tightly on to his savoury snack.
We hastily made our way from the scene and to the far side of the park, past a beautifully carved tree and towards the exit.
Keeping the stream to our right, we made our way past the swimming pool and out of the park exit. Crossing the road, we entered into The Serpentine, which is like an extension to the main body of the park.
Keeping the River Wye to our right, we made our way along the path until we reached the main Macclesfield Road.
Crossing this road, we headed up Carlisle Road, until we reached a sign for the Cavendish Golf Club.
We turned left on to Watford Road and followed as it swept round to the right to cross Gadley Lane.
The road continues on to the golf club, but we headed left on to a rough track which was marked as a public footpath.
This track takes you right across the golf course. Care has to be taken to avoid flying golf balls as you make your way across a stream and then climb steadily towards the farm buildings which overlook the far end of the course.
As we got nearer the farm, it looked like there was a small row of campers lining up in the farmer's fields, beyond the reaches of the brightly dressed golfers.
"Are they tents?" I asked Matt.
"No," he replied. Looking towards the golfers. "They look quite relaxed to me."
Big Col was still shaken from the incident with the geese in the gardens, so he was disappointed to discover the sign on the gate blocking the path.
Anybody who has read my previous blog of our adventures in America, where we "bravely" explored mountain lion territory in Yosemite and camped out surrounded by bears (which you can read here), will know that we don't have a great track record when it comes to bravery regarding animal encounters.
As it turned out, the fiercest animal we came across was a docile sheep, who seemed to be the Vivienne Westwood of the sheep world, so colourful were the various adornments around its ears.
The footpath leads right through the farmyard of Watford Farm and is well signposted. There are good views from here across the golf course and down towards Buxton.
The path leads to a gate which is marked as private, but the route follows the wall as it climbs steeply uphill through the woods.
Soon, we reached a garden gate on our left as the path crossed in front of a few houses, again offering wonderful views towards Buxton and Grinlow.
The walk now continues on a lovely country lane with views to the left and a rising slope of woodland to the right. This is part of a route known as the Ring of Trees. This is a ten mile circuit surrounding Buxton, following the woods which were largely planted at the request of the Duke of Devonshire in order to cover up the scars of quarrying and mining.
After a cluster of buildings on the right hand side of the path, we discovered a flight of steps climbing steeply up the slope.
The steps lead on to a path, still climbing sharply, until we eventually reached a stile, which took us on to open moorland.
The path can be a little indistinct as it makes its way across the moor, climbing initially but soon providing extensive views as you cross the English Watershed. From here, any rain falling behind you will drain to the North sea, via the Trent and the Humber, while any rain falling in front will drain to the Irish sea view the Goyt and the Mersey.
Eventually, we dropped down to the flat path which is follows the former Cromford and High Peak Railway, just by the closed up entrance to the Burbage Tunnel.
This is a pleasant stretch of around 1 mile of easy walking, providing extensive views of the managed forests on the opposite slopes towards Shining Tor.
Just before you reach the small reservoir at Bunsall Top, there is an unsigned path which leads straight down the hill towards the stream, starting off next to the bench in the picture above.
This is a steep descent which leads to a delightful path, leading to the left of the copse of trees in the picture.
Ignore the sign pointing right towards Goyts Lane and continue down towards the valley in front.
Don't cross the foot bridge in the picture above, but press ahead, keeping the stream to your left.
Soon you will be rewarded with stunning views over Errwood Reservoir.
We followed the path as it descended towards the water and we came to an ideal spot for a lunch break, perched over the shore of the lake. The bench was next to a tree which was adorned with dozens of bird feeders and suet balls. This was clearly popular with the local wildlife. In the short time we were there, we saw chaffinches, robins, great tits, long tailed tits and coal tits all visiting the takeaway tree.
Below us, on the surface of the lake, a small number of canada geese were honking at each other loudly. Maybe they were discussing the attack on Big Col's pasty from earlier on. News obviously travels fast in goose circles.
Lunch eaten, we set off again along the path, above the shore line of Errwood Reservoir towards the dam.
As we walked through the woodland, the views lengthened to include Fernilee Reservoir, below and further down the Goyt Valley, leading towards the hills around Taxal Edge.
Eventually, the path joins up with Goyts Lane and we took a left turn down the slope towards the dam. The road took us straight across the dam, with Errwood Reservoir stretching out to our left.
This was the second reservoir to be constructed in the Goyt Valley, the first being Fernilee, to the right. Completed in 1967, it now provides water to areas as far as Stockport and Wilmslow.
At the far side of the dam, there is a path which leads up a small slope and through a gate on the right, signposted for Fernilee Reservoir.
This follows a delightful route along the side of the reservoir, through woodland showing evidence of recent storms with a number of felled and uprooted trees on either side of the gravelled path.
This stretch eventually brings us to the dam at the far end of the reservoir. This is far older than Errwood, having been completed in 1938. We crossed back across this dam, past the ornate tower and the water running down the cascading steps into the overflow.
From here, a path follows a steep slope down beside a hedge to the left and leads to a rough road, serving what seems to be a derelict water works. The buildings are obviously in disrepair, but the path soon bypasses the industrial decay and follows the River Goyt as it makes it way gently down the valley. When you reach a footbridge on the left, the path forks into 3 distinct routes.
We headed along the spur signposted to Fernilee, in order to visit the pub for some well earned refreshment.
This was the muddiest section of the route as we crossed a couple of poorly drained fields, before we emerged on Long Hill, right opposite the Shady Oak. Just before the road, though, we came across a small, colourful sign announcing the magical gnome village and inviting us to make a wish. We did so, and we are pleased to confirm that the wish came true. The pub was open.
This is a cracking, traditional pub with a friendly welcome for all, including muddy boots or paws. Although we were only having a drink, the food looked good and the dog-friendly accommodation would be ideal for walkers.
We satisfied our thirsts with a pint of Red Rascal from Robinsons, which was excellent, before heading off into the cold afternoon to resume our descent into Whaley Bridge.
In order to avoid retracing our steps through the mud, we walked a couple of hundred yards along the main road, around a couple of sweeping bends. Care is needed here as the pavement becomes narrow and the traffic buzzes by very closely. A grey heron flew gracefully over our heads as we made our way along the roadside. You soon reach a hole in the wall, on the other side of which are some stone steps built into the wall, descending on to a path which leads down to the river side route once more.
A great number of holly trees line both sides of the path as it meanders alongside the river.
The path brought us to a choice between a bridge and a ford in order to cross the river. Big Col opted for the bridge. Matt and I chose the ford and stepped gingerly into the fast flowing water.
We got halfway across, teetering on the slippery, moss-covered stones, before the water started to come over the top of our boots. Reluctantly, and with Big Col leaning on the adjoining wall with dry feet and a smug expression on his face, we turned back and headed for the bridge.
The path took us up a steep slope past the graveyard and the historic church of St James, containing its ancient tower which is thought to date back to the thirteenth century.
At the front of the church, we turned right and joined the Mid Shires Way. As the road leads off to the left, the path heads straight on, past the front of the Chimes of Taxal and through an arched gateway.
The path leads through several fields before emerging on Macclesfield Road. The Mid Shires Way continues straight across the road and on to Reddish Lane.
Keeping on this lane brings you to Reddish Farm and, eventually, you will come to the third reservoir of the route, Toddbrook. We are headed for the blue footbridge which spans the far end of the reservoir, overlooking Whaley Bridge Memorial Park.
Passing the sports grounds and skate park on the right, the view opens up of the village to the right and the scenic reservoir to the left.
Having crossed the bridge, the path passes by the sailing club and emerges through a stone wall on to Reservoir Road. Turning right here, the road leads into the centre of Whaley Bridge, right beside the railway station.
However, it would be remiss of us to step straight on to a train after all this hard walking.
Therefore, we threw ourselves at the mercy and hospitality of some of Whaley's finest pubs. The Cock, which is through the village towards Horwich End, is a lovely pub which served a fine pint of Trooper and seated us on enormous driftwood chairs around tables complete with candelabras.
From there, we moved on to the Shepherd's Arms and enjoyed a taste of Wainwright's, before we visited our favourite Whaley pub, and the most appropriate to our route today, the Goyt Inn; home of Chaos, the much loved pub dog. A pint of Winter Warmer did exactly what it described.
Before we left Whaley, we treated ourselves to a curry at the wonderful and very popular Zayka Indian Restaurant. A selection of Murg Lababdar and Chicken Jalfrezi brought a fitting end to a lovely day's walking.
From there, it's a short hop to the railway station and the train home.
Unless, of course, you've just missed the train, in which case the only decent thing to do is keep warm in the Goyt until the next one.
Mark Sweeney is a hiker, mountain-biker, picture-taker and keen coffee drinker, living on the doorstep of the Peak District's finest walks