Camping Inspiration: Walking in the White Peak District
Limestone outcrops, miles of deep dales and dry stone walls all combine to give Derbyshire’s White Peak a unique charm for camping and walking
WORDS & PICTURES: Steve Goodier
Derbyshire’s White Peak region is often considered the “soft” option with easier walking and less lofty terrain than the gritstone moors of the more northern Dark Peak.
True, there are none of the dramatic edges and bleak high moors of the Dark Peak, but instead you find bright open footpaths and big blue skies that make walking days a joy.
The White Peak is often just as busy in winter as in the main holiday months, but it is at its very best in spring and early autumn, when you can enjoy some stunning days out along the endless footpath network. The summer months take some beating too, although you will find the main towns and attractions very busy and full of tourists at this time. Whatever the season, a camping and walking trip to this area will be a real treat for adults and children alike and one that will live long in the memory.
The White and Dark Peaks combined make up one of our most visited national parks. The Peak District as a whole was the first to be established in 1951 and, due to its ease of accessibility, around 10 million people visit annually.
Campsites are generally good and range from basic farm facilities in remote locations to more commercial sites with all mod cons. The sites are very popular and often get quite crowded on sunny summer weekends so booking in advance is recommended, if possible.
The White Peak is generally seen as taking in most of the central and southern regions of the Peak District (mainly in Derbyshire and Staffordshire) and the collective name given to it is to avoid confusing it with its more northerly twin. The rock in the White Peak is mostly Carboniferous Limestone which is seen in the exposed crags, rocks and caves that abound throughout the area.
Geologically the core of the White Peak is formed of a dome topped with a natural plateau which is somewhere around 10 miles across and bordered by the River Dove to the west and the Derwent to the east. Its northern extremity is marked by the small town of Castleton in the Hope Valley and by Matlock in the south. The Peak District’s two other areas are the Derbyshire Dales and the Staffordshire Moorlands, although these are generally considered to be part of the White Peak.
The limestone that dominates the area has been quarried and used extensively as a building material and one of the features of this region is the miles and miles of bright dry stone walls that border fields and line footpaths. Many of the towns and villages have white stone cottages and buildings and on sunny days of blue skies the region almost seems to sparkle. The ground (thanks to the limestone) is well drained and makes good farming country, but equally excellent walking terrain.
One of the treasures of hiking in the White Peak is the deep cut dales you will find, with excellent paths going down them and around the edges too. Water erosion has done its work on the soft limestone here and worn deep grooves that have given places such as Dove Dale, Monsal Dale, Chee Dale, Bradford Dale and Lathkill Dale such spectacular scenery, with some of it being in deep gorges and some in more open valleys.
There is a complex and interlinking network of paths, bridleways and tracks to delight and entice walkers and the options for day walks are staggering. There are also longer trials such as the High Peak Trail, the Tissington Trail and the Monsal Trail while the popular Limestone Way makes a superb 46 mile walk over all the best bits of the White Peak.
In this part of the Peak District things never seem quite so harsh and remote as they do in the more northerly Dark Peak. Villages are often of the picture postcard variety and can supply your basic needs, although again, they can get very busy in peak season. It really is worth taking a day or two out of your walking schedule to check out places such as Youlgrave, Hartington, Flagg, Chelmorton and Tideswell. The main town in the White Peak is Matlock (it is actually outside the boundaries of the National Park) but you will find most of the tourists converge on the old market town of Bakewell on the banks of the River Wye - and yes, this is where Bakewell pudding comes from!
With a combination of great walks and picturesque locations to visit a holiday in the White Peak is a memorable experience. But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Things may be a little softer and gentler here than in the Dark Peak but there are plenty of good long tough days that will keep the most ardent of hikers going for years.
SHALLOW GRANGE FARM CAMPING AND CARAVAN SITE
Old Coalpit Lane, Chelmorton, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 9SG
For exploring The White Peak you might want to try and pitch your tent centrally and a little northerly and give yourself the chance to make sorties into all parts of it quite easily.
If so Shallow Grange Farm Camping and Caravan Site would make a good choice of location. It is located not far from Buxton and makes a great base for exploring not only the northern areas of the White Peak but also the Derbyshire Dales regions further as well as it is right by the road network. Shallow Grange is set on a working farm that covers 110 acres. The owners welcome caravans, campervans and tents on a mixture of grass and hard standing pitches (mostly grass) and there are electric hook-ups for those who need them.
The site is approached up a farm access track and reception and check-in are at the farmhouse. There are two fields that tents can choose from - one field with electric hook-ups and one without them. The grass is well cut and the pitches spacious and well looked after. The toilet and shower facilities are clean and very modern and handy for the fields and there are disabled facilities too. There is a laundry and a freezer available for campers to use.
The site is very family orientated and does not allow large rowdy groups and prides itself on the peace and quiet it offers campers and caravanners.
The owners at Shallow Grange are very friendly and are a mine of information on the local area and all the ‘must see’ attractions too. And if that was not enough, fishing is also available in a lovely pond so you might want to bring your tackle along as well.
The site is a bit elevated and the wind can blow strongly if it turns bad so make sure you take steel pegs to cope with this.
LANESIDE CARAVAN PARK
Station Road, Hope, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, S33 6RR
One of the main accepted dividing lines between the Dark Peak and the White Peak is the famous Great Ridge, which links Mam Tor and Lose Hill. To one side of it you have the Edale Valley which is located in the Dark Peak and on the other side you will find the Hope Valley which is part of the White Peak. A camp in this region is ideal for exploring the more northerly regions of the White Peak and you could even indulge in a little “over the border” outings into the Dark Peak.
A good choice of location in this area is Laneside Caravan Park which is located a five minute walk from the village of Hope and quite close to Castleton. Laneside Caravan Park is a popular destination for family campers and gets quite busy in main holiday times when it might be a good idea to book in advance to avoid being disappointed. The site has over 100 pitches with 65 having electric hook-ups. A good access road runs around the site and through the caravan and campervan pitches.
The main camping area is near the end of the site and is neatly arranged in fenced off grass sections near a small river that children love to splash in on hot days. Pitches are nice and flat and the grass is well cut. There are modern clean and tidy heated toilets with disabled facilities and there is also a laundry. The site has a small shop for buying essentials. There is free WiFi and, overall, Laneside Caravan Park is well kept and beautifully landscaped. A road down the Hope Valley runs beside the site but gives hardly any road noise to disturb you as you camp.
The village of Hope is a very short walk away from the site and has nice cafes and pubs for you to use during the day or in the evenings.
THE CROSS INN CARAVAN PARK
Cauldron Lowe, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST10 3EX
The southern regions of The White Peak encompass the Derbyshire Dales and Staffordshire Moorlands areas. The Cross Inn Caravan Park is actually outside the National Park but makes a great base to explore this region.
The Cross Inn is a country pub offering food, drink and accommodation. It also has a good campsite alongside it that is open all year. The site is across the car park from the pub and near to a duck pond. It takes caravans, campervans and tents on several different areas with hard standing pitches for the caravans and grass for the tents. The first field facing the pub is for tents and has a good track up the middle of it. It is grass and has a gentle slope. It has a barbeque area in the middle of the camping section. This field is separated from the road next to it by bushes. This field is accessed through a gate. The track curves around the top of the camping field to give access to a second field where there are hard standing pitches for caravans - this is separated from the camping field by a high bank. This is also where the electric hook-ups are to be found and there a few grass pitches for tents to use if they require electric. At the bottom of the site there are several more hard standing pitches for caravans and campervans too. The site also has some static caravans in place as well. The toilets and showers are in a low building near the pub carpark. They are small but well-kept and very clean.
The site is located next to the A52 and there can be some road noise at times but it is mostly low level.
WHITE PEAK NEED TO KNOW
FOR WEATHER FORECASTS
Short Circular Walks In And Around The White Peak by Pat Tidsall
Peak District – White Peak (Dalesman Walk series) by Martin Smith
The White Peak (“Boot up the…” series) by Roger Redfern
White Peak Walks by Mark Richards
Jarrold Short Walks For All The Family – The Peak District
Ordnance Survey Pathfinder Guides – Peak District Walks
Peak District – Guide To 30 Of The Best Walking Routes by Roly Smith
MAPS AND NAVIGATION
Before heading for the high ground in the Peak District you should be able to read a map proficiently and navigate using a compass in case the mist comes in. It is very easy to lose your bearings on some of the higher ground to be found here (and even on lower paths). Always check the weather before setting out and make sure you are well equipped and carry food and water.
Ordnance Survey OL Explorer 24 – The White Peak
Harvey Superwalker Map Peak District South
Harvey Superwalker Map Peak District Central