This post on Dove Dale Thorpe Cloud is part of our ‘Hiking with Kids’ series. Click here to see all posts in this series.
Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: 4/5 (rocky and steep climb)
Interest: 4/5 (stepping stones, rocks, view)
One wet Sunday it just happened to be Guy’s birthday. Birthdays are not quite the same when you have children; there is no lazy day in bed or fancy meal out. You’re lucky if you even get to open your own presents. But what makes up for all that is the chance to spend quality time together. And for this particular birthday, Guy decided we should go on a family hiking day.
We really are spoiled for choice for hikes around here. We’re near to the beautiful Peak District as well as Cheshire’s lush forests and hills. Guy decided he’d like to visit Dove Dale. He spent some happy days there as a child, while his cousins lived nearby, and he wanted to show us the stepping stones.
Dove Dale in the Peak District National Park is about a 45-60 minute drive from our house. We parked in the pay-and-display car park and made use of the public toilets before setting off. The path leads along the river, which the kids were really interested in, especially as they could hear the natural waterfalls! We watched some dogs jumping in and out of the water, and the children were inspired. Luckily we managed to stop them from launching themselves into the river by letting them splash in the plentiful puddles.
With Guy as our guide, we soon reached our first landmark: Dove Dale’s stepping stones. Set across a wide part of the river, the giant stones provide a thrilling but fairly easy crossing. Our eldest child shot across (to the panic of his parents) and the younger two managed with our help.
While walking along the river, we could see a big hill on the other side. The kids watched tiny dots of people walking along the top and were really keen to follow in their footsteps. After we crossed the river, we headed around the back of the hill to find a path up.
The next part of our walk was both parts terrifying and exhilarating. We could not find an obvious path up the hill. We tried climbing up some of the rocks at the bottom, but it quickly became obvious that we were getting nowhere fast. Carrying on, we found the start of what looked like a trail. It was stony and seemed steep but the boys started to scramble up it. Guy thought we should keep going and find a path but I thought we could manage. We were sort of both right, but I will concede that Guy was more right. It turned out to be an extremely challenging climb, and as we found out on the descent, there is actually an easier trail.
We carried on up the hill face, doing actual climbing. The kids did really well even though it was a very challenging terrain. We took frequent drinks breaks and encouraged them to take their time. Near the top, Aurora had had enough and decided she couldn’t go on. Luckily, we had our trusty sling with us and Guy carried her the rest of the way – our hero!
Finally, we reached the top, along with a mixed group of hikers who were very impressed by the boys’ stamina. We all felt a huge sense of pride and achievement at the summit and we were rewarded with incredible views for miles around! Naturally, the children wanted a more tangible reward, so we also had a chocolate biscuit once Guy and Aurora caught up.
Determined not to climb down the way we came, we watched as the hiking group found a winding trail. It was much longer but much easier and the boys raced ahead, gleefully spotting sheep poo. Sheep wandered across the well-worn trail towards the bottom of the hill. The kids enjoyed jumping in huge muddy puddles, though we managed to keep them out of the bogs!
We wandered back to the stepping stones and crossed the river. Heading back the way we came out, we crossed a little bridge to watch the natural waterfall. The children were thrilled to spot some cows a little further ahead, but they didn’t want to get too close. They are quite nervous of cows – I don’t know why because they’ve never been very near one, but I suppose their heft is intimidating when you’re only small.
It was a great hike with lots of interesting things to see. The only thing I would change is my clothes. I wore jeans and they were really hot and uncomfortable with little flexibility. Now we are hiking more as a family, I may need to invest in some decent gear!
Parking? Pay and display at Dove Dale. Not free for National Trust members.
Terrain? Mostly well-worn trail. Slightly rocky along hill path.
Loos? Public toilets at the car park. Cost 20p.