Here is an all time favourite walk that I did as a child and my boys do now. Not only is it all that is fabulous about the Churnet Valley but it is also a walk that lets kids and adults have fun and interest alike. The walk takes you from the top of the village of Alton, in the Staffordshire Peak District, down into the Churnet Valley which is steeped in history, beauty and just a bit of magic...
You need to start out at Rowan House and turn left along the road. You then take the 2nd right onto Dimbles Lane. Follow this lovely, leafy lane until you come into the centre of Alton village. The 1st thing you will see is the Round House to your left which was the village lock up! Now a fascinating landmark, it is the highpoint of the Christmas Nativity Procession and home to a nativity scene every year. The village is cordened off for carols, mulled wine and home cooked food.
After a good look at the Round House, turn left down Knight Lane until the crossroads and you are opposite the Royal Oak. Turn right and downhill onto Horse Road. You will pass the opening of the famous Moathouse cellars and be aware of sandstone banks on your right. There is a wonderful woody, secluded quality to Horse Road which suddenly transports you out of the hub of the village and gives you a hint of what's to come. As you decend into the bottom of the valley towards the Churnet River you will come to a small crop of cottages and turn onto Red Road.
Red Road follows the line of the river and is banked on the other side by National Trust woods. If you look back up the valley you will also see Alton Castle high above on the rocks - designed by Pugin and a proper Fairyland castle. Follow Red Road for about a mile and a half and as you approach Dimmingsdale you can enjoy the fabulous bluebell display in the woods to your left if you choose the right time of year.
The opening of Dimmingsdale is marked by a small carpark and the well known Rmablers Retreat - a must for all tea and cake lovers! There is a good map of the different routes one can take through Dimmingsdale but with kids I tend to take the flatter lefthand path and have the lakes and streams to my right. There are endless opportunities for hide and seek, paddling in the streams, making dams, playing Pooh Stick and discovering nature. Spring is magical and warm and summer is a time to take spare clothes after a "paddle" in the water. Autumn brings and atmosphere of its own which is mystical and smells just as it should. Winter is dramatic and frosty and a great chance to see skating ducks!
For more information on walks & stays in the Churnet Valley please contact me through http://www.simplystaffordshire.co.uk/.