Some of the prettiest villages in Derbyshire offer a welcome break for travellers.
Much of the Pennine Bridleway is on historic routes and trails following the flanks of the Pennines. The Trail starts gently following the High Peak Trail along a disused railway, passing through the limestone plateau of the White Peak. This area is characterised by features such as small limestone walled fields and green pastures, incised by beautiful, deep wooded limestone dales. In spring and summer, the dales of Wye Dale, Chee Dale and Haydale are rich in limestone-loving flowers and butterflies, whilst nearby, some of the prettiest villages in Derbyshire offer a welcome break for travellers.
High Peak area
The Pennine Bridleway becomes more challenging as it rises across the limestone plateau towards the millstone grit of the Dark or High Peak area, where the scenery changes to more open fields and purple heather moors. The Trail follows the line of the Packhorse Road, from Tideswell via Peak Forest to Hayfield, the first of many ancient packhorse tracks, some dating back to medieval times, that can be found along the way.
From moor to rail
On leaving Derbyshire, the Trail skirts the edge of heather moor, dotted with reservoirs before picking up an ancient highway offering stunning views of the Tame Valley. From here the Trail drops down to follow the dismantled railway with the chance for a breather and a visit to the village of Uppermill with its canal, cafes and shops.
Leaving behind the weavers cottages, the route heads out towards the hills and the beautiful views over the Castleshaw reservoirs. From here to Hollingworth Lake, notwithstanding the need to cross some of the key road links across the Pennines (e.g. the M62), the route takes you away from it all winding across the grassy moorland with yet more reservoirs adding interesting highlights. The open moorland is of vital importance for the survival of upland birds such as peregrines, merlin and ringed ouzel as well as for its upland vegetation including heathers, cotton grasses, sedges and sphagnum bog mosses.
Textile capital of the world
This whole area was once the textile capital of the world as is evident by the smoke blackened gritstone, mill chimneys, the canal and packhorse routes.
The Trail joins the Mary Towneley Loop at Summit and if followed clockwise takes in Watergrove Reservoir and Broadley before picking up the historic Rooley Moor Road, climbing to the highest point of the Loop Top of Leach at 474m. After passing through the small town of Waterfoot in the Rossendale valley, the Trail follows a mix of old and new tracks via Lumb before entering the Cliviger gorge and climbing to the Long Causeway from where the best views of the impressive Thieveley Scout Crags are found. The journey on to the top of the Loop takes in the limestone hushings on route to Hurstwood Reservoir before joining the old Gorple Road for a more remote stretch of the Trail. Heading south now on the eastern side of the Loop, a mix of old bridleway and unclassified road are followed to Blackshaw Head from where good views are afforded across the Calder valley to Stoodley Pike. After dropping down into the valley with the popular town of Hebden Bridge nearby, the route picks up London Road, an packhorse trail that follows the contour of the hillside heading on towards Bottomley before returning to Summit via Reddyshore Scout. This whole area was once the textile capital of the world as is evident by the smoke blackened gritstone, mill chimneys, the canal and packhorse routes, vital for the transport of materials.
The Mary Towneley Loop is dedicated to the memory of Lady Mary Towneley who in 1986 rode from Derbyshire to Northumberland to highlight the state of the country's bridleways and campaigned for the Pennine Bridleway for many years. Lady Towneley died in February 2001 after a long and bravely fought illness.