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The River Dove rises on the eastern side of Axe Edge and flows almost southwards to the boundary of the Peak, forming the boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire for the whole of its length. The river is renowned as one of the most beautiful in the

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      05.06.2001 00:02
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      If you enjoy the beauty of the Derbyshire Peak District then this is one particular place that you really must visit. Dovedale runs through quite a big area, but when most people talk of Dovedale they mean the area at Thorpe. From here there is a wonderful walk along the River Dove or a climb up the spectacular Thorpe Cloud. At 940 feet, Thorpe Cloud is not one of the highest peaks in the area, but the way this hill rises from the roadside makes it very popular. The hill can be climbed from every side so everyone can choose the amount of difficulty that want to attempt when climbing up here. On a sunny afternoon the hillside looks as if there are hordes of ants climbing over the hill as lots of people head for the summit. The views from the top are spectacular, although you may have to jostle a bit to stand on the stone pile at the very top of the hill. You can look over the Peak District for miles and there is a great view over the River Dove below. The Dovedale main car park is quite large and parking costs £1.50. There are some public toilets here and a refreshment van where you can buy hot and cold drinks, snacks and ice cream. Also at the refreshment van you can buy a map of Dovedale which I highly recommend. This costs £1 or 50p if you buy an ice cream at the same time. From the car park there is a wide footpath that follows the river bank. After passing a weir there is a bridge over the river where you can walk along the grass bank on the other side, or carry on along the footpath. After about half a mile you come to the Stepping Stones. Here you can cross the river (about 20m) using the Stepping Stones, although there is the chance that you may get your feet a bit wet. From the car park to the Stepping Stones is a very popular walk (about one mile round trip) and on a busy Sunday afternoon it is not unusual to have to queue to cross the stones. From this point onwards the number of people gets much less a
      nd the walk becomes so much more beautiful. The total walk from the car park to the village of Milldale is about three miles, but as this is not a circular route don’t forget that it will also mean a three mile walk back as well. After about a mile you come to hill known as Lovers Leap. Here the footpath leaves the riverside and takes a route up the hillside overlooking the river. The climb is up steps carved out of the solid rock and this does take quite an effort, but there is a great view along the river from the top and the walk down the steps on the other side is quite relaxing. There are plenty of places to rest on your way up or down the steps. Shortly after this you pass the Tissington Spires. This a great rock outcrop which is particularly impressive, raising high above the path. Beyond this point is Reynards Cave which isn’t really a cave, but a great archway through the solid rock. This stands about 200 feet above the river with a steep climb up for the fit, although most people just admire it from the riverside path. To get to the two mile mark you have to walk along a man made pathway along the edge of the river, where a wooden walkway has been built on top of stacked rocks held in place by strong metal mesh. At the two mile walk there is another bridge over the river. This is the furthest we have all been as a family although both of our children have been further during school activity visits. Apparently the Dove Hole caves along the final stretch are very big and you can go into the caves quite a way. As you make this walk you can see the different characteristics of the river. At some places the water is loud and fast as it crashes over rocks in the riverbed and the icy cold water is not at all inviting. Only a few yards further on the water flows gently and appears almost still and you can see through the crystal clear water to realise that the river is actually quite deep in places. <
      br>If you stand still near the gentle parts of the river it is not long before you see Trout jumping out the water. I suppose a lot of visitors who are just walking along chatting and laughing miss this wonderful sight, but it is certainly worth spending a few minutes being still and quiet to see the fish leap. As you do stand quietly watching the river weed gently swaying in the current and looking over the wonderful scenery, you realise what a beautiful part of the country this really is. There is the plush green vegetation around the river, the rugged rock outcrops towering above you, the river finding it’s way down the Dale and the birds singing gently in the trees. Dovedale is a wonderful attraction for people of all ages and all interests. True hill walkers can use this area as a starting point for heading off into the hills. Casual walkers can stroll along to the Stepping Stones and enjoy an ice cream in the sun. Children giggle and splash in the shallows of the back waters of the river. This is a very popular visitor attraction, but you can quickly get away from the crowds if you want, or join the hordes climbing to the top of Thorpe Cloud. Whatever you interest, if you like the countryside, you will love Dovedale. We have visited it over and over again, and I know we will return there on many more occasions in the future.

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