The Dragon’s Back

In a quiet distant corner of the Dove Valley, a dragon has lain sleeping for millions of years…

You could argue that Parkhouse Hill and Chrome Hill are the only true peaks in the Peak District National Park. The two hills, though dwarfed by Axe Edge, are limestone reef knolls which were once coral reefs which formed the edge of a shallow pool of water, 340 million years ago.

As if the geological history and unique shape of the hills wasn’t enough, the writer Jeff Kent discovered that a double sunset could be seen against Chrome Hill from the southern flank of Parkhouse Hill. It’s easy to imagine that this rare astro-geological phenomenon, in which the sun appears to set twice in the same evening, may have been regarded as significant in prehistoric times.

While I’ve walked Chrome Hill a number of times, I’ve never done the walk from Earl Sterndale. I’ve always started at Axe Edge or Stoop Farm (there’s an incredible Bed & Breakfast there, run by Karen, that I can personally recommend), but I’ve never circled around to it from the other direction.

Since I had a Monday off work – the idea is to use my annual leave to spend Mondays walking rather than battling the Monday Blues – I decided to do this one solo. It’s a demanding walk, with no less than seven ascents and descents to the crests of four hills, and it’s magnificent. I have to say, this walk beats all the others for me. It’s better than Shutlingsloe, The Roaches, Mam Tor, Win Hill, Dovedale, and better than the hills around Derwent and Ladybower. It’s just brilliant. Knackering, for sure, but brilliant. I honestly don’t think this walk can be bettered.

The temptation here is to describe every step of the route and labour the point about what made this walk incredible, but I’ll keep it short and show you pictures instead. I’d genuinely encourage you to do this one, and I’d be happy to provide ViewRanger or OS Maps files so you can follow in my footsteps.

It’s rare that you’re hitting your first trig point within 15 minutes of parking up and putting your boots on, but that’s exactly what happens with this one – your first climb is to the summit of High Wheeldon, where you get a perfect view of the two hills you’re about to climb.

You can see Parkhouse Hill and Chrome Hill from most of the route and they look entirely different and remarkable as you approach, ascend, descend and circle them. Without a doubt, they’re my favourite hills in the Peaks.

This walk delivers in every aspect – stunning views before you even park the car, a Trig-point within 15 minutes of tying your laces, a steep and challenging climb to the top of Parkhouse Hill which greets you with awe-inspiring views before an incredible steep descent, a slower and loftier climb up Chrome Hill that rewards you with panoramic views over the Dove Valley, and a peaceful walk back via Dowel’s Dale, where the view lets you relive and remember everything you’ve spent the last few hours enjoying.

Please: do this walk and let me know what you thought. I hope you love it as much as I did.

Mark

 

Chrome Hill from Parkhouse Hill 2
Chrome Hill viewed from the descent of Parkhouse Hill.
Chrome Hill from Parkhouse Hill
Chrome Hill from the summit of Parkhouse Hill.
Parkhouse Hill from Chrome Hill
Parkhouse Hill and Dove Valley from the ascent to the summit of Chrome Hill.
The Dragon's Back
Here lies a sleeping dragon…
Dowel's Dale
Chrome Hill in the distance as the sun sets. This was taken walking back to the car after leaving Dowel’s Dale.
Chrome Hill Tree
A solitary tree on the slopes of Chrome Hill.

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