Peter’s Stone is a distinctive limestone knoll that sits at the head of the narrow limestone valley of Cressbrook Dale. Geologists think this pinnacle slid downhill on a layer of clay from the main formation of limestone millions of years ago. It has a grisly human history. It is reputed to have been a ‘gibbet rock’ where the body of a convicted murderer Antony Liggard was displayed in 1815, the last public displaying of gibbeting. This dale is rich in wild flowers especially orchids and it is worth following Cressbrook Dale down passing Tansley Dale toward Ravensdale Cottages and eventually the small village of Cressbrook at the junction with Monsal Dale for a beautiful walk with much to photograph.
How To Get Here
Park in a lay-by a quarter of a mile up Mires Lane (road to Litton) off the A623. The turn for Mires Lane is 0.3 miles west along the A623 from Wardlow Mires and the Three Stags’ Heads pub. The footpath down into the dale starts at the lay-by.
Mires Lane Lay-By
Parking Lat/Long: 53.275591, -1.742168
Location OS map co-ordinate: SK 172 754
Nearest Parking Postcode: SK17 8RW (0.8km)
What to Shoot and Viewpoints
The area around Peter’s Stone is all Access Land and on a good evening it is worth exploring the entire vicinity of Peter’s Stone, including the high, eastern edge of the dale. All aspects offer opportunities here when the light is in the right part of the sky. More convenient is the western rim 100 metres either side of the gate into the dale from Mires Lane and along the bottom of the dale on the approach to Peter’s Stone from Wardlow Mires.
Viewpoint 1: Dale Bottom and Eastern Slope
At the head of the dale near the A623 there are various viewpoints looking south on both sides of the path, some up the slope. These viewpoints are at their optimum in late May and June when the early purple and spotted orchids bloom on the slopes, and field buttercups and cowslip line the dale bottom. Also try close up to St.Peter’s Stone for a more intimate perspective.
Viewpoint 2: West Rim
From the lay-by on Mires Lane follow the path in either direction that traverses the west rim of the valley looking down onto Peter’s Stone. There are many viewpoints here along the rim path to compose your shot. The slope down to Peter’s Stone has several hawthorn bushes – they flower in May – and a wall to use as foreground interest. Depending on the time of year this can be a midday shot (winter) or late afternoon (4pm in July), don’t leave it too late because a shadow line soon appears as the sun dips and the whole scene is in shadow two hours before sunset. Sunrise can also work in May and July when the sun rises in the north east.
Viewpoint 3: Tansley Dale and lower Cressbrook Dale
If you walk down the dale from Peter’s Stone around the bend you will reach Tansley Dale which comes in from the west. Here there is usually an excellent display of orchids throughout the spring and early summer including early purple, heath-spotted, fragrant, pyramidal and bee orchids as well as the best patch of globeflower in the Peak. From here you can follow the dale south into the wooded Cressbrook Dale SSSI with its rich diversity of flowers in spring including bluebells, violets, orchids, bugle, cowslips, water avens and moschatel. Continue on to the isolated Ravensdale Cottages before meeting Monsal Dale at the now-restored Cressbrook Mill.
Viewpoint 4: Star Gate and a High Level Walk
If you walk down the dale around the bend beyond Tansley Dale there is another bend. A path climbs the eastern slopes here to a junction of paths known locally as Star Gate. Star Gate is named as this is the place where miners used to see the stars when walking back to the local lead mines. This elevated position gives good compositions across to Tansley Dale. The path to the west leads to the hamlet of Wardlow Mires and is worth following to narrow meadows that are flower filled in spring. From Star Gate Access Land can be followed along the eastern flank of the valley to a new gate in the wall at SK173740 that provides access to the summit of Wardlow Hey Cop, around which there are many pretty little character hawthorn trees. While keeping to the dale side of the wall the walker traverses the upper pinnacles of Ravensdale Crag, best illuminated on midsummer evenings when the sun gets ’round into the northwestern sky. Eventually you reach Bull Tor, from which the prospects down over Cressbrook and into Water-cum-jolly are superb.
This is a roadside attraction on good level paths a few minutes from the road. Care is needed after rain on the steep slopes. A wheelchair would be able to negotiate the top part of the path from Mires Lane. If you go on the east side of the dale the slope is steep. The walk down to Cressbrook village is on a good path and is a 6km round trip from Mires Lane.
Walk from Peter’s Stone to Cressbrook village: 1hr, distance 3km, descent 64m.
Best Time of Year/Day
The north end of Cressbrook Dale near Peter’s Stone takes a roughly NNE to SSW alignment and its best prospects are the southerly views. This means that as long as you avoid the midday sun there is always some aspect that can photographed well here. By far the best time is May when the late afternoon and early evening light rakes across the western flank of the valley where a lot of the orchids flower at this time. Along with the white froth of the hawthorn blooms they act as an excellent counterpoint to the backdrop of Peter’s Stone, which is well-illuminated at this time.
In early autumn, when the afternoon sun returns to this aspect the orchids are replaced by a number of different varieties of thistle, with the pretty musk thistle being dominant. Misty autumn mornings and drab winter days can add a different atmosphere, as can snow of course. Sunlight is limited in the winter. The dale gets sunlight just after sunrise in May and July.