Saturday, 19 October 2013

Chrome Hill & Parkhouse Hill

GPS Track
Date: 19/10/2013
From: Hollinsclough

Parking: On street parking in Hollinsclough
Start Point: Hollinsclough Methodist Church
Region: Peak District

Route length: 6.4miles (10.2km)
Time taken: 3:00
Average speed: 2.1mph
Ascent: 576m
Descent: 604m

Summits: Chrome Hill, Parkhouse Hill

Other points of interest: Tor Rock

Route: Hollinsclough, Hollinsclough Rake, River Dove, Brand End, Stoop Farm, Tor Rock, Chrome Hill Parkhouse Hill, Hollinsclough

Nestled away in the southern part of the Peaks, for the most part, away from prying eyes stand a remarkable pair of hills. Oddly, despite being in existence for millions of years, walkers have only been able to access them (legally) since the introduction of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in the year 2000. It's a welcome introduction as these two small hills are much too good to be missed and provide one of the most striking scenes in the park. I am, of course, talking about Chrome Hill & Parkhouse Hill.

These two great fins of rock jut out of the ground like the sails of the Sydney Opera house and are the result of something we might not expect to find in the cold, bleak, autumnal United Kingdom. An ancient coral reef. An atoll to be more precise, similar to those you can currently find in the Pacific. The ancient coral algae trapped the lime-mud sediments creating large mounds which, after a bit of differential erosion, lead to the forms you can see today. Both hills are now a joint SSSI, thanks to their unique limestone flora and the large cumulation of fossils that can be found. These two really are not to be missed.

We started the walk in Hollinsclough, a small village sandwiched between the juvenile River Dove and the River manifold. Generally, there are a few parking spaces in a layby to the west of the village though these were full by the time we arrived. Leaving the car on the road outside the primary school, we set off, picking up the path heading north west beneath Hollinsclough Rake, the steep road that leads into the village from the west. Already, the going was difficult as the wet, muddy and uneven path made for a slow, careful plod.
The parking in Hollinsclough
Sara as we cross Hollinsclough Rake
Reaching Moorside, we continued to follow the path to the north which eventually would spit us out at a crossing of the River Dove. Or so I thought. Following the very obvious path on the ground (which I think was made by the cows entering the pastures) was a mistake which lead us parallel to the hill, rather than down it into the valley. Upon reaching the end of the 'path' we were confronted by an impassable fence. Luckily, after a bit of an annoying hunt around, we found that the fence lead down the valley to the desired location. A combination of this navigational misdemeanour and the slippery path had put us at a slow pace and put me in a bad mood (according to the others!). Time for some food.
The path we followed in error
The River Dove
If there's one thing that will cheer me up it's food. And also watching Sara's reaction to finding a spider in her bag in quite entertaining. For me at least.

She doesn't like spiders.

With spirits raised once again, we ploughed on, this time taking a path along the steep valley side and then heading north up to Brand End. Again, the path was difficult to follow in the first instance due to the growth of ferns on the valley side but, once out, its easy enough to follow to the farm at Brand End. A word of note here though, according to our maps, the path heads through the yard of the farm to the south of the buildings yet, recent changes to the property have made this inaccessible now. Instead, the path continues to the west of the buildings and then follows the fence around the north side back to the track where we should have been.
The path continues along the River Dove
A track leads down to Brand End Farm
Hollins Hill can be seen in the distance
Another quick yomp across some open fields took us to Booth Farm where we met the path that would eventually lead to the Access land surrounding Chrome and Parkhouse Hills. After rounding the top of Tor Rock, funnily enough a rock tor, Chrome Hill finally came into view.
Our first proper view of Chrome Hill
The outcrop of Tor Rock
Chrome Hill in all its glory
As mentioned, walkers have only legally been allowed to access Chrome Hill since 2000 and already and can now be reached by following a concessionary footpath to the entrance of the Access Land. The walk to the top can be as challenging or simple as you please as there are many ways to reach the summit. As you might guess, I was overcome by the urge to climb every single little knoll all the way to summit.
The first knoll tempts you into the first climb
Sara forges her own way up
Sara atop one of the outcrops with Hollins Hill for company
Standard 'selfie'
The final set of humps to the summit (topped by a small man in this instance)
The summit of Chrome Hill looking towards Parkhouse Hill
The summit of Chrome Hill has a great sweeping view of valleys of both the River Manifold and the River Dove. The highlight though is the sharp profile of its distinctive neighbour, Parkhouse Hill. Like its larger brother, Parkhouse Hill follows the same lines as Chrome Hill albeit on a smaller, more compact scale. The sharp limestone ridge is even more evident as you descend Chrome Hill.
Sara follows the step-like path down towards Parkhouse Hill
The afternoon light was perfect at this moment
Parkhouse Hill
So, on to Parkhouse Hill, Chrome Hill's smaller, even more knife-edged neighbour. After following the path down to the road, once again you're given a choice of routes to get up to the top. We decided to head around to the right and climb a steep path that rounds a small tree and on to the ridge. From that point its a case of negotiating a series of limestone outcrops to find your way to the summit. Once again the views are excellent, especially looking back towards Chrome Hill.
Parkhouse Hill suddenly looks a lot larger from the base
Sara tackles the last little climb to the top
After a quick 15 minute climb, a breather on the summit
A look back along the knife-edge ridge to Chrome Hill
Once again, a brief gap in the clouds bathed the land in a warm, afternoon light, long enough to take a couple more snaps before we made our way down the ridge and back into the valley below.
Chrome Hill
Parkhouse Hill and Chrome Hill
The steep path down to the base
After reaching the bottom, the final stage of the walk required a brief mile or so yomp back along a track adjacent the River Dove to Hollinsclough. A fine end to a fine day.
Fording the River Dove
One last view of Parkhouse Hill
As you can see from the GPS track, there are shorter routes you can do to reach the two hills, namely climbing up the side of Hollins Hill instead of the route we chose. I had added the bit in to add some distance to the walk but if I'm honest, it didn't really add any interest and I'd probably miss it out next time. This is partly down to the generally uninteresting nature of the first part, and partly due to it being completely overshadowed by the two magnificent hills. If you're planning a walk around this area, I'd highly recommend making your way straight to these two and having a good old nose around.