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Alton & The Ramblers Retreat Walk, Peak District

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Walk Details

This is a relatively short, circular walk that has a strenuous climb back into Alton at the end – so make sure you save some energy!

This part of the Churnet Valley is most attractive and walker friendly, with the added interest of Alton Castle, and Alton Towers, both designed, in part, by the early 19th century architect, A.W.N. Pugin. Pugin is also famous for his design, in collaboration with Charles Barry, of the Houses of Parliament.

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The Ramblers Retreat is a very well known all purpose catering establishment, much frequented by walkers, at the entrance to Dimmingsdale, part of the Forest Enterprises land in East Staffordshire. The former Churnet Valley railway line provides an excellent return route to Alton, a pleasant large village, with inns and shops.

We’re starting our walk from the car park at the back of the village hall. From here we head down a few steps to join the road towards the circular stone 18th century lock up. From here we turn left into Knight Lane. When we reach the Royal Oak Inn we cross over the road and take the way-marked track to the right which is part of the Staffordshire Way.

Initially we’re headed downhill before the track rises along a broad, unsurfaced roadway. We keep going, rising above the woods of the Churnet Valley – taking in the views as we go. At Toothill Farm we keep to the left, and take a moment to admire the views back towards the castle. Here the path starts to turn into a narrow walled lane, leading to a junction by a signpost. For an amazing view – turn sharply to your right for about 40 yards to the National Trust Toothill Wood, on top of a vertical cliff face (keep hold of any children and dogs!).

Return back to the junction and this time ignore the Staffordshire Way sign and instead go ahead to follow a footpath signpost, heading along a walled lane, bearing slightly to the right. We’ll join a broader drive, continuing down the side of Rakes Dale. Pass the stables and then rake back sharply to the right to carry on along another descending drive. Cross over the way-marked stile on the left and pass in front of a house. After the house, walk over close cropped grass along the valley bottom to reach a stile and short track that leads to a surfaced roadway by the entrance to Rakes Dale House. Here you turn right and join the public road on a tight bend.

Head left and, in 20 yards, fork left along a broad rising track, signposted ‘footpath to Smelting Mill and Dimmingsdale’. We are now back with the Staffordshire Way. Stay with this track through woodland for about 300 yards, going straight on at a junction then, as the main track rises, fork right to descend along a deep cut path leading directly to the celebrated Ramblers’ Retreat, where refreshments are available.

When you’re feeling suitably refreshed, we return to the road and go through a gate opposite, leading to the obvious Lord’s Bridge spanning the River Churnet, followed by another bridge which crosses the trackbed of the former Churnet Valley railway line. Turn left immediately after the latter to descend across a plank bridge to the trackbed. Turn left to walk easily back to the former Alton station, where the buildings have been well maintained. The long platforms were presumably intended to cope with excursion trains which brought thousands of visitors to the adjacent Alton Towers Amusement Park.

We head up the steps on the right to join the public road. Turn right, cross the river and plod along the roadside, passing the Alton Bridge, the Talbot and the Wild Duck Hotels, on the steep rise to the village; from the bottom section the views of Alton Castle are superb. At a road junction in the village, bear right to stay with the main road as far as the lock-up. Bear left here to retrace the outward route along Lime Kiln Lane and return to the car park.

trainNearest Train (or tube) Station(s):
Uttoxeter, Stoke-on-trent

Local Information

Read the Countryside Code before venturing out
Make sure to take a map and compass, and know how to use them before going into our National Parks #BeAdventureSmart

Tips for New Walkers: click here to download (PDF).

Remember to prepare properly before heading out on any type of walk or outdoor activity. Tell people where you are going and what time you are expected back. As Wainwright says "There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing".