Chew Valley

Peak District became Britain's first National Park in 1951. It covers 555 sq. miles (1,438 sq. kilometers) and despite the name "National Park", most of the land is privately owned.

Chew Valley contains four reservoirs which supply drinking water to nearby towns. Yeoman Hey reservoir was first to be constructed in 1880 followed by Greenfield in 1902. Chew reservoir was built in 1912 and Dovestone reservoir in 1967.

All the reservoir dams contain a core of clay to render them watertight. It is a most picturesque part of the Pennines with many miles of high, wild moorland and gritstone edges - whilst in the valleys, there are reservoirs, rivers and canals.

The coniferous plantations provide a different habitat and fewer plants survive on the ground.
The tree canopy is home to goldcrests, tits, jays and siskins. Moorland birds include red grouse, curlew, golden plover and meadow pipits. Peregrine falcons and ravens vie for territory on the rocky outcrops.

Mammals include fox, voles, weasels and stoats. On the moors, mountain hares, that change colour in winter, can be seen. Chew Valley is close to the Boarshurst Centre in the village of Greenfield.

From the Clarence Hotel it's a very pleasant one mile stroll up the leafy lane or path on either side of Chew Brook to reach Dovestone Reservoir - this can also be reached by car by turning right off the Greenfield to Holmfirth Road just about 1/2 mile from the Clarence Hotel. There is an additional car park at Binn Green another mile further up.

Chew Valley is probably the most dramatic valley in the Peak District. It has some of the region's best walks of varying lengths and difficulties to suite all tastes, from easy strolls to serious full-day routes requiring fitness and mountain experience.

There also are opportunities for mountain biking, sailing and horse riding (the Pennine Bridleway passes through Greenfield along the line of an old Roman road). From either of the car parks, a path around Dovestone reservoir provides a delightful one hour walk. The trail is suitable for people in wheelchairs. However, owing to a steep section near Yeoman Hey reservoir, users wishing to complete the circuit should travel anticlockwise.

Walk amidst stunning scenery - the waters of the reservoir below (often dotted with sailing craft) and the crag-rimmed summits of Alderman and Dovestone on either side. With the jagged rocky skyline of the "Indian's Head" to the south all grades of difficulty.

Beyond the far northern end of the reservoir, the walk can be continued for about two miles alongside Yeoman Head and Greenfield Reservoirs to the confluence of two rocky ravines with tumbling waterfalls below the cliffs of Raven Stones and Standing Stones. From there you should return the same way.

The more intrepid can continue up the eastern ravine to the district's high point of Black Hill (582m, almost 2000ft) crossed by the PennineWay. Alternatively, go up the waterfalls of the southern stream onto the moorland wilderness of Howell's Head and Black Chew Head (542m) and down into Longdendale or return past England's highest reservoir, Chew Reservoir, then down the waterboard road to Dovestone (a circuit of about eight miles for experienced walkers only).

A less serious and popular walk can be found by heading west from the Dovestone Reservoir car park toilets, along Bradbury Lane and it's rough continuation, for about a mile to the hamlet of Fernlea then back along "the old railway" (used in the construction of Chew Reservoir) passing by pine then beech woods and massive boulders (a playground for climbers) to eventually reach a wooden bridge across Chew Brook before returning to the car park (total about three miles).

The surrounding high tops of Alderman, Dovestone, Alphin (Indian's Head) and others can be reached by the famous "Chew Valley Skyline" walk - a distance of twelve miles or more taking a full day, or they can be climbed individually by any fit person but be sure to wear good footwear and clothing. Follow the paths, and beware changing weather - it can be wild on the tops! People have been killed by winter avalanches in Chew Valley and can get easily lost on the moors at any time.

More easily, the walk up and down the road between Dovestone and Chew Reservoirs, for which you should allow an easy hour each way, takes you through magnificent scenery and is well worthwhile. Below is the deep and rocky ravine of Chew Brook, which provides a great scramble up rocks and waterfalls but not for the inexperienced.

For further information, see:. OS Map Explorer OL1 "Rambles Around Oldham" by Oldham Ramblers' Association "Fifty Classic Walks in Lancashire" by Terry Marsh "Walks Around Saddleworth" by Bob Tait (April 1979 and May 1983) And, for climbers, "Moorland Gritstone"